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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Unlock the potential of your old device

Altering the official Android operating system is a way to squeeze more mileage out of your outdated gadget. KOH SIANG LIANG reports
The Straits Times - May 2, 2013
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Unlock the potential of your old device

Most users would cast aside their old Android phones after they upgrade to new ones, but if you know how to root that aged smartphone or tablet, it may work like new.

"Rooting" is a term commonly used to mean getting administrative privilege (or root access) to a device by bypassing the restrictions imposed by manufacturers or telcos. It is also commonly known as "jailbreaking".

A rooted Android device allows you to alter its operating system (OS) so it can run applications which were not previously supported by its original OS. It can even give the device a performance boost as a customised Android OS, which is also known as a ROM that is free from bloatware.

Bloatware refers to apps pre-installed by telcos or manufacturers. They run in the background, hog storage space and processing power and cannot be uninstalled like regular apps.

Take the new Facebook Home app, for example. At this time, it can run only on select devices which use Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. XDA developer theos0o has created a ROM which will make the app work on almost all devices using Android 4.0.

Mr Bryan Tan, director of Keystone law corporation, said the act of rooting a device will void its warranty.

Before you start

Before you begin, you should back up the user data in your device.

For text messages, the SMS Backup & Restore app works very well.

For instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp, you may need to locate and copy the app's backup folder and files to your PC, and then copy them back to the device after rooting and installing the new ROM.

Another option is to use an Android app such as Titanium Backup, which can back up your system and user applications, along with their data, on an external storage device.

The rooting method varies according to the brand and model of the device and, sometimes, you may find that there is more than one way to root the same device.

Regardless of which method you use, after your device has rebooted, you should see a "Superuser" icon in the menu if the rooting is a success. In some cases, when you do not see the icon and are unsure if the device has been rooted, you can download the Root Checker app from Google Play to check the status of your ROM.

How to start

It is best to start by installing a custom recovery system, such as ClockworkMod Recovery (, which allows you to install and uninstall official and unofficial ROMs, apps and themes.

It will also let you back up the original ROM and restore the device to its original state when you need to.

If you want to root your device, you can go online to see what customised Android ROMs are available for your device. Many choices exist. They include CyanogenMod, Bugless Beast, Rasbeanjelly, MMuzzy and JBSourcery. A good place to look is XDA Developers Forum (, which has various discussions to help and troubleshoot rooting for almost all major Android devices.

For example, the Motorola Milestone, which was launched in Singapore in 2010, runs on Android 2.1 and was given the Android Froyo 2.2 update. It now has a custom Android Jellybean 4.1 CyanogenMod that has been tested to work.

To install a ROM, you will need to boot your device into recovery mode, which usually involves pressing a combination of keys. The keys vary with the device.

After the installation is complete, your device will boot up with the new Android ROM and you can enjoy the additional features it brings. Note that it will continue to boot to the custom ROM, even when you do a wipe (or factory reset) of your device as that deletes only your user data and installed apps, leaving the OS still intact.

If you dislike the new OS, you can always restore it to the stock ROM to which you have backed up earlier.

Koh Siang Liang is a freelance writer


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