Android

Rooting My Samsung Galaxy Y

Here’s the story of how I rooted my first Android, within 2 weeks of purchasing it. It’s a story of blood, sweat and tears. Of heartbreak, melodrama and joy. And here it begins:

In the first week of this month, I bought my first Android phone – Samsung Galaxy Y – s5360. My aim was to familiarize myself with the Android system before I start developing apps for it. Now, the most important resource for an Android developer are the XDA forums. XDA has emerged as the largest community of Android developers and the forums are frequented by laymen as well as hard core developers. It is in these forums I found my salvation. The process of rooting my phone was quite straightforward.

Step 1 – Read a lot

So, what is rooting anyway? It is the process of increasing user access on the Android phone so that they can modify underlying settings of the phone that are not visible to end-users. For example, by rooting a phone, a user would be able to remove the default applications that come pre-installed with the phone. In my case, I wanted to remove the Samsung Apps that hogged up precious space on my phone.

But rooting is not a very simple process. If the steps are not correctly followed, one might end up bricking their phone.

When a phone becomes unusable and stops working, it pretty much becomes a brick or a paperweight.

Hence, I spent three sleepless nights reading up on XDA and other forums about rooting and whether it is required.

Step 2 – The first point of no return

After giving it much thought, I decided that an Android developer’s phone should be rooted. Rooting involves updating the ROM by booting into Recovery mode. Remember, on most Android devices rooting voids the warranty. To get back the warranty, you need to unroot (remove root from) the phone.

The ROM of the phone is where the Android file system is installed. The ROM (Read Only Memory – a misnomer because it may be modified) is inaccessible to a normal user. It contains the installed apps, device settings etc. that are vital for your phone to work.

A phone can be booted in Recovery Mode by pressing a certain combination of buttons while switching it on. For most of the Samsung devices, you can boot into Recovery Mode by pressing Home, Volume UP and Power button at the same time when switching on the phone.

Now, since I did not have access to Windows (long story!), I needed to root the phone using Linux. First step was to download update.zip for my phone and Android version. In this case, I looked for root update for Samsung Galaxy Y with Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread.

All Android versions are named after sweet dishes. 2.1 was Eclair, 2.2 – Froyo, 2.3 – Gingerbread and the latest (at this point in time) 4.0 is Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS, for short)

It was a zip file called update.zip that I found on XDA after searching. I copied it to my SD Card and switched off my phone. To boot into recovery mode, I had to press 3 keys together (Home+ Volume Up + Power). Once in Recovery mode, I selected ‘Update from SD Card‘ and selected the zip file. The touchscreen does not work in Recovery Mode. I had to use the Volume keys to navigate up and down. After rebooting, the process was complete. A new app called SuperUser was automatically installed on rooting.

Step 3 – Cautious baby steps

I was ROOT! But now every move I made would have to be carefully thought out. First thing, BACKUP. I downloaded Titanium Backup app from the market. It is an awesome app that can backup and uninstall all the apps with their data. I haven’t seen a single root user not using this app. Anyways, I had the power to remove a lot of bloatware and apps that I didn’t really need. Also, installed ES File Explorer. It works without the root access too. Highly recommended for file operations.

Step 4 – Heartbreak

While modifying the boot screen for my phone, I replaced the wrong file and ended up soft-bricking my phone. It would boot (or at least appear to) but the screen would remain dark. Unable to make any progress, I factory reset my phone by booting into Recovery mode. But, even the reset could not fix the problem. That left me with only one choice – replacing the stock ROM with a custom ROM.

Stock ROMs are the ROM that come pre-installed in Android phone. Since they are provided by the vendor, they may contain apps from that vendor. For example, the Samsung devices come with ‘Samsung Apps’ pre-installed.

Custom ROMs have been created/modified by Android developers and are usually a community effort. As such, custom ROMs do not contain any worthless apps from a vendor and may be optimized for battery usage. However, there are a lot of custom ROMs available online so be sure that the one you install is not malicious.

Finding a custom ROM for my phone was difficult. Cyanogen Mod  (the biggest name in the Custom ROM world) hadn’t released any updates for my phone so far. As a result, I had to go for Gingerbread based HYBRID 2.1 ROM for Galaxy Y.

Step 5 – Resilience

Since my phone was bricked, I had to perform some manual operations. I took out the SD Card from my phone and plugged it into my computer. Then, I downloaded HYBRID 2.1 ROM to the SD Card and put in back in the phone. After booting into Recovery Mode, I selected ‘Update from SD Card‘ and selected the new zip file containing the ROM. Fifteen minutes later, I had a fully functional device in my hands.

Step 6 – The way forward

I have flashed my ROM a couple of times now. After rooting I installed NinjaMorph that I use for modifying system apk files.

apk is an Android Package file that is used to install applications into Android file system. The files are similar in structure to JAR files and have the extension .apk

Maybe a tutorial on that … later!

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