Around the time Verizon was finally preparing to release the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the public, the online community was rumbling with talk of locked bootloaders for it and other versions of the device. Shortly after, word emerged from resident hacker Dan Rosenberg (@djrbliss) that he was preparing a release of his own: a tool that bypassed said bootloader in the S4, allowing one to install custom recoveries/ROMs. Cleverly, Rosenberg waited to release Loki, the tool in question, until after Verizon released their variant to prevent the carrier from patching the exploit he used to create the tool.
Just Saturday I received a notification to download and install an update on my Verizon S4, and I can only assume one of its purposes is to patch that exploit. And even though I said in a post about my impressions of the S4 that I actually sort of like the stock software, I did not want to lose the ability to root and/or install custom recoveries on my phone. Thus, I set off on the magical journey that is rooting and flashing custom software.
A quick search later and I discovered this thread on the XDA Developers forum. In addition to Loki, the download linked there also contains a version of old reliable: Odin, the presumably leaked in-house software used by Samsung to modify its own devices. Those two tools and everything else you need are packaged into one utility for your convenience. The instructions, however, prove less convenient and as such I thought I would create a tutorial on how to root and install custom recoveries/ROMs on the S4.
Note that neither I nor anyone else associated with the tools mentioned in this post is responsible for anything that may happen to your S4 during any of the processes outlined below. Prepare by creating back-ups of any important information before engaging in the following procedures. Be sure to follow instructions exactly and your phone should be just fine at the end. Read on!
Rooting is only for those of you who know what you are getting yourselves into. If you want to learn more about rooting then check out this article for starters: What is Rooting? The Advantages and Disadvantages
– Samsung Galaxy S4 – I used a Verizon variant, but these methods should work with all US carrier variants, though you may have to search for a different all-in-one package for the appropriate carrier variant to ensure compatibility and reduce the possibility of errors.
– USB cable (preferably OEM) – I used the cable that was packaged with my phone originally, but any such cable should do.
– Windows computer
1. On your computer, download the compressed folder from the XDA Developers thread. Extract the contents of the folder using a program, such as 7-Zip, to a location, such as your Desktop, where you can easily find it.
2. Again on your computer, download and install Samsung Kies (just follow the prompts as you would with any other program) to ensure that the tools have access to all of the latest Samsung drivers.
3. On your phone, enable the setting that allows you to install applications from unknown sources (Settings > More > Security > select the option), enable USB debugging mode (Settings > More > About Phone > Build Number > tap this until Developer Options are enabled > Back > Developer Options > select the option), and disable any password or pattern lock screens. Then connect your phone to your computer via the USB cable. You may be prompted to always authorize your computer to perform actions throughout this process; do so if prompted. Otherwise, you should not have to be concerned with it.
4. Returning to your computer, open the folder you unzipped earlier and launch “RUN_ME”. Once you do, a window containing several options will open. First, we will begin with “1 – ROOT MY PHONE”. Press “1” and then “ENTER”.
5. Follow any prompts in the “RUN_ME” window (all of the instructions for these processes appear in this window throughout the process; in case I forget any of the steps, be sure to read through those instructions as you follow along with this tutorial so as not to disturb the process); Odin should launch on your computer and your phone should reboot.
6. Follow the instructions on what to do with Odin, which is primarily used to install the custom kernel. To do so, select the PDA button and choose the .tar file located in the folder with the other tools. Click start and follow any additional prompts.
7. After the process completes, your phone should reboot. You should have an application called SuperSU installed on your phone. Open SuperSU and it should prompt you to update binaries; do that and then proceed according to any prompts in the “RUN_ME” window.
8. After THAT process completes, download Root Checker on the Play Store and verify that your phone has root access. If for any reason your phone does not have root access, do not worry; simply restart the process and be sure to pay close attention to the instructions in the “RUN_ME” window throughout the entire process. When you finish that, then return here for the rest of the tutorial. If you just want root, then you can stop now. Otherwise, if you want to install a custom ROM (such as CyanogenMod, which we will use for the purposes of this tutorial), then continue on to install a custom recovery. This and other processes moving forward should require one click or minimal effort.
9. On your computer, press “2” and then “ENTER” in the “RUN_ME” window to prepare your phone for the custom recovery. Follow the prompts and the utility should push the files necessary to prepare for installation of a custom recovery to your phone.
10. Once your phone is prepared to install a custom recovery, choose either ClockworkMod Recovery or TeamWin Projects Recovery (I always liked CWM and chose it when I completed this process), press the corresponding number (3 and 4, respectively), and then press “ENTER”.
11. If it has not done so already by itself, reboot your phone. On your phone, download the latest CyanogenMod nightly (note that these are experimental ROMs, but they should be fit for use as daily drivers; if you encounter issues with one, try the one before that) and the Android 4.2.2 gapps file (this gives you access to the Play Store) onto the root of your SD card.
12. Press “6” and then “ENTER” in “RUN_ME” and your phone should reboot into recovery (if not, hold down the Power, Home, and Volume Up buttons simultaneously and then release them all at once when you see the Samsung logo). Choose the “wipe data/factory reset” option or similar and then confirm (again, be sure to back-up all of your data before doing so).
13. Reboot into recovery again and choose the “install from SD card” option or similar. Locate the CyanogenMod file and install it. After it completes (it could take a while to boot up for the first time because the system has to set itself up), reboot into recovery one more time and repeat the process for installing the CyanogenMod file, only choose the gapps file this time. Reboot following the installation and you should be done!
Enjoy setting up your Android Open Source Project-based Samsung Galaxy S4! I myself missed CyanogenMod quite a bit as it turns out. I spent the rest of yesterday customizing my renewed phone experience and I hope you enjoy doing so as much as I did. Continue to watch for posts about the S4 and other Android-related topics.
Until next time, if you have any other categories you would like us to tackle, any apps you would like us to review, or any other lessons about Android you would like to learn, please let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!
Latest posts by Matthew Serre (see all)
- How to Root the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Install a Custom ROM - July 16, 2013
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