Install a custom ROM on your smartphone

CyanogenMod is a free Android distribution that replaces the factory firmware on your phone – or, potentially, your tablet. It offers a clean, simple front-end based on the stock Android interface, and brings a huge range of customisation features, including some you won’t find in the standard firmware.

Install a custom ROM on your smartphone

If you’re sick of manufacturers weighing Android down with proprietary interfaces and preloaded applications, CyanogenMod is the antidote.
Unfortunately, device manufacturers don’t make it easy for you to change the operating system.

If you’re sick of manufacturers weighing Android down with proprietary interfaces and preloaded applications, CyanogenMod is the antidote

Installing CyanogenMod requires you to overcome several technical hurdles – and there are other issues to be aware of if you plan to use it on a daily basis. On these pages we’ll explain the process, and the potential risks; if you’re then ready to take the plunge, we’ll guide you through the process of downloading and installing CyanogenMod.

Read this first: In this feature we show you the basics of how to get started with CyanogenMod and the ClockworkMod bootloader. Installing this software can void your warranty and expose you to malware – and if something goes wrong, it could even leave your device in an unusable state.

If you want to experiment with custom ROMs, make sure you know what you’re doing before you start tinkering. If possible, test procedures on an old, unwanted device before attempting them on everyday hardware. If you do hit trouble, we can’t help, but you may be able to find assistance in various online forums.

Where does CyanogenMod come from?

CyanogenMod is developed and maintained by a large team of volunteers, but it was originally created by Seattle-based coder Steve Kondik, better known by his online handle Cyanogen.

Hence, the operating system comprises “Cyanogen’s Modifications”. It isn’t the only customised Android installation out there, but it’s one of the most stable and feature-complete, making it a good choice for everyday use.

Like all mobile operating systems, CyanogenMod is often referred to as a “ROM” – a term that harks back to the days when mobile operating systems were embedded into physical microchips.

Nowadays, flash memory is used, so the operating system can be updated or replaced: it’s more accurately described as “firmware”.

The benefits of CyanogenMod

CyanogenMod offers many features that aren’t normally found in the branded firmware used by phone manufacturers (especially if that firmware is based on an older version of Android).

In the current stable version of CyanogenMod these include VPN support; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB tethering; audio enhancements; continuous autofocus in the camera and camcorder applications; an incognito mode for the built-in browser; and the ability to overclock and underclock your device, to balance performance against battery life.

There are many interface tweaks on offer, too: for a complete list, see the CyanogenMod wiki.

CyanogenMod is lightweight, too: although loaded with customisable options, it takes a minimal approach to preinstalled software, with almost no extraneous applications included by default.

Is it safe to use?

CyanogenMod is based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) – a Google initiative that makes the basic Android source code freely available for anyone who wants to customise and redistribute it. That means you can legally download it and install it on any device you choose.

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