How do I install Android 2.1 on my HTC Hero?
May 7, 2010 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Help me get an unofficial Android 2.1 ROM on to my HTC Hero. As an increasing number of Android apps now require version 2.1, and because HTC have dragged their heels so much about making an official update for the Hero available, I'm considering installing an unofficial ROM on my phone. Trouble is, I'm not entirely sure how to go about it.


What is the best 2.1 ROM to install on the Hero? Is it stable? Will I lose functionality? Will the market apps I've bought still be downloadable?

Also, Once I download the ROM, how do install it safely? Most of the forums I've seen assume you know how to do it already, and I've not really seen an easy guide anywhere. What is the risk of bricking my phone? Will I be able to restore the official ROM if I change my mind?

Thanks in advance for any help.
posted by chorltonmeateater to Technology (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a step by step guide for rooting your phone. Any time you do anything like this, you run the risk of bricking your phone, but if you follow the steps, you should be fine.

So, what this is doing, is writing over the bootloader, which is kind of like the BIOS of your phone. From there, you can overwrite different partitions(like the system partition, and the recovery partition), and install the ROM of your choice.

You can also overwrite the recovery partition, which will allow you to install ROMs packaged into update files, which are like the OTA updates that carriers send out every now and again.

The stock recovery partition only allows signed update packages, while the custom recovery images allow any kind of update package, usually updates from the custom ROM makers.
posted by fnerg at 12:38 AM on May 7, 2010

Here is an easy guide from the XDA forums.

Stay away from unofficial RUU updates and you should be fine.

I'm waiting another week.
posted by pants tent at 1:57 AM on May 7, 2010

If you have a GSM Hero, please ignore my post above, as it applies only to the Sprint CDMA Hero.

What type is yours?
posted by pants tent at 2:03 AM on May 7, 2010

Unofficial ROMs aren't stable. Unless you want to deal with updating every week/few days to fix bugs, it's not worth it.

All the roms are on this forum. They are updated so frequently and variants are posted so often, you pretty much have to do your own research.

Here is a guide on how to root your phone. After that, its a cakewalk to load custom ROM images.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:06 AM on May 7, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have been clearer: it is the GSM Hero.

Hmm, I'm not sure now whether to go for it or not. The official update has been just coming for too long now!
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:11 AM on May 7, 2010

Best answer: Unofficial ROMs aren't stable.

This isn't really true, unofficial ROMs can be super-stable, but it can take a lot of searching. I think it's worth it, though. I swear by CyanogenMod but he only makes builds for the Dream, Magic, and Nexus One. Other developers actively push his updates to other phones, however, so I would check out the XDA Forums for the Hero. What I've linked you is the GSM version, CDMA is a separate section. Any questions about how to root can be directed there, but here is a guide from The Unlockr, a useful source.

If you pick the right ROM, it'll be stable, albeit with some minor niggles sometimes.
You won't lose any functionalist, but you'll gain loads of it.
Paid and non-paid market apps don't give two craps if you're not running the official ROM, they'll be fine.
Rooting and flashing your phone is pretty idiot-proof and really quite safe. If you follow the instructions, you're unlikely to mess anything up.

Most importantly: When the official HTC Hero 2.1 update comes out, you can flash that and go straight back to it, no problem.

Message me if you have any specific questions.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:27 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fed up with waiting for HTC, I finally bit the bullet last weekend and installed the Villain ROM 5.4, now at 5.5. I followed this guide to install the recovery ROM, which took all of two minutes. The guide doesn't tell you, but you should do a Nandoid backup right away. It's one of the menu choices, you'll need about 300 meg free on your SD card. With that, you can return your Hero to the state it's in right now within about two minutes. Then rename the ROM file you downloaded to, copy to SD card, boot the phone while holding down the Home button, select the 'Update from zip file' and you're away. (Initial re-boot took a few minutes, that was the only time I felt vulnerable but give it time).

I've had a few problems, none of them disastrous, such as high battery drain and initially losing the HTC widgets. There's a load of advice on the Villain forum to overcome these difficulties however.

My subjective opinion? I'm really glad I did it. The Google maps navigation is just fantastic, there are tons of improved features, (activate the speakerphone with a button on the screen, seems a little quicker moving between home screens, finally got Tricorder working!), so if you can set a few hours aside for tinkering, I'd say go for it.

All my apps were fine, but I've no paid ones so can't comment on that.

Please feel free to email me, (in profile) if I can help.
posted by punilux at 5:00 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, when I'm talking about not stable, I'm talking about for the average user.

There is no stable build, the ROMs are constantly being released with bugs being fixed, OS changes/additions (which break stuff). If you're a tinkerer, you might like reading change logs and reflashing new builds every week or even few days, but I got tired of it pretty quickly.

The Villian ROM linked has MMS broken and no voicemail indicator. Cyanogenmod has a battery drain issue.
posted by wongcorgi at 6:51 AM on May 7, 2010

Cyanogenmod has a battery drain issue.

It's also explicitly labeled a test version.
posted by inigo2 at 6:59 AM on May 7, 2010

Best answer:
Cyanogenmod has a battery drain issue.

That's been fixed as of 5.0.7-test2. But yeah, Cyanogen's 2.1 ROM is currently experimental. It doesn't work on Hero anyway, but it's possible that whoever has possibly ported it to Hero has fixed issues, which is why I suggested it.

Also, the issues wongcorgi brings up? Well, here's how I see it:

Pros to stock ROM:
-Better battery life
-Everything definitely most likely works

Pros to custom ROM
-Ability to overclock for better performance (you can get this just using root and not a custom ROM, but virtually no one roots w/o using a custom ROM)
-Shit gets fixed quick-like and I don't have to wait for official releases that take FOREVER
-Awesome little niggles fixed that Google just hasn't gotten around to, yet. Like 180-degree rotation 100% of the time. Yes, Google, sometimes I do want my screen to rotate the opposite way.

Also, most custom ROM builds have support for ROM Manager, which painlessly installs new ROM versions when they come out.

Honestly, it's not hard. If you're willing enough to learn how to root your phone, then you're obviously not an average user and won't mind flashing new builds when they come out that give you more functionality.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:32 AM on May 7, 2010

Curiously enough, I just rooted my GSM hero yesterday, and it was fairly time consuming and at times frightening, since I have it on the UK 3 network, which means that most of the forum tricks don't work. So what I would say is that there's nowhere which carefully and coherently lays out what you have to do and why if your phone is one of the ones resistant to simple rooting tricks.

What you need then is to make a "gold card" which a spare SD card that has been hex edited to allow the phone to be downgraded: boot with that in; download using the official, but older HTC roms, and then apply one or all of hacks linked to above. I used this guide from the Unlockr.

Having done all that, I was able to install a custom and slightly improved 1.5 rom from here. I need this thing to work as a phone, so the reports of high battery drain on 2.1 roms put me right off.

But it was a complicated and bewildering procedure. A lot of the instructions were like this from the old school of linux documentation, where you spend an hour following them up a dead end only to discover they are for an obsolete version of the phone.

There was one very scary moment where the phone hung and would not boot at all for half an hour. Solved by removing the battery and trying again.

This is definitely something you should do only if you enjoy playing with linux.
posted by alloneword at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2010

ooops "download using the official but older HTC roms" shld be "downgrade using the official but older ..."
posted by alloneword at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2010

Response by poster: I went for it in the end, making use of this useful step-by-step guide to rooting the GSM Hero. I've gone for aHero as the ROM for now, as it's a vanilla Android 2.1 ROM, and removing all the Sense stuff that HTC puts on the phone makes it feel a hell of a lot quicker. Thanks for the help, all.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 1:07 AM on May 17, 2010

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