Image credit: Danny Choo on Flickr
Things To Know Before You Start
Firstly, it is definitely possible to brick your phone attempting to install CyanogenMod. Have patience and follow these steps closely, making sure that each step has worked correctly before you move on to the next, and you should be fine. This how-to guide is tailored to installing the CM 11 M3 build on a Samsung Galaxy S4.
Secondly, CyanogenMod is currently broadcasting a warning from their wiki to say that the current version of the CyanogenMod Installer is temporarily unavailable for user download. Earlier versions are safe and can be found.
Things To Do Before You Start
Back up your data.
Copy the contents of your device and your SD card onto a computer or external hard drive
Download and run an app like App List Backup. This is an awesome time saver for clever lazy people. It saves a list of all the apps you currently have on your phone, and once you’ve successfully installed CyanogenMod, this app will pop up and prompt you to allow it to go ahead and re-install them all. Brilliant!
Charge your battery fully
Don’t use a shoddy USB cable. USB cables that work for charging your phone wont necessarily work for data transfer, and you don’t want to lose your connection at a vital point in your mission. Plug directly into your computer, not a USB-hub, and set it up in a way that you’ll move it as little as possible during the install.
Disable any anti-virus software while you’re installing.
Seven Steps to Install CyanogenMod on your Android
1. Make sure the computer you’ll be using has an ADB
An Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a simple software development tool that allows your computer to talk directly to your android. The easiest way to install an ADB on your computer is by installing Google’s own Software Development Kit (SDK). This might sound intimidating but it’s just a couple of extra steps that give you a lot more muscle and agility when it comes to tooling around inside your device’s brain.
2. Make Sure You Don’t Need To Root Your Device
You can install CyanogenMod without rooting no problem, unless you’re device is a variant from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. Either of those will require you to fully root your device, and lose all your data. Most android phones get around the need to root by using a program called Heimdall to flash in recovery mode.
If you don’t already have it, download and install the Heimdall Suite. Heimdall is a cross-platform open-source tool suite for flashing firmware onto Samsung mobile devices. It is named after the Norse god best known for guarding the Bifrost rainbow bridge. This choice of name pays homage to Odin, father of the Norse gods and the name given to Samsung’s own firmware-flashing package.
More info about using the Heimdall Suite can be found here and I’d suggest a quick read through of that before you do any flashing.
If you don’t need to root your device, then for the love of God don’t let someone convince you – half way through installation – that it’s a good idea to reverse a little and root your device anyway. It’s rarely a good idea: this is how we bricked my phone.
3. Download CyanogenMod
When you download CyanogenMod, make sure you’ve got the right build and version for your device.
I’ve chosen to tailor this article to build version CM 11 M3 because the newer builds (CM 12 and beyond) actually diverge file types quite a lot and it’s easier to accidentally select, download and install a version that’s built for a different phone model.
If you want a more recent build, that’s fine too, you just need to be a little more careful to select the version that’s right for your phone. Browse the left hand column of the Cyanogen downloads portal and download the right one for your device.
4. Move Your Zip File To The Right Folder On Your Phone
This is where you get to use that ADB tool you downloaded earlier.
Move your CyanogenMod .zip package to the root of your device’s SD card (folder /sdcard) using the ADB command push filename.zip /sdcard/
5. Boot to Recovery Mode
If you are not already in recovery mode, boot to recovery by turning off your phone, and then simultaneously hold the volume up, home and power buttons. As soon as the blue writing appears, release the buttons.
6. Backup, Wipe And Reset
Use the menu options to create a Backup, and then select Wipe, and then Factory Reset.
7. You’re ready to install CyanogenMod
Select Install from the short list of recovery command options. If you’re already running an older version of CM then this button will instead read ‘Apply Update’. Navigate to /sdcard and click on your CyanogenMod .zip package. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish installing the program. Once the package has finished installing, you can return to the main menu and click on Reboot, then select System.
Your device will now boot into CyanogenMod. Nice one, girl!
For troubleshooting tips and a list of devices on which you can install CyanogenMod, visit the CyanogenMod installer wiki.