Saturday, August 30, 2014

Installing a rooted stock ROM on a Spring Galaxy Note 2

I've had my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone for a couple years now, and for the most part, I love it.  It ran Android 4.1.2 when I first got it.  Upgrading that to Android 4.3 went badly, and the custom MK4 ROM that I installed to recover from it was a constant frustration.  When Samsung finally released Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) for the Note 2, it wasn't long before custom ROM's based on it were available in the wild.  I chose to stick with a mostly stock setup, but rooted, and without Knox support.  Details of the process follow.

You can read about the whole ordeal of installing the MK4 4.3 ROM in an earlier post, so I won't reiterate it here.  In short, using the phone sucked.  Apps would occasionally die, and the phone would randomly reboot itself approximately daily--sometimes while doing something; other times while just sitting in my pocket.  When Samsung released the 4.4.2 over-the-air (OTA) update, it showed up as available on my phone.  However, because I was running the PhilZ custom recovery instead of the stock recovery, upgrading to Samsung's stock ROM failed.

Since upgrading in place wasn't an option, I had to install another custom ROM in order to get the KitKat update and eradicate that wretched MK4 ROM from my phablet.  After far more research than should have been required, I decided to go with a stock-ish firmware that was rooted, but didn't have many other mods (Classic-Stock NE2 4.4.2).  Some ROM's have some nifty additional features, but right now, I just want something reliable.

Because I already had the PhilZ custom recovery installed on my Galaxy Note 2, the process of installing the new ROM was pretty simple, though time-consuming.  I basically followed the instructions that I wrote in my earlier post, minus some of the setup that I'd taken care of previously.  Below are the steps I performed this time.  If you're starting from scratch, you'll want to read the previous post to get all the steps.

  1. Download the ROM's zip file and move it to the root of the SD card in your phone.  If you don't have a separate SD card, get one.
  2. Clear any unnecessary files off your phone--both the internal and SD cards.  I needed to have at least 6GB free on my SD card after I'd placed the 1GB ROM zip there.
  3. Backup the device to your computer.  I use "MyBackup Pro" and then "Rsync Backup for Android" to do this.  This step took most of the time I spent on the upgrade, because copying several GB over WiFi isn't fast.
  4. Power off the phone, then boot it into the PhilZ recovery app by simultaneously holding power, home, and volume up.
  5. In PhilZ, select "Backup and Restore," then "Custom," then "Custom Backup Job."  Make sure the following are selected with an (X):  boot, recovery, system, preload, and-sec, modem, /data, and /data/media.  Although, if your phone was previously rooted and you have a full filesystem backup, you can probably skip /data/media to save some time.  Now begin the backup by selecting "Start custom backup job," and save it to /storage/sdcard1 (your external micro-sd card).  This step took me about 45 minutes.
  6. Repeat the previous step, but this time make sure that only EFS is selected to be backed up.  Your main phone memory is now completely backed up.  If you're nervous, boot the phone back up normally and copy the sdcard contents over to your computer, just in case.
  7. In PhilZ, select "Wipe data/factory reset" and then "Clean to install new ROM."
  8. Now select "Mounts and Storage" and then "Format /data and /data/media."  Congratulations.  You've completely erased the OS from your phone.  Go change your underwear.
  9. From the top level PhilZ menu, select "Install zip," then "Choose zip from /storage/sdcard."  Select the ROM that you want to install.  This took me only a few minutes.
  10. After install, reboot the phone.  Mine took a couple minutes to reboot, then prompted me to select the language for initial setup of a new phone.
  11. You now have a fully functional, rooted, 4.4.2 Galaxy Note 2 without KNOX.  Of course, it's a fresh phone, so you'll have to setup the new phone and restore everything from backups.  That takes about as long as all the backups I did before hand.  I'd block off a couple hours for this whole routine.  I found that MyBackup worked best if I first restored all the APK's, then restored all the data separately.  When I restored all the APK's+data in one step, many of the apps didn't get their data restored.

The thread on the XDA-Developers Forum from which I got most of my info is here.  It's rather long and hard to follow, unfortunately.

After I got all my apps restored, things seem to be working well.  It hasn't spontaneously rebooted on me yet, which is a good sign.  Here's a few of the differences I've noticed compared to the MK4 4.3 ROM that I was running before:
  • The camera is now silent, even when the ringer volume is on.  I now have a native HDR mode!
  • The reboot animation is different and is now silent.
  • A few of the notification tunes are different.
  • The contacts app now uses an ugly, dark turquoise theme, unlike stock KitKat installs.  I need to see if there's some way to re-theme it, because it's gross. 
  • The battery life seems be be much better than it was before.  Maybe Google improved battery usage overall in 4.4.2, or maybe my MK4 firmware just led to lots of runaway processes.

Overall, I'm happy with the results (except for the turquoise contacts app).  If finding the info online hadn't been such a hassle, I'd have done this much sooner than I did.

Have any of you installed custom ROM's on your Samsung phones?  What's your favorite one, and why?  Please share your experiences in the comments below!

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