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For those of you who want to install a custom ROM on your Galaxy S4, here’s how to do it using CWM recovery. (TWRP method is nearly identical just different looking menus but I will have tutorial on that too)
Before we begin, you will need a rooted Galaxy S4 with CWM recovery installed. If you used CWM root method, you have CWM recovery already, if not, install CWM recovery first by following Steps 1 thru 6 here.
Also, you can use Titanium Backup app to backup all of your apps before installing a new custom ROM so you can easily restore your apps. For SMS texts, use an SMS text backup app (many available on Play Store) so you can restore them easily after installing a new ROM.
For contacts, I highly suggest using a GMail account as your contacts will be restored automatically after installing a new ROM when you sign into Google. If you don’t have a GMail account, just make a dummy account just for your contacts!
Before installing a new ROM, make sure you have at least ONE ROM backup, which will easily restore your phone back within minutes.
Step 1. Download appropriate ROM file for your Galaxy S4.
IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE YOU’VE DOWNLOADED A COMPATIBLE ROM FOR YOUR GALAXY S4 OTHERWISE YOU CAN BRICK YOUR PHONE!!! E.g. If you install GT-i9505 ROM on AT&T Galaxy S4 SGH-i337, you will BRICK YOUR PHONE! I’ve had many people who DON’T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS who’ve bricked their $700 phone, please do not end up being one of these people. Double-check the ROM and triple-check that the ROM you downloaded is COMPATIBLE with your Galaxy S4!!!
Also, if you are downloading AOSP ROM (What is AOSP?), you might need to also download Google Apps (Gapps) and install that too.
You can download these ROM files straight to your Galaxy S4 or download on your computer and copy it to your phone. DO NOT UNZIP the files, they should be in “zip” format, exactly the way you downloaded them. Mac computers will automatically unzip these files but copy the actual ZIP file to your phone.
Step 2. Once you have your ROM files copied/downloaded to your Galaxy S4, power off your phone then hold down Volume Up, Center Home, and Power buttons together.
Step 3. When you see a little blue letters “Recovery booting…” at top, let go of all the buttons.
Step 4. Once in CWM recovery, choose “Wipe data/factory reset”. This will erase your apps and app data but it will not erase the contents of your internal storage and SD card.
You may be able to skip this step depending on the ROM but for clean install, I do recommend doing wipe data/factory reset.
E.g. If installing AOSP ROM while you have TouchWiz ROM running, you will need to do this step.
However, if installing TouchWiz ROM while you have TouchWiz ROM running, you can try skipping this step. Just make a backup ROM before installing so if you have problems, you can always go back.
If you are updating the same ROM, you can most likely skip this step also such as installing newest AOKP ROM while you are running older version of AOKP.
Step 5. Next, choose “Install zip from sdcard”.
Step 6. You can choose either “choose zip from sdcard” if you have your ROM files in your internal storage OR “choose zip from external sdcard” if you have your ROM files on your microSD card.
Step 7. Browse your storage and find the ROM zip file and select it.
Step 8. Installing ROM should take around 2-5 minutes depending on the ROM you are installing.
Step 9. (Optional) If the ROM you are installing requires Google Apps (Gapps), go ahead and install that too by repeating Steps 5 thru 7.
Step 10. (Optional) If having trouble installing a ROM (end up in a bootloop), try a fresh install and do this Step. You can usually skip step though. Wipe your temporary files by choosing “Wipe cache partition”.
Go to “Advanced” menu and also wipe dalvik cache.
Step 11. Reboot your Galaxy S4 and if you see welcome screen, you should be on your new, custom ROM! Congrats if this is your first time installing a custom ROM!
Q: I’ve tried installing new ROM a dozen times but it will not boot! How do I get my phone working again quickly?
A: There’s three solutions to this.
First, if you made a backup ROM (like I told you to), you can easily restore your backup ROM within minutes using CWM recovery.
However, if you didn’t make a backup ROM, you can unroot completely back to stock using ODIN and stock firmware.
Also, you can try installing another ROM, it could be a problem with the ROM you are trying to install. If you cannot connect your phone as a USB drive then use a microSD card to copy your ROM files.
Q: How can I thank you for your tutorial?
A: I don’t take donations but if you could PLEASE subscribe to my Zedomax YouTube channel, that would help me greatly and thank you!
Questions? Leave your questions in the comment box!
What is a Custom ROM?
A custom ROM is a custom, modified operating system that you can install on your Android device. Basically it's like installing Windows OS on a Macbook. By installing a custom ROM, you can bypass stock factory settings like locked hotspot tether, install new Android versions early, or even convert your phone into another OS.
With a custom ROM, you can really maximize the capabilities of your smartphone by adding custom features that have been developed by open source developers.
How to Install Custom ROMs
First, you will need to root your device, if it is not rooted yet, follow our root tutorial and root your phone.
Once rooted, you should have TWRP installed on your phone. Installation of a custom ROM is easy if you learn the basic of it. If you don't know how to install custom ROMs using TWRP recovery, see our tutorial on How to Install Custom ROM using TWRP!