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How to root a HTC Desire (debrand, install custom Froyo, use A2SD+ and more!)

by Matt on Thursday 21 October 2010

A couple of months ago we showed how to debrand a HTC Desire smartphone and it's proven enourmously popular.

Clearly many of you want to get rid of annoying network branding and also don't mind taking advantage of Android's flexibility to hack your phone. So in that spirit we're going to look at something a bit more adventurous.

Rooting is riskier, but lets you do even more cool stuff with your Desire handset.

What's the difference between debranding and rooting?

When you debrand it removes network-issued apps and logos, leaving a clean phone running stock firmware which hasn't been modified. What rooting does is grant super-user access to the phone, so you have write permissions on system files which are usually inaccessible, enabling more features and greater customisation. Similar to what iPhone users call jailbreaking.

Why would I want to root?

  • Customise the OS

Although Android is very open customisation anyway, rooting enables more options such as installing a new font, changing system icons and, vitally, installing new ROMs to replace the operating system. Created by avid Android fans, some are just plain Froyo upgrades for those who want to start from scratch, others are heavily modified versions of the official software with lots of pre-installed apps.

  • Use Apps2SD+

Android 2.2 (Froyo) officially introduced the ability to store applications on an SD card, but not every app supports it. Apps2SD+ lets you install anything to the SD card, freeing up a huge amount of space.

  • Use apps which require root access

There are lots of apps out there which need root access to do their thing, even on the official Android Market.

  • Much more!

Overclock your phone to speed it up. Underclock it to increase battery life. Use it as a Wi-Fi modem. Remove pre-installed apps. Install patches without waiting for the network-authorised update. Rooting gives you total access to the file system and hardware.

What are the risks?

Just like debranding, rooting carries the risk of bricking the phone, though there's even more danger of irreparable damage. It could also cause problems if you have to send the phone in for repair, if there's a fault they could refuse to fix it for free because it has been modified.

Should also mention that this guide is for Windows PCs, afraid I can't help if you have an Apple Mac. I hear it's very easy on Linux, though!

Make sure you read all the way to the end, then go back to the beginning and read again. If there's anything you don't fully understand, don't continue. Post a question in the comments if you're unsure about anything. And don't do it unless you need to - if your phone works and does everything you want then it may not be worth the risk.

Broadband Genie takes no responsibility for any damage, problems or apocalyptic events which occur as a result. This is a guide only and we make no guarantees that it will work on your phone. Post in the comments if you have any problems and I'll do my best to help, but remember that you follow this guide at your own risk.

Okay, that's the serious bit over with…

What do I need?

  • HTC Desire (fully charged!)

Unlike debranding, this method of rooting currently seems to work on all Desire handsets regardless of version number or screen type up to the current newest release, so even those of you on Froyo can root.

  • SD card reader

If you want Apps2SD you will need a card reader so you can prepare the SD card.

  • USB data cable

For connecting the phone to a computer, naturally.

Before you start backup everything you don't want to lose - pictures, messages, contacts etc.

Part 0.5: Prepare your SD card for Apps2SD+ by creating an Ext2 or Ext3 partition (optional)

You only need to do this if you want to use Apps2SD+, otherwise just go to Part 1.

- Download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition.
- Backup the contents of your SD card somewhere.
- Connect the SD card to your PC. Make sure it shows up as a drive in My Computer.
- Load up the Partition Wizard applicatiion.
- Select your memory card in Partition Wizard (usually at the bottom, look for the drive letter to make sure you don't delete a hard disk). It should have a partition already, probably FAT32 formatted. You need to right click on every partition within your memory card and click Delete.
- It won't delete right away, these tasks will be added to the panel on the left. Click Apply to make it happen. This will obviously delete everything!
- You should now have a single chunk of unallocated memory which is the entire storage capacity of the card. Right click on this and choose 'Create'.
- In the options set 'Create As' to 'Primary' and the file system to FAT32. Leave Cluster Size as default and ignore the drive letter.
- Now drag the bar below from the right to set the unallocated space after this partitiion. The large FAT32 partition is where your music, videos, pictures and other files will be stored so this needs to be the largest. Make sure you have plenty of room for everything you need. The space after it is where apps will live. Around 512MB should be sufficient though if you're going to be downloading lots of games and other large programs then make it a bit bigger. Click Ok to finish.
- Now right click and 'Create' on the remaining unallocated space, ignoring the warning message that pops up. Set to Primary again, but this time in File System select 'Ext3' (you can also use Ext2, Google it if you're interested in the differences and want to read lots of debate about which is better). Don't change the size of the partition. Click Ok.
- Now click Apply and let it do its stuff. Once finished you should have one FAT32 partition and one Ext3. Note that the Ext3 will not be visible through Windows normally so you can't browse the files, but you can delete it and format the entire card back to FAT32 via Partition Wizard.

Important: since all your apps will be stored on the SD card instead of the phone, switching the phone on without the card inside will cause problems, you may not even be able to boot properly. And if you change cards you'll need to make sure you copy the contents of the Ext3 partition to the new card.

Part 1: rooting

To root the Desire we're going to use Unrevoked, a one-click fire 'n' forget rooting tool that simplfies the entire process.

- Go to Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features (Vista and Win 7) and uninstall HTC Sync if you have it. Also remove any other program which may try to talk to the phone.
- Head over to the Unrevoked site and download the latest version. Recommend reading this page for more information and troubleshooting tips.
- Read and follow this driver installation guide. Don't go any further until this works exactly as they say on the site. Lots of errors are caused by incorrectly installed drivers.
- Run the reflash_package.exe file downloaded the Unrevoked site. It should say 'Waiting for Device'. Make sure you're running the program with Administrator rights (right click and 'Run as administrator' if you aren't certain).
- On your phone go to Settings > Applications > Development and enable USB debugging. Then go to Settings > Connect to PC and set the default connectio type to Charge Only.
- Connect the phone to your PC.
- Follow the on-screen instructions as Unrevoked detects your phone, wait for it to do its thing and you are now rooted.

Part 2: installing a custom ROM

This is where you install a new version of Android over your current software (but you don't have to do this, your phone is still rooted). Choose a ROM first - go to the Xda Developers Desire development section and take a look at some of the offerings. There are heavily modified ROMs with lots of extras, or no-frills rooted Froyo installations. Choose anything you fancy, but ignore the additional mods until you've successfully flashed the main ROM.

- Download the ROM of your choice.
- Copy it to the SD card.
- Switch off your phone and turn it back on while holding power and volume down.
- In the menu which appears scroll to recovery with the volume rocker and hit the power button to select.
- You should now have a black screen with green writing. This is your recovery screen and it's from here that you can flash ROMs and do a full backup/restore of your phone.
- Using the trackpad, scroll down to Backup/Restore and perform a backup.
- When backup is complete go back to the main menu and select wipe data/factory reset. You should also wipe the dalvik cache.
- Once it's all wiped go back to the main menu and select 'Flash Zip from SD card'. Choose the zip file for the ROM you downloaded.
- Wait while it installs, then select 'Reboot' when it has finished. Your phone should boot up into your shiny new ROM. If you want to install extras (like the funky circle battery mod) make sure you do a full reboot beforehand to ensure it's all working.

An important word about Radio images

Some ROMs require you to install Radio images, which are vital for the functioning of the phone. If anything is going to brick your handset, it's this. If you need to install a Radio image it can be installed the same way as a ROM, by going into recovery and selecting the zip file. It is extremely important that you do not interrupt this stage (make sure your battery is charged!). Be patient, it can take a little while and your phone will reboot by itself a couple of times. If you use a ROM which indicates a Radio image is required then I would highly recommend reading any instructions given and if you're not sure about something ask below or post a question on the relevant ROM thread on Xda Developers. At best an incorrectly applied Radio update will scare the hell out of you until the phone is repaired, at worst it will leave it completely inoperable.


Many problems with Unrevoked are caused by drivers. Follow the driver guide in part 1. If you run into issues you can try re-installing HTC Sync. You might also want to try some alternate driver downloads, here and here. Some people have reported issues using Windows 7, both 32 and 64 bit, which may be related to the drivers, so try it with Windows XP if you can, see if that makes a difference.

Don't panic if your phone starts behaving oddly or stops responding. Pull the battery and switch it back on. Sometimes the various steps can take 10 minutes, so be patient while it's working. Often a simple reset fixes things, or at least gets you back up and running.

If you don't install a new ROM, after rooting go to the Android Market and download Titanium Backup. Run the app and click the 'Problems?' button to install something called BusyBox.

links/android/root.txt · Last modified: 2020-11-06 10:36 by