Rooting the HTC Desire HD & Cyanogenmod 7

At the end of last year my HTC Desire HD got its firmware upgrade to the new version of HTC Sense - the same version that the HTC Sensation is running. At the time I thought it was quite cool, having shortcuts on the lock screen is great and the new eye candy looks pretty nice too.

But there were some very unwelcome changes with this new version too… lag and poor battery life! I generally keep my phone on charge at work, so I didn’t think this would bother me, but it got so bad that if I went out after work, by the time I got home it was flat (from 6pm to later that night). Even swiping between home screens would lag! So I figured it was time for a new phone, but in the meantime I thought I may as well experiment with rooting and other OS’s.

To root the Desire HD is quite simple. The first thing to do is go get the “Advanced Ace Hack Kit” from the XDA Forums. In the zip file is all the tools you need to run the hack and most importantly, the aptly named “effen-manual.html”, which is very important!

The manual explains everything you need to know, but the first step is checking that the version of android that you are running can be exploited. I had software version 3.12.405.1, which judging by the effen manual, the hack tool can automatically downgrade to version 2.50.405.2 where there exists a flaw that can be exploited to give you root access. Keep in mind that doing this will wipe your phone, so backup everything.

The effen manual also explains how to setup your computer to enable the hack tool to work properly. There are very few steps for linux which was great!

If you follow the instructions correctly, you will then have a stock standard install of an older version of HTC Sense. There are some advantages to having root access such as apps like titanium backup, ad blockers, etc. but the real fun comes from installing new Android ROMs.

I looked at 2 third party ROMs, the first was Cyanogen Mod and the second was Android Revolution.

Android Revolution looks pretty good. Visually it looks and behaves just like HTC Sense but they have made lots of improvements under the hood which in turn increases performance and battery life. As good as this looked, I haven’t actually tried this option yet. Instead, I opted to go for a bigger change of scenery and give Cyanogen Mod a go.

Cyanogen Mod does not look like HTC Sense at all. Instead it is based on stock standard Android 2.3. They have then implemented a slew of changes that come as default, such as an audio equaliser, ADWLauncher, the super-user app, a completely customisable button widget in the notification bar, customizable lock screens and a pretty cool torch app that lets you over charge the LEDs for super brightness! This mod also lets you overclock the hardware, put limiters in place and lots of other options I was not used to seeing in the HTC Sense ROM.

The 2 most important advantages of this change are that the UI is now quick and responsive again, I now have complete control over which effects are used and things like how long the animations should last, etc. and I have the best battery life I’ve ever had with this phone - I can now use the phone pretty heavily all day without needing a charge until I go to bed!

Very happy with it now and it should keep me tied over until the Samsung Galaxy SIII is released :)