How and Why You Should Install a Custom ROM (Verizon GNex)

Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus is proving to be much like all of Verizon’s Android offerings. Good hardware tied to outdated software. This has left me frustrated, initially sold on the promise of updates direct from Google as they were released. Given this, I recently took the time to learn how to install custom ROMs to my Verizon Galaxy Nexus, and through all those trials and tribulations, I decided I would make a guide that shows just how easy this process can be. These instructions are for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus only.


To update to a new ROM, you must change two pieces of software: the bootloader and the ROM itself. The bootloader is analogous to your PCs BIOS, while the ROM would be your copy of Windows, Linux, etc. There are a few differences between smartphones of course. For one, the bootloader is locked by default. That is, you must unlock it before you can change it. To do this, you must download a program called fastboot (download link here). Now extract the zip file you downloaded above to a folder of your choosing. You also might need to install the Galaxy Nexus USB drivers (download link here).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you unlock your phone (which will wipe all user data), you may want to backup your information. I recently discovered "Titanium Backup" and found it to be terribly ugly, but very useful. I think it’s six or seven bucks, but I’d say it’s worth it. Unfortunately, it relies on having root access in the first place, so this is something you’ll be considering after your first successful attempt.


Now that fastboot is extracted, you’ll need to reboot your phone into "Recovery Mode". To do this, first turn off your phone. Once it is off, simultaneously hold the "Volume Up","Volume Down", and "Power" buttons until the phone vibrates and turns on. Next, on your PC, go to the folder that contains "fastboot.exe", hold "Shift", and right click. Now select "Open command window here". In the newly opened window, type "fastboot oem unlock" and hit "Enter". After some fraction of a second it will report that your phone was successfully unlocked.


Next, you’ll need to download the latest version of ClockworkMod Recovery (download link here). Once downloaded, copy it to the folder that contains fastboot and rename it to something easy (I usually call it cwmboot.img). Now go back to the command window and type "fastboot flash recovery cwmboot.img". This will copy the new bootloader to your phone, which allows for the installation of a custom ROM.


Now is a good point to sit back and think about what you’re looking for in a custom ROM. I personally want only what Google intended, and have found the Bugless Beast ROM to be an excellent version of stock Jellybean (download link here). Let me know in the comments if you’ve found a different ROM that works well for you.


Once you’ve downloaded your ROM of choice, rename it to "update.zip". Now reboot your phone, and once you’re back at the homescreen (you may have to click through some screens – don’t worry about setting up accounts as they will be wiped again shortly), plug it into your computer and copy the "update.zip" to the root directory of your phone (MyComputer -> Galaxy Nexus -> Internal Storage). Now reboot your phone into recovery mode again (same method as the first time). Now go to "install zip from sdcard" and then "install update.zip". This installation, as well as the first boot, will take some time (about ten minutes by my count). Once the installation is completed, you can re-lock your bootloader if you choose by typing "fastboot oem lock" into the command window. Then reboot, and enjoy!