How to change the kernel on an Android

Written by stephen byron cooper Google
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How to change the kernel on an Android
Many different smartphone models use the Android operating system. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Android operating system for smart phones is an alternative to Apple’s iOS and was produced by Google. The Android platform is a high level operating system and needs another layer of program services to interact with hardware of the phone. This lower layer is called the kernel. Android’s kernel is based on the Linux operating system. Some third parties offer customized kernels and you can download and install them on your Android smart phone. Your phone needs to be “rooted” before you can change the kernel. This means gaining super user privileges in the operating system. Many different brands of smart phone use the Android operating system and the rooting process is specific to each. You will need to consult the specific details of your phone to make sure it is rooted (see Resources).

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


    Find a kernel

  1. 1

    Select a customised kernel (see Resources). There are many varieties of kernel available for download over the World Wide Web. The kernel you select will depend on the enhanced performance you want from your phone. Many kernels exist to improve a particular aspect of the phone’s performance, such as memory management or power usage.

  2. 2

    Check the details of your preferred kernel. Make sure you only look for kernels that are suitable to the make of smart phone you have and the type of ROM you have; each combination of phone brand and ROM has a different requirement from the kernel.

  3. 3

    Download the kernel source code onto a PC. Most kernels require a Windows-based PC to process onto the phone. Check the instructions of the kernel you want to install. The code will download as a compressed file. It will have either a .tar or .zip file extension.

    Install with Odin

  1. 1

    Download the Odin application (see Resources). You need Odin to install the kernel if the kernel software downloaded with the .tar file extension. This will run on your PC.

  2. 2

    Unzip the downloaded file and store all component files in a directory under “My Documents” called “Odin.” Click on the ODIN.exe file to run it. Click on the PDA section in the Odin browser and click on the tar file containing the kernel you want to install.

  3. 3

    Enter “Download Mode” on your phone by pressing “Volume Down” and “Power” and “Menu” together. When prompted to confirm, press the “Volume Up” button on the phone. Connect your rooted smart phone to your PC with a USB cable, which should have been provided with your phone.

  4. 4

    Return to Odin. Check that it shows the message “Added!” to confirm that it can connect to your phone. Select “Start” and then ODIN will install the new kernel on your phone. It will reboot the phone when the process has completed.

    Install with Recovery mode

  1. 1

    Use the recovery mode on Android to install the new kernel if the kernel file you downloaded has a .zip file extension. First, connect your phone to the PC with the phone’s USB cable.

  2. 2

    Copy the zip file to the SD card on the phone. The file should not go into any directory on the SD card, but should be placed in the root directory. Unplug the phone from the computer and turn it off.

  3. 3

    Reboot the phone in “Recovery” mode. Press the “Volume Down” button together with the “Power” button. This brings you to the “HBOOT” menu. Enter recovery mode by pressing “Volume Up,” “Power” and “Menu” buttons together.

  4. 4

    Specify “Wipe Cache Partition” and then click on “Yes – Wipe Cache” in the popup window. Next, select “Advanced” and then select “Wipe Dalvik Cache” from the next group.

  5. 5

    Choose “Install Zip from SD Card” and then “Choose Zip from SD Card” to select the zip file you transferred onto the card. Confirm the installation. The new kernel will be installed.

  6. 6

    Select “Go Back” and then “Reboot System Now.” The new kernel will only be active once the phone powers down and turns on again.

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