AlphaRevX – At Last, You Can Root the Wildfire

After an enormous wait, it is now possible to bypass HTC’s locked HBOOTs and root your previously unrootable Android 2.2 device. Now HTC Android users who were unable to root beforehand (such as those with an original Wildfire) can enjoy custom ROMs, CPU Scaling, advanced WiFi Sharing and much more. This article will show you how to do just that.

This guide also applies to the Aria, Incredible S, Desire, and Desire CDMA.

Please read this How-To all the way through before actually attempting to do any of it. If you don’t, it’s possible you will “brick” your phone, rendering it unusable. And please note: this guide is considerably more complicated than other How-To articles we’ve featured on the site!

What’s the Big Deal?

HTC left the original Wildfire off their list of devices to receive Android 2.3. They claimed that is was too slow and incapable of running Gingerbread without a diminished user experience. I put it to them that they are the ones creating the poor user experience. The reason is that Android 2.3 does run slowly on that device is that it’s filled up with HTC’s own resource-stealing software that most people never use.

By itself, and with the cleverly coded software from the CyanogenMod team, Android runs better than ever before on the Wildfire. You would have been stuck with FroYo forever; HTC purposefully put a locked HBOOT system in their Android 2.2 update making root extremely difficult and nearly impossible. Although HTC have announced that they will leave their future bootloaders unlocked, an update won’t come out to fix the Wildfire.

Why Should I Root?

There are many reasons to root, but for Wildfire owners the chief advantage is the ability to install a custom ROM (i.e. a different version of Android). James Cull wrote a great article describing why you’d want to do this: Why You Should Install a Custom ROM.

A custom ROM means:

  • No HTC application ‘baggage’ to slow the phone down.
  • Overclocking! – I can crank up to 750mhz so I can play games like DoodleJump and FruitNinja at smooth speeds. Everything on the system runs far faster too.
  • Regular Updates – ROMs are community developed and are pushed out much faster than official updates. Official updates for Android have to be checked by Google, modified by HTC, modified by your carrier, and then broadcast over the air, easily taking six months or more. Custom ROM updates can be released each week.
  • Access to all data and files on your system, including the ability to modify any and all of them.

The Guide

This guide is predominantly for Linux and the HTC Wildfire V1. It is combined from memory, external sources, and knowledge I gained from people in the AlphaRevX chatroom. If anything doesn’t appear to work exactly as I have laid it out, hopefully you can work around it. Support links are at the bottom of this How-To. Though the end result is great, if you are unsure of rooting, don’t. In most cases it voids your phone’s warranty anyway and if you get things drastically wrong, it can be bricked – this is very rare, but possible.

Step 1: AlphaRevX – Get S-OFF

HTC Phones supported are: Wildfire, Aria, Incredible S, Desire, and Desire CDMA.

First, you need to prepare your phone for remote access by the ADB platform. On your phone, go into Settings > Applications > Development and tick “USB Debugging”.

ENSURE LINUX ADB COMPATABILITY – A great guide for Linux is here Windows users can take a look at this guide or get some AlphaRevX recommended HTC drivers here.

Go to the AlphaRevX website.

On the website, select which operating system you would like to use (this guide uses Linux) and then save the download to your computer. You will notice that a new form has appeared. Fill it all in except Serial Number.

To find your HBOOT version: turn the phone off and then hold the lower-volume key while pressing the power button once. This takes you into the bootloader. At the top of the screen, you should see your HBOOT number (make a note of it) and ‘S-ON’. We’re aiming to change S-ON to S-OFF; doing so means we’ve successfully removed the protection on the phone which prevents you from rooting.

Select either 1.01.0001 or 1.01.0002 from the HBOOT list on the AlphaRevX form. I must warn you: the developers have told me that 1.01.0002 is quite unstable with some faults and may soon be removed. If you choose 1.01.0002, you might not succeed with rooting. Rooting on 1.01.0001 is around 95% successful.

Now leave the AlphaRevX website and your nearly-completed form open! You get the ‘Serial Number’ from running AlphaRevX. The serial number is not your phone’s hardware number or anything similar.

Next, run AlphaRevX; Linux Users should extract the TAR-GZIP file (‘tar -xvf ####.tgz’ if you want to do it from terminal, graphical works fine too). You may also need to run ‘chmod +x alpharevx‘ to enable its execution permissions. Then ensure you are in the same directory as the alpharevx executable and that adb has been integrated with your system (see above), plug in your phone, and run ./alpharevx to start. For me, this all looks like this…

This is how things should appear when running AlphaRevX in terminal - Yours should say Android 2.2 though, not 2.3.

Now the fun begins. You should see the serial number needed for the online form next to ‘Enter beta key’. Put the serial into the form on the AlphaRevX site, and then click ‘Generate Key’. Take the given key, type it in, and press enter to run the remaining part of the program.

This will take a few moments, but once the procedure is complete you should have S-OFF on your phone! Now that your bootloader has been altered, we can get on with the rooting.

Step2: Actual Rooting

With any luck, AlphaRevX has made your device S-OFF! Now that your phone is unprotected, it is time to root it!

You need to grab a microSD card (the one that is inside your phone will do), and ensure it is FAT32 formatted. Note: the microSD card MUST be FAT-32 formatted. If it isn’t, please format it (this means losing all your data, though, so you might want to buy a new one). You cannot do this without a FAT32 microSD.

Mine was originally FAT16 and I formatted it by first un-mounting the drive, then running ‘mkdosfs -F 32 /dev/#hardwareaddress‘. Windows users will find formatting the microSD card considerably easier and can use this guide. Formatting does delete all the data on your card though! So back it up first. If you don’t use a FAT32 card then the bootloader cannot recognise the new files we provide it.

Download this image file (don’t unzip it) and place it in the root of your FAT32 microSD card (root means the highest folder level): Mirror1 – Mirror2

Turn off your phone and put the microSD card in (if it was taken out), then hold the Volume Down key and press Power to enter the bootloader, as before. Now leave it for a few moments to gather data and do a few things. This can take up to 30 seconds or more. It should detect the file you put on the microSD and ask whether or not you want to update. Use the volume keys to move the selction up and down, then use the power button to ‘click’ YES.

Let it do its thing, and then once it is done, power off the phone.

Access the microSD card from the computer again, remove the image file you put on there, and put this one on instead, also in the root of the microSD (again, don’t unpack it): Mirror1 – Mirror2

Once again, with the phone off, hold the Volume Down key and press Power to enter the bootloader. Again, wait it for it complete scanning the memory card and a few other things. Now select RECOVERY. This should boot you into ClockworkMod Recovery which is what the last package installed for you. You navigate in this mode using the trackpad, not the power button! Select ‘Install Zip from SDCard‘ (or something similar). Then select ‘Choose Zip from SD Card‘ to provide our specific zip. Locate our zip, and then click “Yes” to have it update.

This may take a few moments, but if everything goes according to plan… You should now be rooted!

Now if you like, you can stop here. Your phone is rooted and so some root-based applications will run under HTC’s Stock version of Android. However for the full root experience, I recommend you install the Cyanogenmod 7 ROM.

Step 3: CyanogenMod 7!

What is it?

Cyanogenmod is a community-developed version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It has none of HTC’s heavy software on it and is extremely optimised for the devices it runs on. It allows for overclocking of your processor and other deep system customisation abilities.

A great article to read on CyanogenMod concerning what you can do with it is Rita El Khoury’s ‘10 Reasons You Should Try CyanogenMod 7 and 5 Tricks to Stick With It‘.

Installing

There are two ways of installing CyanogenMod: using an app called ROM Manager, or using ClockworkMod Recovery which we installed earlier. Installing CM7 will will wipe all your data, so make sure everything you want has been backed up. Check out this guide for more instructions.

ROM Manager involves buying a cheap app on the Android Market. The CyanogenMod ROM is downloaded and installed quickly and without fuss.

ClockwordMod Recovery (the one I used) involves downloading the ROM separately, putting it on your microSD card, and then installing it from recovery mode. It’s a little more complicated, but not hard.

Both of these methods have good instructions on the CyanogenMod Wiki. Scroll right to the bottom of this page to see them under ‘Flashing CyanogenMod’.

Note: The CyanogenMod install page I linked you to offers you the ability to install all of the Google apps that came with your HTC originally (Android Market, Gmail, etc). An Android phone needs the Market, so make sure you install this!

If everything was successful, congratulations on rooting and customizing your phone!

Overclocking

CyanogenMod makes overclocking really easy. Go to Settings > CyanogenMod Settings > Performance (enjoy the warning) and then CPU Settings. I use the default SMARTASS CPU governer, set my minimum CPU threshold to 352Mhz, and set the maximum to 710Mhz. Though it cranks up to 768Mhz, I found this to be slightly unstable and caused the phone to crash twice – 710Mhz is playing it safe.

This 1.5x speed increase to your phone means that heavy-duty games like Fruit Ninja can now be played relatively smoothly! The overall system is much faster during any form of processing too (eg. loading photos).

Alternatives to the HTC Applications

CyanogenMod is fairly bland when it comes to flashy applications. The applications are great, don’t get me wrong! However some specialist software people may want is left out of it. So here are some of the alternatives I have found over these past few days!

Wireless Tether for Root Users

This is a replacement for HTC’s ‘Wireless Hotspot’. It’s a great ‘Wireless Tether for Root Users’. Besides being easy to use, set-up and configure, a traffic counter runs on the screen. So unlike the original Hotspot, you can see how much of your network provider’s data allowance you have used up in a session.

Price: Free
Market Link: Wireless Tether
Developer: Muller, Lemons, Buxton

Barnacle WiFi Tether

Alternatively, you can use ‘Barnacle WiFi Tether’ by szym.net.

This is an open-source WiFi hotspot tool which is equally as powerful as Wireless Tether. You can download a handy Widget to turn it on and off too.

Price: Free
Market Link: Barnacle WiFi Tether
Developer: szym.net

GoSMS Pro

CyanogenMod comes with the original Android 2.3 SMS application. Though it is lightweight and quick, it is pretty dull. So I recommend my preferred SMS application – GoSMS! It features attractive graphics and a variety of conveniences.

Full Review: GoSMS Pro
Price: Free
Market Link: GoSMS Pro
Developer: GO Dev Team

Business Calendar

HTC’s Calendar was one of the bulky applications I actually liked and used regularly. However after rooting I found a calendar I love even more – ‘Business Calendar’ by Mikado Software.

It seamlessly integrates with Google Calendars and presents your appointments and schedules just like the Google Calendar website does. A great navigation system allows you to quickly locate and rearrange your appointments – A must for the folks who love to be organised.

Price: $5.64 (£3.52)
Market Link: Business Calendar
Developer: Mikado Software

QuickPic

I never liked the HTC Gallery application and used QuickPic before I had even rooted. QuickPic is a highly attractive and intelligent replacement gallery application which does a great job of organising and displaying your photos for you.

Price: Free
Market Link: QuickPic
Developer: alensw.com

For even more apps, check out our article Customize Every Aspect of Your Android Experience.

In Action on the Wildfire

The end result for the Wildfire looks like the screenshots below.

System Info

Overclock? Sure!

Home Screen and Notifications

Gingerbread Keyboard and Dialpad - No lag, by the way, unlike the ones used in HTC Sense.

Conclusion

Overall, it isn’t too hard to do, though you do need a little bit of savvy to do the AlphaRevX step. If you decide to root, you open your phone to many features previously unavailable to it. When I first heard about the stuff rooting fans said, I thought half of it was overrated and exaggerated. After all these months, a Wildfire rooting method is now available and I can tell you: what they say is all true.

If you aren’t running root, chances are you are not getting the full Android experience. All Android devices should have the speed and flexibility that rooting and custom ROMs bring. It is a shame that many manufacturers add their own unnecessary software on top.

I hope this guide has been of some help to you. Thanks for reading, and enjoy being rooted!

Support

If things are not going quite as you hoped, don’t contact me personally because I probably won’t have any idea what to do. I have just laid out everything I was taught in this How-To. The real brains behind all of this can be found on the IRC chatroom #alpharevx on irc.freenode.net. Additional support could be obtained from the XDA-Forums.

Sources and Thanks:

  • The AlphaRevX IRC Channel and the kind people who helped me understand this so I could do my own phone. To join them for support and help, point your IRC client to irc.freenode.net, the channel is #alpharevx
  • The geniuses at the XDA Forums. especially nejc121 for his original ‘[Guide]Rooting after AlphaRevX‘, whose work I adapted for Step 2.
  • The AlphaRevX creators IEF and kmdm!
  • The CyanogenMod documentation team.