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How to easily root Samsung GALAXY S4 (GT-I9500), install custom ROMs, or revert to official firmware

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - SuperSU app

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been lovely after having used it for a couple of months, but there are just a few key tasks not possible on it. I want to be able to view passwords of previously connected Wi-Fi networks. Helium Backup is awesome, but I would like the granularity of Titanium Backup. I also want to use DriveDroid with bootable ISOs of Linux distros such as Mint, or utilities like GParted and Clonezilla for troubleshooting moments. All of these are not possible on our standard Android smartphones, unless we root it.

Rooting Android devices have come a long way and it’s as easy as ever on the Galaxy S4. This rooting process we’re about go through is for the international unlocked variant, or GT-I9500, that does not support LTE.

Disclaimer

As a disclaimer here are a few things you need to know before rooting your S4:

1) I’m not sure will this apply for other countries, but it will most certainly void the warranty if your S4 is purchased in Malaysia. Flashing a custom recovery or ROM will increase the binary counter used to indicate that you’ve tampered with it. However, in theory, restoring the original firmware will reset it back to zero.

2) If you do not know what you’re doing, never attempt any of these. We will not be responsible should you brick your S4.

3) This how-to only applies to GT-I9500; do not try this on other variants like the LTE version (GT-I9505).

Prerequisites

With that out of the way, let’s get to the prerequisites. I happen to have a Windows 8 machine (HP ElitePad 900) lying around so I’ll be performing the whole process on it, instead of on a Mac. There are also several ways to root the S4, but we’re going with the easiest method using a modded recovery by Cofface. Here are the things you’ll need:

1) Samsung USB drivers (direct link). The easiest way to get the drivers is to install Kies, but if you despise that piece of software, the direct link gives you the drivers needed, obtained from Koush’s Helium Backup page.

2) Cofface CWM Recovery 6.0.3.2 (direct link). This recovery is based on Koush’s latest ClockworkMod Recovery. It is a non-touch recovery. Apparently the touch version is closed source and can’t be repackaged by other developers.

3) Odin. Many threads recommend the older version (v1.85), but I’ve rooted the S4 with version 3.07 just fine. The Cofface download comes with Odin, so you don’t have to download it elsewhere.

4) S4 original firmware (direct link). SamMobile is a great site of all things Samsung and will always have a copy of the firmwares uploaded. The direct download link is for the latest firmware specifically for Malaysian S4’s, I9500XXUBMEA.

5) Two hours of your time. The rooting process is fairly quick; Cofface only takes a while to download. However, the original firmware takes more than two hours to download. You won’t need this firmware to root the S4, but keep it handy for recovery purposes.

Rooting the S4

With the downloads ready let’s get right to it. Rooting the S4 will not delete any data on the device, but please backup everything; it’s good practice. I recommend Koush’s awesome Helium Backup that doesn’t require root privileges. Not only will it backup the apps, it can also backup the app data (settings, high scores, et cetera), SMS, call logs, Wi-Fi connections, Launcher shortcut icons, you name it.

Download Mode

There are two modes, Download and Recovery, and we have to first boot the S4 to Download Mode.

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - Download Mode

1) Turn off the S4.
2) Press and hold both Volume Down and Home buttons.
3) Press and hold the Power button while still holding down the other two buttons.
4) Release the Power button the moment you see the ‘Samsung GALAXY S4′ boot logo, while still holding down the other two buttons.
5) On the warning screen, press Volume Up to continue.

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - ODIN Mode

Flash Cofface

Cofface Recovery is based on ClockworkMod Recovery but has an additional root option. We need to replace the S4’s stock recovery with this.

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - Odin

1) Launch Odin
2) Connect the S4 that’s already in Download Mode.
3) Make sure the ID:COM indicates that the device is connected (color indicator is either in aquamarine or yellow).
4) Click on the ‘PDA’ button and select the Cofface recovery file (cofface_S4_recovery_en_V3.0.tar).
5) By default, ‘Auto Reboot’ and ‘F. Reset Time’ are checked. Leave them be.
6) Do not select ‘Re-Partition’ or ‘Nand Erase All’. Never. Ever.
7) Click ‘Start’ and do not unplug the cable until it says ‘PASS!’ on the indicator above.

Recovery Mode / Root the S4

With Cofface Recovery installed, we need to boot to it and root the device.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1) Turn off the S4.
2) Press and hold both Volume Up and Home buttons.
3) Press and hold the Power button while still holding down the other two buttons.
4) Release the Power button the moment you see the ‘Samsung GALAXY S4′ boot logo, while still holding down the other two buttons.
5) In the recovery environment, scroll up and down with the Volume keys, and select with the Power button.
6) Select ‘root/unroot your phone’ and then ‘Root your phone (New)’.
7) When done, go back and reboot the phone.
8) Back on Android, you should now see Chainfire’s SuperSU icon in the App Drawer.

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - SuperSU icon

Flashing custom ROMs

There are a few custom ROMs for the S4 over at XDA Developers forum, but most of them are based on TouchWiz. Both Android Open Kang Project and CyanogenMod have yet to have official ROMs for the S4. But if you find any that you like, download away. Remember to backup the stock ROM you have now to the SD card using Cofface Recovery by selecting ‘backup and restore’ in the menu.

Also note that to flash a custom ROM, a factory reset is required, so you’ll need to use Helium or Titanium Backup as well. Don’t skip this part or you’ll loose all your data.

1) Backup app and data with Helium or Titanium.
2) Download your preferred GT-I9500 custom ROM.
3) Put the ROM in the S4’s storage.
4) Boot to Cofface Recovery (with the same method mentioned earlier).
5) In the recovery environment, select ‘backup and restore’ to save an image of the current setup. This part will take a while, be patient.
6) When done, go out and select ‘wipe data/ factory reset’. This will delete everything, except contents on the SD card.
7) After the wipe, go back out and select ‘install zip from sdcard’, then ‘choose zip from sdcard’.
8) Navigate to the downloaded ZIP file, select it and flash away.
9) Reboot when the installation is complete.

Restoring official firmware

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The moment Cofface or ClockworkMod or any custom ROM is flashed, the binary counter will be increased, effectively voiding the warranty. By restoring the original Samsung firmware, in theory the counter will be reset back to zero. Under Download Mode, it’ll now state “Samsung Official” instead of “Custom”. However, I can’t guarantee this and there may be other methods for Samsung to detect whether or not the software/firmware has been tampered with. The rule of thumb is, if you’re going to root, the warranty will be voided.

Also, restoring to the original state also requires a factory reset. Backup and backup again.

1) Put the device to Download Mode (with the same method mentioned earlier).
2) Connect the S4, launch Odin, and make sure it’s detected.
3) Leave ‘Auto Reboot’ and ‘F. Reset Time’ checked.
4) Do not select ‘Re-Partition’ or ‘Nand Erase All’. Never. Ever.
5) Click on PDA, browse to the original firmware downloaded earlier. In this case, the file name is ‘I9500XXUBMEA_I9500OLBBMEA_I9500DXUBMEA_HOME.tar.md5′.
6) Click on Start and wait for the flash to complete. Do not disconnect until it says ‘PASS!’, or it could brick the phone.
7) Restoring will also wipe off Cofface Recovery and revert back to stock recovery.
8) Phone will auto reboot when complete, and a factory reset is highly recommended. Do this from the stock recovery (Volume Up + Home + Power buttons)

Wrap-up

Root Samsung GALAXY S4 - apps that require root

I’ve tried to be as concise as possible, and yet the post is rather lengthy. As a general reminder, always remember to backup before rooting the device. It is also a must when flashing custom ROMs or reverting back to stock firmware, since a factory reset is required.

The rooting part is also very fast. Once you’re used to switching between Download and Recovery Modes, you can easily flash different ROMs, since you already have a backup in-place to restore your data.

Congratulations on your new rooted Galaxy S4. Now that you have your S4 unleashed, let us know what your favorite apps that require root privileges are! Flash responsibly.

4 Comments

  1. Azman

    September 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Hi,

    I just have rooted my S4 and I wanted to unroot it. Just curious if I folow your instructions on how to unroot. Was it work??

    • Reuben Thum

      September 2, 2013 at 12:02 am

      This is for the 3G version (GT-I9500). If you have an LTE version, the steps might be different. You’ll also have to download the correct firmware. Good luck!

      • Azman

        September 2, 2013 at 12:19 am

        Thanks for your reply. I’m downloading the firmware now. I’m using the 3G version.

        • Reuben Thum

          September 2, 2013 at 12:29 am

          Good luck, do let me know what happens later. But if you brick your S4, I’ve got nothing to do with it. :)

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