Root It or Boot It: Droid X Edition

The phone upgrade cycle moves at blazing speeds. Inevitably, some devices will either get left behind in the by rapid updates to the software, or simply be made obsolete by new tech. In our new series we’ll be taking a look at all the ways to extend the life of older Android smartphones that are starting to near their end of life, as well as decide whether it’s worth the extra effort, or if it’s time to kick that old clunker to the curb. This week’s Root It or Boot It test subject: the Droid X.

The Droid X was one of the most iconic devices of the 2010, developing a large following and an active developer community. The locked bootloader did send many potential developers packing due to the inability to elicit any real functional change through kernel mods, but CVPCS’ 2nd-init hack gave the phone a new lease on life and brought many new opportunities for the ROM community. Let’s dive right in.

Obligatory disclaimer: You are responsible for any consequences resulting from tweaking, rooting, or modding your phone. What this guide will teach you how to do will violate your warranty. If something out of the ordinary happens we can’t guarantee that it can be undone. Neither RootzWiki nor the developers associated with the contained mods are in any way liable for anything that happens beyond this point.

Root it!

In order to root your device, you’ll need to have the following files handy:

Once you have these files, the following instructions will bring your phone to a rooted state:

  • Make sure you’ve installed the official Motorola drivers before proceeding.
  • Make sure your phone is set to USB debugging. To do this, go to Settings -> Applications -> Development and make sure the box for USB Debugging is checked.
  • Using a rear USB port if possible, plug your phone into your computer and make sure it is set to the “Charge Only” setting.
  • Unzip the file into its own folder. Open the folder and run MotorolaOneClickRoot.exe.
  • A command prompt window will open. Follow the instructions depending on whether you wish to root or unroot your phone
  • The rooting process involves three stages and a few phone reboots. Keep your eyes on the screen and follow all instructions.
  • When the process is complete, you will have a rooted Droid X and a new realm of possibilities.

ROM it!

Now that your phone is rooted, it’s time to get down to business. Some are happy to just run the manufacturer-direct system build their phone comes with and drop a launcher on top of it for some customization opportunities. No matter how much you shut down, disable, or freeze, there are still going to be remnants of Droid X’s MotoBlur UI taking up space in memory and helping to drain precious moments of battery life. Custom ROMs are going to give you the best opportunity to squeeze every last drop of performance out of your phone. It is still impossible to flash custom kernels on the Droid X, but the ROM developer community has matured to a point where they’re able to make great things happen on this phone without having to rely on changes to the kernel.

Before you step into the wonderful world of custom ROMs, there are a few tools that you’ll need to make the transition from stock to custom. You should be running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread); if not, take the time to update your phone and then re-root if needed. RootzWiki has a comprehensive guide to putting Verizon’s latest stock system image on your phone. Bookmark this page, as restoring the system image will be how you get out of any nasty mistakes or software problems that make your phone no longer act as it should.

For the ROM portion of this adventure, you’re also going to need a way to flash the ROM files onto your phone. Even though the names might not line up, you should invest in the Droid 2 Recovery Bootstrap. It is where the bulk of installation work will take place. You should also download ROM Manager The Premium version has some excellent benefits that make it well worth the money (Notifications when your ROM has available updates, automatic backups, install ROMs from QR codes, many more) but it’s not required to participate in the fun. Each ROM we’ll be introducing you to has slight variations in installation instructions, and we’ll link you to those instructions along with the download links for the ROM itself.

Up first for your consideration is the ROM Liberty3 for Droid X. Liberty has been a long-running ROM series for the Motorola Droid family of phones. It is built and maintained by a talented and innovative stable of developers. Liberty ROMs offer a close-to-AOSP experience while providing a high level of control over system function, optimization, and customization for its users. The only MotoBlur remnants left in this ROM are the dialer, contacts, and camera, but the built-in Liberty Toolbox includes options that allow the user to reinstall other Blur apps as desired. For those of you who like to keep tighter tabs on your battery life and were unhappy with Motorola’s 10% tickdown, Liberty3 does include single percentage point battery reporting. Liberty is a great starting place for custom ROM users due to its polish, ease of use, and stability.

Liberty Links: Forum SectionLatest Build Thread

Of all the ROMs available for any Android phone, CyanogenMod is among the most ubiquitous and recognizable names out there. CyanogenMod ROMs offer unprecedented control and customization of your phone. Through the Nightly Build system, updates for the families of supported devices are rolled into the package as well as updates to the available Android system builds. Nightly builds do run a higher risk of instability than their stable release
counterparts so expect some possible rough edges until a release candidate or stable release appears for the Droid X. Like Liberty, CyanogenMod is a very vanilla AOSP-like build, but there are many customization options. The built-in Theme Engine and a host of themes available on the market mean you can change up your phone’s look on a regular basis and still not scratch the surface of potential styles. The CyanogenMod team’s About page has an extensive rundown of what makes CyanogenMod a unique experience, along with a multitude of screen shots. CyanogenMod handles like a good sports car; it might make the new initiate a little feint of heart, but the possibilities for customization and optimization take off once you’ve learned your way around under the hood.

CyanogenMod Links: Forum SectionLatest Build Thread

RootzWiki is also host to several other ROMs with active developers and communities. If Liberty or CyanogenMod aren’t what you’re looking for, you should give these other ROMs a visit in our forums:

Boot It?

Although the Droid X isn’t the oldest phone around, it has already been succeeded by newer product revisions and is no longer available for purchase from wireless service providers. Its single core OMAP processor has been passed by higher clocked single core and similarly clocked dual-core devices with more RAM and newer processor designs. The Droid X also lacks the front-facing camera that is standard on many phones currently shipping.

While it is definitely becoming long in the tooth, the Droid X is serviceable and worth keeping around. The phone flourishes under ROMs that trim out Motorola and Verizon’s baked-in applications. The CPU overclocks well; while it might not be able to handle the latest games built for multi-core systems, most current games work without a hitch and applications should be functional for the foreseeable future. Battery life has steadily improved in many of the custom ROMs, and as the phone is 3G only there won’t be a problem with battery drain related to 3G/4G switching. This, combined with a durable chassis, a good (but not great) screen, and quality camera you’ve got a device that could easily see comfortable use for another year.

The Droid X is definitely still a keeper. Many good things are still to come for this device thanks to the hard work of the developer community. For more, check out the Droid X forums here.]]>

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