I am a proud owner of the HTC Hero and have been for several years. It originally came out with android 1.5 using the well-known sense skin by HTC. It got a quick update to android 1.6, and later even to android 2.1. The updates stopped coming and my phone’s speed degraded over time. I tried wiping to factory default but still my phone felt sluggish. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and dived into the world of custom roms and overclocking android.
Overclocking Android – The basics
First I will explain the basics. A ROM is a custom made version of the android software that you can run on your phone. It can be very different from what you are used to. Custom roms can include software that isn’t meant to run on your phone, or can be copied entirely from other phones, even from other brands. It may also include custom made programs or apps that are not available in the market. All custom roms feature built-in root access, unlocking features of your phone that are locked when you use a normal android rom.
Overclocking is something else. This involves making your phone’s processing unit go faster than intended. This usually makes your phone (a lot) faster but also drains the battery more quickly and generates a lot of heat. Sometimes, this can result in your phone going to waste. I actually made one of my batteries useless. It would only charge to about 50% and would drain within an hour or two. To prevent this I am going to share my experiences on overclocking my HTC Hero, or any android device in general for that matter. To counter this I bought a new and bigger battery for my HTC Hero which increased my battery life a lot!
To start it is probably a good idea to get root access to your phone. This enables you to install apps that aren’t meant to be installed. Root access is not always needed, but it can’t hurt to just enable it. You can simply do this by downloading androot from the market and click on enable root access.
The second step is probably the hardest: Finding the proper rom for you. Since there is such a vast variety of roms online, it can take a lot of time to find a proper one. Most roms have their faults as well. For example, some roms disable your Bluetooth or camera, some can’t handle GPS and some run on a core of android 1.5, making it a lot harder to find up to date or new apps in the market.
To actually install a rom you need to download clockworkmod from the Android market. This app enables you to load and backup roms. It will prompt you with a message saying you need to download another program for it to work. When it does, please do so, it is an automated process. Once all that is finished you are ready to go on flashing roms and whatnot. First, you may want to backup all the data you possibly can and download the official Rom should anything happen to your phone. I found the official HTC rom for GSM (Europe) Hero’s here. Once you are all set, select ‘load a rom from SD-card’ in clockwork mod and select the rom you want to load. Tick erase all data boxes and make a backup of your current build. Once you click ok it should reboot and start doing its magic. Note that you should have copied the rom you wanted to use to your SD card before you start this process. Do not put the rom into any folder, just on the root of the SD card.
If everything went alright you should be booted up now in your new custom rom Android environment. If it keeps booting up and shutting down, you are in a bootloop and are screwed. I had this a couple of times. One time it fixed itself by just shutting power on and off a couple of times. Other times I had to go into the bootmenu manually by holding the volume-down button while pressing the power-on button and select another rom or backup manually, and the third time I had to put my SD-card straight into my computer to load an update.zip file into that to run through the manual boot menu. Anyways, you should be running your custom rom now. Well that was easy enough.
Now a bit more about overclocking android. You need to have a rom installed with a custom kernel for the HTC Hero in order to overclock it. This might be possible on other phones with stock software, but for the HTC Hero you need a custom kernel which set the limit of your CPU to a higher number than its stock speed. Almost all custom roms feature an overclockable kernel. Once this is installed, you will simply need to install either OC widget or SetCPU from the Android market and install those. When prompted to give these apps root access you say yes and you are ready to go. Fire up the app and set your max and min speed for your CPU.
Warning: When you set your CPU too high it might burn up the battery, or otherwise severely damage your phone. Overclocking android can result in an unstable system. When your system is unstable try to clock it lower. Always overclock android in little steps, starting with just a small overclock and increasing it after it turned out to be stable. The highest stable speed for a Hero recorded is 710Mhz. This does not mean every HTC Hero phone can run these speeds. Find out your speeds yourself or use the auto clock feature in SetCPU.
Warning: Setting the minimum clock speed too slow can make your phone unable to wake up from sleep mode. This means that when your screen is turned off and the phone hasn’t been used in a few minutes, it will not come back up, or it might take a very long time. To counter this you need to keep the minimum speed in the safe zone around the 250Mhz.
Once done correctly, overclocking can greatly increase the responsiveness of your phone. In order to properly do this you need to take your time, do research on the capabilities of your phone and on what custom rom to take, and have proper backup possibilities at hand.
Roms I used
My personal journey started with Kimera 1.8. This rom was lightning-fast but was based on android 1.5. Somehow I missed that information, and found out only after seeing that the market was lacking a lot of apps I used to download. I quickly erased this rom again and changed it for something newer.
This led me to the wildhero rom. This is a custom rom based on the HTC Wildfire S phone, and brings most of those features to the HTC Hero. At first I was enlightened by the amount of extra possibilities this new version of Android brought me, as it runs on Android 2.3.3 instead of the stock 2.1. It doesn’t support Bluetooth, but what the heck, I never use that anyways. Once I booted up the rom however, I found it to be too slow to run properly on the Hero. I decided to start overclocking but I ended up with a very unstable system and a fried battery. The maximum clock speed that I got stable was somewhere around 610Mhz, which is way slower than most people who run their HTC Hero at 710Mhz.
I also tried the Villainrom, but it did not feature HTC Sense, which didn’t appeal to me at all.
Overclocking for Android – The Conclusion
Basically I was stuck with the wildhero rom for quite a while and decided to roll back to HTC’s own rom. It runs at Android 2.1 now again, and is somehow faster than ever. I am not sure how that happened. The only downside is that I am unable to overclock this firmware, so I am continuing my search for a proper rom for my HTC Hero.
I hope this very basic tutorial is of any help to you. If you have any questions please ask them in the comments. Also stay tuned for my further attempts of unlocking the true potential of my HTC Hero.