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HTC Desire – The simple guide to root

So over the years, having quite a lot of mobile phones I have learnt several things. I learnt that Apple with their iPhone created almost a fashion trend, however for you to get the most out of the iPhone you needed to have it jailbroken which then allowed you more access to your mobile phone and the ability to install whatever you wanted.

In the world of Nokia who use Symbian OS, there was never this need. My HTC desire has a few glitches, not as major as the iPhone but they still exist. So after some time I looked around for what other users where saying and because the Desire is relatively new in South Africa, information was hard to come by.

That being said I did find a few guides to Rooting the device. Rooting being the expression whereby you give yourself superuser access to your mobile phone. There are a lot of cool themes and skins out there, but the vast majority of them require you having a rooted device.

So credits to Paul from MoDaCo for the guide. My only addition is use a windows XP pc to do the guide. I tried running it on Windows 7 and it does not work.

Welcome to my guide on how to root the HTC Desire!

Remember that if you use this guide, you do so entirely at your own risk!!


This guide will allow you to root your HTC Desire, provided it has a bootloader version of 0.80 or below and ROM version 1.21.xxx.x or below (2 different downloads are available depending on your ROM version). To check this, turn off your device, then turn it back on with the ‘back’ key held. On the second line in green text you will see HBOOT- and then a number. Provided this is 0.80 or below, this guide should work for you.

Desire rooting protection

Back in the early days of Android, rooting was easy. You had several options – you could flash stuff via the bootloader, you could flash an engineering bootloader, you could use kernel exploits – there were many ways of getting the low level access to your device that – in fairness – I think we as paying customers are entitled to. As time has progressed however, the manufacturers have made things harder and harder. The Desire is not a straightforward phone to root, for many reasons, including…

  • a ‘perfected bootloader’ that doesn’t allow flashing or booting of any images (even HTC signed ones)
  • a RUU flash process that does not allow downgrading of the bootloader to earlier versions
  • a kernel (that as yet does not have publicly available source) that as yet has no known exploits
  • a new protection method previously seen on the HTC Tattoo that protects key partitions from having write access. Even with SU access, it is not possible to write to the boot, recovery or system partitions.

In reality, the options for rooting a device this secure are limited. Even if a kernel exploit were found, the key partitions would still be unwritable, rendering su access useless. This was circumvented on the Tattoo very cleverly, using a specific memory address from a confidential Qualcomm datasheet, however this information is not yet available for the Snapdragon chipset used in the Desire (and indeed may never enter the public domain).

And so the root process becomes a process of methodically probing every possible point of exposure on the device, looking for the slightest chink in the armour. I found one and we’re putting it to good use! The downside is that it’s not as easy or as pretty as rooting a device that is actually DESIGNED to be accessible at the lowest level, such as the Nexus One.

Shame on you HTC for going to such unnecessary lengths (but that’s another story for another day).

What this root process provides and does not provide

The root process will…

  • flash your device with a new, generic 1.15.405.4 based ROM that has Superuser access

The root process will NOT…

  • enable you to flash your device with a custom recovery image
  • enable you to have write access to the /system partition in normal use of the device

Both of these limitations are being worked on of course. wink.gif


In order to complete this guide, you need the following…

  • a HTC Desire wink.gif
  • a computer running Windows (32 bit recommended, some users have reported issues with x64), OSX or Linux
  • a microUSB cable
  • a microSD card (to be made into a ‘goldcard’ – only necessary if your device is an operator supplied device)
  • the downloads below
  • balls of steel (actually, I just made that up) tongue.gif


To be ready for the guide, download one of the following items…

– If you have a bootloader version 0.75.xxxx or below AND a current ROM of 1.15.xxx.x or below – DOWNLOAD (MediaFire) / MIRROR (ROMraid / CoBlitz) – MD5: 28dd5acc4104bb49bd4b292cc8e8437c

ONLY if the above download is not suitable – if you have a bootloader version 0.80.xxxx or below AND a current ROM of 1.21.xxx.x or below – DOWNLOAD (MediaFire) / MIRROR (ROMraid / CoBlitz) – MD5: eb2ed5bca1334cacd70e4720f5b29960

Once you have this on your machine, you’re ready to start! smile.gif

The guide

Follow through these steps, one by one and at the end of it you’ll have a rooted Desire with the latest ROM.
Note: This process will wipe your device and there is currently no option to backup your device ROM before you start


  • Make your microSD card into a goldcard by following these instructions (it’s a good idea to back up the contents of your card first!).
  • Unzip the file you downloaded to a directory, then open a command prompt / terminal window at that directory.
  • Copy the ‘update.zip’ file to your microSD. Do NOT rename it.
  • Turn off your HTC Desire, then turn it back on with the ‘back’ button held down. You’ll see ‘FASTBOOT’ written on the screen in a red box. Connect the phone to the computer.
  • In the terminal window, enter either ‘step1-windows.bat’, ‘./step1-mac.sh’ or ‘./step1-linux.sh’ as appropriate.
  • Navigate to the ‘BOOTLOADER’ and then ‘RECOVERY’ option on the menu, using the volume buttons to move and the power button to select.
  • When a black screen appears with a red triangle, press and hold ‘Volume Up’ then tap ‘Power’.
  • Your device should now be at the ‘recovery’ screen. Select the ‘wipe data/factory reset’ option, then select the option to ‘Apply sdcard:update.zip’. This will take a little while, so go make a nice cup of tea. When the flash has finished, reboot, and you are DONE! smile.gif


If you have any issues with the root process please visit Modaco.com.
Credits: Paul from MoDaCo

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