Google-free Android Setup


October 2018

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

I am in no way responsible for damage to your phone or other problems caused as a result of this article. By modifying your phone you are doing so at your own risk. Please be careful!

If you do run into issues, feel free to email me and I can try to help, but please note that I have limited time and I may not be able to respond.

Back-up Your Device

Unless you have a fresh device, I highly recommend backing up photos, pictures, messages, videos, contacts and other items that you may not already have a back-up of somewhere.

There are two ways to do so (and I strongly recommend doing both):

  1. Manually over a USB cable using Android File Transfer
  2. Using a tool called TWRP (instructions are included for doing a full system back-up below under Install Requirements)

Additionally, I recommend to write down a list of your favorite apps that you have installed on a notepad somewhere.

Install Requirements

I currently recommend using LineageOS as an alternative to the stock Android operating system. LineageOS is a free and open-source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform.

In order to install the operating system, please follow the steps below:

  1. Install ADB and fastboot by following the instructions at: https://wiki.lineageos.org/adb_fastboot_guide.html
  2. Download the latest version of TWRP recovery for your specific device at: https://twrp.me/Devices/ (sometimes you may need to actually use an older version, e.g. if you are unable to boot into recovery mode, but first try the latest if possible)
  3. Download the latest version of LineageOS for your specific device at: https://download.lineageos.org
  4. Go to https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/ and click on your specific device. Then proceed to unlock your phone’s bootloader by clicking on the Installation instructions shown and following the instructions for “unlocking the bootloader”. For example, if you have a Google Nexus 5X you will be following the instructions here https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/bullhead/install. If your device’s respective installation guide does not have steps for unlocking the bootloader you may need to search XDA developer forums. Note that not all devices have bootloaders that can be unlocked (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy S8 is not supported).
  5. Boot into the bootloader with adb:

    Run this command from your terminal or command prompt:

    adb reboot bootloader
    
  6. Install TWRP (recovery management software) with fastboot:

    Be sure to replace “path/to/twrp.bacon.img” in the script below with the path to the file you downloaded in step 2 above

    Run this command from your terminal or command prompt:

    fastboot flash recovery path/to/twrp.bacon.img
    
  7. If you are still in fastboot menu, use the volume up and down keys to select “Recovery mode” and then hit the power button to select it. Otherwise you will need to boot into recovery mode by pressing and holding down the volume down and power button for a few seconds – may vary depending on what your device is; you can search on DuckDuckGo for your device’s shortcut if necessary)
  8. Make a back-up with TWRP at: https://www.howtogeek.com/240582/how-to-back-up-and-restore-your-android-phone-with-twrp/
  9. Pull the recovery backup ZIP off the phone using adb:

    Be sure to replace “/sdcard/path-to-backup.zip” with the path to the back-up on your phone and “my-backup.zip” with the path to where you’d like to store the file locally on your computer

    Run this command from your terminal or command prompt:

    adb pull /sdcard/path-to-backup.zip my-backup.zip
    
  10. Repeat step 7 above
  11. Under the recovery mode menu, navigate to Wipe and then run a Factory Reset
  12. While in recovery mode, push the LineageOS ROM to your phone:

    Be sure to replace “path/to/lineage.zip” in the script below with the path to the file you downloaded in step 3 above

    Run this command from your terminal or command prompt:

    adb push path/to/lineage.zip /sdcard/
    
  13. Under the recovery mode menu, navigate to Install and select the file you just pushed inside the /sdcard/ folder
  14. (Optional) Root the device by installing the arm SU add-on at: https://download.lineageos.org/extras (make sure you reboot the device after running step 13 and test everything out first – then you’ll push it to /sdcard/ and then install it similarly LineageOS in step 13)
  15. Reboot the device (if you’re in Recovery mode, go to Reboot and then tap System)
  16. Install F-Droid
  17. Install your preferred applications from Recommended Applications below

All of the applications listed below are Google-free alternatives and/or useful applications that I highly recommend.

If you’re looking for a Google-free alternative to a favorite app of yours, please email me and I’d be glad to help.

Email

Security & Password Management

Tools, Messaging, & Entertainment

Networking

Pro-Tips

If you get stuck, search on XDA

Do a search on DuckDuckGo for “xda lineageos $deviceName $yourProblem”. You should generally find a solution.

For example, you might need to completely re-flash firmware, radio, and bootloader depending on your device. I had to do this with a Nexus 5X and followed this thread here for my issue https://forum.xda-developers.com/nexus-5x/orig-development/rom-lineageos-15-1-nexus-5x-bullhead-t3724575. I found this thread by searching “nexus 5x lineageos xda”.

How to back-up SMS messages

Simply install QKSMS (see link above), and in the app first sync with native messages, then go to Backup and restore, click on “Backup now”, and then adb pull /sdcard/QKSMS some-local-path (replace “some-local-path” with where you want to save the back-up locally). Later once you’re done with all the steps above, you can adb push some-local-path /sdcard/QKSMS, re-open the QKSMS app after installing it, and restore from back-up. Make sure there is a .json file in the /sdcard/QKSMS/Backups folder, otherwise it will not work.

Want to go Google-free on your Mac

Send me an email and I’ll ping you back once my article for that is up.

From your computer, simply copy the link to your clipboard, go to https://duckduckgo.com, and search for !qr <insert link here>. DuckDuckGo will automatically generate a QR code you can scan with your phone using SecScanQR (a QR code app listed above).

Opt-out of Google Location services on your Network Router

See https://support.google.com/maps/answer/1725632?hl=en. You will need to affix your router’s SSID name with _nomap.

Adjust captive portal detection

You may also wish to disable captive portal detection or change the default from Google’s servers. Do not do this unless you are highly technical and understand the implications of doing this. Disabling captive portal will most likely disable your device from working at airports, coffee shops, and at public wi-fi hotspots.

This assumes you have Android Debugging Mode turned on and Developer Mode enabled: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-get-developer-options-on-android/

Note you will need to reboot your device after running the below commands:

To disable:

adb shell
settings put global captive_portal_mode 0
settings delete global captive_portal_mode

Or, to re-enable:

adb shell
settings put global captive_portal_mode 1

Additional Reading


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