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How to install Android KitKat on the Galaxy S3

Kris Carlon
21

We realize that all these different firmware options for various different Galaxy S3 smartphones might be a little confusing, so we thought we'd spell out just what you have to do if you want to manually install the latest official Samsung firmware version of Android 4.4 KitKat on your Galaxy S3 rather than wait around for the carrier rollout to happen.

android 4 4 samsung galaxy s3 mini 2
No matter what model Galaxy S3 or version of KitKat, we'll show you how it's done. / © AndroidPIT

Because it only takes one over the air update for a very nice person to make it available for everyone, as soon as the firmware is available for your model you can put it on your phone yourself rather than waiting for the carrier batching process which may have you waiting for weeks or even months to see the latest Android version. There's nothing dodgy about doing it this way either: Samsung even provides you with the tools to do it.

Samsung Kies
Samsung make updating a breeze with Kies. / © Samsung

Options

The updating process can be handled using two different tools. Samsung Kies is a manual updater that simply lets you push the latest firmware to your device rather than wait for the OTA. Because there's no guesswork involved it's super easy and straightforward. Simply plug your Galaxy S3 into your computer with a USB cable and let Kies do the rest. It will identify what firmware version you currently have and what the latest available version is. If there's new firmware available via Kies you can flash it and that's all there is to it. Odin is another manual updating tool that we'll use for this tutorial.

androidpit galaxy s3 jelly bean
Here we have an international Galaxy S3 (GT-I9300) running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean  / © AndroidPIT

Updating with Odin

First up, you need to know your S3's model number: this is super easy to find (see above), just go to Settings and About Phone and you'll see your model number listed. This is really important as each individual model has different firmware. Trying to flash the wrong firmware could brick your device, especially if you have a carrier locked S3. In the US it's easy, because each carrier branded version has an easily recognizable model number. International S3's have the same model number but many different carriers. The difference is that technically you can flash any international firmware on any international S3. Note: the images below are for illustration purposes only, the information in the screen grabs may not be relevant to you and your device!

SamMobileFirmware
As you can see, Sam Mobile has plenty of firmware for plenty of Samsung devices. / © SamMobile

Once you know your model number you can visit Sam Mobile's firmware page and enter your model number to find the latest official firmware for your device. Look for your carrier in brackets after your country. It's safest to flash your specific carrier's firmware (make sure you have the right model number!) but not totally essential. The main difference is carrier bloatware but you could also encounter some issues with frequencies for the radio etc. It's better to be safe than sorry though. Some countries do not have any carrier-specific firmware, just a generic one. Once you've found your firmware just download it to your computer. If you're wondering what all the numbers and letters in the firmware mean, here's how to make sense of your Samsung firmware number.

odin 309
This is Odin v3.09. It may look daunting but it's really pretty esy. / © AndroidPIT

Next, you need a tool called Odin. Odin simply lets you push firmware to your device, including custom ROMs. It can also be used to downgrade to previous firmware, but this process has been made much harder since Android 4.3 and the introduction of Samsung Knox. The process is simple: connect your Galaxy S3 in Download Mode to your computer and wait until Odin recognizes the connection, enter some information about the firmware and hit Start. Before we go into the step by step instructions, it's important that you back up any important data before proceeding, as you will lose your data in this process. If you're at all paranoid about your SD card or SIM card, just remove them before proceeding.

ModoDownload
This is the screen you're looking for. Press volume up to enter Download Mode. / © AndroidPIT

What you need to do

1. Make sure you have the correct firmware for your model number and carrier.

2. Download Odin, unzip it and open the program.

3. Make sure your Galaxy S3 has USB Debugging enabled in Developer Options. If you do not have access to this settings area already, go to Settings > About Phone and tap the build number repeatedly until the option is enabled. Make sure your device has at least 75% battery remaining.

LV1A4515
Not the right phone, I know, but this is Odin Mode, aka Download Mode. / © AndroidPIT

4. Restart your Galaxy S3 in Download Mode: turn it off, then press and hold Volume Down, Home and Power until you see the Warning screen with the yellow triangle. From here press volume up to access Download Mode (aka Odin Mode).

5. Connect your S3 to your computer with a USB cable and wait for Odin to recognize it. If nothing happens, you may need to manually install Samsung drivers and then try again.

Galaxy S5 Odin update
In Odin v3.09 you enter the tar.md5 file in the AP line and make sure re-partition is not checked. / © AndroidPIT

6. Click the PDA button (in Odin v3.07) or AP (in Odin v3.09) and navigate to the tar.md5 file in the firmware you downloaded. 

7. Make sure repartition is not checked in Odin (Auto Reboot and F.Reset Time are ok).

Galaxy S5 Odin Pass
Once the Odin process is complete you'll get a nice green Pass message. / © AndroidPIT

8. Click start and wait until the process completes. Do not disconnect your device from your computer. You will see a Pass message and your S3 will reboot. Don't panic if it takes a little while. If you wait a long time you may be stuck in a boot loop. To get out of this you can re-flash the firmware again or do a factory reset using the hardware buttons. If you have issues, head to our forum for assistance.

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Comments

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  • Rob Martin 4 months ago Link

    When using Kies, it tells me that Model 'SGH-I747' does not support initializing. Is there any way around this?

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    • User picture
      Mod
      Sanjai Joseph 4 months ago Link

      This is very common problem
      Try the latest version of KIEs
      Reinstall samsung usb drivers
      Use the usb port behind CPU
      Do not use a usb hub
      Uninstall any antivirus on the phone
      Make sure you are using Kies from an account with administrator permissions

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  • Greg Jacques 4 months ago Link

    Using latest version of Kies and it is saying that I have the latest version of the firmware, though I am running 4.3 (Verizon).
    What am I missing?

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    • User picture
      Mod
      Sanjai Joseph 4 months ago Link

      usually galaxy s3 international version gets their update from Samsung and carrier based phones like LTE, Verizon gets their update from their carrier only..
      so if you need to wait until Verizon release it or you can unlock your network to use 4.4

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      Kris Carlon 4 months ago Link

      Hey @Greg, sadly Verizon are not exactly known for being the fastest carrier to roll out updates. You may have a little while to wait yet, but once the update is available it'll appear in Kies. Just stay patient.

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  • Vivek 4 months ago Link

    Hi Kris
    I have a Macbook and wish to upgrade my S3 from 4.1.2 to latest os. I purchased my phone from HONG KONG, but now I am in India. I didn't get any update yet. Please suggest how to update to KIT KAT through using my MAC.

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      Sanjai Joseph 4 months ago Link

      you can use heimdall for mac which is just like odin.
      you can unlock your network carrier to flash other country firmware

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  • Stuart 4 months ago Link

    My Kies also says I have the latest version and won't update. I am with Orange in the UK.

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    • User picture
      Mod
      Sanjai Joseph 4 months ago Link

      International phone get their update from samsung and carrier based phone gets their update from their network carrier only

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 4 months ago Link

      As @mobile crackers said, you need to wait for Orange to complete their certification process. The updates go from Google to manufacturers to carriers to you. Each step has a it of a delay of course. Keep an eye on Sam Mobile's firmware page for the Orange update for your S3. Then you can push it manually through Kies.

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  • Valon Balidemaj 4 months ago Link

    I can't not find the 4.4 firmware for GT-I9300 and GT-I9305?

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  • Vivek 4 months ago Link

    Regarding Heimdall is the installation process of KK same as in Odin ? Also I use a unclock version of S3, so I guess no issues regarding using any other countrie's version

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      Admin
      Kris Carlon 4 months ago Link

      Hey @Vivek, I haven't used Heimdall before, but there's no issue flashing any international version firmware on an unlocked international S3. The only issues could arise if you flash a country's firmware that has a different language to you, like Arabic or an Asian language. All you need to do then is get the language pack you need. Not a big deal, but it might be a little weird at first!

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  • Clark Caldwell 4 months ago Link

    Looking for 4.4 firmware for SGH-i747 on AT&T.
    Product Code: SGH21747MBBATT
    PDA Version: I747UCUEMJB
    CSC Verision: I747ATTEMJB
    Baseband Version: I747UCUEMJB
    Android Version: 4.3

    Thanks!

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 4 months ago Link

      As far as I'm aware only the Canadian ''Black Edition'' variants have 4.4.2 so far. Keep an eye out though, AT&T Stateside can't be too far away. Hit Sam Mobile's firmware page and enter your model number to see if it's available: http://www.sammobile.com/firmwares/

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  • nunya funn 4 months ago Link

    will this break root? thanks!

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      Sanjai Joseph 4 months ago Link

      yes flashing with KIes or odin will remove root

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  • David Pandya 4 months ago Link

    Isn't this a somewhat misleading article?

    "No matter what model Galaxy S3 or version of KitKat, we'll show you how it's done."

    Except that for many phones it's not yet possible.

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