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Can I flash a custom recovery (say, the one from Replicant with heimdall flash --kernel path/to/recovery.img, or ClockWorkMod) and then be able to boot the old system?

Without reinstalling the main OS of my Samsung Galaxy S.

I'm interested in using the commands from the recovery system without re-installing the main system.

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Perhaps, that's a wrong heimdall command if you want just to get a custom recovery mode, isn't it? -- – imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev Apr 21 '13 at 20:47

You can root your device without replacing the stock recovery or rom. However, if you ever want to flash a different ROM you will need to flash another recovery like ClockWorkMod or TWRP.

You can even run the stock rom with a 3rd party recovery but you most likely won't be able to take OTA OS updates since those require the stock recovery.

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Yes, I wanted to "run the stock rom with a 3rd party recovery". Unfortunately, my command didn't result in such a configuration. So I was in doubt whether this is possible at all. – imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev Apr 22 '13 at 0:09
Once you have root and SU installed you can install ROM Manager and flash either CWM or TWRP from ROM Manager app. But, what benefit is there to 3rd party recovery if you aren't going to flash ROMs? – Zooks64 Apr 22 '13 at 0:13

Flashing recovery does not affect your system. So, totally, OF COURSE! 😀

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