Manufacturers and carriers have a vested interest in dissuading you from rooting. The act of rooting can be inherently dangerous. Even so, for the careful user, the risk is minimal, and the potential benefits are impressive. This guide will walk you through the necessary steps to root your phone. Some devices can be rooted in minutes. Others take a little research. One thing is clear: rooting your phone can be one of the best ways to tap into the deep potential of your Android device.
Update: Included new rooting programs Towelroot, Kingo Android Root, and SuperSU. Added links to rooted apps, and link to video on Towelroot. This post was originally published on 3-22-2013. Simon Hill contributed to this article.
What is rooting?Rooting is jailbreaking for Androids and allows users to dive deeper into a phone’s sub-system. Essentially, it’ll allow you to access the entire operating system and be able to customize just about anything on your Android. With root access, you can get around any restrictions that your manufacturer or carrier may have applied. You can run more apps, you can overclock or underclock your processor, replace the firmware.
The process requires users to back up current software and flashing (installing) a new custom ROM (modified version of Android).
Why would you root?
You won’t find a lot of amazing must-have apps when you root, but there are enough to make it worthwhile. For example, some apps allow you to automatically backup all of your apps and all of their data, completely block advertisements, create secure tunnels to the Internet, overclock your processor, or make your device a wireless hotspot.
Why wouldn’t you root?There are essentially three potential cons to rooting your Android.
- Voiding your warranty: Some manufacturers or carriers will use rooting as an excuse to void your warranty. It’s worth keeping in mind that you can always unroot. If you need to send the device back for repair, simply flash the original backup ROM you made and no one will ever know that it was rooted.
- Bricking your phone: Whenever you tamper too much, you run at least a small risk of bricking your device. The obvious way to avoid it happening is to follow instructions carefully. Make sure that the guide you are following works for your device and that any custom ROM you flash is designed specifically for it. If you do your research and pay attention to feedback from others, bricking should never occur.
- Security risks: Rooting may introduce some security risks. Depending on what services or apps you use on your device, rooting could create a security vulnerability. For example, Google refuses to support the Google Wallet service for rooted devices.
How to root your Android
If your phone is not compatible with these devices, you’ll have to spend a little time researching ways to root on Androd forums. The best place to start is XDA Developers Forum. Look for a thread on your specific device and you’re sure to find a method that has worked for other people. It’s worth spending some time researching the right method for your device.
Preparation for rootBack up everything that’s important to you before you start. You should also always back up your current ROM before you flash a new one.
You’ll want to ensure that your device is fully charged before you begin. You’ll also need to turn USB debugging on. On Android 4.2 you’ll enable USB debugging by going to Settings>About Phone>Developer Options> and then check the box next to USB debugging.
Most Android rooting methods require you to install some software on your computer. It’s possible you’ll need to install the Android SDK. You may find other software is required. Make sure you follow the instructions on the XDA developers forum and install all of it before proceeding.
Unlock your bootloaderBefore you get started, You will also need to unlock your bootloader. Bootloader is a program that determines which applications will run in your phone’s startup process.
Unlocking your bootloader will allow you to customize your device. Manufacturers have responded to a demand for customization. Many of them have provided methods to help you unlock the bootloader on their website, though they are generally provided for developers, and they usually require you to sign up or register an account first.
- Motorola bootloader unlock program.
- HTC unlock bootloader page
- Sony’s unlocking the bootloader instructions.
Using TowelrootOne of the easiest methods of rooting is through Towelroot. This option works on most Android devices, (it was designed to root the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S5) but not all–specifically some Motorola and HTC devices. Unlike other rooting programs that require downloading and running a program on your computer, Towelroot will root your device by simply downloading and running the app. No computer needed. However, Towelroot will only work with devices that have a kernel bill date earlier than June 3, 2014.
Now go to Towelroot in your phone’s browser and click on the Lambda symbol. For more information check out Gadget Hacks’ youtube video.
Using Kingo Android RootThe Windows based, Kingo Android Root is one of the easiest ways to root your Android device. First, check to see if your device is compatible with Kingo. Their site provides a list of compatible devices. Then, download Kingo Android Root and enable the USB debugging mode on your phone.
Rooting forumsNo other mobile operating system parallels the diversity of Android OS. For this reason, there’s no universal way to root your device. If the above two options fail, don’t fret. There is likely a guide on how to root your specific device available somewhere online. Generally you can find a guide to your device on such as XDA developers’ forum and Phandroid Forums.
Once you have found the right guide for your phone or tablet, it’s simply a case of working through the listed steps methodically. It can be a complicated procedure and it can take a while. Here’s an example guide for rooting the Samsung Galaxy S4. It can appear intimidating at first glance, but provided you follow it step-by-step, it should be a pain-free process. You can post questions in the XDA Developers forum if you run into trouble.
Download Root CheckerYou’ll need to download another app to make sure your device has been successfully rooted. There are several apps available on the Google Play store that, when downloaded, will tell you if you have super-rooter permission. Root Checker is a popular one. Simply downloading and running the app will tell you if your phone has super-user permissions.
Install a root management app
Unrooting your AndroidFor all the good that is rooting, you may want to go back to the way things were. SuperSU allows users to unroot phones by simply going into the app’s settings and select the full unroot option.
To root or not to rootGaining full root access to your Android device can be thrilling, especially if you want to tinker with settings and customize your device. How much it changes your experience depends largely on the device you have. If you have a shuttered device, like a Kindle Fire tablet, then it’s a great way to get the full Android experience.
The potential benefits for all Android users include improved battery life, root-only apps, custom ROMs, overclocking, an end to bloatware, improved performance, and the ability to upgrade your phone when you want. If you aren’t excited at the prospect of any of these things, rooting probably isn’t for you.