Rooting your Android – Everything you need to know!

by: Rob TriggsApril 23, 2016
1.8K
Root Android achieved

If you’ve been around the world of Android long enough, you’re almost certain to have come across the term rooting. It’s one of those nerdy sounding technical terms that can be tough to get into, but even relatively casual smartphone users can get into and might find something about it that can benefit their smartphone or tablet.

Are you looking into truly unlocking your Android device’s full potential? Maybe you are not sure. In this post we explain the pros, cons, and necessary details for you to make your decision and get started on the road to rooting.

What is rooting?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, rooting simply refers to the act of obtaining access to commands, system files, and folder locations that are usually locked off for the user. Rooting could be thought of as moving from being a system user to becoming an administrator, with the additional freedom and risks that come from more control over the deeper workings of your device.

what-is-root-video-thumbRead more: What is root – Gary explains18

Once rooted, users can install and run applications that require special privileges, bypass carrier installed software, and even remove bloat-ware applications added by manufacturers and carriers. Root access is even needed if you want to install trivial things like certain custom fonts, and can unlock new features in certain apps and launchers.

The actual method required to root your phone will vary from model to model, so we can’t possibly cover them all. Unfortunately, these can also be patched out by manufacturers and even upgrading your software can cause root exploits and permissions to be lost. But before we get into some of the finer details, let’s go through a few of the key knowledge points.

Things every rooter should know

We’ll starting with the big question – is rooting legal?

lawsuit

This is tough to answer as it depends on your own country’s laws. Many countries allow for the bypassing of digital rights management and locks, providing that this is not used for other illegal purposes, such as circumventing copyrights. In Europe, the Copyright Directive includes exceptions which work as above, as do India’s copyright laws.

The US is more complicated, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes rooting illegal unless there’s an exception. At last check, the US Copyright Office granted an exception to smartphones. In practise, no-one has even been brought up on charges for rooting their devices, but it might be best to check your national laws if you are unsure.

While we’re looking at the more questionable aspects of rooting, I should include the obligatory statement about the potential risks. The risk of rendering your device unusable by rooting is relatively low, but it in rare cases something may prevent it from booting properly. Many “one-click” methods will perform a compatibility check before processing, but always read instructions carefully and do your own background checks on the method you intend to use.

Rooting key words:

  • Bootloader – Lowest level software on your phone that starts up recoveries and then the main operating system.
  • Recovery – Low level software that can create and restore full system backups. Accessed before the main OS.
  • ADB (Android Debug Bridge) – A command line tool that is part of the Android SDK, which support communication between a computer and an Android device.

Furthermore, rooting can cause some issues with official handset updates, but it is usually fine to install new software manually if you really want to. Updating will often cause root permissions to be lost, in which case the procedure will need to be performed again. Occasionally an update will block old root methods and sometimes rooted devices will fail to install updates. If you’re device stops booting after an attempted root exploit, you can usually restore it to factory specifications rather easily.

This leads us nicely onto warranties, which is another grey area in the world of rooting. While carriers don’t much like you tampering with their hardware and software, some manufacturers have become kinder to rooters and even those who install third party software. However, few have a clear stance on what software tweaks will void your warranty and you certainly can’t count on having your rooted handset fixed if something goes wrong. Devices with locked bootloaders, the very low level software that starts up your phone, are designed specifically to prevent rooting, so don’t expect any sympathy from these manufacturers.

Nexus 7 Nexus 9 Moto G Chromebook ADB USB

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to remove root and/or set your phone back to its stock state, should you need to send your phone in for repairs. That is, as long as the phone is in working order and you can actually modify it to its stock state. If you’ve rooted your device but decided that the benefits aren’t worth it, you can always unroot your device rather easily. Although this often involves returning your phone to stock software or performing a factory reset, causing a loss of data.

The final major point to be aware of is that of security. With a greater level of control comes a greater level of risk, and rooting your phone can open up your device to more dangerous pieces of malware. This is where governor applications come in, which monitor and control which processes are given root permissions. You may be familiar with SuperSU or other similar apps. These are very straightforward to use and simply display a pop-up whenever an app or process wants root access, which you can either deny or allow and save your preference if you trust the app.

If you avoid suspicious APKs, apps and stores, there’s little additional security risk posed to a rooted handset.

So should you bother with rooting?

As you can see, there’s quite a lot to consider before taking up your rooting tools. While having greater controls over your device is certainly tempting, these days many users can find that the trade-offs aren’t worth the extra options that are opened up by root access. It certainly isn’t an essential thing to do to get the most out of Android, it really depends on your needs. To help you decide, here is a small list of pros and cons.

5 reasons to root:

  1. Easy to removing carrier bloatware
  2. Access to real backups and custom recovery options
  3. Additional apps, software features, and enhanced customization
  4. Overclocking and underclocking
  5. The starting path towards the big wide world of custom ROMs

5 reasons not to:

  1. Lack of compatibility with official software updates
  2. Locked out of some apps, particularly banking apps
  3. Process can be trickier on devices with locked bootloaders
  4. Most manufacturers won’t cover rooting under warranty
  5. Extra care needs to be taken regarding device security
best root apps for androidWhat can you do with root? 15 best root apps for Android103

How to root Android:

Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all solution for rooting your handset, most devices require slightly different methods and tools than one another, and different brands and even software versions can vary quite widely. Even within handset variants you may find that some techniques work and others don’t.

We couldn’t possible cover all of the options to tell you how to root your specific model in this article. But to point you in the right direction, here are some links to the most commonly used resources for rooting.

  • XDA forums. Have a search for your handset and you’ll quickly find the best available root methods for your phone, along with guides and pages dedicated to custom ROMs.
  • CyanogenMod Wiki. Even if you’re not planning on installing CyanogenMod, one of the most popular custom ROMs, you’ll often be able to find rooting advice and guides on popular device pages.

As always, read the instructions very carefully, check compatibility with your model, and take the necessary steps to back up all of your data before going through with this. We’re certainly not responsible if anything goes awry. Good luck.

cyanogenmod-nexus-5-boot-screen-aa-2-645x433Next step: What is CyanogenMod?32
  • PhukdNtheHead

    Lol… Androdi roms

  • Link_Alcera

    Root is good if you are very well aware and informed on what it is. My two cents: Enjoy the phone first for two years then you ROOT if you want to explore more. But then again, with great power comes with great responsibility. ;-p

    • Jason Harris

      The first thing I do whenever I get a new device is root it, install TWRP, install a custom ROM (usually cyanogenmod), and then the xposed framework

  • Midhun C. Manohar

    I would suggest rooting your device after 1 year of purchase, as that’s when most warranties of smartphones expire.

    • Happy

      In EU two years warranty is compulsory so every maker is offering it.

      • Android Developer

        What does the warranty cover? I assume replacing the glass, which is probably the most common thing to fix, is missing there, right?

        • Midhun C. Manohar

          Yes, but if the phone is rooted and bootloader unlocked, some stores will not accept even if it’s just for a screen replacement. They will obviously blame the software. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s true

  • ILikeAndroid

    I used to always want to root my phones but now that I upgrade every 3-4 months or whenever the newest phone comes out, there isn’t a point anymore. Throwing on Nova and an icon pack is plenty when you have a phone for less than half a year

  • A.M

    I root for xposed because I use Snapprefs a lot & I enjoy changing my icons

  • Kunal Narang

    I enjoy my one year warranty, then I open myself to the world of rooting.

    • kenkeyessr

      You mean people still hang on to a phone for a year ?

      • Sinan Cagrı Kurt

        Are you serious or sarcastic? Peoples change their phones once in 29 months. According to latest statistics.

        • Ethan Campbell

          With rogers, every two years.

  • CrapAfee ™

    Don’t forget that certain manufacturers put features on their devices that will flag your device if you’ve modified it and if you send it in for repairs pretending that you are still under warranty, they’ll find out.

    • CrapAfee ™

      Even if you reset the devuce to its default software.

  • Beebs

    I got a Mr. Rooter ad at the bottom of this article. Lol

  • Dusty Speiser

    I know this isn’t exactly the point of this article nor comments, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to root a Galaxy S5 Active on Android 5.0, but I have had no luck. Does anyone on here have any information that might be helpful? Thanks so much for any help!

  • Himanshu Soni

    How to root vivo phones ??

    • Yadwinder Gill

      Post the same question on Google, you will get your answer

  • aienurz

    Hi there..i’ve rooted the target phone..unfortunately, i still can’t see the WhatsApp.. How to solve this prob?thnx in advance!!

  • Wizard Glick

    So many morons, not enough time.
    Thanks

  • Ethan Campbell

    Now how do I root/jailbreak my iPad. Is that legal in Canada, and is it possible to do it without voiding warranty?