You may or may not have heard of rooting, and even if you have, the process and purpose can sound a bit daunting to the uninitiated. But you don’t have to be a programmer to root your device, trust me, and there are some benefits that are really worth considering.
Let’s begin with the basics. Rooting is the process of allowing Android smartphone and tablet owners to attain privileged control (root access) over the operating system. This opens up file and folder locations that are typically hidden from regular users, such as system files and core application folders, and allows applications to perform more privileged commands.
Once rooted, users can install and run applications that require special privileges, bypass carrier installed software, and even remove bloat ware applications added in by manufacturers and carriers from their device. Root access is even needed you want to install trivial things like custom fonts on some devices. And perhaps most importantly of all, users can modify system files to install custom built versions of Android (ROMs).
A word of caution though, granting apps root access will allow them to delve into the more advanced and secure settings of your Android device. Whilst this isn’t a problem when it comes to the vast majority of wholesome software, malicious apps can do some serious damage if allowed into your system files.
Fortunately, governor applications, such as Superuser, can control the access granted to individual pieces of software, meaning that you can deny permissions to the vast majority of apps and only allow the necessary ones that you can trust.
Root security exploits aren’t rampant in rooted devices, but never the less, it’s important to be aware of the risks. Just make sure to download your software from trusted sources, as usual.
There are a few other risks to be aware of before attempting to root your handset. Firstly, it is possible to brick (permanently ruin) your smartphone. The chances are very slim so long as you follow the instructions properly, as these are tried and tested methods. You will also void your warranty, so don’t expect a replacement handset if something does go wrong.
But don’t let that put you off, gaining root access is akin to setting up an administrator account in any other operating system, and opens up Android to a host of new uses.
Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all solution for rooting your handset, most devices require slightly different methods and tools. But you will almost certainly require your USB cable, a Windows PC with your phone’s drivers installed, a full charge on your handset, and USB debugging mode enabled.
To enable USB debugging, go to system settings, about phone, and then repeatedly click on the build number until a message appears. Then go back to system settings and go into developer options and check the box.
After that, the best place to start is with SuperOneClick, a simple piece of software that can root a number of devices with the simple click of a button. There’s a list of compatible devices, downloads, and instructions over on the XDA Thread.
But not all devices are supported by SuperOneClick and I won’t be able to list every other method here, but here’s a list of some of the most commonly used rooting techniques for popular handsets.
We recently covered the Android 4.3 update to the Nexus Root Toolkit, which makes rooting any of your Nexus devices super easy. All you need to do is download the software and install, connect up your phone to your PC and then hit the root button. It couldn’t be any simpler. The Toolkit also has functions for flashing, unrooting, backing up your device, and restoring default settings.
For a full list of supported devices, download links, and more detailed instructions, then head on over to the Wugfresh website.
Samsung Galaxy S4 I9505 (Snapdragon 600)
Before you read any further, this rooting method only applies to the I9505 version of the Galaxy S4. Samsung has its own software for modifying the software on its handset, named Odin. You can also root previous Galaxy and Note handsets using Odin as well, but you’ll need specific zip files for your device.
This rooting method is a little more complicated to setup than the Nexus, but again it will only take a few simple clicks once you’ve downloaded everything. You’ll need to grab Odin and Chainfire’s Auto-root zip file, and know how to put your handset into download mode (press the Volume Down + Home + Power button simultaneously when turning your handset on).
There’s a little step by step guide put together by knowtechbetter which will guide you through the process.
The Moto X is another handset which is very easy to root, and is done by downloading a file onto your handset rather than by connecting up to some PC software. You’ll just need to one click the app once it’s installed then the application will do all the work. Just download the correct file for your network and follow the simple instructions from this XDA thread and/or check out this video.
As you can see there’s a wide variety of ways to root different handsets, so I’ll have to shorten the descriptions a bit for the last few major devices. Fortunately these methods are quite simple, but just make sure to read the instructions carefully.
HTC One – All-in-one-Toolkit for rooting, flashing ROMs, performing backups, and much more.
Sony Xperia devices – DooMLoRD’s easy rooting toolkit works with a wide variety of Xperia devices, including the new Xperia Z and ZL.
Motorola Razr HD, Razr Maxx HD, Atrix HD, Photon Q, and Razr M – If you’re looking for a way to root your Motorola handset then there’s a good chance that Motochopper has you covered. Again it’s another simple file that will root your device once you connected it up in USB Debugging mode. In fact, this works with the Samsung Galaxy S4 as well, weirdly.
Other useful resources
If your device isn’t listed above, there are a few other popular online resources available. One of the best places to start is the XDA Forum, which contains plenty of rooting and ROM information for every device with a development community. Simply check out your handset’s corresponding sub-forum and look in the development section.