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Rooting for dummies: A beginner's guide to rooting your Android device

March 22, 2011

Rooting your Android phone is a term that you are bound to come across at some point or another while learning how to optimize your Android device. With millions of new Android owners cropping up each month, we decided to give a basic introduction into the world of rooting and to let you decide if it’s something you’d like to do. Towards the end of the article, you will find links to all rooting guides that we have here on Android Authority.

See Also: 6 benefits to rooting your Android device

What is rooting?

Rooting is the process by which you regain administrative access to your phone. Even though Android is an opensource operating system, you still don’t have full “root access” to do what you please on your phone. Back when the iPhone launched in 2007, the hardcore techies quickly realized the true potential of the device and the cruel software limitations that Apple had sealed it with. What became ‘jailbreaking’ on the iPhone was quickly translated to other platforms as well, and when the world saw the first Android back in 2008, the term “rooting” was born.

Why root your Android phone/tablet?

Rooting Android
The main reason people root their Android device is for freedom and control, and when you root your Android phone or tablet you gain full control over your system and can tweak it to your liking.

Improved performance: You can speed up your Android device by relocating your phone’s cache, thus allowing you to save phone memory and have a faster phone. There are applications available in the Android Market that will allow you to overclock your device to make it go as fast as you dare.

Altering system files: You can replace many parts of the “Android core.” Doing so, you can add new themes, edit the core apps (Maps, Calendar, clock, etc.), change the recovery and boot images, add Linux binaries, and many more.

More application choices: You will be able to install apps that are only compatible with rooted phones. For instance, you can install an app for taking a screenshot of your phone, or for overclocking your device, or for tethering.

Install applications to your SD card: One of the most talked-about feature (or disadvantage) of any Android device is the limitation where you can install applications only in the phone’s internal memory and not the SD card. While Google may reason that SD cards are slower in general and cannot run apps as effectively as internal memory, the fact of the matter is that most Android devices do not come with massive internal storage and, hence, greatly limit the number of applications that can be installed at a time. With rooted devices, you can use Apps2SD, which will copy ALL your applications to an ext2/3/4 formatted SD card and will also store future builds in the card. That is freedom to choose.

Latest Android OS (operating system): With many carriers holding back the updates to the latest Android operating system, rooting your device will give you the option to install any current and future OS’s by installing custom-tailored ROMs.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Tethering: After having rooted your device, you can also use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth tethering to share your cellular data connection with your laptop, PC, or other capable mobile devices. The application works with ad hoc connections and will get you up and running online on your laptop in no time. Similarly, tethering can also be achieved over a Bluetooth connection.

How to root your phone/tablet

To root your phone, in some cases, you will have to download an application from the Internet (such as most popular rooting apps like SuperOneClick, Z4Root and Universal AndRoot. Such rooting tools are easy to use. At other times, you will need to go the manual way by using either Fastboot or Android Debug Bridge (ADB). This latter case often requires you to type commands at a terminal or command prompt.

The procedure for rooting an Android device varies from device to device. So, in almost all cases, a rooting solution for a particular device will not work on another device. Also, a particular device can have several different rooting solutions. That is why it is crucial to always double-check that the rooting guide you are following is intended for your specific device.

Here on Android Authority, we have a fairly large collection of guides for rooting your Android phone or Android tablet. They are written in as simple a manner that can be understood by a first-time rooter. Other important sources of information about rooting various devices is the XDA Developers Forums and RootzWiki. There are also other sites and forums that provide rooting information for specific devices.

In most cases the rooting procedure is as easy as a couple of clicks. These days, the process has became less bloody and less painful. It is a relatively safe procedure. Although, there have been some nightmare stories and people having difficulties. Rooting may be relatively safe, but it is not entirely risk-free.

Android Root Risks

What are the risks of rooting?

Rooting your phone does come with some risks. The most notable risk is that you will void any warranty that you have on your device. However, you may be able to find the stock ROM (i.e., the firmware that came originally from the manufacturer) for your device, in which case you can reverse the rooting and bring your phone back to stock again. You may have difficulty finding the stock ROM for your device. It all depends on your device, but it’s something worth finding before you do root.

Other than voiding your warranty, there isn’t that much risk involved. Some users occasionally run into problems, the most nefarious of which is bricking your device (i.e., rendering your phone completely non-functional–pretty much like a brick). Other possibilities include bootlooping, in which your phone boots, reboots, boots, reboots, in an endless cycle. The chances of running into such problems, however, are very slim–provided, that you follow instructions properly.

Rooting your Android device can be a fun process. If successful, it will give you freedom and complete control to take your phone to a whole new level of function. We do recommend that you do exercise due diligence to ensure the rooting process goes as smoothly as possible.

What are your thoughts on rooting? Was it an easy experience? Do you recommend it to others? Do you have any question or concerns related to rooting that you’d like us to help you out with? We’d love to hear your thoughts.