There are many misconceptions and uncertainties shrouding the process of rooting Android devices. In what follows, we have sketched out the steps for doing it, and have also briefly touched upon the benefits of Android rooting.
Close to 40% of all Android smartphones in the world are ‘rooted’ by their owners. The principle behind Android rooting is almost similar to that of performing an iOS ‘jailbreak’ – i.e., getting the scope for greater customization of handsets. However, unlike the iOS platform, Android is open-source, and hence, people are more concerned about getting ‘full control’ over the operating system (OS) when they root their devices. If you too own an Android smartphone, here is how you can root it safely:
- Backup your phone data and note down the software version – Although Android rooting is a fairly quick process, mobile software and app developers emphasize the importance of taking a complete backup of all phone data first. The version of the Android platform on which your device is running (i.e., Jellybean or KitKat or Lollipop) would also determine the rooting software that should be used.
- Select and install the correct rooting utility – Another significant point of difference between iOS and Android is the sheer number of vendors that the latter has (as opposed to the single Apple iOS platform). Each OEM performs their own tweaks on the original, plain-vanilla version of Google Android (except for, of course, the Nexus phones). This, in turn, means that the rooting utility/software compatible with a Samsung handset would be different from that ideal for a Sony or an Asus or a HTC phone. Do some research on the web, and find out which of the available software would be best-suited to root your phone, and install it on your PC. Popular rooting software for Android phones include SuperOneClick and Z4Root.
- Get the Android SDK as well – Not all rooting software need the Android software development kit (SDK) to function properly. Even so, software testers and mobile app development experts recommend downloading the SDK, in case it is required during the rooting process. Once the rooting software and SDK have been downloaded and installed, restart your computer (this might be mandatory), and do a complete virus scan.
- Activate the USB debugging mode – Okay, now it’s time to turn your attentions to your mobile device. Before connecting it with your PC, the USB debugging mode in the handset has to be activated. Provided that your phone is powered by Android 4.1 or later, you can do this simply by tapping on Settings → About Phone → Developer Options → USB debugging. Certain phones (running on Jellybean or Kitkat) might also flash a message: ‘You Are Now A Developer.’
- Use a reliable data cable – There should not be any connectivity interruptions when the rooting is going on. To ensure this, professionals from Android app companies highlight the importance of using good-quality data cables (to connect the mobile device to the PC). Ideally, use the data cable a couple of times before, and make sure that it is in proper working condition. A loss of connection during the rooting process can lead to damages in the phone software.
- Connect your device – You are now all set to initiate the Android rooting process. Use the standard USB cable you have selected to connect your phone with the computer (on which the rooting utility and the Android SDK are present). Within a few seconds, the computer should display your phone as a connected device. If the latter is not detected, detach it from the PC and try again. Non-detection can be due to problems in the data cable, or defects in the underlying phone software.
- Activate the SDK – As already highlighted, this might not be necessary. However, you should activate the Android SDK too, before starting the rooting process. A re-check of the data you had taken a backup of (using a software like KIES or HTC Sync) would also be in order. After all, once your phone has been rooted, it will no longer have any old data. The backup has to be complete.
- Start the rooting procedure – Not much to do here. Refer to the documentation of the rooting software (and your phone), and start the process. Provided that you have performed all the above steps correctly, the rooting should go ahead without a hitch. According to Android programmers and general smartphone app developers, rooting an Android phone takes around 10-15 minutes.
- Be prepared for minor hiccups – The task of rooting your phone might not be as smooth as it might seem from our discussion thus far. There are chances that you will observe certain problems during/after the procedure. There have been cases of Android devices getting accidentally locked after rooting. If you face this problem as well, do a hard reset, and then, use your computer to restore your handset. You might also find that nothing has really changed following the rooting (a telltale indication that something has gone wrong). Restore your phone immediately, to prevent your phone software from getting irreversibly damaged.
- Know the advantages of Android rooting – Many people root their phones simply because ‘others have done it.’ Do not be a part of this Android rooting bandwagon, and find out the precise advantages you get from doing this. If required, contact an Android software/app development expert for the purpose. Correctly rooting an Android device can give you many additional benefits – right from changing the CPU speeds (overclocking/underclocking), to installing custom ROMs. You can play around with practically any element of the UI of a rooted phone.
- Need to reverse the root? – Contrary to what many people believe, Android rooting is not an irreversible process. If you feel that the original settings of the phone were better, connect the device to the PC, select ‘Android Root’, and click ‘Remove Root.’ In case the screen freezes or crashes while reversing the process, get in touch with professional mobile experts.
- Install jailbreak-access apps – This is, arguably, the key reason for rooting an Android device. While general third-party applications can be installed on Android phones before rooting (iPhones need to be jailbroken for that), there are many customized ‘jailbreak-access’ apps showcased at the Google Play Store, which you can install now. Choose apps published by well-known mobile app companies – to stay safe from malware (unfortunately, the Android platform has a lot of it). AdBlocker and InstaWifi are two jailbreak-access apps for Android that enjoy enormous popularity.
- Rooting will render the default warranties void – But perhaps you were aware of this from the very outset, right? Doing an Android Root or an iOS jailbreak nullifies the default warranties with the concerned smartphones/handsets. However, many mobile app developers feel that Google is not particularly against Android rooting – since there are so many devices shipped with unlocked bootloaders. Unlike Apple’s rigid stance on jailbreaking, Google is a lot more flexible.
- Get rid of unnecessary pre-installed firmware – When mobile vendors customize the plain-vanilla Android platform, they install certain default software in their phones. Average users, in many instances, do not need these pre-installed software – and what’s more, these can hog quite a bit of the phone memory and affect battery performance. Only after you have rooted your device, can you get rid of such default firmware.
- If there’s a problem, consult an expert – The process takes only a few minutes, but there are ample scopes for an Android rooting process to go pear-shaped – if you are not careful enough. The rooting utility might be incompatible, the data cable might be faulty, you might not have activated USB debugging, and so on. If you find that your phone has started behaving erratically after being rooted, get it checked by a professional Android software developer/tester/app developer. Don’t try to troubleshoot on your own.
Rooting Android phones and tablets is all about getting ‘superuser’ permissions on the OS. After your device has been rooted, you can even install a new, custom kernel on it. Optimal usage of a smart device is all about maximizing its compatibility features and functionality – and rooting it is just the right way to achieve it.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purpose only. In many mobile phones it is prohibited to root your device, since the underlying warranty is rendered void. The author of the article and the company will not be responsible if any warranty is void/nullified by rooting your device.