Everything You Should Know about Android Rooting

featured-image

So you are thinking of rooting your Android smartphone? Sounds quite complex and a little bit geeky, right? Actually, if you have been the typical end user ever since you purchased your Android phone, it is kind of a big leap. It could be a leap in the right direction though.

Rooting your Android phone is all about following a series of steps—typing in commands and flashing files. This is a lengthy guide, and contains the following sub-topics:

  • Rooting in a Nutshell
  • Get Familiar with Rooting Terms
  • Why would you Root your Android Device? – Pros
  • Why You Wouldn’t Root your Android Device – Risks & Disadvantages
  • Basic Steps to Rooting your Android Phone
  • Best Custom ROMs for Android
  • Reasons Why Rooting Can Fail
  • I Have Rooted, Now What?
  • Must Have Apps for Root Users
  • Conclusion

This is an educational guide that covers end-to-end basics of Android rooting. Beware that rooting a specific device needs much more information and you might need to refer to device-specific guides available elsewhere on this website or on YouTube. This post doesn’t necessarily mean that we support and encourage rooting your Android device.


Rooting in a Nutshell

The goal of Android rooting is to overcome limitations imposed by hardware manufacturers on some devices. Rooting can give you the ability to alter or replace system apps and settings, run specialized applications that require special access, and perform other operations that are otherwise inaccessible to the normal Android user. Rooting, sometimes referred to as an Android hack, also makes it possible to completely remove and replace the device’s OS with a more updated version. You could also unlock hidden features, as well as boost your Android’s speed and battery life.

Simply put, rooting your phone gives you the opportunity to do so much more than your device can do out of the box! Your Android smartphone or tablet PC is based on Linux—an open-source computer operating system. Rooting your phone can be likened to trying to access administrative permissions on Linux, or any other Unix-like operating system such as OS X or FreeBSD.

While Android rooting opens up a whole new world to you, it can also void your warranty. Or worse still—it can even leave you with a bricked device. You can lose all of your phone’s data if you don’t perform a backup beforehand. The important thing is to be cautious.


Read before you root. Ensure that your data is backed up. Follow instructions keenly. Do these things, and you’ll end up in the right place – a superuser!

superuser titanium

Most carriers and manufacturers have a vested interest in dissuading you from rooting. But if you’re careful, the risks are minimal and the benefits are impressive. In the next sections of this post, we’ll tell you everything you ever need to know about rooting your Android smartphone, phablet or tablet PC.


Get Familiar with Rooting Terms

You are going to be dealing with a whole lot of new terms when learning about Android rooting in the following sections of this post. Here is a list of common rooting terms that will bring you up to speed:

Custom ROM

This is a modified version of the Android OS that contains additional features, customization, and speed. It uses developer’s own secret recipe to enable fixing of bugs, updates, and a snappier ROM speed.

Bootloader

A set of commands that are to be executed before running any software. Bootloaders vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, because of the hardware they use for their device. Unlocking the bootloader is one of the most important steps you are going to be executing when rooting your Android device.

Recovery

A place where you can perform backups, tweaks, and flash ROMs. Depending on the version of the recovery software you have on your phone or tablet, you may also be able to perform some additional tasks. Some of the more popular Android recoveries include the Teamwin Project (TWRP) and ClockWorkMod  (CWM).

Flashing

Execution of a zipped file that is to be installed on your Android gadget. Custom ROMs are often released in a ZIP file format; so once you have downloaded the zipped files, you can head over to your recovery and get started flashing.

ADM (Android Debug Mode)

The Android Debug Mode acts as the command line tool for Android. This is required from the Android Developer’s kit.  You are going to need ADB if you want to use all the rooting-related tools, particularly if you own a Nexus.

Systemless Rooting (for some Samsung devices 5.1 or newer, Marshmallow & Nougat)

A new method of rooting that doesn’t change any files within the /system partition. Instead, a modified boot image is used. This method bypasses recent security measures implemented on newer devices that would otherwise prevent root. Systemless rooting was developed by Chainfire, who is also famous for SuperSU and CF Auto Root.

Download: SuperSU


Why would you Root your Android Device? – Pros

When you become a SuperUser, you get access to the entire operating system and can do whatever you like. That’s exactly what happens when you root your Android smartphone or tablet PC. With root access, you get the following benefits:

  1. Run More Apps – If you have spent some time lately on the Google Play store, you know you’re not exactly hard-up for good apps. But why settle for good when you can get great? Once you root your Android smartphone, you not only get to install more apps, but also enable these apps to make deeper changes, resulting in an improved experience overall. For instance, you can install the Network Spoofer app, which uses your device to set up a fake wireless network.

You can also invert every image that your house guest sees when they check your phone; or change your MAC address to avoid data mining and eavesdropping, thanks to the ChameleMAC app. Some of the things that you actually can achieve border illegality – so use your powers wisely. And where do you get all these great root-only utilities? Most of them are still in the Google Play Store, but you there are also third-party venues as well.

  1. Ditch the Skin – Most Android lovers hate the software skins that hardware manufacturers impose on their devices. They’re often ugly, bulky and just not as clean and functional as plain-old stock Android is. Shedding an ugly skin can be like a breath of fresh air, and you may want to root your phone for that purpose alone.New-Skin
  1. Banish Bloat – Android phones are often plagued by apps that you don’t want and will never use, trapping you in the carrier’s ecosystem. And the worst part – you can’t remove them. You can sometimes disable these apps so that you don’t see them, but they’re still there, taking up space. Once you root your phone, you can use the Titanium Backup app to get rid of bloatware once and for all.
  1. Speed and Battery Life Boosts – So your phone is starting to get sluggish? Or maybe you’re having problems making it through the day with a full battery? Android rooting will allow you to install custom kernels (software that enables the OS to talk to the hardware) that are optimized differently. While some kernels are built for speed, others are made for low power consumption.

You may also use a good CPU overclocking or underclocking application to set rules of usage.  For instance, you could set your processors to go into overdrive whenever you’re playing a graphically intensive 3D game. You can also instruct them to keep power usage to a bare minimum when the screen is off.

  1. Advanced Customization – One of the biggest draws of Android is that it is already the most customizable mobile operating system available. When you root your phone, you can try out the amazingly extreme customization capabilities built into Android. For instance, you can use root-only apps to navigate your smartphone entirely with gestures.

Additionally, you’ll be able to change the way certain features look or behave, like the notification bar or the lock screen. You can download new animations that will play when your phone is turned on. When you root your Android device, the sky’s the limit for customization.

  1. Configure Restricted Settings – Does your phone’s display have a tint of yellow? By rooting your device, you can use an application such as Trickster MOD and use the gamma offset and multiplier to change your specific needs. You are also able to configure your device to fast charge via the USB cable so that you spend less time charging. Additionally, a host of other applications, including Total Commander, allow you to have access to various system files and even modify host files!
  1. You have an older phone – There’s no denying that technological gains have been made with newer Android phones. So much so, that some people would argue that rooting carries too much risk. And it might be true that the risk outweighs the benefit if you can already download tons of apps without it, your processor isn’t slow, and your battery is decent. But if you have an extra older phone lying around, or you can’t afford a new device, rooting can breathe new life into an aging Android.
  1. You have a newer phone – Systemless rooting makes it a lot easier to remove root if you change your mind. In fact, the root doesn’t even survive a factory reset. It does not work on a locked bootloader, and it won’t work in conjunction with older rooting methods because it doesn’t clean up old files. However, you can overcome previous roots by reflashing your stock system partition before you start.

There are also methods to unlock bootloaders, but they are device-specific. Systemless rooting makes it easier for your Android to accept OTA (over-the-air) updates. This type of rooting is a cleaner approach and you don’t have to worry about soft-bricking your device.

Download: ChameleMAC – Change Wi-Fi MAC

Download: Trickster MOD Kernel Settings

Download: Total Commander


Why You Wouldn’t Root your Android Device – Risks & Disadvantages

  1. Voids Warranty – Although rooting your Android device is actually legal, it gets you straight off the warranty book. Let’s say, for instance, that you experience some malfunction after you’ve already rooted your phone (be it hardware or software related). In such a case, the manufacturer will not cover the damages.
  1. Bricking – Bricking a phone or tablet PC simply means messing up with the software so badly that the phone can no longer be able to perform its normal functions, and thus becomes as unusable as a brick. This could be due to an error the developer made, or it could be caused by reckless rooting on the user’s part. For instance, the developer explicitly intended the root for a specific device model, but the user did not verify the model beforehand.
  1. Poor Performance – The intention behind Android rooting is always to enhance performance and reap from a host of great benefits. But many times, users have found that they lost performance speed as well as a couple of features after rooting their gadgets. Remember that when you root your Android device, you are making changes to the stock OS; and performance loss, though unlikely, is a risk you should be willing to take.
  1. Viruses – There’s a risk that you’ll unknowingly install malicious software the minute you try to root your Android smartphone or tablet PC. The software you install on your device comes from different developers, and you just don’t know whether one of these could install malicious software on your device without your knowledge. Although there aren’t really cases of users complaining about malware on their gadgets after rooting; it still is a possible risk. You should install a good antivirus app prior to rooting so that you clear your device of any unwanted software.

Basic Steps to Rooting your Android Phone

Although every phone and tablet is different, there is a procedure to be followed when rooting most devices.

  1. Backup – Now that you’re going to be installing a custom ROM, all the data on your phone or tablet PC will be wiped. That would suck, right? Luckily enough, it is easy to backup data on Android. You just don’t have to follow any step-by-step manual; simply download the best rated backup app from the Google Play Store and create a copy to your micro-SD card, computer, or the cloud.

android backup

  1. Unlock the Bootloader – If your phone comes with a locked bootloader, you will have to unlock it before you can get started. Normally, you will have to go through the phone manufacturer to acquire the unlock code for your specific gadget, and the tools to do the unlocking. The method will vary from device to device, but most manufacturers often provide an exhaustive step-by-step guide. One thing that’s common to every device is that you’ll be completely wiping the handset, so be doubly sure you’ve backed up all your data.
  1. Get Root – At this stage, before you can actually do anything else on your phone, you’ll want to get root access on your device and install a custom recovery. Odds are, we have an article that will walk you through accomplishing this. Essentially, you have to flash two .zip files onto the device: the modified Android image that allows you root access and a custom recovery so that you can install a custom ROM at a later time.
  1. Flash a Custom ROM – Flashing a custom ROM is just a matter of downloading the .zip file, copying it onto your phone, and flashing using custom recovery.

Best Custom ROMs for Android

One of the main reasons behind Android rooting is the need to tap into a new world of possibilities. It certainly helps to have a great custom ROM that will enable you to customize and tweak your phone with great features. There are dozens of amazing Custom ROMs out there, but here are a number of the best ones.

1. CyanogenMod

CyanogenMod is arguably one of the best ROMs available. It aims to offer a nearly vanilla-like Android UI (user interface), and is one of the most widely available ROMs for Android users. The screen shortcuts are highly customizable, plus you also get a chance to add custom notifications. With CyanogenMod, you also get a lot of theming choices with Theme Control.

The major strength for this ROM is that it has been here for quite some time, gaining traction among the Android rooting community with each version.

2. 6.0.1 CarHDROM

CarHDROM is a light and zipaligned, and therefore speedy, custom ROM. It comes pre-rooted, with SuperSU and Busybox out-of-the-box. The CarHDROM is notably absent of all of the bloat you find in the standard Samsung TouchWiz interface. It is based on the official firmware, however, which adds to its stability.

CarHDROM also offers a 5-way reboot, boot animation, and finer control over the ROM. Your friends might need do a double take, since CarHD is inverted and transparent. The annoying Safe Volume Warning has also been removed, so you can destroy your hearing with less awareness or guilt. CarHD ROM is deodexed, making any modifications, themes, or hacks you want to try out easier to carry out.

Download: CarHDROM

3. MIUI

MIUI is a custom Android ROM that’s popular because of its look and design. It has one of the best looking themes and navigational elements, and more importantly offers a lot in terms of Smart Dialing.  You will gain more camera tweaks and enhanced features that make the default Music app more customizable. While MIUI is available for most devices,, it would be an awesome option if what you’re looking for is a minimalist design.

miui

4. KryxOs

For Samsung S7 users, KryxOs is stock TouchWiz ROM without all of the crapware the manufacturer likes to include. If you really wanted the Edge, but settled for the S7, you can still have some Edge features with this ROM. KryxOs includes audio optimization, core Google apps, and speedy startup. You can still have your Samsung themes and always on display, but you will notice improved battery life and the ability to record calls in your Dialer app.

Download: KryxOs

5. Paranoid Android

Paranoid Android offers a lot of tweaks to plain ordinary stock Android. You can easily modify unused options in the menu with your desired ones, thus enhancing your workplace. Most undoubtedly, Paranoid Android leads the pack where customization is what you’re looking for.

6. Cataclysm

If you are less interested in a pretentious appearance, and looking more so for an improved performance, Cataclysm can bring it to your Nexus device.

Download: Cataclysm


Reasons Why Rooting Can Fail

Why don’t Android phones simply arrive out-of-the-box pre-rooted? Manufacturers and Google don’t exactly give you their blessing to root your device. There are too many variables; too many things that could go wrong during or after the root, and they don’t want to be on the line for fixing these problems. Sometimes developers/modders/hackers have to find a loophole or exploit to get past security in order for you even to be able to root.

Additionally, a number of factors have to go smoothly.

1. No Known Exploit

The newer the device, the likelier that no one has quite had the time to figure out how to get past new security and root that version of Android. The less popular the phone, the less incentive any modder or hacker has to find it worth their time. Sometimes the rooting method of a device is the result of a bounty raised by users—one such fundraiser for the root of the Samsung S5 raised $18,000. Usually, though, the people behind rooting earn far far less or nothing at all.

2. Rooting System & Model Mismatch

You may have a model that seems very similar to the one that the rooting package says it supports, but rooting can still fail. A mismatch of operating systems, models, and the rooting file’s technique can doom your attempt from the start. Try to find a method meant for your device. If you aren’t sure, keep a backup and/or a stock Android ROM to flash just in case.

about device

3. Locked Bootloader

Some manufacturers do allow you low-level access to your device, and this opens up the door for root. Find out if your manufacturer is one them, and if so, how you can unlock your Android’s bootloader. Nexus devices are developer-friendly; and therefore, unlocking the bootloader can be accomplished in as little as one command. But some manufacturers do not provide an official way to unlock the bootloader, leaving users to puzzle how to get in.

4. Driver Issues/Incomplete Process

Many methods of rooting require a USB connection between your PC and Android. If that connection can never be made, or is disrupted, rooting can derail or never start. Along similar lines, if you try to root on a low battery, you are risking an incomplete process and this will result in problems.

driver wizard

5. Updates

In some instances the root of your Android is contingent upon a security vulnerability. If an update is released that fixes the security breach, there goes rooting for future users or possibly any recipient of the update.

6. Issues with Recovery or Download Mode

Some rooting techniques require that you flash the root file while in recovery mode. This is especially true of one-click rooting methods.

7. PC Problems

Alternatively, the problem could be on the PC side if you are using your computer to root. The version of operating system and administrative rights must also be compatible with the rooting system’s needs.


I Have It Rooted, Now What?

●       Hopefully, instead of the scenarios above, you’ve rooted without any issues. Most devices, after rooting, will have a modified recovery system. Know exactly how to access that system and create a backup. Test the backup, and if it loads you’re pretty much good to go.

●       Enjoy yourself and explore your newfound freedoms. Get rid of ads you don’t want to see anymore. Check out Xposed Framework. If you want to reduce booting into recovery or download mode to a single tap, try Quick Boot (Reboot).

Download: Quick Boot (Reboot)

download-now-button

●       Read some more about your specific device. Each phone/tablet is different; read what’s available for your device after rooting.

●       Don’t be in a hurry. You don’t want to mess with anything that might cause your Android to not work properly.

●       Spread the knowledge. Whether you are using a low-end Huawei Android smartphone or a $600 Android tablet, share with the community on any blog or forum.


Must Have Apps for Root Users

1. Titanium Backup

A backup tool for Android devices that offers tons of cool features! You can easily backup your data, settings, and apps. Scheduled backups are possible in the extended Pro version.

2. ROM Manager

If you are going to constantly switch from one custom ROM to another, ClockworkMod’s ROM Manager is one of the most essential apps you are going to need. It helps you organize, install your custom ROMs and backup your Android device. With the paid Premium versions, you should get more flexible features.

Download: ROM Manager

3. AdAway

AdAway is good for users but bad for app publishers and marketers. That’s because this app modifies your Android device’s hosts file to prevent apps and browsers from displaying ads. All the same, this app greatly improves your user experience, and more importantly increases mobile battery life. Additionally, AdAway is a good way to decrease mobile traffic.

adaway

4. Cerberus anti Theft

Now that you’ve got a flexible device that’s open to customization and higher performance, you need to secure up. Cerberus anti-theft is a cool app that brings quite a number of essential security features to your phone. For instance, you can control your phone remotely and locate and track it, as well as show messages on the screen. Remotely taking pictures of the phone thief and wiping data are some of the other available features.

While this app is also available on non-rooted devices, it offers more features on rooted devices. You can install it in such a way that the thief won’t be able to uninstall it or even notice that it’s running in the background. This is just what you need to protect your phone from theft.

Download: Cerberus anti-theft


Conclusion

Android is a great OS platform for all handsets that support it. With Google continuously trying to build-on each iteration and refine the UI every now and then, it is evident that the Android ecosystem will continue to thrive. Remember to always be careful when rooting your device. Look for steps that are specific to your Android phone or tablet and follow them to the letter.

And in case you come across a complication, pause to research it and find out how to solve it. Remember all the important things, including backing up your data and installing an antivirus app right away. If you have any questions, there are a lot of Android users who’ve rooted the same specific device and are willing to help out on our site, at XDA and many other forums. By rooting your Android device and getting SuperUser access, things can only get better for you.

Featured Image Credit

 

Comments (18)

  1. John Lucas on

    TOWELROOT is another great one click no pc needed root exploit, doesn’t work on 4.4.2 at this time however.

  2. LE DINH DUY on

    Thanks!
    Really nice post and rooting a android mobile was really good!

    • Judy on

      Hi LE DINH DUY,
      Glad that the post was able to help you and you are very welcome. Don´t forget to tune in everyday for more useful Android tips.

      • LE DINH DUY on

        Hi Judy!
        I will view your blog everyday. It is very great. Thanks

        • Judy on

          Hi LE DINH DUY,
          Welcome back! and I am glad to hear that you will visit everyday and that you like it. The entire JOA team work hard to bring only the best content for our readers.

    • Billa on

      Hey Richard,

      Yes, it is always better to backup your Android before doing anything, especially rooting and flashing. In fact you should backup the device at least a month.

  3. David Abramson on

    I cannot seem to find AdAway in the Play Store. I also notice that you don’t provide a link for it in your artcile. Has it been renamed or removed?

  4. John Kennedy on

    Hi,
    Its really interesting. A worth reading post for the ones who doesn’t know anything about rooting. Explained everything from the basic in a very easier way to understand. But it will be very helpful for me if you could add the list of android rooting apps that could help and how to root the smartphones with those apps?

    Thanks in advance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *