If you’ve ever wanted to have more control over your Android phone or are frustrated by some of the restrictive apps and settings, then gaining root access might be for you. But what exactly is ‘rooting’ a phone, is it safe, and how can you do it? Find out all you need to know with this Canstar Blue guide.
What does ‘rooting’ a phone mean?
‘Rooting’ your phone means gaining root level access. This means having administrator or ‘superuser’ control over the deepest workings of your phone’s operating system. Much like ‘jailbreaking’ an iPhone, rooting removes much of the restrictions and safeguards in place on most Android phones, meaning you can do far more cool things, but potentially damage things too. Rooting your phone allows you to make significant changes to settings and app permissions, install custom software and much more, however it also exposes you to significant risk of breaking your phone.
Benefits of rooting your Android phone
There are a number of benefits to rooting your Android phone, including being able to install custom software, remove bloatware and modify system settings, which ultimately allow you to gain more control over your device.
Install custom software
Rooting your phone means you’re no longer restricted in your ability to download applications from the Play store. You can now download apps from unofficial sources, as well as downloading apps from the Play store specifically designed to enhance the capabilities of a rooted phone.
Google Nexus and Pixel phones come with stock Android but most other manufacturers put their own ‘skin’ over the top (a different look and feel) and install multiple proprietary apps. These apps can be useful, but they can also be annoying or intrusive and you can’t uninstall them, only disable them. Rooting your phone bypasses these restrictions, allowing you to uninstall ‘bloatware’ as you like, or even install apps from other manufacturers normally reserved for their phones.
Modify more system settings
Root access allows you to modify the deepest workings of your phone, sometimes with the aid of specialised apps. You can do things like install wacky custom launchers like different home screen layouts, install extra network security, create hidden or encrypted folders, overclock your processor and much more.
Downsides of rooting your Android phone
There are also some cons and risks with rooting your phone, including voiding warranties and opening up the risk of ruining your phone.
Risk of ruining your phone
Gaining root access means you have control over every aspect of your phone’s operating system. If you install the wrong software or type in the wrong command, there are no safeguards meaning you could end up disabling some important antivirus software or completely bricking your phone. A bricked phone will not turn on or function as it is meant to.
Voiding your warranty
The majority of big smartphone manufacturers will not cover your phone under warranty if it’s been rooted. This means if your phone is damaged or suffers from a fault, you won’t be able to get it replaced even if it’s within the warranty period. Combine this with the higher likelihood of bricking your phone, and it means that rooting your Android phone is a decision to consider carefully.
Losing support for some apps
Some apps you can download from the Play store will not function on a rooted phone. This is usually because an app’s developer sees it as too much of a security risk to send, receive or store data on a rooted phone. Examples of this might include some streaming services broadcasting licensed content, such as live sports, or banking apps and other security-dependent programs.
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How do I root my Android phone?
Before you root your phone, it is essential to backup your Android data. On Android, all your apps and personal data should be backed up in the cloud, but it doesn’t hurt to do a full backup of all your files onto your computer as well. To back up Android files, just plug in your phone and use File Transfer to copy everything to your computer.
Once you’ve got a backup of your phone stashed, the easiest (and safest) way to root your phone is with a ready-made rooting application. There are reputable programs freely available online which will do all the hard work for you in a matter of minutes, such as the known Android forum XDA Developers, to help you get started. Make sure you have full charge on your phone before you begin as well, as it may take a while.
If you’d rather root your phone through a third-party app, follow these steps:
- Step One: Enable Developer Options on your phone by going to ‘About Phone’ and tapping the Build Number seven times.
- Step Two: Enable USB Debugging and OEM Unlocking – this will let you install new software via USB and enable the modification of software installed by your phone’s manufacturer.
- Step Three: Install the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) tools on your computer. You can download these and instructions from the Android website.
- Step Four: You can now unlock your phone’s bootloader. This is the program which loads the operating system when you start the phone.
- Step Five: Boot your device into ‘fastboot’ mode by holding down the Power and Volume Down keys when starting up, then go to your computer and open up the Command Prompt or Terminal in the same folder where you saved the Android SDK. Your phone’s manufacturer may require you to enter a key at this point, so it’s best to search online for your particular phone brand and how to do it.
- Step Six: Once you’ve found and entered the right key for your device, you can simply reboot it and type in a command in the Command Prompt to unlock it. This is often ‘fastboot oem unlock’ or something similar. You may need to do a bit of additional search for your particular phone model, as multiple brands and smartphones use Android as their operating system.
Congratulations, you’ve now ‘rooted’ your Android device! This is just the first step so now it’s a good idea to install some form of root management app to keep track of software you install and their permissions. This is especially important given your new level of security vulnerability. You can now install whatever software you like on your phone. If in doubt, there are heaps of resources online, with sites such as XDA Developers and Android Central offering plenty of support.
Is it illegal to root a phone?
Original Author: Sam Bloom