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WARNING: Rooting your device may void its warranty!!!

One of the main reasons why people get Android phones is because of its power and ability to customize the heck out of it. That’s not to say that phones of other platforms aren’t customizable, it’s just that Android offers users the ability to tweak its overall look right out of the box thanks to the use of widgets, launchers and other mods that can be downloaded from the Google Play store.

However there are times when the user might be begging for deeper customization and this is where “rooting” comes in. Now I’m sure you’ve come across that term used a lot on our website and we thought that maybe we’d enlighten some of you on the joys, the perils and the reasons why some users choose to root their Android devices. So if you’re new to the Android world and you’re wondering what Android can offer you in terms of creating a truly unique device for yourself, read on!

What is rooting?

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Titanium Backup

When carriers and manufacturers sell you your device, it is almost certain that the device would come with certain software restrictions in place. There are a variety of different reasons why they might do that – some claim that this is done to protect the user, preserve the device’s warranty (this policy will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer), prevent users from getting rid of carrier bloatware apps or simply because the manufacturer would prefer if your device was distinguishable from the competition based purely on its user interface (i.e. Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC Sense UI, etc).

Whatever their reasoning may be, chances are if you are looking to customize your device on a deeper level, you’d be out of luck and this is where rooting comes into play.

Rooting is essentially a process that allows users of smartphones, tablets or other devices running on Android to gain “superuser” access to the software. This will allow the user to perform administrative tasks such as writing to locations normally restricted by the system which in turn will allow for deeper customization. For iOS users, rooting on Android devices could be thought of as a close equivalent to jailbreaking your device.

So why root?

Like I said earlier, rooting will grant you superuser access to the system and will allow you to do things that you might have otherwise been restricted. Depending on the type of user that you are, the level of customization may vary. Some users are more demanding and want to completely overhaul their device, while others might just want to run a couple of apps/mods that add a bit more functionality. Other advantages of rooting include:

  • Overclocking
  • Underclocking which can help save battery for those times when you might not need the phone (i.e. sleeping, in the cinema, at school, etc)
  • Mods to improve battery life
  • Access to apps that might require superuser permission (i.e. Titanium Backup, DroidWall and SetCPU)
  • Removal of bloatware such as apps preinstalled by manufacturers or carriers
  • Deeper customization i.e. tweaks to the phone’s UI
  • Flashing ROMs such as CyanogenMod and MIUI
  • Gaining access to features that your carrier might otherwise have charged you a fee for i.e. WiFi/USB tethering (NOTE: if your carrier detects that you are doing this, they might charge you for it anyway so proceed at your own risk!)
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DroidWall

While admittedly those are some pretty great features and reasons as to why you might want to root your device, there are of course downsides to rooting and the main concern here would be security. Unless you know exactly what every application does, why it requires the permissions that it asks for, and you trust its developer, there are apps and developers out there who create malicious programs that would infect your device with malware (i.e. trojan horses). Thanks to the superuser access, these malicious apps will have a blast wrecking havoc within your system.

While this isn’t to say that every other app/mod out there is a piece of malware waiting to pounce, security is definitely something worth paying attention to. This can be prevented by installing antivirus and security apps, so remember it’s better to be safe than sorry! Other disadvantages to rooting might also include the off chance that you do something wrong and ultimately turn your shiny new smartphone into a shiny plastic brick sitting on your desk, and depending on your manufacturer, this could void the warranty leading you to forking out more cash for a brand new device.

How to root my phone?

We’re sure that this is probably the question that many newbies to Android are asking but unfortunately there is no one simple answer. Depending on your phone, gaining root access to it might be as simple as downloading programs that provides one-click root solutions. Other times it might get a little trickier where you will have to enter commands into a console to gain root access. There are plenty of resources out there and a great place to start would be at the XDA Developers forum where they have pretty much all of the major phones covered and then some. Granted XDA is bit more developer-centric, but you should be able to find something that works for you. Alternatively you can always do a quick Google search for “[Device name] root” (i.e. Samsung Galaxy Nexus root) and it should return a substantial number of results for you to choose from.

Your journey begins!

We sincerely hope you enjoyed our little guide here about rooting and hopefully you found some parts of it useful. If you’re not particularly tech savvy, be sure to read, re-read and re-read once more the instructions of whatever guide you come across. It never hurts to be extra cautious, even more so when you have no idea what you’re doing. For example there are a couple of different versions of the Samsung Galaxy S2 – one of which runs on the Exynos processor while the other runs on a TI OMAP processor. Flashing a ROM for the wrong version of the Galaxy S2 could lead to a bricked device.

There are plenty of resources out there, experts who might be able to help answer your queries, and given the number of Android users out there, chances are you’re not going to be alone with your problem. Enjoy!

Additional resources

Filed in Cellphones. Read more about Android and rooting.

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