This is a simple guide on how to root android. Android OS is by far the most popular mobile OS platform used by people worldwide.Owing to it’s open source nature and backing by Google, it has grown tremendously over the years and caters to the needs of millions of users worldwide,including me and you.
If ever you’ve surfed more about Android over the internet, you are bound to come in terms with the word ‘rooting’ your android phone or getting ‘root privileges’ etc etc.Of course,there is no denying from the fact that android OS has maximum customisability potentials(more than what we can think of).However,that doesn’t make the whole thing open.You might have by now noticed that your OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) like Samsung,HTC and others, have put quite a few modifications and restrictions on your phone.Even Google,apparently the caretaker of android, puts restrictions in its own OS for security reasons and considering requests by phone manufacturers and carriers.But the open source nature has enabled developers worldwide,to overcome these restrictions and apply their own modifications by simple code swapping and line additions.This gives birth to ‘rooting’ your smart phone.
WHY SHOULD I ROOT ANDROID?
The answer is probably clear by now, and is the reason why you are here!
A few reasons why rooting seems to be so awesome:
- Rooting your smart phone gives you superuser rights (in tunes with administrative rights in Microsoft Windows) that enables us to take total command of our phone and eventually modify the prevailing settings, to our liking.
- Superuser is an app that can only be run on a rooted Android phone. This allows you to control which apps have access to the “root” system.
- By default,our apps are installed in the internal storage of our device,which is quite limited as it is non-expandable.Rooting allows us to move the apps to the external SD card, so that one can free up some system memory,as and when required.
- Root privileges allow us to underclock or overclock the device which is proves useful at times.Pretty much self-explanatory, overclocking means manually increasing the clock speed of the processor for better performance at the cost of battery drain.Underclocking, is in fact the opposite and comes in handy to increase the battery life.(Pretty neat huh? :P)
- The most powerful feature of a ‘rooted’ android phone is custom roms. These are modified system images, unofficially released by developers, that can do anything from speeding up your device (for those awesome benchmark scores) to changing the whole look and feel of your phone!
RISKS INVOLVED WHILE YOU ‘ROOT ANDROID’
The word ‘root android’ might give creeps to many.Yeah, you guessed it right.There are a few risks involved too.The whole process is basically a giant hack, and our phones were not prepared for it, at least officially not.To name a few would be,
- Bricking: Well, the term explains it all.There is every possibility that your phone might turn into a brick, which can do nothing but serve the purpose of an object you can only sit and gaze at.
- Void warranty: Rooting your phone sets your warranty null and void due to violations of a few rules and agreements you made with your provider.So, once rooted, no use giving your phone for service or warranty work,YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN NOW!(Seriously, the provider or OEM will laugh at you if you point a finger at them for a dead device).
- Viruses: A common practice that people do with “rooted” phones is to flash their ROMs with custom programs. Whenever you make changes to the code of a software, you run the risk of introducing a virus.(That doesn’t happen very often,you see.)
However these never stopped developers to create awesome custom ROMs and modifications.Even a few OEMs like Sony and HTC have backed the development in various ways!Even Google is cool with rooting and we can see a whole bunch of root apps on the Play Store.Google could have made the whole process a lot harder,and we love Google for not doing that.If you are past through the risks involved and still want to test the true potential of your device, you are all set to go!
Here we try to understand the a few terms related to the whole process and some we’ll come accross many times.
Bootloader – The very first move we make in order to root our phone is ‘Unlock the bootloader’.In broad sense, bootloader is a line of code that is executed before our OS boots up.The bootloader is very much different for each and every device and is usually locked by the manufacturers as they don’t want us to tinker with the code they worked so hard at,for that particular piece of hardware.Unlocking the bootloader gives you the freedom to flash custom kernels and ROMs,but demands a complete factory reset, which implies you might want to save all your personal data before proceeding.
Recovery – Once your bootloader is unlocked,you will need a custom recovery.Its purpose is to make changes to the Android OS at a core level, such as delete user data, apply updates and more. Custom recoveries such as Clockwork Mod Recovery or TWRP help you to make backups, restore them, wipe partitions, install ROMS and patches etc.
Backup / Nandroid – Once your custom recovery is installed, you will want to make a backup (also known as a Nandroid). A Nandroid is simply a complete and total backup of your phone. It will store all of your data, apps, settings, SMS messages, and more, basically allowing you to restore your phone to the exact state that it was in when you made the backup.
Wipe – Once you’ve made a nandroid backup, you can flash your new ROM or kernel without the fear of losing your user data as it can be restored at a later stage.However before flashing a new ROM, you need to ‘wipe’ your device to get rid of the previously saved files by the prevalent ROM.Wiping enables you to restore your device to its factory reset stage, just as it was when you used your phone for the very first time.(Make sure you don’t wipe away the nandroid you made :P)
Flashing – Flashing is the process of installing some sort of software or code via your custom recovery.In many cases ‘dirty flashing’ refers to one which is done without wiping the system partition avoiding factory resets so that you retain all your user data and apps, and is advisable only if you want to update your ROM with a newer version.
Flashable ZIP – A flashable ZIP is the actual file that you install or “flash” via the custom recovery to make changes to your phone’s software. It is a normal .zip file that contains the system files and a few lines of code to modify your software. These Flashable ZIPs can be used to flash a ROM, Kernel, Radio, mod,etc.
ROM – A ROM is the main firmware or operating system that your phone runs.A ROM is the main software you interact with to use your phone. It includes all the system apps (messaging, email, phone), the launcher, the notification bar,the system UI,fonts,ringtones, and everything else your phone needs to run. Google’s Nexus line runs a “stock” Android ROM (meaning it’s unmodified) while manufacturers make significant changes to the look and feel of their ROMS before they ship them with your phone (We all know there is a huge difference between the UIs of a Samsung Galaxy S5,HTC One M8 and Nexus 5,even if they run the same version of Android say KitKat).Code-savvy developers have taken the manufacturers’ code and created their own “Custom ROMs”. These ROMs can dramitically enhance the look and feel of your phone, and often add tons of useful features. Two very popular custom ROMs are CyanogenMod,Paranoid Android and MIUI. A ROM package is made for a specific model and comes in a flashable ZIP file that is installed (“flashed”) via the custom recovery.Please make a note that although these ROMs are available for all the devices, the build of a ROM is very specific for a device.Don’t land up on a hardbricked phone by flashing a ‘Nexus 5’ ROM on a Samsung phone just because you liked it.
Kernel – The kernel serves as a link between the software and the hardware of your phone,and commands the software how to interact with the hardware for optimal usage.These are like the ‘soul’ of your phone, and custom kernels have a few lines of code added or modified by developers to perform specific tasks in order to create new options and abilities available.It doesn’t play any role in altering the UI design and the looks of your firmware.They are usually included in your ROM packages, or available as stand-alone zip or tar files that can be flashed from the recovery.
Brick – A bricked device as explained earlier is the unwanted result of bad flashing process, especially when the custom kernel doesn’t comply with the ROM.This renders our device useless, and results in bootloops.Depending on the severity of the case, the device might be ‘soft-bricked’ or ‘hard-bricked’.A softbricked device can result in bootloops i.e. the device enters a state in which it cannot go beyond the bootanimation and reboots repeatedly causing a loop.Softbrick can be dealt with easily and the device can be restored by flashing proper kernel and proper ROM package.The nightmare is a hardbricked device,one which makes our phone a ‘brick’ and cannot be easily restored.As a matter of fact,’bricking’ is quite rare and can be avoided easily by following the instructions for flashing a package properly.(Personal experience: I’ve rooted a heck lot of devices and yet none put to a bricked state,fingers crossed.)
Superuser (SU) – If everything goes correct and you flash the Superuser.zip file correctly,you gain root access and more precisely, become the ‘superuser’ of your phone.Hereby you have complete access to your device and give root permissions to applications as and when required.(Hell yeah! :D)
Overclock / Underclock – As explained earlier,overclocking and underclocking corresponds the increase or decrease in the processor speed as per the requirements.Please note that this mod requires a custom kernel on your phone as the stock ones aren’t usually prepared for this.
Under Volt (UV) – Undervolting is a feature that is enabled in certain custom kernels. Undervolting lowers the amount of ‘power’ your processor needs to perform at its normal level which, in theory, saves you battery life.Please take caution as this feature is known to cause issues.
APK – An APK file is essentially an android packaging file for an application that can be installed on our phones.All ‘apps’ that we download from the Play store are APK files that get installed after the download.We can always ‘sideload’ an APK file i.e. install an application manually from a source other than the store even via our PC.(Please note that distributing APK files unofficially,especially the paid ones, is illegal, and I take no responsibility if your phone starts crying after you’ve installed a corrupt one from a non-trusted source.Peace.)
Odex / DeOdex – DeOdexing APKs is a way that developers optimize APKs (apps) to be compatible with different themes that themers have created. Please see this very good explanation on Odex / DeOdex given by the ‘talkandroid’ people.
Android SDK – Google has the back of developers and hence provides us with the SDK files too! Android SDK is a software development kit written by Google that enables developers to create applications for the Android platform. The Android SDK includes sample projects with source code, development tools, an emulator, and required libraries to build Android applications. In many cases, if you want to hack your phone, you will need to have the Android SDK installed on your computer.
Head over here, to get all the necessary SDK files required.
ADB – ADB stands for Advance Debug Bridge which is a tool that comes in the Android SDK. ADB lets you modify your device (or device’s software) via a PC command line.It is meant for developers to test run their applications before final release.However,it serves as a very good tool to take control of your device from the PC with the help of command prompt.Thus,you can command your phone to reboot,power down, or even flash your kernel through the fastboot command.
You’ll find the best way to setup ADB on your PC here.
So that’s pretty it! Don’t worry if you can’t get the terms right away,you’ll learn with experience, and trust me,it’s a piece of cake thereafter.
There is a general process for rooting almost all the devices, however there might be a few changes in the general method for a specific make.Please make sure you’ve gone through the actual instructions for your phone before proceeding.(It is not possible to give the device specific instructions for all the models here altogether,but the steps are all the more similar in each case)
- Backup:If you wish to install a custom ROM, as prescribed earlier, you need to wipe everything,by which I literally mean ‘everything’ before unlocking the bootloader.All the data on your phone — those over-emotional drunken texts and embarrassing selfies,your day-long hard work,documents,favourite videos, and likewise will be wiped. That would suck, but it’s pretty easy to make a backup of your storage, in your PC or cloud.
- Unlock the bootloader:If you have a device with a locked bootloader, you need to unlock it before getting frenzy and flashing your favorite ROM.Device manufacturers have tools and exhaustive step-by-step guides over the net to help you get it unlocked.So don’t hesitate to google ‘Unlock bootloader _____(your device name)’ and you’ll be sorted in no time! (Gentle reminder,your warranty stands null and void hereby).
- Custom recovery:Before you can proceed ahead, you need to flash a custom recovery that replaces your stock recovery, and adds a whole new bunch of possibilities that help you flash,edit,modify and wipe partitions.
- Get root:Now that you’ve flashed a custom recovery,all is not done.In order to get root privileges, you need to flash the SuperSU zip file to take control over which apps are allowed root access.
- Flash a custom ROM:Once you’ve managed to get root and a custom ROM installed, you’re pretty much sorted. Flashing a custom ROM is just a matter of downloading the .zip, copying it onto your phone and flashing with the custom recovery.
With any luck, some kind person over at XDA will have made a root toolkit that’ll walk you through step-by-painstaking-step.Go ahead at XDA and search for your device, and I assure you enough surprises.
A Few Notes (Thank you gizmodo.uk)
– The key with rooting an Android phone is to take your time, and look around. There’s a lot of information on rooting out there, most of it complicated and sandwiched between scary-looking disclaimers. If you persevere and read through, though, you can almost always find a stable, relatively easy way to root.
– Sounds a little stupid, but make sure to read up on the regional differences between different versions of the same phone. Different variants normally exist for different models of a device and fiddling with ROMs of another device model can prove fatal.Chances are, you might even brick your device even after ritually following all the steps.You can find your model number under the about section in settings.
– Don’t panic. Even if your phone isn’t turning on (or gets stuck in a ‘bootloop’, where the logo just stays on the screen for hours on end), all’s not lost. Try booting into recovery or ‘fastboot’; chances are, if you can boot your phone into fastboot and get it recognised by your computer, you can fix everything. (Again, the chances of this happening in the first place are quite limited).
– Give ROMs a few weeks from the first beta being released, to when you actually flash the ROM. Normally, first builds of ROMs are unusable, lacking major features like mobile data or camera support.
– If you can, donate to devs. The guys who make custom firmwares do so out of the goodness of their own hearts, often spending 20-30 hours a week toiling away for free. Bung a couple of quid their way, say thank you, and the world will be a happier place.
XDA is a world wide portal for developers around the world to share their work on Android development with everyone around.This is THE place where it all started.This is where the dream of rooting android was made into a reality.Go ahead and search for your device at XDA and you’ll find almost anything and everything for your phone ranging from Kernels and ROMS, to device-specific themes and apps too!And don’t hesitate to buy them a beer.Those guys are awesome!