Do you want unlimited control over your phone? Android rooting opens up a world of possibility, but it can also void your warranty, leave you with a broken smartphone, or worse. It isn’t for the faint of heart.
Manufacturers and carriers have a vested interest in dissuading you from rooting — if done incorrectly, it can irreparably damage your phone. Even so, the potential benefits are well worth it. With a rooted phone, you can remove bloatware, speed up your processor, and customize every element of your phone software’s appearance.
This guide on how to root Android devices will walk you through the necessary steps to root your phone. Some devices can be rooted in minutes. Others take a little research. But one thing is clear: Rooting your phone is one of the best ways to tap into your Android device’s true potential.
WHAT IS ROOTING?
Rooting an Android phone or tablet is akin to jailbreaking an iPhone — basically, it allows you to dive deeper into a phone’s sub-system. It will allow you to access the entirety of the operating system to customize just about anything on your Android device. With root access, you can also get around any restrictions that your manufacturer or carrier may have applied.
Rooting is best undertaken with caution. You will want to back up your phone’s software before you install — or “flash,” in rooting terms — a custom ROM (modified version of Android).
WHY WOULD YOU ROOT?
One of the biggest incentives to root your Android device is to rid yourself of bloatware that’s impossible to uninstall otherwise (although you can sometimes disable it . On some devices, rooting will enable previously disabled settings, like wireless tethering. Additional benefits include the ability to install specialized tools and flash custom ROMs, each of which can add extra features and improve your phone or tablet’s performance.
There’s no overabundance of must-have root apps, but there are enough to make it worthwhile. Some apps, for example, let you to automatically back up all of your apps and data to the cloud, block web and in-app advertisements, create secure tunnels to the internet, overclock your processor, and make your device a wireless hot spot.
WHY WOULDN’T YOU ROOT?
There are essentially four potential cons to rooting your Android.
- Voiding your warranty: Some manufacturers or carriers will void your warranty if you root your device, so it is worth keeping in mind that you can always unroot. If you need to send the device back for repair, simply flash the software backup you made and it’ll be good as new.
- Bricking your phone: If something goes wrong during the rooting process, you run the risk of bricking — i.e., corrupting — your device. The easiest way to prevent that from happening is to follow the instructions carefully. Make sure the guide you are following is up to date and that the custom ROM you flash is specifically for it. If you do your research, you won’t have to worry about bricking your smartphone.
- Security risks: Rooting introduces some security risks. Depending on what services or apps you use on your device, it could create a security vulnerability. And certain malware takes advantage of rooted status to steal data, install additional malware, or target other devices with harmful web traffic.
- Disabled apps: Some security-conscious apps and services do not work on rooted devices — financial platforms like Google’s Android Pay and Barclays Mobile Banking do not support them. Apps that serve copyrighted TV shows and movies, like Sky Go and Virgin TV Anywhere, will not start on rooted devices, either.
One of the easiest ways to root an Android device is by using an app, and a number of rooting apps have garnered attention over the years — KingRoot, Firmware.mobi, Kingo Root, BaiduRoot, and One Click Root. They will root your device in the time it takes you to brush your teeth. But some only support devices running older versions of Android. If you’re looking to root an older device, you may need to check CFRoot’s older site.
While it used to be that rooting Android versions from Android 7.0 was more difficult — verified boot would check the device’s cryptographic integrity to detect if your device’s system files have been tampered with, and this would previously inhibit legitimate rooting apps. Thankfully, rooting apps have caught up with the curve, and rooting Android Nougat is much easier than it used to be. Kingo is one of the one-click apps that support Android 7.0 Nougat. Their list of supported manufacturers include:
If your phone isn’t compatible with a one-click rooting app, you will have to spend a little time researching alternatives on Android forums. The best place to start is XDA Developers Forum — look for a thread about your phone or tablet and you’re likely to find a method.
Preparation for root
Back up everything you cannot live without before you start. You should also always back up your phone’s current ROM before you flash a new one.
You will want to ensure that your device is fully charged before you begin.
You will need to turn on USB debugging, as well as OEM Unlocking.
Open Settings on your device. If you do not see Developer Options toward the bottom of the Settings screen, follow these steps to activate them.
- Tap on About Phone and find the Build Number.
- Tap on the Build Number seven times and the Developer Options will appear on the main page of the Settings.
- Tap on the Back key to see the Developer Options.
- Tap on Developer Options.
- Check to enable USB Debugging.
- Check to enable OEM Unlocking.
Installing the Android SDK tools
For the next step, you may have to install ADB and Fastboot on your computer.
- Click here to download and install the Android SDK Tools from Google’s developer site. There are choices for Windows, Mac, and Linux. These instructions are for Windows machines.
- When asked what directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdk. If you choose a different location, just make sure you remember it.
- Once the Android SDK Tools are installed, launch it from the Start Menu.
- The SDK Manager will open. Just uncheck everything except Android SDK Platform-tools. It’s at the top.
- Click on Install 2 packages at the bottom right.
- Check Accept license and click Install.
Installing device drivers
To ensure your computer can properly communicate with your smartphone or tablet, you will need to install the appropriate USB driver.
Here is a list of drivers from the most popular manufacturers:
Follow the installer’s instructions. Once the drivers is installed, proceed to the next step.
Unlock your bootloader
Before you get started, you’ll need to unlock your device’s bootloader. The bootloader, simply put, is the program that loads the device’s operating system. It determines which applications run during your phone or tablet’s startup process.
Some manufacturers require you to obtain a key in order to unlock the bootloader. Motorola, HTC, LG, and Sony provide step-by-step instructions on how to do so, but a word of warning: They require you to register for a developer account.
Once you have taken those steps, you can embark on the unlocking process. You will need to put your device in fastboot mode. It’s different for every phone, but on most devices, rebooting the device and holding down the Power and Volume Down buttons for ten seconds does the trick (HTC phones require that you hit the Volume Down key and press the Power button to select it.)
Once you have booted into fastboot, open your computer’s command prompt by holding down Shift+Right Click and choosing “Open a Command Prompt Here.” If your device requires a code, you will get a long string of characters. Paste it into the box on your device manufacturer’s website, submit the form, and await an email with a key, file, and further instructions.
To unlock your device’s bootloader, connect it to your computer and place it in fastboot mode again. Pull up the command prompt.
For Google Nexus and Pixel devices, the commands are easy:
- Nexus phones: Type “fastboot oem unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter
- Pixel phones: Type “fastboot flashing unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter
Motorola’s command is a little different:
- Type “oem unlock UNIQUE_KEY” (without quotes), replacing “UNIQUE KEY” with the code you received
So is HTC’s:
- Type “unlocktoken Unlock_code.bin” (without quotes), replacing “Unlock_code.bin” with the file you received.
Confirm the unlock, and you’re one step closer to rooting your Android device.
Some manufacturers and carriers don’t sanction bootloader unlocking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Try searching the the XDA Developers forum for workarounds and unofficial solutions.