More than 133.4 million people in the United States use Android devices, making it the country’s most-used smartphone operating system. The main reason behind this high usage is that Android phones offer excellent flexibility and customizability. Unlike iOS devices, Android allows users to personalize their phones to suit their preferences.
For instance, you can change the system launcher, install third-party apps, customize your home screen with widgets and other features, and even set default apps. But to truly unlock the power and full potential, rooting your Android device is a process you should consider.
Doing so gives you access to the root file system, meaning you can modify the gadget’s software at a fundamental level. Think of it as unlocking a secret portal to a world of endless possibilities. The process isn’t as seamless as most people deem it. Still, you don’t need any specialized skills.
We took the liberty to take you through all you need to know about how to root your Android in this detailed guide. We’ll also cover the benefits of rooting in greater detail and some possible downsides. Let’s jump right in!
What Does It Mean Root an Android Device?
By default, Android devices feature restrictions on what an app can and can’t do and the system files it can access. However, when you root the devices, you grant yourself administrative capabilities to bypass these restrictions and gain more control over the phone’s operating system. In other words, you have “root access” to the device.
Root access lets you modify system files, remove bloatware, and install custom firmware and apps that require special permission, often unavailable to standard use cases, among other privileges. By proxy, these admin privileges allow you to use hidden or existing features in much more advanced ways. More clearly, you become a superuser.
In more technical terms, rooting involves reactivating a Linux function, usually removed as the phone leaves the factory. This Linux function is what techies call the SU or Switch User file. Companies place this file somewhere within the Linux Based System of Android. The SU file makes “root access” possible.
But why remove the file? Two reasons stand out. One is that you don’t really need the SU file. Another reason is that the file is pretty dangerous when left enabled. For instance, you accidentally risk bricking your phone and rendering it useless if you delete a critical file.
In the following video from HowToMen, Facundo Holzmeister provides an excellent overview of the pros and cons of rooting an Android phone.
Step 1: Preparing Your Android Device for Root
Before you start rooting your Android, taking precautions to prevent data loss or damage is crucial. Here are the important steps you should take:
- Back your data: Back up all your data before you root your phone. Data means contacts, photos, videos, messages, documents, and other essential files in your phone’s storage. You can use cloud-based backup services like DropBox, Google Drive, or external hard drives and USBs.
- Charge your phone: You may not effectively root your device if your phone goes off during the process. As such, you should ensure that your phone has a full charge. If not, your device should have at least 50% battery life.
- Enable USB debugging: USB debugging lets you establish a direct connection between your Android phone and computer. To enable USB debugging, head over to Settings > About Phone > Build Number (tap it seven times to enable developer options) > click back, then tap Developer Options > toggle on USB Debugging to enable.
- Install Android SDK platform tools: Depending on your computer operating system, download and install the appropriate SDK platform tools from Google’s developer site. It could be Windows, Linux, or Mac. Proceed to extract the zipped files and save them to a folder you will remember.
- Install device drivers: Although most devices will install the appropriate USB drivers once you connect the cable to the PC, some require you to do so. Go to the respective driver pages and install the proper USB driver.
Step 2: Installing the Required Android Tools for Rooting
Once you finish preparing, the second phase is downloading and installing the components you’ll need to root your device. This phase includes the following;
- Setting Up Android Debug Bridge (ADB) and Fastboot Tool
- Flashing TWRP Recovery
Setting Up Android Debug Bridge (ADB) and Fastboot Tool
ADB, or Android Debug Bridge, is a command line that allows your Android device to interact with a computer. It lets developers perform various Android functions on a computer, like installing debugging apps, executing commands, and transferring files over a USB or Wi-Fi connection. While it sounds technical, execution is a walk in the park.
In the preparation phase, you downloaded and installed SDK Platform Tools. You’ll use these files to set up ADB and ensure it works with your Android device. Before proceeding with the following steps, ensure you have enabled USB debugging, OEM unlocking, and developer options on your phone.
Here’s how to set up Android Debug Bridge.
Step 1: Head over to the folder that contains the SDK files you extracted.
Step 2: Once open, you’ll see several files. Proceed to hold the shift button and right-click, all within the tab. A popup will appear with several options. Within these options, proceed to click Open Command Prompt. In some versions, it will appear as Open PowerShell In this Window. A PowerShell command window will appear on your screen.
Or, you can simply right-click within the files and click Open in Terminal.
Step 3: Connect your Android device to your computer using the USB cable, and within the PowerShell command window, type .\/adb devices, then tap enter.
Step 4: A popup may appear asking you to allow USB debugging. If so, proceed to enable debugging. A prompt with the final display of your phone’s serial number will appear.
Flashing TWRP Recovery
Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP) is an open-source custom recovery image often used in Android devices to flash ROMs, create and restore backups, install and uninstall system apps, and execute other advanced system functions.
Although Android devices have a stock recovery image, TWRP offers more features and options to perform advanced tasks. One of the advanced features includes a customized recovery mode that allows rooting your phone.
The following steps will guide you through how to flash install TWRP recovery into your phone. Flashing, in this case, means directly installing the TWRP custom image recovery using your PC commands. Before you proceed, first plug your phone into your computer.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Download a compatible TWRP image from this list. Unfortunately, rooting will be impossible if your phone isn’t on the list.
- Move the downloaded image file to the SDK Platform Tool file folder. Once done, head to the SDK file folder, open a command window, and type “adb devices.” then hit enter. In the following line, enter the command “adb reboot boot loader.”
- Consequently, your phone should reboot to the bootloader mode and type “fastboot flash recovery <TWRP image file name>” within the same command window.
- Once done, enter this code “fastboot boot <TWRP image file name>.” The Android phone will restart, meaning the TWRP is installed.
Step 3: Rooting an Android Device
You can do many things with a rooted device. However, the rooting process doesn’t cut straight across all devices. Depending on the brand and model of your phone, you might need different approaches. Some techniques might work on your device and fail on another.
Still, compared to years ago, rooting is much easier. Today, all you need is a root app. Once you prepare your phone and run the above commands, download a rooting app that interests you, install it, and check for compatibility.
If your app is compatible, proceed to root your device. However, some apps may have more detailed instructions, which makes the previous method easier said than done.
Below are some popular rooting apps with step-by-step guides on how to root your android device.
SuperSU is among the most popular rooting apps. Despite being a closed-source software, developers across the globe trust it. One of the main prerequisites of using the SuperSU root is first to flash your gadget using TWRP. The following steps detail how to root your phone using the SuperSU Root app.
Step 1: Download and install the SuperSU app from its official SuperSU website. Remember where the file ends up because you must locate it later.
Step 2: Once the download is complete, switch off your device, then reboot it to recovery mode. Rebooting to recovery mode involves holding the volume and power buttons for about five seconds on most devices.
Step 3: Tap the Backup button within the TWRP menu and follow the instructions to back up your phone. Once the backup is complete, tap “install.”
Step 4: Automatically, the phone will redirect you to a file redirection. Here’s where you’ll locate the SuperSU file you downloaded.
Step 5: Proceed to tap the SuperSU file. Once done, head to the TWRP menu and swipe right to flash the SuperSU file.
The rooting process will begin, and your Android gadget will display process logs. The time it takes for rooting to complete varies from device to device, but once done, click Wipe cache, then Reboot the system, and you’ll have a rooted phone.
2. Root Master
Another popular rooting tool you can consider is RootMaster. It isn’t as complicated because you only need to install it into your PC, connect your phone, and root. As for the mobile version, just download and install the application and run the root from the phone.
The following steps will show how to root with the phone app because it’s the easiest method.
Step 1: Go to the official RootMaster website, download the apk file, and install it on your device. You may be required to enable the phone to install unauthorized (non PlayStore) apps to proceed.
Step 2: Once installed, launch the app and tap Root. The process will start, and if your Android phone is compatible, it will take a little while to be rooted.
Magisk is perhaps the most popular rooting software because of its reliability. It works like SuperSU, but unlike SuperSU, it’s an open-source software meaning it’s much more secure and trusted. To root with Magisk, first, you must flash it into your system using a custom recovery image, in this case, TWRP.
Here’s how you can go about it.
Step 1: The first step is to download the Magisk app. Head over to the Magisk website and download the latest app version. Rename the app and remember the location.
Step 2: Because Play Protect inhibits the installation of apps outside the PlayStore, you must permit it to allow installation.
Step 3: Once you download Magisk, go to the official TWRP website and install the TWRP. Open the app, head to the menu section, and click Install.
Step 4: Locate the Magisk.zip file, click Select storage, and wait as it installs into your device. Once done, swipe right to confirm flash.
Step 5: At this point, Magisk is already installed on your Android device. Click Reboot System to see if the software works on your phone.
Other Popular Android Rooting Applications
Besides the three software discussed above, we have several other alternatives you can use to root your Android device. These platforms include the following:
- Kingo Root: Like many other rooting applications, Kingo Root lets you root your devices by directly installing the application into the phone or using a Window based computer. The steps are straightforward because, if your phone is compatible, all you have to do is install the app and tap the one-click Root button, and the rooting will complete after a few minutes.
- Firmware.mobi: Another option is to use Firmware.mobi. While it isn’t the easiest platform, it supports over 300 devices. Download the Firmware.mobi zip file and extract it. Locate the root-windows.bat file, then double-click on it. The script will take a few seconds to execute, upon which you’ll click any key. The phone will reboot and start as a rooted device.
- One Click Root: This paid tool charges about $40 to root a device. As the name suggests, it’s a one-click root tool. You must install the app to your phone, ensure it’s compatible, and run the root.
Advantages of Rooting Your Android Devices
Below are some of the benefits that come with rooting your Android device.
- Access to root-level permissions: Rooting your gadget grants you full control of your Android device. You can modify and customize your apps and software as you deem fit.
- Removal of bloatware: If you have preinstalled apps that you cannot uninstall, rooting gives you the power to do so. You can delete the bloatware and free up storage space for other uses.
- Ability to install custom ROMs: You can install custom Android operating system versions by rooting your phone. Custom ROMs offer additional features and enhance the performance of your device.
- Access exclusive apps: Android prohibits the installation of certain apps. You can install exclusive apps and a wider range of software by rooting the device.
- Improved performance: By rooting your device, you can tweak the clock speeds, improve battery life, and increase data transfer speed. Thus, you improve the overall performance of the phone.
Drawbacks of Rooting Your Android Device
Unfortunately, it isn’t all rosy with a rooted device. Here are some drawbacks of rooting your Android phone.
- Weakened security: Rooting your phone opens doors to potential security risks like malware attacks, spyware, and other vulnerabilities affecting your phone’s performance.
- Voided warranty: You won’t be eligible for repairs or replacement once you root your device. Rooting voids your warranty which is a major drawback, especially if your phone gets damaged.
- Interference with system updates: Depending on your phone model and brand, you may stop receiving regular updates once you root.
- Compatibility issues: Some apps may refuse to work on your phone or fail to work properly.
- Time-consuming: In most cases, rooting takes time and may require technical expertise. Moreover, you risk losing valuable data if you don’t do it correctly,
- Bricking: Bricking is when your phone becomes irreversibly useless. Rooting can sometimes make your phone brick if you fail to do it correctly.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Mr.Mikla/Shutterstock.com.