You’ve probably heard of people “rooting” their Android phones. If you’ve ever wondered how to do that yourself – or wondered why people would bother – you’re in luck. You can root your Android in just a few minutes.
After rooting your device, you have full access to the entire system and can run special types of apps that require root permissions. These apps can disable bloatware, control app permissions, enable tethering, and do lots of other cool things.
What is “Root,” Anyway?
Android is based on Linux. On Linux and other UNIX-like operating systems, the root user is equivalent to the Administrator user on Windows. The root user has access to the entire operating system and can do anything. By default, you don’t have root access to your Android device, and certain apps won’t function without root access.
With root access, you can disable the bloatware that comes with your phone, manually deny app permissions, run a firewall, access the entire file system, or tether your device, even if tethering functionality has been disabled. You’ll find many apps that require root access in the Google Play store (formerly known as the Android Market), although they won’t function until you root your device.
Rooting isn’t mandatory – you only need to root your device if you want to do things that require root access.
Before you root your Android phone or tablet, there are a few things you should be aware of:
Warranty – Some manufacturers assert that rooting voids your device’s warranty. However, rooting will not actually damage your hardware. You can “unroot” your device and manufacturers won’t be able to tell if it’s been rooted.
Security – Google Wallet, in particular, has a vulnerability on rooted devices that could allow other apps to access your PIN and other wallet information. Google Wallet displays a warning message if you run it on a rooted device. If you’re one of the few people using Google Wallet for NFC payments, you may want to reconsider rooting your device.
Bricking – Rooting a device is a very safe process. However, there’s always some danger of “bricking” a device when you go outside the normal parameters and hack around with it — particularly if you’re trying to root a device or operating system version not supported by a tool. “Bricking” refers to breaking the device, making it about as useful as a brick. When you root, jailbreak, or install a custom ROM, or otherwise hack around, you do so at your own risk. It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research first and see if other people report success rooting your device.
The actual rooting process itself should only take a single click. However, you’ll need to do a few quick things first:
Enable USB debugging on your Android. On the device, go into the Settings screen, tap Applications, tap Development, and enable the USB debugging check box.
Connect your Android to your computer using its included USB cable. Don’t mount the device’s SD card on your computer – just plug it in.
You’ll also need the USB drivers for your phone or tablet installed. SuperOneClick itself should be able to automatically install the appropriate drivers – however, if this fails, you’ll need to download and install the appropriate drivers from the device manufacturer’s website.
Rooting With SuperOneClick
We’ll be rooting with SuperOneClick here. It’s a single-click way to root that supports a wide variety of different devices and should work for most people. If SuperOneClick doesn’t support your Android device, head over to the Android Development and Hacking forums at XDA Developers. There are subforums for most Android devices – type your device’s name into the search box and you’ll probably find information from other people that have successfully rooted it, perhaps by using another tool.
You can find download links for SuperOneClick at shortfuse.org, SuperOneClick’s official website. After downloading it, run the SuperOneClick.exe application.
Click the Root button in the SuperOneClick window and SuperOneClick should do the rest.
The process will take a few minutes. If you run into a problem, you might want to check the XDA Developers forum for your device, which we mentioned above, or run a Google search.
Restart your Android after rooting it.
SuperOneClick automatically installs the SuperUser binary, which is also available from Google Play. Whenever an app on your device attempts to gain root permissions by calling the su command (just like calling the su command on Linux) you’ll be prompted to allow or deny the request.
Open the Superuser app to control the saved permissions and configure Superuser.
Now you’re free to install and use apps that require root access. We’ll have more coverage of things you can do with a rooted Android in the near future.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 05/31/12