How to root an Android phone

How to root Android phone – everything you need to know

There are currently 3.5 million apps available to download in the Google Play store.

Every one of these apps has been vetted by Google for its suitability and quality.

However, many apps never see the light of day.

They might contain controversial or offensive content, be deemed unstable, or somehow fall foul of Google’s quality guidelines.

That means a great deal of edgy, glitchy or morally dubious software isn’t accessible through official channels.

The root of all evil?

We’re not talking here about the murky contents of the Dark Web.

Instead, consider the Greenify app, extending a device’s battery life by hibernating those annoying background apps that run constantly but can’t be deleted.

Some black-market apps are so good, you wonder why they’re not officially sanctioned.

Viper4Android is an excellent graphic equaliser for improving the (often tinny) sound quality of today’s Android devices, while AdBlock Plus automatically shuts down pop-ups and floating adverts.

Yet these apps can only be accessed once Android restrictions have been taken off your handset.

This is a process known as rooting.

Time to root Android phone

Rooting a device effectively reinstates the ability to tinker with it, by reinstalling a small file called SU that was removed when the Linux operating system was adapted for Android.

Short for Switch User, SU gives you unhindered access to the inner workings of your phone’s software – not just the bits Android permit you to tinker with.

It’s like having Administrator privileges on a PC. You can install and delete software, adjust the performance and have far more control than you would as a passive user.

Although it’s not illegal, rooting is regarded as tampering with your device, so it invalidates any warranties.

It places the handset at greater risk of corruption through viruses and malware, because apps outside Google Play Store haven’t been subjected to the same levels of scrutiny and testing.

Even so, many people are willing to root an Android phone to access the wealth of available software beyond the official Play Store.

Get to the root of the matter

So how do you do it exactly? When you’re ready to root Android phone?

Tackled the wrong way, rooting becomes a torturously technical process. Some techniques involve downloading the Android Software Developer Kit onto a PC, before unlocking a bootloader to trigger a factory reset so DRM security keys may be removed.

If your eyes have just glazed over, there is an easier way. And ironically, it involves downloading an app.

Rooting apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, carefully designed not to raise the hackles of your device’s Android OS before they’re installed and ready for action.

Examples of rooting apps include KingRoot and Kingo Root, which are separate brands despite having similar names and both emanating from China.

Having chosen and installed your preferred rooting app, here’s what you do:

  1. Firstly, back up every file on your device by plugging it into a computer or copying the contents onto an SD card. It’s also advisable to make a list of all your contacts and note down every installed app, so you know what to reinstall if the phone gets wiped or reset.
  2. Next, download your chosen app onto the device.
  3. Open the app, and check whether it gives you the option to root the device.
  4. If the option is available, start the rooting process – this may take some time.
  5. If you’ve chosen another app like BaiduRoot, it may be necessary to connect your Android device to a PC containing pre-downloaded files, transfer these onto your phone or tablet and then manually install the software.
  6. If the root is successful, both KingRoot and Kingo Root will display a large tick to indicate their work is done.
  7. Go back to the official Google Play Store and download an app like Root Checker, to confirm whether you now have SU control over the device.

Root and branch reform

It’s not uncommon for people to try and unroot an Android phone if they have a narrow escape with malware, or miss the peace of mind provided by the Play Store’s software vetting.

Rooting can be reversed, using root management apps like SuperSU.

However, this won’t reinstate any warranties voided when the device was rooted, or undo any damage caused by malicious software downloaded in the meantime.

MAIN IMAGE: Andrew Mason/CC BY 2.0

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