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.
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 and 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).
Should I root my Android?
Yes. No. Maybe. All three answers are perfectly valid. People have different reasons to want to root their devices. Some do it just because they can — they paid for the hardware and think they should be able to do anything they like. Others want to be able to add things that aren’t there, like internet servers or be able to “fix” services that are there but don’t work the way they would like them to work. People might buy a phone because they like the hardware, but hate the software and want to change it. Mostly, people root their phones because they simply want to get rid of the extra things on it that they don’t want. Every one of these reasons — as well as any reason you might have that aren’t mentioned here — are the right reasons.Before you do any preparation to root your phone, you need to remember that it changes everything about the inherent security from Google and the people who built it. Plenty of us don’t like it, but being able to access an account with admin permissions was not included in release versions of Android on purpose. As soon as you add this capability, you are responsible for the security and integrity of the operating system and every application on it. For some, this is more responsibility than they want or need. Rooting isn’t the answer for everyone. If you’re not sure about the ways you can break things by doing them as root, you should learn more about it before you start. It’s OK to not know things and to try and learn, but not knowing and doing them anyway can turn a very expensive Android into a paperweight. You also need to know that for many Android models, rooting means your warranty is null and void. Services (including apps as well as network access from your carrier) can be denied to you because of the security risk when you’re rooted. The risk is real, because so many users go into it all blind and let security lapse. Not doing that is your responsibility — take it seriously!
Finally, there are plenty of users who simply don’t care about this stuff. Any Android phone, no matter how restricted root access is, can do just about everything we want or need from a pocket computer. You can change the appearance, choose from over a million apps in Google Play and have complete access to the internet and most any services that live there. You can even make phone calls. It’s great if you’re happy with what you have and what it can do, and aren’t worried about trying to fix what isn’t (in your eyes) broken.
HOW TO ROOT
Using Kingo Root
You can use Kingo Root with or without a computer. You’ll find the download for both methods at the Kingo Root page — just select the one you want to use.
If you’re using a windows computer with Kingo Root, you’ll need to have the correct USB drivers installed on the computer you’re using. If you don’t have these, the Kingo Root program will try to locate and install the correct ones during the process. Simply plug your phone into the computer and start the application. It’s as simple as letting the software set things up, then you click the button labeled “root” in the software. As long as your phone is supported, the rest is automatic. You’ll see a list of recommended root application to install after the procedure is finished, but if the program say it was successful your phone should have the superuser unlocked .
It’s easier to try and use the Kingo Root app on your phone to root. After you’ve downloaded it (and allowed sideloading of apps) you charge your phone to at least 50% and run the app. There’s only one button to press, and after you tap it the rest is automatic. If the stand-alone version isn’t successful, the computer version might be.
Full instructions and tutorials for supported phones can be found at the Kingo Root support page.
Towelroot is a popular rooting app written by Geohot, the well-known iPhone hacker. Using it is really easy:
- Download the towelroot application from the official site
- Install the app (after you allow sideloading) and run it by tapping the Lambda (the Greek letter) symbol in the middle of the app window
Towelroot will attempt to exploit the running kernel, giving temporary access to the system files. Once that happens, the correct files needed to run as root are pushed to the file system. A quick reboot later, and you’re rooted.Only install towelroot from the official towelroot page. There are plenty of mirrors and variants out there, but it’s always safest to get files like this directly from the source.
Rooting your Samsung phone
Samsung used to offer “developer editions” of their popular models, but weak sales (they usually needed to be paid for in full with no type of subsidy or financing) they seem to have stopped production. We have only ourselves to blame — it’s just not worth making something that nobody is buying.
Samsung also makes very lucrative deals with carriers, and most of the time those carriers want to prevent you from rooting your phone. Recent models from AT&T or Verizon are notoriously difficult to exploit, and all the U.S. versions of the Galaxy S7 are locked up and encrypted. There might not ever be a way to root them. This isn’t true for unlocked models sold outside of North America though.
To root most Samsung phones you’ll need to use a program called Odin. It’s a low-level firmware flashing tool that can push image files to the storage and overwrite existing images. You’ll also need the correct USB drivers for Windows computers. If you’re using a Mac computer or running Linux, the software that flashes images is called Heimdall. They both work essentially the same, and carry the same risks — if you try and flash the wrong image or a bad image, your phone isn’t going to be able to start. While this is often recoverable, know that there is always a chance you can ruin your phone or tablet, and your warranty is voided as soon as you begin.
Also, many Samsung phones ship with Knox security enabled. Knox is part of Samsung’s special “Samsung Approved For Enterprise” feature where personal and work environments can be separated in a way that allows both to coexist on the same device. Knox can pose special problems when trying to root a phone that uses it, and it has a software counter that can show when device firmware has been tampered with. This means it’s very easy for Samsung to void your warranty if you start fiddling with things.
Rooting your LG phone
LG phones have several different methods to install the files needed for rooting. Some are completely bootloader unlockable and it’s trivial to push the files through a custom recovery, while some are locked up tighter and require some special tricks. As we see with Samsung phones, carriers have a lot of influence here, so many AT&T and LG models take longer to find a method to root.
The LG G5 is simple to root, and you can do it without a computer with both commercially available rooting apps as well as apps from Android enthusiasts like yourself. There are security questions any time you use software built by someone else that could potentially have full access to all the data on your phone or your computer, and you’ll need to read everything you can and decide if you want to go this route. Apps like OneClickRoot or AndroidRootPro are a few examples. There are plenty of satisfied users as well as users who question the methods. Listen to both sides and decide what you think here. An alternative is unlocking your bootloader and installing an open-source custom recovery that you can use to flash the needed files or even pre-rooted firmware. This requires a little bit of computer knowledge, but it’s not that difficult.
Rooting your HTC phone
Much like LG phones, many HTC models can be bootloader unlocked through the HTC Developer program. You’ll find complete instructions for doing it here, as well as warranty information you need to know if you give it a try.
The HTC 10 is easy to root, and using the HTC Developer tools to unlock the bootloader allow for sending images to the phone to enable rooting and even more. There are also commercial services like Sunshine that can root your phone through an app or provide mail-in services where they do it for you. Again, it’s up to you to decide if you feel comfortable with these services or if you would rather use the Android SDK and do things the manual way. Both methods are known to get you rooted and ready to do the things you wanted root to do.
Rooting your Lenovo (Motorola) phone
Motorola also offers a pretty liberal bootloader unlocking policy, which you’ll find at their developer site. Using the standard Android SDK tools, you can unlock your bootloader so that a custom recovery image can be flash. This allows you to flash any other system image to your phone.
If your Motorola phone isn’t covered under their bootloader unlocking policy (see the list here) — this means Verizon, of course — you might have to resort to exploits or commercial software like MOFOROOT or OneClickRoot. Once again, we have to remind you about using tools created by someone else that may have admin access on your phone or your computer, but the option is available.
We’re waiting to see if the coming generation from Motorola is as developer friendly as they have been in the past, and we’ll update accordingly.
Rooting your Nexus phone
To root your Nexus phone, you should start with learning how to install and configure the Android SDK. There are plenty of one-click scripts or toolboxes that will unlock your bootloader and get you ready to flash (or even flash it for you) a custom recovery, but there’s a great reason to learn how to do it yourself — you are able to fix most anything if it goes wrong by using the Nexus Factory Images.
Google not only supports unlocking your bootloader, they also give you full and complete instructions on how to do it, how to flash third-party images and how to go back. Unlocking the bootloader doesn’t break any warranties as Google realizes that there are many valid reasons to flash experimental on the developer/reference device for Android. Take advantage of this, and use the tools Google provides!
Once a third-party recovery image is flashed, you’re easily able to push anything you need for root or any other image to your Nexus. Because it’s the reference phone and easy to alter, you’ll find plenty of tools and resources for things you can do after you’ve rooted. We highly recommend a Nexus phone to anyone who wants to tinker with the Android software platform
As mentioned previously, there are over 12,000 current Android models from hundreds of manufacturers. There’s no way to include each and every one on a single page.
Some of these phones come with a method (either apporved by the manufacturer or found by a third-party) to unlock the bootloader and use the custom recovery method to root them. Many of these other phones can be rooted with applications like Kingo Root, with or without access to a computer. Phones from names you know, like Sony or Hauwei, are supported as well as phones from companies you might not have heard of like Vivo or Phicomm. You’ll find a partial list of supported phones here.Apps like Kingo Root work because they take advantage of an exploit (a bug or glitch) in the software. This means that many security applications will identify them as a virus, and that software updates can (and do) break compatibility with them. Not every phone can be rooted through an app that leverage an exploit, but many can. It’s certainly worth a look to see if your particular phone is supported. These services are profitable, and profitability means time and money is spent to keep them current and working on as many models as possible.