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Gaining Root Access on Android Devices: Definition & Process

Instructor: Conor O'Nolan

Conor has been programming since 1981 and created games, apps and websites. He used computers as complex AV systems and tweaks every device he owns.

Gaining root access to an Android device is a means of unlocking the device. This allows access to many advanced features including updating the operating system. This lesson will outline the main methods of rooting an Android device and the preparation necessary.

Hacking the phone

Lynn showed her new iPhone to her friend Jane. ''My boyfriend jailbroke it so I can have stuff on it that Apple doesn't allow.''

Jane replied, ''I rooted my Samsung, which is pretty much the same. No need for boyfriend.''

Gaining root access to an Android device is generally known as rooting. It allows the user privileges similar to administrators on Windows. This can be simple, especially if your phone is from a major manufacturer and is a popular model. There are risks, however, and the simple methods often fail.

Preparation

Rooting carries risks, particularly of bricking, where the device is unable to start up and appears stuck in the boot screen. Recovering from this is possible but takes time and is often complicated. Rooting will most likely void the warranty on your device.


Android system may warn or block rooting software
Some devices attempt to block unknown software


To mitigate the risk of bricking or losing data, the device should be backed up, including the current system files. This is often a function of the Android system, but it's best to check specific instructions for the device. The device should also be fully charged.

USB debugging needs to be turned on and so does OEM Unlocking .This is generally done from Developer Options in Settings. Generally this can be found under About Phone, but it's often hidden. Check online for your particular model as they can often differ.


USB debugging is one of the requirements for rooting
USB debugging is one of the requirements for rooting


If you have an old Android phone, you may want to try rooting on that first.

Rooting Options

A device can be rooted by connecting it to a Windows computer and running PC software or by sideloading an app (.apk file) onto the device and running it. Some options allow rooting to be reversed. Others are limited to specific Android versions, and version 4.2 (Jellybean) seems to be the latest version for some software.

A separate method requires downloading Android SDK Platform Tools and going through multiple steps which are beyond the scope of this lesson. Methods such as these are best left to experienced developers and 'modders.' Trying the various software options is a better first step, and the time needed is often short.

Windows Software

There are several options here, and it generally requires that the device is connected to the computer and the rooting software is run. This method usually downloads some software to the device and in some cases cleans up after a failed root. It's important to check the device model and Android version against the limitations of the software. These are the principal ones.

  • KingoRoot
  • dr.fone
  • SRSRoot (May now be unavailable or outdated)

During research for this lesson, the author discovered a reference to root software that was a spam installer. Beware and do your research!

Android Downloads

Some of these apps run as stand-alone and some require additional preparation. All will require the option Allow Unknown Sources to be enabled, which allows sideloading. Sideloading allows apps that are not approved or available in Play Store to be downloaded and installed, usually from a computer via USB cable.

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