Android is an open operating system. This means that not only developers can take its source code and make modified versions of it, but also that we users can customize the software of our portable devices, counting on a very high degree of flexibility. To further increase our freedom of action we can resort to a release procedure called root that allows you to bypass all the restrictions that normally prohibit access to the deepest areas of the system.
To put it simply, when you do the root on Android you become 100% “owners” of your device. You can modify the operating system files, you can “push” the performance of the phone by altering the hardware parameters (e.g the frequency of the processor) and you get the ability to use applications that would not normally work, such as those that allow you to create complete system backups or control the terminal remotely.
The procedure is completely legal but in many cases invalidates the warranty of the phone (or tablet) on which it is applied: it all depends on the policies implemented by the manufacturer. The risk of “brick”, ie breaking the device, is minimal, but you have to be careful to follow the specific procedure for your device. In fact, to implement the root, every smartphone and every tablet requires a different procedure. There is no universal one valid for all terminals. However, I can explain, briefly, what are the steps you will have to do if you decide to unlock your smartphone or tablet.
Terminologies used in Rooting the device:-
First, you need to get a little ‘confidence with the words related to the root Android, so take a few minutes of free time and read this short dictionary of the root, if we want to call it.
- Root – technically, the root allows you to use Android by taking advantage of administrator privileges. This, as mentioned previously, allows you to have access to the system areas that normally are inaccessible and therefore offers the possibility of using functions and apps that users with standard privileges cannot use.
- ROM – are the modified versions of Android that developers “cook” and make available to the public. They are almost always provided with root privileges already unlocked and may contain several customizations, such as software optimizations to make the device go faster or graphic themes other than the default Android. We must be very careful to download one that suits your device.
- Bootloader – is the software that starts as soon as you turn on the smartphone (or tablet) and provides the device with the instructions necessary to start the operating system, ie Android. It is usually blocked and does not allow the installation of custom ROMs, so you must provide to unlock it by a procedure that we will analyze a little later. Careful: unlocking the bootloader invalidates the device warranty and deletes all the apps and data saved on the device.
- Recovery – is software that allows you to perform various system operations, such as installing ROMs or backups of Android devices. The present “standard” on smartphones and tablets on the market is very limited, so you must provide to install an alternative (another topic that we will cover in a few lines).
- Kernel – the kernel is the heart of Android (as well as any other operating system), the one that manages the communication between the software and the hardware. It is possible to install customized ones to increase the performance of the device, but this is a fairly risky operation for the stability of the system.
- Radio – is that part of the firmware that takes care of putting in communication the software of the device with the hardware related to the Wi-Fi connection, to the data network, to the voice line, and to the GPS. Custom versions are available on the Internet, which should increase network performance, but also, in this case, they are high-risk changes.
- Gapps – custom Android ROMs, for rights issues, cannot contain Google applications (Play Store, Gmail etc.). To fill this gap you can download from the Internet a package called Gapps that contains all of them.
- Flash – “flash” is a term that is used as a synonym to “install” when it comes to inserting on your device an Android ROM, a kernel or a recovery. It means, therefore, install on your smartphone or tablet a customized version of Android, a recovery or a kernel.
- Nandroid – is a complete backup of the terminal containing apps, data, and settings. It can only be done after installing an alternative recovery.
- ADB – acronym of Advance Debug Bridge, is a software that allows you to communicate with Android devices from the PC via command line. It is part of the Android SDK, which is the official package that contains all the tools for Android developers, and its presence is essential in the root procedure of many devices.
- SuperSU/SuperUser – are the software that, at root, allow to manage the permissions of the various applications. You will be in fact to decide which apps will be able to access the system using the root permissions (so the administrator privileges) and what not with the convenient warnings that will appear on the screen when you try to execute them.
- Fastboot – is an Android startup mode that allows you to edit system files when the device is connected to a computer via USB cable. To activate it, turn off the terminal and press the
Powerand keys at the same time
- Recovery mode – boot mode that allows access to recovery. On some devices, you call up by pressing,
Homeon others by pressing
Powerthen selecting the option
Recoveryfrom the menu that opens.
- USB debugging – is a way to connect Android to your computer via USB cable required by most root software.
Make the root on Android
Having made this necessary overview of the most important terms in the Android world we can see more in detail what the root procedure is and how to complete it. As already said before, there is no universal technique to root on Android: you need to search for specific software and guides for your smartphone or tablet. Reiterated this concept, here is roughly the steps you will have to do to unlock your device.
- Backup – the first time you root an Android device you need to unlock the bootloader, which as mentioned above leads to the deletion of all data on the memory of the latter. So before you get to work then save photos, videos and the rest of the files on the terminal by connecting the phone or tablet to the computer.
- Driver – To connect an Android device to the computer (both in case of backup and for root) it is necessary that the phone/tablet drivers are installed on the PC. For example, if you have a Samsung device, then install the Samsung Smart Switch software, if you have a Motorola terminal download Motorola Device Manager and so on.
1. Unblock Android bootloader
The first thing to do to run the root on Android is to unlock the bootloader. As well as root, this process can also vary from device to device but in most cases requires the use of the ADB utility that you can download individually from this site or together with the Android SDK from this other site.
Some manufacturers, such as Sony and Motorola, officially provide tools and instructions for unlocking the bootloader, but the procedure still invalidates the phone/tablet warranty. To find the most suitable procedure for your device, go to Google and search for unlock bootloader [name of your smartphone/tablet].
To make you better understand what the bootloader unlocking procedure consists of, I’ll give you a practical example, the one related to Motorola’s Moto G to be precise. The procedure to unlock the bootloader on a Moto G is to connect the device to the computer in fastboot mode, open the Command Prompt and find the identification code of the terminal using the command fastboot oem get_unlock_data. Then you have to go to the Motorola site and paste the code returned by the Prompt to get the bootloader unlock code, which is typed at the end of the command fastboot oem unlock in the Windows Prompt to complete the operation. That said, it seems like a very complicated thing, but in reality, it is a fairly simple and fast procedure.
2. Install Android recovery
After unlocking the bootloader you need to flash (ie install) on your device a custom recovery, which as already mentioned allows you to load the root and/or ROM file of Android with administrator privileges already unlocked. Among the most widespread recovery of the moment there are TWRP and ClockworkMod , choose the one suggested in the guide to make the root of your smartphone/tablet and follow the instructions for installation.
Generally, to install a custom recovery you have to start the terminal in fastboot mode (holding down the
Volume -), then you have to open the Command Prompt and you must type the command fastboot flash recovery file.img (where instead of “file.img “goes the name of the image file that contains the recovery).
With Samsung devices, you can also use Odin, a free application that allows you to “flash” recovery and root files on phones produced by the Korean company in a very simple way. You can find the most appropriate instructions to your device on the recovery websites I have just reported to you or in the Android root guides that are linked at the end of the post.
Before proceeding to the next step, make a backup of the entire device (Nandroid) by selecting the appropriate option from the custom recovery menu.
3. Install root or Android ROM
Now comes the fun part, the one where you need to install root files or a custom ROM on your smartphone. In most cases, the process of unlocking Android takes place by replacing the standard version of the operating system with an already “rooted” (therefore with a custom ROM), but there are also cases where you can install the root applications (SuperSU/SuperUser) without replacing the version of Android installed on the device, it all depends on the model of smartphone or tablet in its possession.
After unlocking the bootloader and installing the custom recovery, then get the root files or the custom Android ROM you want to install and move them to the device’s SD card (or internal memory). Both root files and custom ROMs are distributed as zip packages that you have to start from recovery to install SuperSu/SuperUser (in case the smartphone supports the installation of only the root files) or the custom ROM (if instead, you have to install an already unlocked version of Android). I recommend, before downloading a ROM from the Internet make sure that this is tailored to the model of phone or tablet in your possession. If you download a ROM that does not fit your device, you risk “bricking” it and compromising its operation in an irreparable way! To find out exactly what your smartphone/tablet model is, go to Android Settings and select the Info item on your phone. You will find the code you need in the Model number field.
After copying the files of the root or the ROM on your device, restart it in recovery mode, select the Install/Install option from SD card and choose the ZIP package of the root or ROM to be installed. When the operation is completed (it will take a few minutes) to delete the contents of the device memory by selecting the options Wipe Data / Factory Reset and Wipe Cache Partition from the recovery menu.
4. Install Play Store
Now you can restart your smartphone (or your tablet) and start using Android in the unlocked version. If you have installed a ROM that does not include Google Apps (Play Store, Gmail, Google Music, and company), please download the Gapps package best suited to your system and install it from recovery by following the procedure we have just seen together for the files root and custom ROMs.
To find the most appropriate Google Apps to your device, search on Google gapps Android xx (where instead of “xx” you must indicate the version of Android installed on your terminal, such as “5” or “Lollipop”) or Google Android apps xx. Among the sites that allow you to download the Google apps we pointed out Open Gapps , RootzWiki and XDA Forum .
Useful links and other information
In conclusion, here are links to guides on how to root on Android for all major smartphones/tablets currently on the market and answers to some questions you may have after unlocking your device.
Guides for the root
The site that offers the largest number of tutorials for the root is XDA Forums which includes step-by-step guides dedicated to all models of Android smartphones and tablets. It is only in English but easy to consult.
All you have to do is connect to its home page, type the name of your device in the search bar located at the top and select one of the results that appear automatically. Then consult the discussions in the forum and among them, you will surely find the one that concerns the root.
If you want to do before, go to Google and search
site:forum.xda-developers.com root [brand name of your smartphone]to find direct links to the guides that interest you. If you have difficulties with English, go to Google and simply search for root [name of your smartphone/tablet]. But I recommend you, try to rely only on sites, forums, and blogs of proven reliability.
- Can I receive OTA updates on a rooted device? Yes. Many ROMs have their own automatic update system and allow even more recent versions of Android to be installed than those offered officially by the manufacturer. If you root without installing a custom ROM (only possible on some terminals) you continue to receive OTA updates from the manufacturer but often you cannot install properly, even in this case, however, it all depends on the model of smartphone or tablet in their possession.
- Can I disable the root? Yes, just choose the appropriate item from the SuperSU settings or install a “stock” ROM of Android without the administrator permissions unlocked, on the Internet, there are many guides about it. However, I would like to point out that deactivating the root does not automatically restore the warranty on the device. As explained above, the warranty is linked to the bootloader and then to restore it you should re-lock the bootloader (this operation is not always easy to complete).
- Do you have to perform a battery calibration after the root? If you install a custom Android ROM, yes, it is highly recommended to calibrate the battery of your phone or tablet by downloading it completely and then reloading over 100% (ie keeping the device in current for some time after reaching 100 % of charge). Find all the information related to this procedure in my tutorial on how to calibrate Android battery.
- What applications do you need to install after doing the root? There is no list of applications to be installed obligatorily, it all depends on your needs and what you want to get from your device. If I can give you some advice, so, to start, try Titanium Backup that allows you to perform a full backup (and therefore a restore) of apps and data, Greenify that allows you to “hibernate” applications to monitor battery consumption and Link2SD which allows you to move all apps to SD.
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