If you've researched anything about Android on the internet, you've probably seen and read about "rooting" it. There was a time when many of the Android phones available didn't live up to their potential, and root was the answer. Horrible software was the norm, applications that you would never use ran amok and wasted data and battery life, and the experience was bad all around.
Because every Android phone is running the Linux kernel and middleware very similar to a Linux distribution you would install on a computer under the hood, rooting them was the way to allow us to try and fix them our own way. Rooting is how you get complete access to everything in the operating system, and those permissions allow you to change it all. Modern Androids are quite a bit better than they used to be. Even the most inexpensive phone or tablet you can buy in 2019 will do more and perform better than the best Android phone available just a few years ago. But many of us still want to root our phones and are looking for more information.
What exactly is root?
Root, at least the way we're talking about it here, is the superuser. Your Android phone uses Linux permissions and file-system ownership. You are a user when you sign in, and you are allowed to do certain things based on your user permissions. Apps you install are also given a type of user ID, and they all have permissions to do certain things — you see those when you install them on older versions of Android, or you are prompted to allow them on Marshmallow or higher — in certain folders with certain files. Root is also a user. The difference is the root user (superuser) has permission to do anything to any file anywhere in the system. This includes things we want to do, like uninstall application forced on us, or things we don't want to do that can put your Android in an unusable state. When you're doing things with superuser permissions, you have the power to do anything.
When you root your Android, you're simply adding a standard Linux function that was removed. A small file called su is placed in the system and given permissions so that another user can run it. It stands for Switch User, and if you run the file without any other parameters it switches your credentials and permissions from a normal user to that of the superuser. You are then in complete control and can add anything, remove anything and access functions on your phone or tablet that you couldn't reach before. This is pretty important, and something you should think about before you begin.
System root vs. Systemless root
Everything described above is how Linux-based systems normally work, and how Android worked before version 4.3.
Since the release of Android 4.3 the process that handles requests for root access has to run as soon as you turn on your phone. This daemon (that's what these sorts of processes are called) also needs special permissions so it can work as intended. To make both of these things happen, files in the phone's system folder had to be modified.
When Android 5.0 was released things changed and the boot image — software that does exactly what you think it does: boot up Android on your phone — need to be modified so that the su daemon was launched. Since this doesn't modify the system partition, it was called a systemless root.
Systemless root is what you'll have unless you can build Android for your phone and install it.
Work on systemless root was quickly halted when a way to root phones running Android 5 by editing the system files was found, but Google patched the method with Android 6 and systemless root was once again required.
It's good that Google patches things to keep our phones more secure because most people don't care about rooting phones and need these protections. In this case, it was also good for the rooting community at large because a systemless root is better in a lot of ways.
It's easier when you want to update to a newer version of Android, it's easier to remove if you change your mind, and what most users like about it is that a systemless root can be "hidden" so that certain apps and behaviors won't know your phone is rooted and function normally. Yes, this means that things like Google's SafetyNet, your bank's app, or even a game that doesn't allow rooted devices can work normally in many cases.
Unless you have a very old phone or just want to practice building Android yourself on a Pixel or other open hardware platform supported by Google, you'll probably be using a systemless root method.
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 company that 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!
Rooting your phone puts you in charge when it comes to privacy and security. That's good and bad.
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.
Getting ready to root
You'll need to do a few things to prepare your phone for rooting, depending on which method you use. Many of the ways require you install the Android SDK or unlock your bootloader. This sounds like a lot of scary work, but it's not difficult and knowing how to use these tools will help if things go wrong. The Android SDK is huge, and if you're just rooting your phone, you don't want to waste bandwidth or file space on it. XDA user shimp208 built Minimal ADB and Fastboot, a Windows tool that only contains the ADB
Last edited by mr.unlocked on Mon-Jun-2020 18:31; edited 1 time in total
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