Every android user must have heard this ubiquitous term – rooting your device. But, a large majority of the users are unaware of what exactly rooting is and what it isn’t. Now, rooting, in simple terms, makes you the god of your android device, may it be it’s your smartphone or your tablet. But how exactly it works? That’s all this post on TechGipsy is all about. Read along.
You speak of rooting, what is this root?
Root is actually an UNIX concept. “Root” user, also known as the “super user” is the UNIX, and thus Linux and its derivatives – Android, concept analogous to the “Administrator”. Just like you need “Administrator” privileges to tweak system settings, install and remove apps from your windows installation, In UNIX world you need to be “root” in order to carry out these. For example, if you need to install a software, you need to “su” (switch User ID, will be covered later in this post) to “root” and carry out this task. This, unlike windows, where being “Administrator” is a privilege, “root” is a user account having a UID of “0”. It is available in all POSIX class operating systems which includes BSD, UNIX, Linux and thus Android. Being “root” allows you to do almost anything with your device, restricted by hardware constraints only. While you are root, you can read, write and delete anywhere on your system – and since everything is a file under UNIX, this extends to cover all sort of high level as well as low level hardware access. Being root on android, not only allows hardware access, but also software tweaks, removing system apps, installing drivers etc.
So, what is this rooting that you actually talk about?
By default, there is no way to access the root user from the android interface. The root has been disabled for good reasons. Of course, root is not meant for the regular user. And “rooting” is the process of exposing this root user id through the android interface. This is accomplished by planting a “su” binary in system path and making it executable. Since, it involves breaking into the android security model, rooting makes use of known a vulnerability or some other method such as tricking an update or a ROM flash.
But, why was I not rooted out-of-the-box?
The root is not designed for everyday use. It has been disabled in good faith to help better protect your system from risks and damages. There is a proverb we would like to stress, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Rooting essentially makes you the God, but it demands you to be utmost careful while executing your actions.
Rooting allows you to override any system configuration and do anything anywhere in the file system. And such, a single misconfiguration shall render your device unbootable. An illegal write to a critical memory location could crash your system. Or at worst damage your data and hardware. For instance, an “echo dev/zero > dev/sda” shall erase your entire system memory! And this is only possible while in root.
Rooting also punches a hole into the android security model. This gives a route for malware to access critical system data. A malware, if gets root access, can mine away all your data, remove it, hold it ransom like the ransom wares of the not-so-recent-past, or make your device a part of global zombie device network a.k.a a botnet.
That’s fine. So, what do I get when I root my device?
In simple words, more features and control over your phone. If you root, you’re given access to the whole system. You can run entirely new android apps that take advantage of rooting to allow many features – such as using bizarre hardware or software like USB Modems, gamepads, mouse, virtualisation apps, and lots more. Rooting also allows you to install themes – for most themes, rooting is an absolute requirement. Also, while you are rooted, you can remove all those preinstalled crap that hog your internal memory.
And the consequences of rooting?
Loss of security. As mentioned above, rooting defeats the android security model. It allows changes in critical system configurations, something that should be made very carefully. Most things that you do while you’re rooted are not something that regular user are supposed to do. Any mistake and your device is bricked. Another thing to be taken seriously is that root access allows for malware the entire access of your system, including your hardware and data.
Note, rooting or any form of fiddling with your device other than it was intended for shall result in a void warranty. Your manufacturer won’t listen if you bricked your device any time after rooting, even if it is not a consequence of the rooting.
Ok, then what should I take care of before, while and after rooting?
And this boils down to these four things…
- Root only if it is an absolute necessity. You won’t need to root for everyday usage or installing an official update. Rooting won’t give you any performance benefits, though it opens doors for some like overclocking. So, think over it. Once rooted, you, in most cases, won’t be able to revert. And, your warranty is also gone.
- Read the rooting instructions carefully. Get rooting info from trusted sources and make sure you understand the process precisely. A small mistake might cost much.
- While rooting, it is important that your phone doesn’t get turned off due to low battery. This is one of the major causes of bricking while rooting. Make sure you have enough power in your phones batteries.
- Remember to install a root manager app like Superuser or SuperSU or likewise. These apps shall help you keep track of what apps are requiring root. Only grant the apps that require them. Apps for common tasks and games won’t require root permissions. If any such app asks for root, then chances are that the app is malware!
Now to the real question, how shall I root my device?
Now, the procedure varies from device to device. As we said, rooting makes use of vulnerabilities that vary from device firmware and manufacturer. Places like xda-developers are a huge community of modders and tweakers dedicated towards rooting. Search their forums or Google for appropriate instructions for rooting your device.
My device is bricked, I want my warranty back, what should I do now?
If your device is bricked, you might have chance in getting into recovery mode and flashing the official ROM. This also gets your warranty back, unless your manufacturer implements other forms of locks such as boot loader locking.