Android is an awesome operating system but unfortunately out of the box it does impose certain limitations.
One old workaround for this is to “root” your phone and gain superuser access to the system, this is common for advanced users but can also be useful for intermediate users to tweak and customize their device.
This tutorial will explore some universal and easy methods to root your Android device as well as discuss some of the benefits and functionality you can add to your Android experience.
What is root and superuser?
If you have ever used Linux then you would be familiar with the root account or the sudo command, for those that don’t know Android is based on Linux which is an open-source and free OS similar to Windows & Mac on your PC (more info here).
Android on it’s own however runs as a standard user and as a result has limited functionality and file access rights.
When you root your phone or tablet you effectively bypass these limitations and escalate your user privileges to the system level and thus have access to all system files.
At this point you are now the root user and can modify configuration files or make other changes to the OS.
With this special access there are a plethora of apps to perform system level tasks like optimizing battery life, backup app data and also perform advanced networking functions.
When you root your device chances are you will have an application called Superuser, this essentially acts as a root manager to control what apps can access your system and is vital to protect against malicious apps.
So why should you root your device?
You may ask yourself why do I need to root my phone or tablet, the answer is simple and that is to take charge and truly unlock the power of Android.
Some examples of extended functionality include the following:
- Better backup options (not just an app but all it’s associated data files)
- Enhanced network capabilities (network sniffing, port scanning etc)
- Ability to uninstall built-in system apps e.g. bloatware from your carrier or manufacturer and save space
- Extra options for theming and customizations e.g. new gestures, custom carrier text, custom boot animations, custom icons in the status bar
- Options to change your entire OS through a custom ROM
- Ability to tweak system components to save battery and increase performance (overclock & underclock)
- Add new features which were not included in a stock system e.g. free tethering, apps from other devices etc
And like anything else there are some downsides, these include:
- Possibility to brick your device (render it unusable)
- Loss of warranty after rooting your device
With the above in mind however the experience generally outweighs the cons and is certainly worth the risk, with that being said however it is paramount to backup and use correct methods for your device as the rooting process is different according to each device.
Ok now that we have an idea of what we are doing it’s time to get into some different methods to root Android devices, as mentioned earlier each device has different methods of rooting in this tutorial we will look at some universal methods to root large amounts of different devices in a fairly safe manner.
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGE THAT MAY BE CAUSED TO YOUR DEVICE, WHILE THESE METHODS HAVE BEING TESTED AND PROVEN TO BE FAIRLY SAFE THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Method 1 (Kingoroot): This program has being around for a little while but works pretty good, from my experience it works great on Samsung devices but also a range of other devices.
To get started head over to their website and download the PC version and follow the prompts to install it on your computer, next up make sure your phone is fully charged and then connect it with it’s cable to your computer.
At this point in time make sure your drivers are up-to-date and correctly installed, when ready simply launch the Kingoroot tool and follow the prompts to connect it to your computer.
Once your phone is connected and Kingo confirms this press the big “root” button to start the process, you may notice some information appear on your phone indicating the stages simply ignore these and don’t touch your phone.
Once the process is complete simply unplug your phone and look in your apps menu, you should see a new app called SuperUser or similar, if not head over to the Google Play store and download an app called Root checker this will tell you if your device has proper root access. If configured correctly you should get a prompt to grant or deny access.
If all is well you can now head out and install other root apps such as Titanium backup, folder mount, link2sd or many of the other great apps available to you, congrats you now have root and have full access to your phone.
On a mobile device (no computer)
Whilst Kingoroot is great the first method only covers using it on the desktop but if you use a Mac or Linux computer then Kingoroot won’t work so here’s how to do it directly on your mobile device.
First head over to the same website mentioned above on your mobile and download the Android version, this should be a .apk file, follow the steps on my previous article to install this onto your device:
Once installed launch the newly installed app and press the root button to initiate the process, this will then cycle through a list of exploits on a server and try to apply it to your device. Please be patient as it completes and if successful you will have root, just give your device a reboot and then try using the root checker app to confirm your success.
Method 2 (Cydia Impacter): This next tool works better for some older devices and not anything relatively new, the way Cydia impacter works is by exploiting the “Master key” vulnerability in older builds of Android lower than 4.4 KitKat.
Simply download the program and extract the folder to your desktop, from here open the folder and launch the main executable to open the tool. Next up press the start button once your phone is connected and USB debugging is enabled (to enable it see here) and wait for the process to complete.
From my testing it works on most older Sony Xperia devices and also the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit so do look first if someone online has reported your device to work with it.
Method 3: (PingPong Root): This next program was initially famous for being the first to root the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, while it is focused on the S6 and it’s many variants the developers have plans for other devices. This program is a little more tricky though so I only suggest using it if your device is on the supported models (see here after scrolling down) , there is also a comprehensive thread on the XDA forum here which provides support and other details.
Method 4 (Kingroot): This has to be by far the best and most easy to use out of the lot, Kingroot is made a group of Chinese developers in Shenzen with the focus on rooting not only mainstream devices like Samsung, Nexus, Asus etc but also less mainstream phones like Huewei, Blu Phone, Xiami, ZTE etc.
For some of these less popular phones rooting methods can be rare if not impossible to find so Kingroot really bridges the gap here.
To get started head over to the site and download the program, like Kingo you can get a desktop and mobile app to use so follow the same steps to install it.
Once installed launch the program and click the root button, this will query a server full of different exploits and information and then see if any safe methods can be applied to your phone or tablet.
If Kingroot fails don’t worry it may simply just reboot your phone or state that it didn’t work. I have experienced this before and it is nothing to fear as it won’t mess with anything, keep in mind this won’t work for devices with locked bootloaders such as newer LG devices & HTC devices.
The developers at Kingroot also encourage you to use the desktop version for a higher success rate if the mobile one fails, like Kingo Root the steps are nearly identical and won’t differ much at all.
Despite Kingroot’s huge success rate many users dislike the “Kinguser” app which is automatically installed once rooted, this acts very much like Superuser or SuperSU.
Due to the app being proprietary and sometimes partially in another language. Removing it can be difficult so if your unhappy with it follow this guide to remove it and switch back to SuperSU whilst retaining root access.
And that’s it you can now pat yourself on the back and enjoy some advanced apps to improve your Android experience.
Method 5 (Framaroot): This next method has being around for a while and mostly works on older Android devices including many Sony Xperia devices and also other brands too. Framaroot uses known kernel vulnerabilities to acquire superuser access on your phone.
If successful this won’t install SuperSU so you’ll need to download that and install it yourself from here. Unfortunately newer devices most likely won’t work but this tool can be awesome if your running an older version of Android.
Method 6 (Root Genius): Another great Chinese rooting tool, Root Genius works similarly to Kingroot and supports 10,000 + Android smartphones and tablets.
This program works in a similar fashion to Kingroot but only has a PC version for Windows, to get started head to the link provided and install their software on your PC. From here enable USB debugging on your phone using the steps outlined at the start of the article then just connect it to your computer.
Of course make sure all your drivers are installed and working, if you have a less common Chinese phone then you can try using these drivers.
Now just open Root genius and press the root button to start the process and hopefully get full root on your Android device.
And that’s it you can now enjoy the inner depths of Android and make your phone work best for you, have any other root methods to share or questions post them down below or follow me on my social links.