How to Root Your Android Device

Tech Talker has the scoop on what exactly "rooting" is and how it can help you make the most of your Android device.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #40

How to Root Your Android Device

Last week I did an episode on some of the best apps for your Android device. For one of those apps, called Titanium Backup, I mentioned that in order to install it, you needed to “root” your Android. This opened up the floodgates of questions. Hopefully in today’s episode I can answer many of these questions and shed some light on the mysterious workings of “rooting.”

What is Rooting?

By default most Android devices do not give you “root access.” Root access is basically full control over your phone and all its workings. Manufacturers disable this by default. They do this for good reason—and it’s not just to control or limit you. If someone had this access and didn’t know what they were doing, they could do some real damage to their smartphone. So manufacturers keep devices locked by default to prevent you from turning your phone into an expensive paperweight.

A good way to understand rooting is to think of your Android like your brain. You have to actively remember what’s on your to-do list today, how to play a game, how to drive a car, and any other skills you were required to learn in life. Those functions are ones you can change in your brain. Now, as a comparison, if you were to root your brain (that is, gain access to all the workings of it), you could control aspects of your body that you couldn’t before—like breathing, heart rate, and adrenaline levels. As you can imagine, there are good reasons why your body doesn’t want you to change some basic functions. If you were to say, voluntarily increase your heart rate to 300 beats per minute, your heart might explode! But think how powerful it would be if you could tweak a few of those things in your brain whenever you wanted! Well that’s exactly the same power you can have over your Android device.

Root access gives you control over everything on your device. Here are my favorite things you can do on a rooted device that can’t normally be done: full system backup, ad blocking, encryption of all internet traffic, customized operating systems, and tethering. If you’re not familiar with tethering, it basically shares your phone’s 3G with a laptop or other wireless device (more about this in a future episode).

How to Root Your Android Device

So how do you root your Android device? Well, Google does things a bit differently from other tech companies such as Apple, in that it has many different mobile devices and one operating system. What’s more is that these devices are all made from different manufactures and have completely different specs. Apple on the other hand has all uniform devices. So if you have the latest iPhone, then the only differences possible from another new iPhone are the color and storage space.

So if you wanted to root your Android, it would require a little bit more research than if you wanted to jailbreak your Apple device. But luckily it’s still pretty easy. You just need to find instructions that are specific to your particular device, whether it’s a Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, Motorola Matrix, or any other Android. Thankfully, the good people at Lifehacker have put together an awesome and easy-to-follow primer about how to root many of the most popular Android devices on the market. Simply click here, scroll down to choose your phone, and get rooting!

Now this all sounds great, right? Unlocking the hidden potential of your device, installing awesome apps, and gaining access to everything your phone has to offer. Well here comes my word of caution: Although many devices can be rooted pretty easily, there is always a chance that something will go wrong. The worst case scenario would be that you “brick” your device, effectively turning it into a fancy-looking but useless paperweight. This is very rare, but it is the chance you take when you go around the manufacturer’s limitations. So make sure you do your homework to see if anyone else has had problems rooting a similar Android device. An easy was to check if this is a pervasive issue, would be to do a quick Google search including your device and words like “bad root” or “bricked” in the search. If a lot of results pop up, you may want to read a little deeper so as to avoid the problems that others have encountered.

See also: How to Use Google Like a Pro

So here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips about rooting your Android:

  1. Rooting your device will give you full access to your device.

  2. Rooting will unlock your Android’s hidden potential.

  3. There is always some risk to rooting, so do your homework first.

  4. Check out easy how-to’s for rooting your particular device on Lifehacker.com.

Well, that’s it for today. Be sure to check out all my posts on QuickandDirtyTips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future podcast, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Smartphone image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.