How to root Android phones or tablets (and unroot them) - KSTC-TV, Channel 45 Lifestyle-

How to root Android phones or tablets (and unroot them)

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By Mark Jansen


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Do you want unlimited control over your phone? Android rooting opens up a world of possibility, but it can also void your warranty, leave you with a broken smartphone, or worse. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

Manufacturers and carriers have a vested interest in dissuading you from rooting — if done incorrectly, it can irreparably damage your phone. Even so, the potential benefits are well worth it. With a rooted phone, you can remove bloatware, speed up your processor, and customize every element of your phone software’s appearance.

This guide on how to root Android devices will walk you through the necessary steps to root your phone. Some devices can be rooted in minutes. Others take a little research. But one thing is clear: Rooting your phone is one of the best ways to tap into your Android device’s true potential.

What is rooting?

Rooting an Android phone or tablet is akin to jailbreaking an iPhone — basically, it allows you to dive deeper into a phone’s sub-system. It will allow you to access the entirety of the operating system to customize just about anything on your Android device. With root access, you can also get around any restrictions that your manufacturer or carrier may have applied.

Rooting is best undertaken with caution. You will want to back up your phone’s software before you install — or “flash,” in rooting terms — a custom ROM (modified version of Android).

Why would you root?

android 9 pie settings
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

One of the biggest incentives to root your Android device is to rid yourself of bloatware that’s impossible to uninstall otherwise (although you can sometimes disable it — check out our guide on disabling bloatware). On some devices, rooting will enable previously disabled settings, like wireless tethering. Additional benefits include the ability to install specialized tools and flash custom ROMs, each of which can add extra features and improve your phone or tablet’s performance.

There isn’t an over-abundance of must-have root apps, but there are enough to make it worthwhile. Some apps will let you automatically back up all of your apps and data to the cloud, block web and in-app advertisements, create secure tunnels to the internet, overclock your processor, or make your device a wireless hot spot. Some of the best apps for rooted devices can give you an idea of what you’re getting into.

Why wouldn’t you root?

There are essentially four potential cons to rooting your Android.

  • Voiding your warranty: Some manufacturers or carriers will void your warranty if you root your device, so it is worth keeping in mind that you can always unroot. If you need to send the device back for repair, simply flash the software backup you made and it’ll be good as new.
  • Bricking your phone: If something goes wrong during the rooting process, you run the risk of bricking — i.e., corrupting — your device. The easiest way to prevent that from happening is to follow the instructions carefully. Make sure the guide you are following is up to date and that the custom ROM you flash is specifically for it. If you do your research, you won’t have to worry about bricking your smartphone.
  • Security risks: Rooting introduces some security risks. Depending on what services or apps you use on your device, it could create a security vulnerability. And certain malware takes advantage of rooted status to steal data, install additional malware, or target other devices with harmful web traffic.
  • Disabled apps: Some security-conscious apps and services do not work on rooted devices — financial platforms like Google’s Android Pay and Barclays Mobile Banking do not support them. Apps that serve copyrighted TV shows and movies, like Sky Go and Virgin TV Anywhere, will not start on rooted devices, either.

How to prepare your Android device for rooting

Galaxy S8 Plus how to root android
Galaxy S8 Plus Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

One of the easiest ways to root an Android device is by using an app, and a number of rooting apps have garnered attention over the years — KingRoot, Firmware.mobi, Kingo Root, BaiduRoot, and One Click Root. They will root your device in the time it takes you to brush your teeth. But some only support devices running older versions of Android, and you may need to do some shopping around to find one that works for your device. If you’re looking to root an even older device, you may need to check CFRoot’s older site.

While it used to be that rooting Android versions from Android 7.0 Nougat upwards was more difficult — verified boot would check the device’s cryptographic integrity to detect if your device’s system files have been tampered with, inhibiting legitimate rooting apps. Thankfully, rooting apps have caught up with the curve, and rooting Android is much easier than it used to be.

If your phone isn’t compatible with a one-click rooting app, you will have to spend a little time researching alternatives on Android forums. The best place to start is XDA Developers Forum — look for a thread about your phone or tablet and you’re likely to find a method.

Preparation for root

Back up everything you cannot live without before you start. You should also always back up your phone’s current ROM before you flash a new one.

You will want to ensure that your device is fully charged before you begin.

You will need to turn on USB debugging, as well as OEM Unlocking. Do this by opening Settings on your device. If you do not see Developer Options toward the bottom of the Settings screen, follow these steps to activate it.

  1. Tap on About Phone and find the Build Number.
  2. Tap on the Build Number seven times and the Developer Options will appear on the main page of the Settings.
  3. Tap on the Back key to see your new Developer Options.
  4. Tap Developer Options.
  5. Check to enable USB Debugging.
  6. Check to enable OEM Unlocking.

Installing the Android SDK Platform Tools

It used to be that rooting involved downloading Google’s entire Android development kit. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore, and all you need is the Android SDK Platform Tools.

Download and install the Android SDK Platform Tools from Google’s developer site. There are choices for Windows, Mac, and Linux. These instructions are for Windows machines. Extract the zipped files. When asked what directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdk. If you choose a different location, make sure you remember it.

Installing device drivers

To ensure your computer can properly communicate with your smartphone or tablet, you will need to install the appropriate USB driver.

Devices from some manufacturers come with the drivers included in the phone’s software, so all you need to do to install the appropriate USB driver is attach your phone to your PC by USB cable. OnePlus is an example of this, but it’s worth connecting your phone first to see whether USB drivers will automatically install.

Otherwise, here is a list of drivers from the most popular manufacturers:

Follow the installer’s instructions. Once the drivers are installed, proceed to the next step.

Unlock your bootloader

Before you get started, you need to unlock your device’s bootloader. The bootloader, simply put, is the program that loads the device’s operating system. It determines which applications run during your phone or tablet’s startup process.

Some manufacturers require you to obtain a key in order to unlock the bootloader. Motorola, HTC, LG, and Sony provide step-by-step instructions on how to do so, but a word of warning: They require you to register for a developer account.

Unfortunately for users of Huawei and Honor devices, those phones’ bootloaders can no longer be unlocked. Huawei rescinded the ability to request unlock codes in July 2018. If you still want to root your Huawei or Honor device, you’ll need to use a third-party service like DC-Unlocker.

Once you have taken those steps, you can embark on the unlocking process. You will need to put your device in fastboot mode. It’s different for every phone, but on most devices, rebooting the device and holding down the Power and Volume Down buttons for 10 seconds does the trick (HTC phones require that you hit the Volume Down key and press the Power button to select it.)

Once you have booted into fastboot, head to the folder you previously unzipped your Android SDK files to. Then open your computer’s command prompt by holding down Shift+Right Click and choosing “Open a Command Prompt Here.” If your device requires a code, you will get a long string of characters. Paste it into the box on your device manufacturer’s website, submit the form, and await an email with a key, file, and further instructions.

To unlock your device’s bootloader, connect it to your computer and place it in fastboot mode again. Pull up the command prompt by typing cmd into your Start menu.

For Google Nexus and Pixel devices, the commands are easy:

  • Nexus phones: Type “fastboot oem unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter
  • Pixel phones: Type “fastboot flashing unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter

Motorola’s command is a little different:

  • Type “oem unlock UNIQUE_KEY” (without quotes), replacing “UNIQUE KEY” with the code you received

So is HTC’s:

  • Type “unlocktoken Unlock_code.bin” (without quotes), replacing “Unlock_code.bin” with the file you received.

Confirm the unlock, and you’re one step closer to rooting your Android device.

Some manufacturers and carriers don’t sanction bootloader unlocking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Try searching the XDA Developers forum for workarounds and unofficial solutions.

How to root your Android device with multiple programs

There are a bunch of ways to root your phone or tablet. Here are a few of our favorites.

Rooting with Framaroot

how to root android farmaroot app

Framaroot is a newer one-click rooting service, and it aims to make the process of rooting easy for everyone with a simple one-click “root” button. However, you might have to jump through a couple of hoops to get it started.

  1. Download the APK.
  2. Install it — you may need to tap the Unknown sources button in your Android Security settings to complete the installation.
  3. Open the app, and tap Root.
  4. If the app finds it’s able to root your device, it will do so. If it can’t you’ll need to try another method.
  5. If your device is able to be rooted, you can go ahead and root your device.
  6. You’ll then need to download and run SuperSU to manage your root access.

Then that’s it — you’re good to go!

Rooting your Android device with Firmware.mobi

cf root how to root android

Firmware.mobi, an unlocking utility by developer Chainfire, isn’t the easiest way to root your Android smartphone, but it is one of the most stable. It works on more than 300 devices and provides step-by-step instructions that make the rooting process as seamless as it possibly could be.

You will need to download the appropriate ZIP file for your device.

Once you have done that, follow these steps:

  1. Extract the folder.
  2. Navigate to it, and find the root-windows.bat file. Double-click it.
  3. Wait for the script to execute, and press any key.
  4. When the process is complete, your phone will automatically reboot, and you will be rooted.

Rooting your Android device with BaiduRoot

BaiduRoot, a software utility by Beijing-based Baidu Inc., supports more than 6,000 Android devices, but since those only include devices running Android 2.2 up to Android 4.4, it’s going to have limited use most. However, if you’ve got a really old phone lying around, this is a great tool for rooting and re-purposing that. It’s coded in Chinese, but a crafty translator has released an English version.

BaiduRoot’s one of the more straightforward rooting applications. Once you’ve downloaded it on your computer, it’s a step-by-step affair.

First, you’ll need to unzip the file. Find Baidu_Root.RAR and extract its contents (if you’re using Windows, you might need a third-party application like 7-Zip).

Next, attach the device you want to root to your computer via USB and transfer the files. Once that’s done, unplug your phone.

You’ll have to install the BaiduRoot application manually. Follow these steps:

  1. On your smartphone or tablet, head to Settings > Security (or Lock screen and security).
  2. Toggle Unknown sources, and press OK on the popup.
  3. Find the folder containing the BaiduRoot app and tap the APK file. Follow the instructions to complete the installation.

Now, switch to BaiduRoot.

  1. Open BaiduRoot and accept the license agreement.
  2. Tap the Root button in the center of the screen.
  3. After a few seconds, you’ll get a message indicating that the device was successfully rooted.

Here’s a video demonstrating the installation process.

Rooting with One Click Root

one click root how to root android

One Click Root is a new rooting tool that aims to take some of the complicated nature out of rooting. The idea of One Click Root is right there in the name; one click, and you’re done. It also promises that the program won’t be able to brick your phone, except in the case of user negligence. We can’t back up those claims, so we recommend you take all the same precautions you would take with any other rooting app.

The One Click Root procedure is simple.

  1. Check that your device is supported with the Root Availability Tool.
  2. Download the Windows/Mac One Click Root program.
  3. Connect your device via USB cable.
  4. Enable USB debugging on your device.
  5. Run One Click Root and let the software handle the tricky bit.

How to use Kingo Android Root

Kinga Android Root how to root android

Kingo Root can be installed to a Windows-based computer or directly to the device you want to root. First, check to see if your device is compatible with Kingo by checking the official list. Then, grab the Kingo Android Root for Windows program, and install it. Alternatively, download the Kingo Android Root APK to your device, check the Unknown sources box (see above), and install it.

If you’ve opted to use the Windows client, make sure to enable USB debugging mode on your phone.

From there, usage is pretty simple:

  1. Launch Kingo Root on your computer and connect your device via USB.
  2. Kingo Root should detect your device automatically and prompt you to root it. Click Root, and then hang tight — Kingo will only take a few minutes to grant root privileges.

If you would rather root without a computer, follow these instructions:

  1. Install the Kingo Root APK.
  2. Open the Kingo Root app.
  3. If your device is compatible, you will see a One Click Root button if your device is compatible. Tap it and be patient — it can take a while.
  4. If the root is successful, you will see a large check mark.

Resources you will need after you root, and how to unroot

Arguably no other mobile operating system parallels the diversity of Android OS. For this reason, there is no universal way to root your device. If the above options fail, do not fret. There is likely a guide on how to root your specific device available somewhere online — a few reliable resources include XDA developers’ forum and the Phandroid Forums.

Once you have found the right guide for your phone or tablet, it’s simply a matter of working through the listed steps methodically. It can get complicated, and it might take a while. But provided you follow the guide step by step, it should be a relatively pain-free process.

Download Root Checker

You will need to download an app to make sure your device has been successfully rooted. There are several apps available on the Google Play store that, when downloaded, will tell you if you have super-user permission — a telltale sign you have succeeded. Root Checker is a popular one — simply installing and running it will tell you if your phone has super-user permissions.

Install a root management app

SuperSu how to root android

Rooting will make your phone more vulnerable to security threats. Installing a root management app will give you more peace of mind. Normally, every app that requires rooted privileges will ask for your approval. This is where root management apps, such as SuperSU, come in. SuperSU lets you allow or deny sites’ requests for super user permission. It will then keep track of the permissible apps and automatically grant permission next time you use the app. SuperSU will also keep track of how many times an app requests to root.

How to unroot your Android device

For all the benefits you can gain from rooting, you may want to go back to the way things were. Whichever method you attempt, always make sure that you back up your data before making any large changes to your phone.

Unroot with SuperSU

SuperSU allows you to unroot phones with one click. Open the SuperSU app, go to Settings, and scroll all the way to the bottom until you see the Full unroot button. Tap it, hit continue, and the unrooting process will begin.

Unroot with Universal Unroot

Another method is Universal Unroot. It removes root privileges in most Android devices, but it’s not perfect. For starters, most Samsung devices are not compatible, and LG devices will be unrooted, but still show as rooted after the app has worked its magic. It used to be a dollar, but it’s now free since the developers are no longer updating it. But if you’ve got an older device that’s supported, it’s a good way to be sure.

Unroot by flashing stock firmware

One of the most thorough ways to remove root access is by flashing your device with factory firmware. This method will completely wipe your phone or tablet clean of any root traces, but a word of warning: it’s not for the faint of heart.

First, download the factory image for your device to your computer. One again, XDA is a great resource.

Next, unzip the file. You will see another zipped file — unzip that one, too. The unzipped folder should contain a bootloader image, radio, and various scripts, and one more zipped file. Again, unzip that.

The next step involves installing ADB and Fastboot on your computer.

Download and install the Android SDK Platform Tools from Google’s developer site. There are choices for Windows, Mac, and Linux. These instructions are for Windows machines. Extract the zipped files. When asked what directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdk. If you choose a different location, make sure you remember it.

Make sure OEM Unlocking is enabled on your device. Open Settings. If you do not see Developer Options towards the bottom of the Settings screen on your device, follow these steps to activate them.

  1. Tap on About Phone and find the Build Number.
  2. Tap on the Build Number seven times and the Developer Options will appear on the main page of the Settings.
  3. Tap on the Back key to see the Developer Options.
  4. Tap on Developer Options.
  5. Check to enable OEM Unlocking.

Switch back to your computer. Copy boot.img in the folder you unzipped and place it in your ADB folder, C:android-sdk.

Connect your phone to your computer via USB. Open your computer’s command prompt by holding down Shift+Right Click and choosing “Open a Command Prompt Here.” Then, enter these commands:

  1. adb reboot bootloader
  2. fastboot flash boot boot.img
  3. fastboot reboot

Unroot with file explorer

If your phone is running Android Lollipop or older, you can also unroot by deleting the files that granted the root in the first place. We recommend using a file explorer app like ES File Explorer. Turn on Root explorer under Tools in the ES File Explorer menu and grant it root privileges, if asked.

  1. Find your device’s main drive under “/”.
  2. Go to system > bin, then tap and hold on busybox and su and delete them.
  3. Now go to system > xbin, then tap and hold on busybox and su and delete them.
  4. Finally, go to system > app and delete supeuser.apk.
  5. Restart the device and you should be unrooted.

Unroot with OTA update

Sometimes just installing an OTA update will break root. Look for a software update under Settings > About device. Just be careful, as with some root methods it might prove impossible to recover from. In that case, you may need to flash the original firmware first.

None of the root methods or unrooting methods are without risk, so always back up your data, make sure your device is fully charged, read the instructions carefully, and take your time.


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