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FAQ On Rooting Your Android Device

Michael July 8, 2012

A common topic these days is “rooting” android devices. What does this mean? Should you do it? What are the chances that it’ll break your device? We’ve compiled a nice list of frequently asked questions on rooting your android device so that you can learn more about it and decide whether this is for you or not.

What is Rooting?

Android is based on the Linux operating system. Rooting essentially means adding a small Linux application onto your device called “su”, which stands for SuperUser. This allows applications and commands to run with elevated permissions – by default anything that you do, or that an application does, on your Android device has a permission level set by the operating system. By adding the “su” application you are telling your device that whatever you or your application does should be allowed. This opens up your device to allow you to do things that currently may not be possible.

The “root” user on your device is, essentially, the boss. You will be allowed to do anything on your device when you are the root user, including really geeky things like wirelessly tethering your laptop through your Android phone/tablet. The “su” program tells the device that you are the root user, and therefore you can do whatever you like.

Why Should I Root My Device?

There are many reasons for people wanting to root their devices. If you want to do things that affect or change the core software of your device, such as upgrading your version of Android, you’ll have to do it as the root user. Of course the main advantage of rooting your device will be to install software that normally wouldn’t be available, such as ad-blocking software or tools to do system backups in case your device breaks.

The best advice I can give is to not root your device unless you really need to. If you find a handy application that you could use or would like to have, then consider it, but don’t just root the device for the sake of it as there are some downsides which we will discuss in the next section.

Could Rooting Break My Device?

The short answer is yes. The possibility is always there. You will have to interact with your device using the command prompt on your computer (or terminal on a Mac), so if you enter a command incorrectly it could leave you without a working phone or tablet.

If something does go wrong, quite often it can be fixed, but this isn’t always the case. Another downside is that this will void your warranty, even if your device breaks for reasons other than rooting. If your device is in its warranty period but you really want an app that requires rooting, think long and hard before delving straight into the world of rooting. Always consider the risks involved.

Is It Secure?

Most of the time, yes, although you should always take great care into researching any app that you install onto your rooted phone. Make sure that whatever you download has reviews from other users. Always check for any negative feedback that users have given. If you install an app that you can’t fully trust then this could potentially breach your privacy – remember that you are giving the app access to everything on your device – things that other apps wouldn’t be able to access if you hadn’t rooted it. This means that while an app can look and seem genuine, there is always that chance that it could cause trouble.

For an extra level of security you should consider installing SuperUser Whitelist.  Once installed, anytime something wants to run as root the app will ask you if you would like to allow it.You can accept, decline, or grant the app full privileges each time it runs. This is a handy way of keeping track what is accessing the core software of your device.

Another thing to consider is whether the custom rom that you install on your device contains an SSH server. If it does then I’d strongly consider changing the password of it. By not changing the password a lot of iPhone users who jailbroke their phones ended up getting Rick-Rolled, and there is nothing worse than getting that song stuck in your head (plus, of course, there is a huge security risk as if you leave the password as default then it is easy for others to gain access to your device).

Will I Still Receive Carrier Updates?

Wait and see is the best advice I can give here. The chances are that you probably will still receive updates from your carrier, but if you use rooting to really customise your device, then it’ll be unlikely that your carrier will recognise the device and you won’t receive any updates. After all, the updates from your carrier are designed to work on the versions of Android that they support that have been unmodified.

You could always un-root your device so that you can receive updates, but the difficult of this can vary from device to device. Some phones and tablets can’t be un-rooted at all.

Will I Still Get Application Updates?

Yes, whether the app was installed from the Marketplace or from a third-party, you will still receive updates when they become available.

How Do I Un-Root My Device?

While methods vary from device-to-device and (as mentioned above) some devices don’t even allow un-rooting, the best thing to do if you do want to un-root your phone or tablet is to visit the website where you found the original rooting method. If no un-rooting techniques are mentioned then see if they have forums on there – no doubt people will be discussing it so you’ll be able to see if it is possible and see if and how it can be done.

Our Advice?

Well, we are on the fence on this one. If you want to root your device to get an application that you desperately want or need and you feel comfortable doing it after reading the FAQ above, then you should go ahead and do it. If there aren’t any applications that you desperately need that would only work if your device is rooted then you should steer clear. Remember the risks that are involved and if you do decide to do this, always think of security – change your SSH password and only install trusted apps that have good reviews.

For more information on rooting your device check out SlateDroid – they have fantastic forums that will give you advice on rooting your Android phone and tablet. It’s a brilliant community of over 50,000 members, so whatever device you have there will be people on hand to give you advice and information.

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About Author

Michael

Michael is a technology enthusiast (a geek, some may say) who resides in Newcastle, England. He runs geeky.info as a subsidiary of his expanding web design business, On Fire Digital Limited. When having a break from geeking around, Michael loves spending time with his wife and son. He also enjoys cooking and loves to enjoy a nice glass of wine. View all posts by Michael →

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