Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities for customisation and modification beyond the standard stuff you find in the Play Store.

Whether you're completely dissatisfied with your Android experience or you wish your device could be pushed that extra bit further, rooting will definitely offer something for you. Unfortunately, rooting does pose a series of risks. For one, say goodbye to your warranty, as no manufacturers cover rooting and superuser-based modifications. The most important thing to remember is to backup before making any changes, and reading up on what you're doing before you press that install button.

Enough of that. Let's get into the good stuff.

Why should I root my device? What does rooting offer me?

Rooting offers an additional level of flexibility and control over your Android device. You can do things like automating all the things, installing a custom ROM like LineageOS to transform the look and feel of your device, blocking ads everywhere or underclocking your CPU to boost battery life. The possibilities are truly endless. There are thousands of ways to customise your device to your needs and your lifestyle, and make it truly yours.

Okay, I'm convinced. Now, what do I actually do?

Now, this is where things get annoying. Your method will vary depending entirely on what device you're planning on rooting. The first step you should take it to back up your data. While rooting is traditionally a very safe process but it's always good practice to backup your data before making any changes, in case of the unlikely event that things go awry.

Next, you should download the Android SDK from here. It's important that you have the Android SDK installed as it includes a number of tools and drivers that may be necessary during the root process.

Unlocking your bootloader

The next step is unlocking the bootloader. The process for this is fairly straightforward, and we've outlined the core method below. If you're using a Motorola, HTC or LG phone you'll most likely need to get a token you enter during the process. You'll find how to do that and who to get it from at each vendor's developer page.

The standard method is as follows:

  1. Enable developer mode on your device by going to Settings -> About device and taping "build number" 7 times.

  2. Open the developer options screen in Settings.

  3. Toggle the OEM Unlock setting.

  4. Next, enable USB Debugging.

  5. Connect your device to your PC via USB and open a command window.

  6. On your computer, at the command prompt type:

adb devices

You should see the device serial number displayed, as you can see below:

  1. Boot your device into bootloader mode using the following command:

adb reboot bootloader

  1. Issue this command to unlock the bootloader of your device

fastboot oem unlock

Depending on your device, you may receive a confirmation screen asking if you want to unlock your bootloader. Use the volume buttons to select "Yes" and the power button to affirm your selection.

  1. Boot your device back into system after the bootloader has been unlocked by issuing the command:

fastboot reboot

Please do note that this will erase all of your data and factory reset the device.

And there you go. Your bootloader is unlocked, and you're one step closer to freedom.

The root process

This is where things get a little messier. There are tens of thousands of different Android SKUs out there, from different manufacturers and with different hardware configs, carrier restrictions, and levels of developer support. Therefore, there's no single clear-cut "universal" method of rooting. However, we'll try to point you in the right direction.

KingoRoot

KingoRoot is a commercial root application that aims to provide a simple, straightforward and universal method of Android rooting. It has the advantages of ease-of-use and not requiring a PC to gain root access. However, not all is sunshine and rainbows surrounding KingoRoot. A large number of users and developers have expressed concerns that the tool tends to harvest user data, and while we cannot validate these claims, we cannot disprove them either – which is why you should take care when using them.

The method, both on PC and on Android itself, is simple. Download your chosen version from the KingoRoot site and then it's as simple as opening the software and pressing the "Root" button.

Full instructions and tutorials for supported phones can be found at the Kingo Root support page.

Magisk

The advantage that Magisk has over other methods is that it allows you to simply perform what is known as a systemless root. A systemless root allows SELinux to run securely under enforcing mode and does not modify any system files and allows the installation of OTA updates without any issues. It also allows you to use Android Pay while rooted.

To install Magisk, you first need to install Team Win Recovery Project (or TWRP for short), which is the leading custom recovery out there right now. Aside from being necessary for the Magisk root method, it's also a great foundation for your rooting career. It includes a number of great features such as full system backups, ZIP flashing and much more. The installation method isn't very difficult either:

  1. Find your device from here (it's compatible with most modern Android devices) and download the image.

  2. Open the folder where your recovery image is saved.

  3. Open a command window in this folder.

  4. Connect your device to your PC.

  5. Issue this command:

adb reboot bootloader

This will boot your device into bootloader mode.

  1. Once you enter bootloader mode, issue this command

fastboot flash recovery twrp-2.8.x.x-xxx.img

(insert the name of your TWRP image file here)

  1. Finally, issue this command:

fastboot reboot

This will reboot your device back into Android system.

Now that TWRP has been installed, let's get to the Magisk installation.

  1. Download the Magisk Installer utility from here and the Magisk Manager app from here.

  2. Transfer both the Magisk installer and the Magisk manager files from the download link to your device's storage.

  3. Boot your device into TWRP recovery.

  4. Tap on Install and select the Magisk .zip file that you transferred to your device in Step 1.

  5. After selecting the .zip file, swipe to confirm Flash at the bottom of the screen to begin the flashing process.

  6. Once Magisk is flashed, reboot to the system using the given on-screen prompt.

  7. Once your device reboots, open a file manager app and navigate to the directory where you copied the Magisk Manager app.

  8. Install the Magisk Manager app (ensure you've enabled sideloading apps in developer settings before doing this)

  9. Open the Magisk Manager app and check your root status. It should be successful!

You can now use the Magisk manager app to make a series of modifications and changes, such as enabling root in specific applications only.

Samsung devices

Samsung devices can pose some very specific issues while rooting – mainly due to their enterprise security system called Knox. As Knox adds an extra layer of security, it can make rooting particularly difficult. Furthermore, Knox has a software counter that can show when device firmware has been tampered with. This means that when Knox has been "tripped" your warranty is, without a shadow of a doubt, gone. In addition to that, you'll also be unable to use features like Samsung Pay ever again, which may cause problems for some users.

All the U.S. versions of the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S8 are locked up and encrypted. There might not ever be a way to root them. This isn't true for unlocked models sold outside of North America though.

To root most Samsung devices you'll need utility known as Odin (Heimdall for Linux and macOS). It's a low-level firmware flashing tool that can push image files to the storage and overwrite existing images.

The method of rooting we'll be using here is one known as ChainFire Auto-Root (after the developer who made it). It will install and enable SuperSU on your device, allowing you to configure root access for specific apps and utilities as you may wish. However, in theory, Odin can be used to flash any image of your choosing (but you should always check with the developer/on relevant forums to see if a specific ROM supports being flashed via Odin).

Please also note that this method will unlock your bootloader, so ensure you have a full backup of all of your data as it will be erased. Additionally, you will need to install the drivers found here

  1. Go to the new CF-Auto-Root website firmware.mobi here and use the search prompt to find your device. The experience has been streamlined recently, with a simple search and configuration tool that makes it simpler than ever to find the correct image for your device.

  1. Select the appropriate firmware for your device.

  1. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select "Configure CF-Auto-Root".

  2. Configure the CF-Auto-Root settings as configured in the image below, and scroll down to select "Generate CF-Auto-Root package"

  1. Extract the files from the .zip folder.

  2. Power off your phone. This is essential in order to enter Download Mode.

  3. To enter Download Mode, press and hold the volume down, home, and power buttons simultaneously. At this point, you'll see a warning message — but like it says, just press the volume up button to enter Download Mode. After that, connect your phone to your PC via USB.

  4. Open the directory where you extracted the ZIP file, and run Odin3-v3.X.X.exe as an Administrator.

  5. Wait until the box under the "ID: COM" field turns blue.

  6. Click the AP button. This should open a file browser pop-up.

  7. Navigate to the directory where you extracted the .zip file.

  8. Select the "CF-Auto-Root-XXX-XXX-XXX.tar.md5 file", then click "Open".

  9. Wait until the Log tab shows a message that says "Leave CS" then click the "Start" button to root your device. The root process is automatic (hence Auto-Root) and once it is complete, your device will automatically boot back into Android.

That should work! Just in case, you may want to download a root checker like this one to be certain, but it should have been successful if you followed the instructions step-by-step.

Okay, that's all good but will manufacturers come after my blood if I do this?

Not necessarily. While some manufacturers such as BlackBerry (who make virtually unrootable Android devices) and Samsung (who package Knox) implement measures to prevent rooting, the most that the majority of manufacturers do is state that rooting will void your warranty. Furthermore, many manufacturers co-operate with developers and enthusiasts who wish to root by providing bootloader unlocking utilities like the ones which we linked above.

So what do you think? Why would you want to root your Android device? Do you think all devices should come pre-rooted from the factory? If you have any thoughts you would wish to share or any questions about the rooting process itself, let us know in our forums!