Should I Root My Android?

October 9, 2010, By Christian Cawley

You might have seen reference to “rooting” Android phones in magazines, blogs and forums. This is a process similar to “Jailbreaking” on the Apple iPhone whereby it is possible to install software that wouldn’t normally work successfully due to the access permissions awarded to you as a default user.

Before reading any further, you should be aware that like Jailbreaking, rooting an Android phone will void the warranty.

For the majority of Android users, the current access permissions – basically the same as those you have on a PC for installing and using software – are sufficient. However there are certain situations and applications in which it might be necessary to have root access.

Before we look at these, let’s find out what “rooting an Android” is all about.

What Is “Rooting Your Android”?

Basically, rooting Android phones is a way in which super user access is given to the phones owner. This is not necessarily a good thing, and can cause problems if you misuse your phone, install bad apps or even mess up the rooting process.

The term “root” comes from the name of the most important folder on your Android. The Root folder contains a lot of information concerning the successful running of your device, such as power management, and as such should be protected in most cases. In conjunction with the phones BIOS, the root folder protects the various components of your Android from failure.

Rooting is different from phone to phone – this is hardly a surprise, given the increasing number of Android devices available. If you are planning on rooting your Android, make sure you are using the correct instructions for your device.

Reasons for Rooting an Android Phone

There are several reasons why you might wish to root your Android phone. To begin with, it is a key stage in applying your own Android ROM, or one that you have downloaded from a development community such as XDA-developers.com. These ROMs are often faster than the versions included on your Android when you first received it.

You might also want to root your Android phone in order to install certain applications. As we’ve seen, rooting your phone gives access to files and folders at the root level, and some apps require access to them in this way in order to work correctly. Free tethering apps available on the Android Market require this level of access.

Furthermore, your Android itself might be limited with the amount of space it allows for installing apps; yet your SD card has 8 GB of space sitting idle. By rooting your Android phone, you can start installing apps to the SD card, and even unlock the phone from your particular network.

Some Phones Can’t Be Rooted

Whether you decide to root your phone or now, Android is taking steps to prevent this sort of behaviour.  It took independent developers several months to root the Motorola Droid phone upon its release in 2009. Although this was eventually achieved, it is now been seen as an early warning for a problem rooting another Android phone.

Recently it has transpired that certain versions of the G2 Android handset will undo the rooting process, thereby negating the operation.

What this means for rooting community and the platform as a whole remains to be seen – no doubt efforts are already underway to create a tool to block the root blocker!

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