People often come across the term “root” when referring to cell phones and devices running the Android operating system and ask, “What is root?” I’ll do my best to explain what root is, what the benefits and disadvantages of rooting are, and what you can do once root is obtained.

What is root?

The term “root” is a common terminology and almost a prerequisite in the world of Android development but seldom is it thoroughly explained.

To “root” basically means to gain administrative privileges to your phone, which allows you to perform things and access files that would typically be restricted or inaccessible.

Rooting your phone is not illegal.

Disadvantages of root

Although there are advantages to root and the things you can do after you obtain root, there are disadvantages, and I thought I’d break out the bad news first.

Root voids your warranty. First and foremost, one must understand that when you root your phone, you are voiding your warranty. For example, if you root your phone and you come across a manufacturer’s defect (trackball gets stuck, phone stops charging), you should not take your phone back with root.

The good news is that there are relatively simple ways to unroot and fully restore your phone back to factory state. I have written articles on unrooting devices.

You could brick your phone. Although most people do not brick their phone while rooting, most people do so by making changes to their firmware, radio, kernel, etc. Bricking your phone basically means to screw it up so bad that it becomes nothing more than a brick, a paperweight. I will say this, most people that brick their phones do so by following directions or downloading and flashing files from places that are disreputable or untrustworthy.

What makes me reputable or trustworthy? That’s your call; however, I do not put up directions unless I have tried it myself. The reason I don’t have articles on how to root 10 different phones is because I have not tried rooting 10 different phones. Always read my articles and the corresponding comments before you try anything.

Advantages of root

Now that I’ve scared you half to death, let me say this; If I had 15 Android phones, they would all be rooted. Why?

Root gives you privileges. Root allows you to do things that would normally be restricted. “Like what?” you ask? With root, you can change the ROM (think of a ROM kind of like a Windows theme or operating system), the kernel, the radio, etc. You can also change, move, or remove the contents of system-only files and folders.

You’ll also be able to change the boot screen image/animation, boot sounds, etc. with the proper files and process.

What can you do with root?

Depending on what phone you have and what you change, results may vary; however, these are the typical results I have been able to obtain through testing and development.

Can increase overall power and speed. Many people are drawn to rooting by being able to make their phone faster and more powerful by overclocking it. Overclock a phone? Yes. For example, the Droid Eris harbors a Qualcomm 528-MHz MSM7600 processor. With root, I was able to overclock it to 700+MHz, although overclocking does drain your battery a bit more.

Can increase battery life. Rooting can also open the possibility of being able to increase your battery life. Running apps, flashing custom kernels, or downclocking your phone gives you the potential to increase battery life, but most of the time I recommend getting an extra battery or an extended battery.

Change the look and feel of your phone. Probably the most popular reason why people root is to be able to run custom ROMs. As I had mentioned, think of a ROM like a Windows theme or an OS (although you won’t be replacing Android). For example: the Motorola Droid X runs MotoBlur, the HTC Incredible runs HTC Sense, the Nexus One is AOSP. Every ROM has a different look and feel and different widgets.

Replacing your ROM with a customized one will give you a different experience with your phone.

Block ads. I hate ads, and when I say I hate ads, I mean I hate ads. A good majority of ads on your phone from apps can be blocked by editing the hosts file on your phone. (Article coming soon about how to block ads on Android)

Delete unwanted apps. Most phones come with their collection of “crapware or bloatware. Carriers are notorious for taking Android and stuffing it with unnecessary apps like Verizon’s VCast, CityID, or Blockbuster app, Sprint’s Nascar or Sprint TV app.

Wireless tethering. Rooting your phone will allow you to enable wireless tethering, making your phone a mobile wireless hotspot. A great feature especially if you have a WiFi-only iPad or tablet.

How do I root my phone?

Typically the rooting process is different for every phone running the Android operating system (OS), but the logic of the process for each phone is similar. Depending on the phone and the process that have been discovered for it, it may be easy or difficult.

Because I have owned the Droid Eris and the Droid Incredible, I have written articles to help you get root. Root Your Droid Incredible, Run Froyo on Your Droid Eris.


Feel free to ask any questions by commenting below, and I’ll do my best to answer your question to the best of my knowledge.