Rooting (or jailbreaking for iPhone lovers) is the process of ‘unlocking’ your phone’s operating system. It gives you ‘administrator’ or ‘superuser’ access, meaning that you can make any changes to your OS, including those that phone manufacturers and carriers usually forbid.
Rooting can empower users to control their own devices, secure their data, and tailor software to their specific requirements. While there are risks attached, the benefits can be very attractive.
Rooting is an opportunity to take back control of your device. Most smartphones restrict customization, to prevent users from accidentally damaging essential elements of software infrastructure. However, if you know what you’re doing, you can alter themes and graphics, tweeking everything to your specific needs.
Users can remove bloatware that was preinstalled by the manufacturer. Many software vendors and phone companies have agreements with certain app developers, and will sell their devices with those apps pre-installed. With a completely customizable operating system, you can remove anything you don’t need and free up memory for other files that you actually want.
Most devices will not let you download an app from just anywhere on the internet. Instead, users have to go through one of the few approved platforms, like the Google Play store. While this is partly done to maintain security, it also allows giants like Google to censor and control application access. Rooting allows you to scrap those restrictions and download apps from any source.
It’s easy to think of your device and your operating system as being intrinsically linked, but of course, that’s not the case. Rooting allows you to install custom Roms and alternative software kernels, so you can run an entirely new system without getting a new handset. Your device can actually be updated to the latest version of Android OS even if you own an older Android phone and the manufacturer no longer allows you to do so.
Our devices and the applications we use on them store huge amounts of data for us, and losing that information could be a real problem. After rooting your phone, however, you can back up the data of any app and upload it directly to another device. Backing up data in this way can be great if the system crashes and you need to reinstall the OS.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, rooting does come at a price – your mobile security.
The rooting process gives you more freedom, but it does so by breaking manufacturer’s security settings. This means that you’re not the only one who can easily manipulate your OS. Your phone essentially becomes more vulnerable to malware and hacking. Here are the risk factors:
Thoroughly research how to root your phone. Each Android model can have a different rooting process and some rooting methods get patched very quickly (so they no longer work). If you’re not sure how to root your device or use Android root software, it’s better to leave it to someone with a bit more tech know-how.
Even though rooting isn’t illegal, manufacturers try to fight it. Gaining root access will immediately void your warranty. If something happens to your software or hardware, you won’t get it fixed by the phone provider.
You might gain access to more apps and features, but that also means that you’ll have to be very selective with what you download on your phone. Some apps might contain malware and steal your sensitive data like login details, passwords or even payment details. Others might even grant hackers complete access to your phone. If you do root your phone, the least you should do is use a good antivirus and a VPN for Android.
You might think that you are ‘unlocking’ your phone but in reality you might download a rooting software that contains malware. Not all softwares and firmwares have been tested, so you might give hackers full access to your phone and any data stored on it.
Some high-security apps check whether your device has been compromised by hackers before letting you use them. One example is Android Pay. If you don’t want to lose access to these apps, it’s probably best not to mess with rooting.
So, is it safe to root your phone? It depends on your device and technical know-how, but we generally advise against it. If you know what you’re doing and are willing to face the risk of losing your phone or your data — then go for it. Otherwise, you can accidentally download malware, lose your warranty, and make your phone useless.
If you think rooting your phone is worth the risk, do your research before getting one. Root methods for some Android devices don’t get released that often and they are usually patched very quickly. Nexus and Pixel devices, however, are relatively root-friendly.
Manufacturers provide little control of the OS on purpose – to keep your devices secure. Because of the risks involved, we cannot suggest rooting your phone. Users must decide whether or not to take that risk for themselves after doing their research.
If you change your mind, and if you haven’t bricked your phone, you can always unroot your Android. You can do this by restoring your phone’s factory settings or reinstalling the OS.