Rooting refers to the process of giving root access to subsystems of the Android mobile operating system on Android-based mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Specifically, rooting an Android mobile device involves adding a Linux application called “su,” which stands for SuperUser, that allows applications and commands on the device to run with elevated permissions. With the Android mobile OS utilizing the Linux kernel at its core, rooting an Android mobile device gives similar but more restricted access as on Linux operating systems.
Examples of actions a user can perform on a rooted device include running applications with administrator-level permissions, changing restricted system settings and applications, setting up wireless tethering, customizing the look of the device, and removing and replacing the device’s operating system with a newer or different mobile OS.
Why Would You Want to Root an Android Device?
Users often choose to root their devices as a way of getting around limitations or restrictions placed on the device by the hardware manufacturers or the device carrier. However, rooting can open the device up to security and stability issues, and it can also jeopardize the device’s warranty.
The dangers of rooting can range from the user performing actions that could alter the system and render it unusable (“bricking” the device) to applications having access to and running superuser commands without the user’s knowledge.
Additionally, rooting an Android device will frequently void the warranty provided by device manufacturers and carriers. And while users can unroot their device in most cases, digital traces of the device previously being rooted can remain and as a result violate the warranty policy.
Rooting vs. Jailbreaking
Rooting is frequently thought of as the Android version of jailbreaking, a process that gives more control to users of Apple iOS mobile devices. Both rooting and jailbreaking are designed to give users elevated administrative privileges over their devices, but jailbreaking goes a couple steps further than rooting due to Apple s more restrictive prohibitions on their iOS devices.
Jailbreaking additionally enables users to modify the iOS operating system as well as install and use applications not officially approved by Apple via a process called sideloading. In many cases, Android devices permit both of these actions without needing to first root the phone.