What is rooting?

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.

Is it safe to root an Android phone?

For the average phone user, the additional capabilities may not be worth the work and skill required,” Hatter says. If you still want to try it, he advises keeping the following in mind:

  • Android is designed to be hard to break with default user access.
  • The security model of Android is weakened with root access. Some malware specifically looks for root access which allows it to do anything. You will need to be extra careful about what you install on the phone.
  • Your warranty will most likely be voided.
  • Some apps (including banking and payment apps) have security controls that will not allow them to be installed on a rooted phone.
  • There is at least a small chance that you could brick your phone—nerd speak for break the phone beyond repair.
  • If something goes wrong, it will be up to you to fix it.

If you have the required knowledge and skillset, then yes, Hatter says rooting can be relatively safe. But that’s a big if. “Unless you’re familiar with the command line and how to use Android’s tools, it does not make sense for most users,” he says, adding that he does not recommend rooting for the average user.

Koster agrees, acknowledging the risks already discussed and concluding, “Rooting a phone is not 100 percent safe.”

If you root your Android and suspect it contracted a virus, you can do something about it. Here’s how to get rid of a virus on an Android phone, along with tips on how to identify if your phone has a virus.

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