Friday, April 12, 2013

Your Android Device - to root or not to root?

Your Android Device - to root or not to root?


If you own an android device, you must have heard many times about "rooting your device" but if you are new to Android, you might wonder what is it and what to do with it, or whether it is safe or legal.
Now, Android is derived from Linux and shares similarity in running programs and operating systems. Similar to 'superuser' in Linux, Android also has a mode where programs can run with elevated privilege which is not available normally in factory shipped products. Normally an user can only see the /mnt/sdcard and /mnt/sd-ext partitions in android devices which means an user cannot see or modify the / (root) folder in the internal memory. If somehow an user can gain access to the root folder, it is possible to modify or delete system files. Now, gaining root access grants the user with power to unlock carrier, make visual changes, install 3rd party custom ROMs, modify the kernel etc.

But the question is why an user need root access?
The answers are many. First it is possible to unlock carrier to switch SIM cards. Many useful application requires root access to function properly, like some backup application. Unwanted and junk applications can be uninstalled, which otherwise normally cannot be uninstalled. system variables can be optimized to have a better performance like faster wifi connect, faster gps lock, smother scrolling etc. (by editing build.prop). More control over hardware (like you can change the color of notification LED). You can install many modification of system apps also. Installing custom ROMs are another purpose, for which you might want to root your phone. There are many 3rd party custom ROMs like CyanogenMod or MiUi are available which can change the appearance of your phone totally. Sometimes the companies does not release the latest version of android for some older models, but thanks to the open source developers, you can install the latest version of android in your rooted device.

The rooting process of every device varies fro each other. So, it is not possible to release an universal guideline. But if you are interested, please go the xda forum and find your own device section for instruction of rooting. 
Rooting of any android device basically requires installing the superuser app and superuser binary. Some examples are Superuser by ChainsDD, Super SU by Chainfire, Superuser by ClockworkMod (@koush). Any one of these apps are required to provide the elevated (root) permission asked by apps. They also install some commands called superuser (busybox) binaries in root folder of the device. As by default the root folder is not accessible to the user, these superuser apps cannot be installed as normal apps. Installation differs from device to device as previously said.

"Ok, now I can do many things more with my device, but whats the catch?"

First- by rooting, you lose your warranty, because modified softwares and system files can be harmful to your device and may prevent it from functioning normally. So, the company will not take any responsibility.
Second- granting root permission to malicious apps can spy on your device and steal vital information like credit card number. 
Third- You may brick your device beyond repair.

So, the question is whether to root or not to root? 
The answer lies in your requirements. If you understand clearly what you are doing and why you are doing to your device, its fairly alright to root your device. The benefits outweigh the risks. But if you don't, please read more in xda forum to understand things clearly.

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