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How to root your Android smartphone

Dennis Steimels

With a root you become the "master" of your android - with all the rights of an administrator. You don't have to be a tech expert to root a smartphone or tablet. There are several tools to help you do this. And we will show you how to do it in the workshop.

EnlargeWe'll show you how to root Android and unlock additional functions.

Owners of older smartphones in particular know the problem: After Android 5, the manufacturer stopped support - but you would like to use the new functions of Android 6 or 7. Since the hardware is still in good shape, buying a new one is out of the question for you. The use of a custom ROM is therefore a welcome alternative. A central prerequisite for this is an end device in the root state. If you do not want to dig too deeply into the "Android Debugging Bridge" (ADB) and the command line, we have found the right alternative for you.

Root tools for Windows

There are currently root programs for various older end devices that take over all the steps from unlocking the boot loader to installing a recovery solution. In this workshop we will introduce you to three solutions: The “Nexus Root Toolkit” was specially created for the Google Nexus devices and its current version supports all current devices except for the two new Pixel smartphones. In addition, we will show you how the “Windroid Toolkit” works, the current version of which supports around 175 devices. If you have a Samsung smartphone or tablet, the third toolkit in the bunch is the "Unified Android Toolkit".

That means "root"

The administrator of an Android smartphone who has all rights is referred to as the root or superuser. The rights of the user account are comparable to those of an administrator under Windows. As a superuser, you gain authorizations that you do not have as a normal user.

This is possible with a root

The authorizations obtained allow you to install special apps such as backup tools or cleaners and use them to their full extent, install new Android versions that are still in the test phase at an early stage or set up so-called custom ROMs that improve your Android system visually and functionally.

Risks in rooting

The manufacturer's guarantee on the smartphone usually expires with the root. Often, however, the process can be reversed.

Rooting an end device has numerous advantages, but you should also think about possible restrictions and risks in advance. Probably the greatest risk is the total loss of a device when it is rooted. The tools presented here work quite reliably, but not 100 percent error-free. In the end, instead of an outdated, working smartphone, you could be holding a worthless piece of electronics in your hand. The second risk is checking certain apps to see whether root access is available. In the first step, apps from the streaming sector in particular check whether you are working with a rooted device. If such access is discovered, the app refuses to work. Not to be forgotten is the additional security risk with a rooted end device: Many security mechanisms are overridden.

EnlargeYou need the ADB drivers to run the toolkits and to communicate between your computer and smartphone. Download this via the APK installer.

However, if you use rooting as an intermediate step to your new custom ROM, at least the last two points are usually not an issue. Most custom ROM representatives offer a parameter with which you can switch root access on and off if necessary. This means that your smartphone is not only secure, all apps that require an unrooted state will usually also work.

Note: Errors can occur during the root process, which in the worst case scenario can shut down the smartphone - this is known as “bricking”. Rooting is done at your own risk. Neither the manufacturer nor we are responsible for any damage that could be caused by a root.

Create backup: You should definitely make a backup of your smartphone. This is possible, for example, with the My Phone Explorer desktop application. Or you can use the software provided by the manufacturer, provided it has a backup function.

Necessary preparations

EnlargeTechnical communication is only possible with activated USB debugging. To do this, activate the developer functions and then debugging.

In order for the programs presented to work properly, some preparations are necessary both under Windows and on your smartphone or tablet. The “Android Debugging Bridge” (ADB) is used for communication between your Windows computer and the Android device. This is not available in the standard and must therefore be installed later. There is also a suitable package on the “ADB Driver Installer” website that was extracted from the Android development tools. Download the Automated Installation drivers, extract the zip file, and then run the EXE file.

In order for communication with your smartphone or tablet to work, you must first activate USB debugging in the developer options. If these are not visible in the settings, show them by clicking the "Build number" several times within the phone status.

Nexus Root Toolkit

EnlargeWith the "Nexus Root Toolkit" you can secure your device, unlock the bootloader, root the device and install a recovery solution.

With all of the previous steps done, your smartphone or tablet is ready and you can get to work rooting your device. First, we will show you how to do this with the “Nexus Root Toolkit” (NRT) from Wug-Fresh. A complete list of supported devices and the download link can be found here. Download the current version 2.1.9 and install it on your computer.

When it is started for the first time, the software checks whether all components are up to date.

EnlargeWhen starting, NRT checks whether all files are up-to-date.