Rooting is the process of allowing users of smartphones, tablets and other devices running the Android mobile operating system to attain privileged control (known as root access) over various Android subsystems. As Android uses the Linux kernel, rooting an Android device gives similar access to administrative (superuser) permissions as on Linuxor any other Unix-like operating system such as FreeBSD or OS X.
Rooting is often performed with the goal of overcoming limitations that carriers and hardware manufacturers put on some devices.
Thus, rooting gives the ability (or permission) to alter or replace system applications and settings, run specialized applications (“apps”) that require administrator-level permissions, or perform other operations that are otherwise inaccessible to a normal Android user. On Android, rooting can also facilitate the complete removal and replacement of the device’s operating system, usually with a more recent release of its current operating system.
Root access is sometimes compared to jailbreaking devices running the Apple iOS operating system. However, these are different concepts: Jailbreaking is the bypass of several types of Apple prohibitions for the end user, including modifying the operating system (enforced by a “locked bootloader”), installing non-officially approved applications viasideloading, and granting the user elevated administration-level privileges (rooting). Only a minority of Android devices lock their bootloaders, and many vendors such as HTC,Sony, Asus and Google explicitly provide the ability to unlock devices, and even replace the operating system entirely. Similarly, the ability to sideload applications is typically permissible on Android devices without root permissions. Thus, it is primarily the third aspect of iOS jailbreaking (giving users administrative privileges) that most directly correlates to Android rooting
Advantages of rooting include the possibility for complete control over the look and feel of the device. As a superuser has access to the device’s system files, all aspects of the operating system can be customized with the only real limitation being the level of coding expertise. Immediately expectable advantages of rooted devices include the following:
- Full theming capabilities, meaning that everything can be changed and themed from the color of the battery indicator, to the look of the dialer or contact list, to the video that plays while the device boots up.
- Full control of the CPU and kernel
- Full application control, including the ability to backup, restore, or batch edit applications, or to remove bloatware that comes pre-loaded on many phones.
- Processes can be automated on the device through the use of applications such as Tasker.
- Ability to install a custom firmware (also known as a custom ROM) that allows additional levels of control on a rooted device. As Android is open source, anyone with the proper skills can create their own customized version.