Productivity
Brought to you by

The Complete Guide To Rooting Any Android Phone


NOTE: This guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version.

With all the different devices out there running different versions of Android, the rooting process can be a little different for every phone. Here’s a one-stop guide that should get you up and running with root access, no matter what device you have.

Rooting, for those of you that don’t know, means giving yourself root permissions on your phone (we’ve heard all the “root” gags before, thanks). It’s similar to running programs as administrators in Windows, or running a command with “sudo” in Linux. With a rooted phone, you can run more apps (like backup or tethering apps), as well as flash custom ROMs to your phone, which add all sorts of extra features.

Currently there are two main rooting methods that cover most devices, with a few outliers that require more work.

Most Android Phones: The SuperOneClick Method

The majority of you will be able to use previously mentioned SuperOneClick for Windows to root your phone. This method works on most Motorola devices, the Dell Streak, the Nexus One, the Samsung Galaxy S, and most Sony Ericsson models. However, it should work on many more. Forum threads abound on the net where people claim it works with other devices, and they just haven’t been added to the “official” list. If you want to double check that SuperOneClick will work with your phone, a quick Google (e.g. superoneclick galaxy s) will probably reveal whether it is compatible. Photo by Raphael Schön.

What You’ll Need

  • A Windows PC: SuperOneClick has ports for Mac and Linux, but it’s pretty complicated to get it working. I haven’t used it myself, but you can check out its XDA Developers thread for more information. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll assume you have a working Windows PC to get this working. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a friend—you’ll only need it once.
  • The USB Drivers for Your Phone: You’ll have to grab these from your manufacturer’s web site.
  • Previously mentioned SuperOneClick: This is the Windows program that will root your phone. It’s portable, so just download it and unzip it somewhere safe—no installation necessary.

The Process

First, find, download and install the USB drivers for your particular phone. You can generally Google for your device’s drivers, but you can just head to your manufacturer’s web site too and navigate to your device’s support page. Go ahead and install the drivers once they’re downloaded.

Next, make sure your phone is in USB Debugging mode. Head to Settings > Applications > Development and check the USB Debugging box at the top.

Once you’ve done all that, start up SuperOneClick. Plug in your phone (make sure NOT to mount the SD card), and hit the “Root” button to root your phone—it’s that simple. When it finishes, you’ll see a message that says “Root files have been installed!” Hit Yes if it asks you to run a test, and if everything went according to plan, it should confirm that you have root permissions. You can now close out of the app.

To double check and make sure everything went well, when you open up your app drawer you should see an app called “Superuser”. If so, you’re good to go! You can now flash custom ROMs, run root-only apps, and more. See the “What Now?” section below for more ideas.

Certain HTC Phones: The Unrevoked Method

If you’re running an HTC phone, chances are you’ll need to use the Unrevoked tool rather than the first method described. That’s the case for the Desire, Wildfire and Aria models. Photo by Kevin Jarrett.

What You’ll Need

  • A Computer: Thankfully, Unrevoked is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. So as long as you have a PC handy, you can run it.
  • Previously mentioned Unrevoked3: When you head to Unrevoked’s web site, you’ll see a list of phones. Click on yours, and you’ll probably be presented with two options—for a traditional root, you’ll want to make sure you download the “Unrevoked3″ tool, not “Unrevoked Forever”. It will automatically detect your operating system (Windows, Mac, or Linux), so just hit the download link to grab the appropriate version.
  • HBOOT Drivers (Windows only): Windows users using Unrevoked will need to install a few drivers to get it working properly. Mac and Linux versions should be a plug-and-go affair.

The Process

If you’re running Windows, the first thing you’ll want to do is install the Unrevoked modified USB drivers (Mac and Linux users can skip the next two paragraphs). Download the drivers from this page, and extract them somewhere you’ll remember. Turn off your phone, then reboot into the HBOOT menu by holding the volume down button and then holding power. You should boot into a white screen. Plug your phone into your computer via USB, and wait for your phone to say HBOOT USB PLUG.

When it does, head to Start and search for Device Manager. Start it up and head to “Other Devices”, where you’ll see an “Android 1.0″ device. Right click on it and hit Update Driver Software. Click “Browse my computer for driver software” and navigate to the folder you extracted earlier. Hit next and let it install. If you get any warnings, just hit OK. When you’re done, and you should see the Device Manager now lists an Android Phone with “Android Bootloader Interface” under it.

Next, make sure your phone is in USB Debugging mode. Head to Settings > Applications > Development and check the USB Debugging box at the top.

Now, start up the Unrevoked tool and plug in your phone (again, make sure to hit “charge only”). It should do everything for you automatically. Make sure you wait until Unrevoked says “Done” before unplugging your phone. If you open up your app drawer and see an app called “Superuser Permissions”, you’re done and can continue to flash custom ROMs, use root only apps, and more (see the “What Now?” below section for more inspiration).

What Now?

Now, the world is your oyster. Here’s some options to consider:

That should get you started. Of course, share your own favourite root tweaks in the comments.


Have you subscribed to Lifehacker Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.