As is the case with any smartphone, the initial ownership period is always the most exciting one. Your phone is new and you can’t wait to try out all the features it has to offer. After a while, though, you tend to get bored with it and that’s when you start thinking about buying a new one. Unfortunately, what many don’t realise is that at times, manufacturers aren’t able to exploit the phone's true capabilities due to various reasons and one of the best ways to achieve that is by rooting it (if it’s Android) or jailbreaking it (if it’s an iPhone). You may have heard these terms thrown around the Internet or amongst your friends and may have wondered what’s the big deal behind this. Well, today we’ll talk about what is rooting? How to root virtually any Android phone? And finally, installing a custom recovery and why you may need it.
As a special treat, we’ll also show you how to install Ice Cream Sandwich on your Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000. This still remains one of the most popular phones, especially with the modding community and thanks to them, they’ve achieved what Samsung refused to do. More on that later, though, first let’s get you rooted!
What is rooting and why do I need it?
At the core, Android is based on Linux and by default, it gives users only limited access to the system. The permissions are set to give users access to everything they would typically need and restrict them from accidentally modifying any system files or permissions, since a novice user can end up bricking their phone. Rooting your Android phone gives you Superuser access, which is similar to having an Administrator account in Windows. Armed with this, you can now perform system level updates; make changes in the UI through specialized apps; modify protected files, etc. With this you can now use Titanium Backup, which is one of the best backup apps in the Marketplace letting you backup virtually all your settings, data, etc, which otherwise is not possible. Adfree is another very handy app that lets you block ads in any free app you download and since it works at the IP address level, it doesn't slow down the system.
Superuser access granted!
Rooting your phone will void your warranty, but luckily you can unroot it as well, should you choose to in the future. There are a bunch of ways to root your phone and each device sometimes has a specific method of rooting. We’ve already seen how to root the Galaxy Note and today we’ll take a look at two applications that will do just that, but for virtually any Android device.
Using SuperOneClick – Download
This Windows-based application will root (almost) any Android phone in the market and is a good place to start. It works on Windows Vista and above, and requires you to have .NET Framework 2.0 and above pre-installed. For the full list of supported phones and instructions on how to use this on a Mac or Linux, read this thread on XDA. Once you download and install it, just follow these steps:
- Put your phone in Debugging mode – For this, go to Settings > Applications > Development > USB Debugging. Some phones have this placed differently, so if you don’t find it here, just browse though all the sub-menus in settings, you will eventually find it.
- Make sure the drivers for your phone are installed – If you received a CD with your phone then install it. If not, then go to the support section of your phones website and download it from there. In case you have a phone from a lower tiered company like Spice, Lava, etc then chances are you may not find drivers for it. Don’t worry, as OneClickRoot will download generic drivers for your phone.
- Plug your phone to the PC via USB cable – Remember, not to “Turn on Mass Storage”, if you get the prompt. Just ignore it.
- Run the software and it should now detect your phone. Then you simply click ‘Root’ and wait for it to complete. If Windows can’t detect the drivers for your phone, click the second tab on the program and click “Get Drivers”.
Your phone is now rooted! You’ll now have a new app in your list called ‘Superuser’. All that it does is keep a log of which applications require Superuser access.
The simplest way to root your phone
The other application we mentioned was Unlock Root, which works in a similar fashion. So, if for some reason OneClickRoot doesn’t work, you can give this a try. Now that we have rooted the phone, it’s time to install a custom recovery, so we can install custom ROMs and a lot more.
What is Custom Recovery and why do I need it?
Think of recovery as DOS mode in your PC. You access it to make changes to the system, apply updates, change file partitions, etc, which is normally not possible through the OS itself. All Android devices come with a recovery, but the stock one offers very basic options, which won’t let you install custom ROMs or make any other system level changes. For that, we have a custom recovery and the most popular one is the ClockworkMod Recovery or CWM.
A couple of things you can do with CWM are:
- Make, restore and manage backups of your current ROM
- Install a custom ROM or flash a kernel from internal storage
- Mount, format your phones internal storage partitions
- Create logs for error reporting
It’s ok, if you don’t know what some of them are, as you’ll seldom be using them. You can install CWM in different ways, but the simplest is through an app called ‘ROM Manager’. Here’s what you do:
- Download ROM Manager from the Android Marketplace
- Launch the app and the first option itself should say “Flash ClockworkMod Recovery”. Just press that and follow the instructions onscreen. In case you don’t have enough internal memory, you’ll be prompted to insert an SD card, so do that.
- Be patient and let it work its magic. Once it’s done, you now have a custom recovery on your phone.
You can get into recovery mode a number of ways. Some phones have a button combo, which you boot into, but again, the simplest way is through ROM Manager. The second option says ‘Reboot into Recovery’, so just hit that and your phone should boot in to recovery mode.
The ClockworkMod Recovery
After a reboot you won’t see the screen above directly, if you boot through ROM Manager (sometimes). Instead, you’ll have an Android logo with an exclamation mark. Don’t be alarmed; simply press the ‘Home’ button or any of the soft keys and you’ll see the main menu. You can scroll through the options using the volume keys and enter them using the ‘Home’ or ‘Power’ button. It’s a bit different for each device, but nothing that you can't figure out on your own. CWM will not work with every device, especially the lower end handsets from Spice, Lava, etc. The reason being they aren’t support by the developers, since they are relatively unheard of. However, almost every phone from a Tier 1 brand are supported.
Congratulations! You now have a rooted phone and a custom recovery installed. Don’t worry about loss of data as both these procedures will not affect any of the settings or data on your phone. The next step? How about installing a custom ROM? And what better to start with than Ice Cream Sandwich for the Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000!