If you are an Android fan, chances are you already came across the term “Rooting“. On the web there are a lot of people talking about this subject and if you google “reasons to root your Android” chances are you come across several posts of people trying to convince you of the perks of a rooted device.
But what actually is this so called rooting all about?
If you’re not familiar with term rooting, maybe ‘Jailbreaking‘ rings a bell. Jailbreaking is considered the iOS equivalent of Rooting, however it couldn’t be more different.
In this post I will try to sketch the meaning of these two terms and the main differences between them.
Basically Jailbreaking is the process of removing some of the limitations put in place by a device’s manufacturer. Most commonly, jailbreaking is performed on Apple’s iOS devices, such as the iPhone or iPad. For these devices, jailbreaking can remove some of the limitations put in place by Apple. For instance, with a jailbroken phone it is possible to install third party applications, without going trough the Appstore. Not only Apple devices can be jailbroken, but there are other devices with similar limitations. For instance there is now a Microsoft RT Jailbreak for Microsoft’s Surface devices that allows you to install unapproved desktop applications. (By default only Microsoft applications are allowed.)
By now some of you might be wondering. Since Android is an open system, it allows you to install third party applications anyway. Hence it doesn’t need to be jailbroken. If Android devices don’t need jailbreaking, then what is this so called ‘rooting’ all about?
If you are a Linux user, then the terms root and root access are problaby not new to you. Basically root access means the same as Administrator access on Windows. Rooting is nothing less then gaining this so called “root access” to the system of your device. Rooting can be performed on all Linux based devices, the most obvious being Android, but also other systems (for instance Nokia’s retired Symbian OS) can be rooted.
With a rooted device, you can grant specific applications access to root (admin) permissions, allowing them to do almost anying they want on the operating system. Almost anything you can do on a proper Linux system, can be done with root access on your phone. Going from uninstalling system applications to installing low level system binaires, grant or revoke permissions to specific applications or even installing new operating systems.
Know that rooting can get around Androids security and could cause problems if you don’t know what you are doing. This is why Android devices don’t come rooted.
Just like jailbreaking, rooting can be accomplished by exploiting a weakness in a devices security. But on some devices (for instance Google’s Nexus devices) rooting does not require a security vulnerability.
While Jailbreaking allows you to get past a device’s default limitations, Rooting can allow you not only to bend the rules of the manufacturer, but to completely break or overwrite them, up to the point where you can just install a new version (ROM) of your operating system or even a completely new OS like Ubuntu or WebOS.
In Belgium, Jailbreaking or rooting a device is theoretically legal as long as the purpose of the “hack” is to enable compatibility with new software and you need to posses a valid licence to the system you are breaking. On the other hand, you could be breaking some of the licence agreements with the devices manufacturer, which means a company like Apple could, however unlikely, sue you for it. Also, jailbreaking or rooting will most likely void the warranty of your device.
Please note that this post is not intended to convince you to jailbreak or root your device, but only to give you the notion that the option is there.
Are you rooted, jailbroken or planning to do so? Feel free to leave a comment or add me on Twitter!