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Rooting your Android device: A guide for the accident-prone

Jon Gold | Jan. 29, 2015
Here’s how a tech-savvy but careless nerd roots an Android device.

I am the person IT people are talking about when they say "he knows just enough to be dangerous." I can't deny it. I've broken many more computers and phones and other gadgets through attempts at tinkering than I've improved.

Even here at Network World, I managed to completely bork my work laptop's Windows install and lose a bunch of data while trying to adjust my disk partitions for dual boot. (OK, the IT folks just re-imaged it and made fun of me a little, but still.)

I've had an HTC One (M7) for well over a year now, and while it's generally been an excellent device, the performance and battery life have started to falter a bit. Also, it reboots itself at strange times, without any apparent prompting. It's just sort of what happens to smartphones over time.

Strangely, however despite the characteristic headaches and data loss I incurred when I rooted the other two Android phones I've owned it went smoothly this time. I credit an increasingly mature community around the software involved, experience, and the fact that my gremlins apparently took the day off.

The root
Essentially, what you're trying to do with the first step in the process is obtain root access to your device -- which you almost certainly don't have by default, if you got it from your carrier and install a recovery image, which is a sort of a mini-operating system that lets you install custom software.

How you root your Android device depends on what model you own be aware that there are often several sub-models of any given device sold under the same brand name, which differ in subtle but important ways. Make sure that any instructions you follow for, say, your Moto X aren't the ones for the T-Mobile version, instead of the AT&T version or the GSM version.

There are multi-device rooting toolkits out there, but your best bet is to find a set of instructions specific to your device if a multi-tool like Kingo Root works, great, just make sure that whatever app or instruction set you use applies to the precise phone or tablet you're working on.

So now you're rooted, congratulations! Who needs warranties, anyway? It's time to slap a sweet new operating system on there and get cracking. Oh, wait, no it's not you need a recovery image.

Fortunately, this bit is easy - and the method I use is fairly idiot proof. Once rooted, I just:

  • Download the free ROM Manager app from the Play Store and install it;
  • Hit the "install ClockworkMod Recovery" button at the top of the screen.


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