How to root Android phones or tablets (and unroot them) in 2018

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How to prepare your Android device for rooting

Galaxy S8 Plus how to root android
Galaxy S8 Plus Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

One of the easiest ways to root an Android device is by using an app, and a number of rooting apps have garnered attention over the years — KingRoot, Firmware.mobi, Kingo Root, BaiduRoot, and One Click Root. They will root your device in the time it takes you to brush your teeth. But some only support devices running older versions of Android. If you’re looking to root an older device, you may need to check CFRoot’s older site.

While it used to be that rooting Android versions from Android 7.0 was more difficult — verified boot would check the device’s cryptographic integrity to detect if your device’s system files have been tampered with, and this would previously inhibit legitimate rooting apps. Thankfully, rooting apps have caught up with the curve, and rooting Android Nougat is much easier than it used to be. Kingo is one of the one-click apps that support Android 7.0 Nougat. Their list of supported manufacturers include:

If your phone isn’t compatible with a one-click rooting app, you will have to spend a little time researching alternatives on Android forums. The best place to start is XDA Developers Forum — look for a thread about your phone or tablet and you’re likely to find a method.

Preparation for root

Back up everything you cannot live without before you start. You should also always back up your phone’s current ROM before you flash a new one.

You will want to ensure that your device is fully charged before you begin.

You will need to turn on USB debugging, as well as OEM Unlocking.

Open Settings on your device. If you do not see Developer Options toward the bottom of the Settings screen, follow these steps to activate them.

  1. Tap on About Phone and find the Build Number.
  2. Tap on the Build Number seven times and the Developer Options will appear on the main page of the Settings.
  3. Tap on the Back key to see the Developer Options.
  4. Tap on Developer Options.
  5. Check to enable USB Debugging.
  6. Check to enable OEM Unlocking.

Installing the Android SDK tools

For the next step, you may have to install ADB and Fastboot on your computer.

  1. Click here to download and install the Android SDK Tools from Google’s developer site. There are choices for Windows, Mac, and Linux. These instructions are for Windows machines.
  2. When asked what directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdk. If you choose a different location, just make sure you remember it.
  3. Once the Android SDK Tools are installed, launch it from the Start Menu.
  4. The SDK Manager will open. Just uncheck everything except Android SDK Platform-tools. It’s at the top.
  5. Click on Install 2 packages at the bottom right.
  6. Check Accept license and click Install.

Installing device drivers

To ensure your computer can properly communicate with your smartphone or tablet, you will need to install the appropriate USB driver.

Here is a list of drivers from the most popular manufacturers:

Follow the installer’s instructions. Once the drivers is installed, proceed to the next step.

Unlock your bootloader

Before you get started, you’ll need to unlock your device’s bootloader. The bootloader, simply put, is the program that loads the device’s operating system. It determines which applications run during your phone or tablet’s startup process.

Some manufacturers require you to obtain a key in order to unlock the bootloader. Motorola, HTC, LG, and Sony provide step-by-step instructions on how to do so, but a word of warning: They require you to register for a developer account.

Once you have taken those steps, you can embark on the unlocking process. You will need to put your device in fastboot mode. It’s different for every phone, but on most devices, rebooting the device and holding down the Power and Volume Down buttons for ten seconds does the trick (HTC phones require that you hit the Volume Down key and press the Power button to select it.)

Once you have booted into fastboot, open your computer’s command prompt by holding down Shift+Right Click and choosing “Open a Command Prompt Here.” If your device requires a code, you will get a long string of characters. Paste it into the box on your device manufacturer’s website, submit the form, and await an email with a key, file, and further instructions.

To unlock your device’s bootloader, connect it to your computer and place it in fastboot mode again. Pull up the command prompt.

For Google Nexus and Pixel devices, the commands are easy:

  • Nexus phones: Type “fastboot oem unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter
  • Pixel phones: Type “fastboot flashing unlock” (without quotes) and hit enter

Motorola’s command is a little different:

  • Type “oem unlock UNIQUE_KEY” (without quotes), replacing “UNIQUE KEY” with the code you received

So is HTC’s:

  • Type “unlocktoken Unlock_code.bin” (without quotes), replacing “Unlock_code.bin” with the file you received.

Confirm the unlock, and you’re one step closer to rooting your Android device.

Some manufacturers and carriers don’t sanction bootloader unlocking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Try searching the the XDA Developers forum for workarounds and unofficial solutions.

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