What does root, rooting and root access actually mean for Android devices? Here at EAT we’re not afraid of the unknown, just the monsters under the bed, we’re also not afraid of rooting a tablet or two. We in fact tend to recommend it, if you’re of the technical persuasion.
If you’re out in the dark when it comes to this technical term, then it might not help to say it comes from the desktop computing world, where full “administrator rights” give you read/write access to the entire system, including the whole file system. If you made a map of the fie system it tends to look like a tree and the very base of that file system would be the root of the tree, hence the term root access.
Once you have “root access” you’re able to read, write and delete anything you want on that system, be it a desktop or tablet; they’re all computer systems after all. The truth is on a normal tablet – be it Android, Windows RT or Apple – you’re actually more like a guest user with limited abilities. This isn’t necessarily bad, as it stops users doing serious damage to a system, and can actually help make a tablet easier to use, as it limits what’s available to the user.
For Android devices gaining root access is usually just called root or the act of rooting. For Apple devices it’s called jail breaking because you know, it’s naughty. Rooting can be achieved in various ways but the technique for every Android device tends to vary in one way or another. Android devices come in a “locked” mode, to root a device a security exploit is required that enables the user to change the mode of applications to that of Super User or SU, so they have full root access.
Often the solution is to use a new boot loader, the software that initially starts the device and runs the Android operating system. Replacing the boot loader enables you to run a new rooted version of Android. The usual process for this is exploiting the emergency recovery mode almost every device offers. Using a Windows tool it’s usually possible to replace the bootloader in this recovery mode and then flash a rooted version of Android. This does lose all of the stored data but afterwards will provide a rooted device.
The question remains why? The grim answer is that it facilitates piracy, it’s easy to copy pirated apps on and off a rooted device. For EAT the real use is adding a custom ROM, which is to say a new version of Android. In the case of the HP TouchPad adding Android 4.0 ICS, where none existed. Other genuine reasons include doing a full system back up, something that can’t be done otherwise, plus there are various clever apps that require root access to function.
As every device and even version of devices requires its own rooting process, there’s no one single guide to rooting, your best approach is to Google the name of your device and the term root. Take a look at our guide to installing CyanogenMod on the HP Touchpad. This follows a similar process leaving you with a system that has a custom ROM and root access.