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How to Root Your Android Device

Tech Talker: Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World
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Quick & Dirty Tips

Scientific American presents Tech Talker by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Last week I did an episode on some of the best apps for your Android device. For one of those apps, called Titanium Backup, I mentioned that in order to install it, you needed to “root” your Android. This opened up the floodgates of questions. Hopefully in today’s episode I can answer many of these questions and shed some light on the mysterious workings of “rooting.”

What is Rooting?
By default most Android devices do not give you “root access.” Root access is basically full control over your phone and all its workings. Manufacturers disable this by default. They do this for good reason—and it’s not just to control or limit you. If someone had this access and didn’t know what they were doing, they could do some real damage to their smartphone. So manufacturers keep devices locked by default to prevent you from turning your phone into an expensive paperweight.

A good way to understand rooting is to think of your Android like your brain. You have to actively remember what’s on your to-do list today, how to play a game, how to drive a car, and any other skills you were required to learn in life. Those functions are ones you can change in your brain. Now, as a comparison, if you were to root your brain (that is, gain access to all the workings of it), you could control aspects of your body that you couldn’t before—like breathing, heart rate, and adrenaline levels. As you can imagine, there are good reasons why your body doesn’t want you to change some basic functions. If you were to say, voluntarily increase your heart rate to 300 beats per minute, your heart might explode! But think how powerful it would be if you could tweak a few of those things in your brain whenever you wanted! Well that’s exactly the same power you can have over your Android device.

 

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