Have you ever found an application on the Google Play Store that you really wanted, but you couldn't install because it required root access? Root access means you gain access to the root user on the device, which gives you more power and enables you to:
- Install software that requires root access
- Remove carrier-installed bloatware
- Install custom ROMs for your device
The problem with rooting is that the process varies for different devices. Some devices can't even be rooted. Because of this, I want to walk you through the specifics of rooting a single device — the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S4, build VRUEMK2, with Android 4.3. The process I'm outlining will only work on this particular device. However, before you begin, I must warn you that there's always the possibility that you could brick your phone (render it useless). So, complete the steps below at your own risk.
What you need
Here are the things you'll need in order to root your Samsung Galaxy S4:
After you've collected the download(s), you're ready to begin. The process can be done on Windows, Linux, or Mac. I'll be running the process from a Ubuntu Linux 13.10 machine. If you're using a Windows machine, you'll need to first install the USB drivers for the device. If you're installing from Linux, you'll need to install adb and fastboot. From Ubuntu, this is done with the following three commands (run from a terminal window):
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8 sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastbootOnce you've done that, let's walk through the steps for rooting the Samsung Galaxy S4.
- Extract the saferoot.zip file
- Move into the saferoot newly-created folder
- Give the install.sh executable permissions with the command chmod u+x install.sh (if rooting from Windows, you'll double-click the install.bat file)
- On your Galaxy S4, enable Developer options (check out my article "Pro tip: How to enable Developer options in Android 4.2" to learn how)
- Still on the Galaxy S4, enable USB debugging (Go to Settings | More | Developer options, and tap USB debugging to enable)
- Plug the device into the PC
- From the command line (within the saferoot folder), issue the command sh install.sh
- When prompted about the Computer's RSA key (on the device), tap OK
- From the command line, you'll be prompted that the Galaxy needs to be rebooted — this will happen automatically
- If the process gets hung up at "Waiting for device to re-appear…" unplug the device and plug it back in
- When prompted (on the device), allow the installation of Busybox
That's it! Now you need to install another app from the Google Play Store. Follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store
- Search for root checker
- Tap on the entry for Root Checker (by JOEYKRIM)
- Tap Install
- Tap Accept
Once the app is installed, run it, and then tap the Verify Root button. The results should report that the device has root access (Figure A).
Rooting a Verizon-branded Galaxy S4.
With your phone finally rooted, you'll find a lot of new apps that you can install from the Google Play Store. However, if you upgrade your phone to a new build (such as KitKat), you'll need to go through this process again, most likely with a different tool.
Remember, it's very important that you only use the rooting tools developed for your specific device and build. Doing otherwise could end up bricking your phone.
Have you rooted your Android device? If so, what rooting tips and tricks would you recommend? Share your thoughts and experience in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.