There are times when you need that GPS to lock quickly. You’re late for a meeting, and you have no idea where you are… without that GPS, you’re sunk. Unfortunately, sometimes the GPS lock can take a while. There’s a reason for that. The /system/etc/gps.conf file is configured to servers that are not specific to your locale and are under a fairly constant, heavy load. If you happen to have a rooted Android phone, you can change that. The process is actually quite simple — but again, it will only work on a rooted Android device.

What we’re going to do is replace the gps.conf file with one specific to your location. You can download a file from here (find your country and area and then download the gps.conf file). Once you have that downloaded on your PC, connect your rooted Android device, and then copy the file to your device’s Downloads directory.

The next step is to open up a file manager like ES File Explorer (this is important, because you must be able to change the file permissions on the newly added gps.conf file). I will assume that you are using ES File Explorer. With that assumption out of the way, here are the necessary steps:

  1. Open the file manager
  2. Navigate to the Downloads directory
  3. Long press the gps.conf file
  4. Tap the Copy button (Figure A)
  5. Navigate to /system/etc/
  6. Tap the Paste button
  7. Tap Overwrite

Figure A

The Verizon-branded rooted Samsung Galaxy S4 getting faster GPS locking.

It’s now time to change the permissions on the pasted file. Do the following:

  1. Long press the gps.conf file
  2. Tap the menu button
  3. Tap Properties
  4. If the permissions are not rw-r–r–, tap the Change button
  5. Select the permissions so that all can read and Owner can write (Figure B)
  6. Tap OK

Figure B

Changing permissions on the gps.conf file.

Finally, install the GPS Test app from the Google Play Store. Once it’s installed, open it, tap the menu button, and tap Settings. Tap the Clear AGPS button and reboot your device. When the device reboots, open up the GPS Test app to see how quickly your device gets a lock (Figure C). It should be much improved.

Figure C

GPS Test showing accuracy and satellites in view and use.

If you need more speed from your GPS locking, and you have a rooted Android device, give this method a try and see if you don’t find your location services working significantly faster.

How often do you use your smartphone’s GPS? Is it crucial to everyday use, or do you have it disabled for battery life and privacy? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.