When you mention rooting a smartphone, most people cringe at the thought of potentially bricking their device. Fortunately, rooting isn't quite as difficult as it once was. Yes, there are a few steps involved, and it's not exactly for the faint of heart — however, most slightly-above-average users should be able to accomplish this task. But what is rooting and why bother? Let's answer these questions first.
What is rooting?
By default, your phone does not allow you super user access. Rooting your phone gives you root-level access to the device. By gaining root access, you're able to make more modifications to the software than you can by default. This allows you to install custom ROMs on the device and unlock features and power, such as:
- Enhanced performance
- Better hardware/software interaction
- Applications specifically designed for rooted devices
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tethering
- Improved keyboards
- Remove bloatware
- Easier backups
- Configure restricted settings
Now that your interest is piqued, let's root your device. Please note that you must be running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). This will not work with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean).Warning: Please understand, with the rooting of any device, you run the risk of bricking your phone. In other words, if the process goes sideways, your phone will end up as functional as a brick (it will not work). The possibility even exists that you could wind up with a mobile that's unable to be brought back to its factory defaults. So, use caution here and proceed at your own risk.
The process I outline only works with the Samsung Galaxy S III, model number SCH-1535. How do you know if that's your phone? Simple:
- Tap the menu button
- Tap Settings
- Scroll to the bottom of the Settings window
- Tap About device
- Check the Model number (Figure A)
Here you see the Model number for the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S III.
If you're 100% sure that you're ready, here are the steps for rooting your device.
Step 1: Download necessary software
You'll need to download the following software onto a Windows desktop or laptop:
Step 2: Install and unpack
The Verizon Wireless file contains USB drivers that allow your Windows machine to see the phone and make rooting possible. Double-click that installer and walk through the simple installation wizard.
With the USB drivers in place, create a folder (called ROOT_FS) on your desktop and unpack the Root Debug FS file into that folder. You'll need its contents in a moment.
Step 3: Enable USB debugging and Unknown Sources
From your phone, do the following:
- Tap on the menu button
- Tap Settings
- Scroll down, and tap Developer options
- Tap USB debugging (make sure it's checked, as in Figure B)
If you see the green check, you're good to go.
Now, go back to the main Settings window, and follow these steps:
- Tap Security
- Enable Unknown sources (make sure it's checked)
- Back out of the Settings window
Step 4: Plug phone in
Plug your phone into the computer that holds the USB drivers and Root Debug FS files. When you do, you should see the balloon popup (on Windows) that the device drivers are installing.Note: If you're currently running off of 4G, you should switch over to a reliable wireless network. You do not want to have your connection drop during the rooting of the phone.
Step 5: Run RootDebugfsLocate the executable file RootDebugfs.exe (within the ROOT_FS folder that you created earlier). You'll need to run the RootDebugfs.exe file as Administrator, so right-click the file and select "Run as Administrator." When the new window opens (Figure C), follow these steps:
- Choose option 1, and then hit Enter
- Agree to the disclaimer (press y, then Enter)
- When the USB drivers reminder appears, press any key to continue
- When the Unknown sources/USB debugging reminder appears, press any key to continue
- Another "warning" will appear, and press any key to continue
If you want to donate to the cause, hit 3 and then Enter to check out the options.
At this point, the rooting process will begin. You must wait until the process completes before doing anything (especially unplugging your phone). The device will reboot a number of times. You'll know the process is done once you're returned to the original Debug FS window.
When it's completed, you'll need to open the Superuser app and click through the initial dialog to actually start the program/allow it to run in the background.
Step 6: Download and install the EZ Unlock application
This step happens on the phone. Open the phone's browser and go to:
On that page, download the following:
Choose "Install" for both downloads. After the installation is complete, go to your app drawer and launch EZ-Unlock. Accept the App/Super User permission, and then select Unlock. You should receive an audible confirmation that the unlocking process has completed. If you aren't prompted for the install, pull your dragdown bar, and then tap the download.
You're almost done. The last step is to install ClockworkMod Recovery. Here's how:
- Open your app drawer again, and click ROM Manager
- Select "Flash ClockworkMod Recovery"
- Find and select "Samsung Galaxy S3 (Verizon)"
- Once the progress bar is near completion, accept/grant the app SuperUser permissions
Your Samsung Galaxy S III should now be rooted, allowing you to enjoy super user privileges on that device.
Have you rooted your Galaxy S III or other smartphone? What challenges or difficulties did you experience (if any) along the way? Share your story 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 jackwallen.com.