Ultimate Android Rooting, Fastboot & Custom Roms Guide

Android and iOS are the most popular mobile operating systems on the market. Both offer a variety of apps and settings but eventually reach their limits at a certain point. Rooting or Jailbreaking your phone (or tablet) will offer you thousands of tweaks, skins, custom ROMs, and new apps that you should not miss out on. It will also help you to remove bloatware.

Android Launchers and lock screen widgets are great tools to customize your Android experience without rooting your device. You are also able to root your device and customize it with a launcher and widgets afterward. If your Android device is rooted but you don’t want to flash a custom ROM, Xposed Framework might be the perfect solution for you. You are, however, also able to add new features to your custom ROM with Xposed. With the release of Android 5.0, Lollipop Google replaced the former Dalvik cache with ART. Luckily, Xposed was adapted to Android 6.0 Marshmallow and now works with both Android 5.0, 6.0, and 7.0 [/one_half_last]

This guide is based on Google Nexus devices, but most of the things also apply to other Android devices. Some might require more work while others can be rooted quite easily, but in the end, it’s no rocket science. Rooting and customization are especially easy on Nexus devices as factory images are freely available on the Google website. However, many other popular devices like the can easily be restored using different tools available on XDA developers. I would suggest having a quick look at the forums and I’m pretty sure that you’ll find help for your device.

Android Rooting Terms You Should Know

Before we get started, I would like to explain a few terms because the terminology can get complicated and confusing. This will help you to understand other device-specific guides. I’ll try to keep it short and not go into (technical) details. Please share any questions regarding this in the comments below – I’ll do my best to answer them.

ART

Drapery fabric with stripes. 3d illustration, 3d rendering.

ART stands for Android Runtime and replaces the formerly used Dalvik cache. It was introduced in Android 4.4 and has completely taken over in Android 5.0. I don’t want to go too deep into technical differences, but ART is said to improve battery life and app performance, amongst others.

Bootloader

The Bootloader is your phone’s software foundation. It’s basically what runs before your operating system starts (like a PC’s BIOS). As many manufactures don’t want you to modify your phone’s OS, it needs to be unlocked before you are able to root your phone or install custom ROMs (explained later).

Brick

This is something you don’t want to happen to your Android device. Like the name already implies, a bricked phone (or tablet) can only be used as a paperweight or nice decoration for your apartment. Bricked devices are irreversibly damaged and won’t work anymore. This can, for instance, happen if damaged ROMs are installed or wrong firmwares are flashed. Always make sure to read instructions and verify checksums (a set of numbers that identify the file) to make sure nothing goes wrong. If you’re lucky and your device is only soft-bricked, meaning that it does not boot but still turns on, you might be able to get it back to life.

BusyBox

Android, is based on Linux/Unix, offers a limited amount of UNIX commands (which most users won’t need anyway). BusyBox will implement more commands that are necessary for some root apps to work properly.

Custom ROM

A custom ROM is a modified version of the Android operating system. Tweaks, additional features, different themes, or an enhanced performance are usually included. Custom ROMs also offer the possibility to use a newer, unreleased, version of Android on your phone that might usually not be available for your device because of restrictions from manufacturers or providers.

Dalvik

Dalvik is a virtual machine that processes Android app code. Consequently, it is responsible for translating app code into actions on your Android device.

Fastboot

Fastboot is a diagnostic- and engineering tool that offers you several features such as launching in recovery mode or flashing image files.

Kernel

The kernel is the brain of your phone that controls how the system and hardware interact. It’s basically the lowest level of your operating system that manages memory and hardware.

NAND partition

NAND stands for “Negated AND” or “NOT AND” and describes the hard drive partition that stores all system-relevant information like the bootloader, recovery mode, or the kernel.

NANDroid backup

A NANDroid backup is a complete system backup of your Android device. This backup can be restored later and might save your phone after flashing a faulty ROM or theme.

Radio

The radio is responsible for sending and receiving voice and data. Using an optimized radio can improve your phone’s reception or increase battery life.

Recovery Mode

Recovery mode offers you the possibility to perform system-level tasks (like formatting, defragmenting, etc.), backing up your devices, or installing custom ROMs. Android offers a limited stock recovery function. More sophisticated recoveries like ClockworkMod Recovery and TWRP Recovery offer additional features and are easier to use.

Root

Rooting will give you full administrator access of your device. It might also void your warranty (depending on the device and your place of residence), so make sure to handle your device with care after rooting it. You are always able to revert this process by simply flashing a stock-ROM (the original ROM installed by your phone’s manufacturer). Doing this will also “restore” your warranty.

S-OFF

S-OFF means that the NAND partition of your Android device is unlocked. This mostly applies to HTC phones.

Superuser

Rooting your phone will create a new “account” with complete administrative permissions. This superuser account is used by some apps and functions.

5 Reasons to root

With Android becoming better and better, many people ask themselves if it’s still worth rooting. For example, you’re not able to use Android Pay if your Android phone is rooted. The same applies in other cases, where App developers decide to not support rooted devices for security reasons.

In addition to that, Android Nougat comes with many features like “Doze” which basically replaces root apps such as Greenify. So what exactly are the reasons to root in 2017?

  1. You have an old(er) Android device. With root access, you’re able to flash a custom ROM with the latest version of Android. Because of this, you don’t rely so much on your device manufacturer to keep you up to date.
  2. AdAway. While I’m all-in for supporting developers, some apps don’t offer an ad-free paid version. With AdAway you’re able to get rid of all unwanted ads which are simply not possible without root.
  3. Titanium Backup. Android Nougat will bring Auto Backup for Apps, but unfortunately, it’s still up to the developer if he/she wants to implement it or not. Titanium Backup is a simple but powerful tool that backups simply everything.
  4. Change DPI. With many devices coming with high-res displays nowadays, some people prefer to have more screen space than big app icons. While changing DPI can also be done without root, it often breaks different apps.
  5. Remove bloatware. This one is easy. Remove all the crap your mobile carrier put on your device. Who doesn’t want to do this?

How to Fully Backup Your Device Without Root

If your Android device is not rooted yet, you won’t be able to perform NANDroid backups. I wouldn’t suggest to root your tablet or phone without having a proper backup, because there is always a chance of error and you don’t want to brick your device.

Simple ADB Backup let’s you create a full backup of your device without root access and is the perfect solution for users without root access. The free program also offers a restore function and runs on Windows and Linux.

How to Root Your Android Device

The rooting process differs from device to device which makes it impossible to give general instructions on rooting here. I’ve linked guides for some of the most popular devices below. Using the terms described earlier should make the rooting process easier for you. If your phone or tablet is not on the list, you most certainly can find a guide on the XDA-Developers forums.

  • Google Nexus Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (Edge)
  • Honor 6X
  • Huawei Mate 9
  • Google Pixel (XL)

Always make sure to perform NANDroid backups of your devices to be able to restore your phone or tablet to a working state. I would also recommend validating checksums and carefully reading through the instructions to avoid bricking your device.

Most Important Fastboot Commands

When confronted with Android rooting, you often have to work with fast boot. Facebook is part of Google’s Android SDK and is mostly used to re-flash partitions on your Android device, similar to (custom) recovery mode. You usually use fast boot in the following manner:

Custom Recovery Mode

The standard Android recovery mode is very limited and does not offer many features. That’s where replacement recoveries like Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP) and ClockworkMod Recovery (CWRM) come in place. They offer the possibility to flash custom ROMs which is not possible with the stock recovery mode. Other features include a file browser for the update. zips, ADB shell, and NANDroid backups. Without custom recovery, you won’t be able to flash a custom ROM.

It does not really matter which replacement recovery you install, just go with the one that suits you most. In some rare cases, the root script or custom ROM installation only works with either TWRP or CWM. Nowadays, TWRP is the king of custom recoveries and would be my suggestion for you to use.

TWRP – Team Win Recovery Project

Team Win Recovery Project’s custom recovery offers an easy and touch driven user interface. It includes all typical recovery features needed to install custom ROMs, kernels, other tweaks and many more. You are also able to backup and restore your device using TWRP.

CWM – Clockworkmod Recovery

ClockworkMod Recovery used to be one of the most popular custom recovery modes. However, in the last 2 years TWRP took over the throne and became the most popular recovery. It also includes all advanced recovery features like installing custom ROMs and other files, as well as a backup and restore function. You can control the CWM UI via touch or key-input.

Understanding Custom ROM Versions

As Custom ROMs are constantly improved, they usually come in four different categories: Nightly, Milestone, Release Candidate, and Stable. This is what you can expect in every stage:

Nightly

Nightly versions are usually generated every 24 hours and can be highly experimental and unstable. Especially early versions of a new custom ROM can have many bugs and missing features. If you want to have the latest features while risking instability – go for nightlies!

Milestone Snapshot

Milestone Snapshots are basically nightly versions that have reached a certain milestone. They can be regarded as being quite stable but may include certain bugs and issues. Since they are only created every few weeks (or months), they won’t have the latest features that might be included in the nightly versions. If you are looking for the latest features while having a rather stable system, check out milestone snapshots.

Release Candidate

Release candidates, as the name already implies, are one of the last builds before the stable version of a custom ROM is released. RCs are mostly stable but might have a few minor issues. If you’re looking for something stable and ready for daily use, I would recommend going with release candidates!

Stable

Stable versions are (obviously) the most stable versions around, with all or nearly all problems fixed. Some stable ROMs may still include some smaller issues or certain things not working. Stable versions are definitely the safest way to go, but it might take months before a new stable with new features or fixes is released.

Official, Unofficial & Combined Releases

It is also important to say that custom ROMs are often available as official and unofficial releases. Later use the source code of the official release (if publicly available) and adapt it to devices not supported by the main developers. Unfortunately, this often leads to a delay. In addition to that, many developers combine features of different custom ROMs.

Custom ROMs

Custom Roms offer you a variety of new features, tweaks and visual enhancements. The best source to find a working one for your device is the XDA-Developers forum. Many custom ROMs are based on either Stock Android or LineageOS, formerly called CyanogenMod. The easiest way to find the best custom ROM for you is to compare their features or simply test them for a few days.

In the last few years the custom ROM scene changed dramatically, and almost all “one-ROM-fits-all” custom ROMS like ParanoidAndroid disappeared. Today, there are custom builds for the most popular devices based on LineageOS (CyanogenMod).

Titanium Backup

Titanium Backup is a great backup tool for Android devices that offers tons of features. It provides the possibility to backup your data, settings and apps. Scheduled backups are also available. The paid pro version offers lots of great features like syncing backups with cloud-based storage providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Box. In my opinion this is one of the best root apps and a must-get. Especially if you’re a flash-a-holic, performing and restoring quick backups of all your apps (incl. settings and save games) is really easy and convenient with Titanium Backup.

ROM Manager

When you constantly switch between custom ROMs, ClockworkMod’s ROM Manager is one of the essential apps to get. Besides flashing ClockworkMod recovery, it will help you to organise and install your custom ROMs and backing-up your Android device. The paid premium version includes additional features like automatic backups, web connect and incremental ROM downloads.

AdAway

I struggled a little bit when deciding to either include AdAway or not, because it’s great for users but bad for app publishers and marketers. Google removed it from Google Play but you can still get it on the AdAway website. Like AdBlock Plus on your computer, the app modifies your Android devices hosts file to prevent apps and browsers to display advertisements. This will not only improve your app usage experience, but also increase battery life and decrease mobile traffic. Be fair and purchase paid versions of apps or donate a small amount to developers to make sure they will keep on programming great apps!

Google has recently begun to remove certain apps that violate their distribution agreements from Google Play. If you’re still interested in installing AdAway, please refer to the AdAway website.

Xposed Framework

Xposed Framework is a great app that offers the possibility to add features to your Android devices without flashing a custom ROM (or in addition to it). You’re able to install modules which offer visual customization or battery improvements, amongst others.

Greenify

Greenify is a great app to improve battery life and system performance because it puts selected apps in hibernation mode. Not having tons of apps stored in RAM or running as system processes will make your Android device faster and increase your user experience. Please refer to full review for more information

.

 

 

 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *