While I love gadgets, I'm never content with just using them for their intended purpose. Years ago, when I purchased an original Xbox, it wasn't long before a friend helped me mod it so that I could install Xbox Media Center and stream videos from my PC to my television. When I got my hands on a Nintendo DS, I modded that too, and afterward used it to watch videos, played MP3s, and read Ebooks. And now I've rooted my HTC Incredible so that I can tinker with it in ways the manufacturer never dreamed - or did dream of, and then purposely restricted. Either way, my Android phone is now rooted and I've constructed this little guide so that you can join in the fun.
What Is Android Rooting and Why Should I Care?
Rooting your Android phone gives you "root" permissions, meaning you can run extra applications, tweak previously untweakable settings, and just do a bunch of neat stuff that your phone couldn't do before. If you find your phone too limiting, rooting will probably fix that. Due to the sheer size of the homebrew community, it's impossible to list everything that a rooted phone can do. Backing up your apps and data, taking screenshots, blocking ads in applications -- all of these things are possible with a rooted phone.
It is important to note that while rooting your phone is fairly safe and people do so all so the time, when you're modifying electronics in such a way there's always a chance of "bricking" the device, rending it useless. The chances of this are small. This isn't meant to scare you, only to cover my own butt. You've been warned!
There's also the question of whether or not rooting a phone can you get you into trouble. Legally, you're fine. And while rooting your phone can void the warranty, you could always unroot the phone and you'll be fine. Unrooting will be covered in an upcoming article.
Different phones are rooted in different ways. This guide will cover the method that I used which required the Unrevoked tool. This method works for a handful of HTC phones, specifically the Incredible, the Desire, the Aria, the EVO 4G and the Wildfire (Buzz).
The Required Files to Download
(NOTE: Mac and Linux users do not need the HBOOT drivers and can skip the "Installing the Drivers" section.)
You'll need to download two things - the Unrevoked3 program and the HBOOT Drivers. Click the Unrevoked link and you'll be taken to the above website. You'll notice that the HTC Hero is also shown, but I didn't include it in my list. That's because, as of this writing, Unrevoked only offers their Unrevoked Forever application for the Hero, which is not what you want. Select your phone model and download Unrevoked3. Again, get Unrevoked3 and not Unrevoked Forever. Then grab the HBOOT drivers and extract them somewhere you'll remember.
Installing the Drivers
Once your phone displays that message, head to your PC's Device Manager (Start > Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager) and you should see an Android 1.0 device listed with an exclamation mark next to it. Right click on the listing and hit Update Drive Software.
Windows will offer to search for the driver automatically, but instead choose to install from a specific location and point your computer to the folder in which you extracted the drivers to earlier. Let Windows do its thing and install the drivers. Afterward, Device Manager should list an Android Bootloader Interface. Unplug your phone and turn it off by removing the battery, then replace the battery and turn it back on just like normal.
The Dirty Work
Plug your phone in and choose the Charge Only option on the phone as the method of connecting. If your phone isn't already in USB Debugging mode (if you don't tinker with things, it probably isn't), turn that on now by heading to your phone's Settings > Applications > Development and you should see the appropriate check box at the top of the screen.
Now it's time for the actual rooting. Thought the above step was easy? Well this part is even easier. With the drivers installed and your phone plugged in and booted like normal, open the Unrevoked3 application that you downloaded. Now you wait. The process takes a few minutes and your phone will reboot a few times while the application gives you general updates on what it's currently doing. It is important that you do not unplug your phone while this is happening. This was especially nerve wracking for me as my phone's USB port is damaged and likes to disconnect randomly. Once the Unrevoked3 program has run its course, it will read "Done," at which point it's safe to unplug your phone.
Once that's all said and done, check the applications on your phone. If you find an app named "Superuser Permissions," then congratulations, your phone is rooted. If you go into the app and the screen is black, don't panic. This is only because you've yet to install any apps that require the permissions, something I'll cover in a follow-up article. Until next time, dear readers!