How to easily root an Android device

Free Windows utility Kingo Android Root makes it a snap to take total control of just about any Android smartphone. Here's how to use it.

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Tapping into Developer mode with Android 4.4. James Martin/CNET

Rooting is the Android equivalent of jailbreaking, a means of unlocking the operating system so you can install unapproved (by Google) apps, update the OS, replace the firmware, overclock (or underclock) the processor, customize just about anything, and so on.

Of course, for the average user, rooting sounds like -- and can be -- a scary process. After all, "rooting" around in your smartphone's core software might seem like a recipe for disaster. One wrong move and you could end up with bricked handset.

Thankfully, there's a new Windows utility that makes rooting a one-click affair: Kingo Android Root. It's free, and based on my initial tests with a Virgin Mobile Supreme and later ones with an Asus Nexus 7, it works like a charm. (Be sure to check the compatibility list before you proceed, keeping in mind that even if your device isn't on it, the utility may work with it.) Here's how to get started.

Step 1: Download and install Kingo Android Root.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 2: Enable USB debugging mode on your phone. If it's running Android 4.0 or 4.1, tap Settings, Developer Options, then tick the box for "USB debugging." (You may need to switch "Developer options" to On before you can do so.) On Android 4.2, tap Settings, About Phone, Developer Options, and then tick USB debugging." Then tap OK to approve the setting change.

On Android 4.3 and later (including 5.0, though this also applies to some versions of 4.2), tap Settings, About Phone, then scroll down to Build Number. Tap it seven times, at which point you should see the message, "You are now a developer!"

With that done, tap Settings, About Phone, Developer Options, and then tick USB debugging." Then tap OK to approve the setting change.

Step 3: Run Android Root on your PC, then connect your phone via its USB sync cable. After a moment, the former should show a connection to the latter. Your device screen may show an "Allow USB debugging?" pop-up. Tick "Always allow from this computer," then tap OK.

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Screenshot by Kingo

Step 4: Click Root, then sit back and wait while the utility does its thing. The aforementioned Nexus 7 took all of about two minutes, including the automated reboot at the end.

And that's all there is to it. If you decide you want to reverse the process, just run Android Root again, connect your phone, then click Remove Root.

With that done, now you can take advantage of options like USB On-the-Go to make your unexpandable phone expandable. Hit the comments to share your favorite tricks for a rooted Android phone.

 

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