Rooting your Android device is much like jailbreaking an iPhone. Once rooted, you can make your phone run faster, tether it to your computer, tweak hidden settings to your liking, and more. Here’s how to do it on your Motorola Droid.
Rooting methods are always changing, especially with all the Android phones out there. Check out our always up-to-date rooting guide for the most recent information on rooting your particular device.
Rooting essentially means giving yourself root permissions on your phone. It’s the equivalent of running programs as administrators in Windows, or running a command with “sudo” in Linux. There are a number of great reasons to root your Android phone, highest among them being speed (through custom ROMs and through overclocking), tethering, and installing apps and widgets from other builds.
Rooting methods are always changing, especially with all the Android phones out there. Check out our always up to date rooting guide for the most recent information on rooting your particular device.
Sure, all Android users are looking forward to a big performance boost and tethering features in Android 2.2 Froyo, but that doesn’t mean rooting will become obsolete. In my opinion, it’s the little things that make it. There are tweaked versions of the Android OS out there, also known as custom ROMs, which fix some small annoyances with the stock version of the OS. For example, some ROMs turn the “sound off” slide on the lock screen to a “vibrate only” slider, or allow the phone to go into landscape mode just by turning it on its side. If you’re unhappy with the way Android looks, you’ve also got a large number of custom themes you can install, not to mention the numerous other Android marketplace apps that require root access.
This particular guide is for the Motorola Droid, which is still the most popular Android device at the moment. The rooting process is going to be different for every phone, so you’ll have to look up specific instructions if you don’t have the Droid. They shouldn’t be too hard to find—we’ve already posted about the Nexus One. The second half of the guide, on installing your ROM installer/backup utility, ROM Manager, should be compatible with a few other Android phones (such as the Dream, Sapphire, and Nexus One, to name a few), but not all of them. If you aren’t sure whether your device is supported, run a quick search on the available ROMs for your device and see if ROM Manager has them in its database.
Photo by Dave Bleasdale.
One warning: The first step, downgrading your phone from 2.1 to 2.0, can be dangerous. If any part of this process has the ability to brick your phone, it’s this step. I can say that I have done this to two Droids without any phones getting bricked, but as always, your mileage may vary. Know that the software is a little bit finicky, and sometimes fails at re-flashing the stock ROM. If it does, you can just run it again to make it work. I had to run it three times on my friend’s Droid before it flashed, and at one point in the middle his phone was stuck on the bootloader. If this happens to you, don’t panic. We just ran through the process a third time and everything succeeded. If you are not comfortable doing this, then don’t do it—again, I have had great results (despite finicky software), and so have many other people, but your mileage may vary. You have been warned.
What You’ll Need
- An Android-based phone, specifically the Motorola Droid. Like I said, certain parts of the process may be similar for other phones, but this how-to is specific to the Motorola Droid, so your mileage will vary if you have something different.
- A Windows machine. Unfortunately, we will be using Motorola’s tool to re-flash Android 2.0.1 onto your phone, which is a Windows-only tool. So if you aren’t running Windows already, power up Boot Camp or find a friend with a Windows machine that you can borrow. XP, Vista, and 7 should all be fine.
- Our Lifehacker Droid Rooting Pack, downloadable with BitTorrent. If you don’t have BitTorrent or are having trouble downloading the pack, there are links to the files within the how-to.