Home' LAPTOP Magazine : December 2010 Contents UPGRADES & TIPS
Google Android provides the most PC-like
experience of any mobile operating system
today. You can multitask with any apps you
like, sideload apps that don't appear in the Android
market, and you can even install a different version
of the OS, if you're willing to take a few risks.
Through a process known as "rooting," you can
not only install a different version of Android, but
also modify otherwise untouchable options in the
software. With a rooted phone, you can remove
pre-loaded apps you don't want, over or underclock
your CPU, or enable otherwise unavailable features
such as USB tethering.
There are some downsides to rooting. First, it's
risky: If you make a mistake during the process, you
could end up "bricking," or turning your phone into
a useless piece of plastic. Second, rooting voids
your warranty, so you won't
be able to ask your carrier or
handset-maker for support
after you've rooted. Third,
depending on your phone,
you may not be able to undo
the rooting process.
Assuming you're willing to take the above risks,
you'll need to find detailed directions that are
specific to the exact make and model of your phone.
You can find these at several websites, but ww w
.androidforums.com is a great place to start.
To find the right instructions, you must know not
only the model name of your phone, but also the
current version of Android you have installed, right
down to the build. To find out exactly what you're
running, tap the settings button and take note of
both the Android version and build number.
Some rooting methods involve using a single
piece of PC-based software. Others involve placing
a file on your handset's SD card and then booting
the phone into a recovery mode, and still others
require you to type a series of commands into the
Windows or Linux command prompt and send them
to your phone through a USB cable. Some phones
can be rooted using various sets of instructions.
Installing USB/ADB Drivers
Whatever rooting method your phone requires,
you'll need working USB drivers for your phone. If
your PC has Windows 7, there's a possibility that
the operating system will automatically find and
download the correct drivers when you first plug in
your device, but don't count on it. And sometimes
the drivers Windows installs by default will allow
you to read and write files from your phone's SD
card, but not send commands to it.
Make sure you download all the latest drivers
from the phone manufacturer's website. If you
can't find drivers there, or the drivers you found
don't seem to work, search www.androidforums
.com for a solution.
You'll also want to download the Android SDK
from Google (developer.android.com/sdk) and unzip
it to a folder on your hard drive (ex: C:\android-
sdk-windows). Using the SDK and the right USB
drivers for your phone, you can use ADB (Android
Developer Bridge) to send commands to your
phone, a prerequisite for many rooting methods.
Remember that when you want to issue ADB
commands, the phone must be in USB debug-
ging mode. To enable debugging on the handset,
navigate to Settings > Applications > Development
and check the USB debugging box. However, if you
need to copy a file from your PC to the handset,
you must disable USB debugging and turn on USB
storage by pulling down the status menu, tapping
on the USB connection icon, and opting to mount
your SD card.
What to Do With Root
Unless you're a big-time Linux geek, achieving
root (a.k.a. admin) access to your phone doesn't
mean much if you don't have applications that
can take advantage of the added privileges. If you
search through Google's Android marketplace,
you'll find a number of apps that only work on a
Screenshot applications such as Drocap2, which
takes a picture of your screen when you shake the
phone, are a good example of root-only apps. CPU
over/underclocking apps such as OverClock Widget
also require root access.
Perhaps the most useful kind of root-required
app is one that enables your
phone to tether to your laptop or
become a Wi-Fi hotspot. While
some phones such as the Droid
2 have this feature by default,
the carrier charges a separate
costly data fee. Barnacle Wifi
Tether and Wireless Tether are
two apps that provide this functionality for free.
Just keep in mind that you may be violating your
carrier's terms of service by using such apps.
Using Custom ROMs
One of the coolest benefits of gaining root access
is installing customized versions of the Android OS
known as ROMs. Even if you already have the latest
version of Android, a different ROM will come with
additional apps and a customized UI. You can even
get different visual effects that your phone didn't
To find the best ROM for you, cruise the forums
at ww w.androidforums.com and find a ROM that
is designed specifically for your phone and build
of Android. Instructions for installing ROMs vary a
little from handset to handset, but most install with
Want to unlock your Google phone's
full potential? Just follow these steps.
by Avram Piltch
LAPTOP | December 2010
Perhaps the most useful kind of root-
required app is one that enables your
phone to tether to your laptop or
become a Wi-Fi hotspot.
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