Like us, you probably love your Google Android phone. However, you may also be lacking some valuable features, either because your network locked them out or Google failed to include them.
However, hacking your Android OS device, also known as 'rooting', can be a great way to unlock it, and you'll be able to control every aspect of your smartphone - from the processor speed to the user interface - just as you can control your PC.
WARNING: We are not responsible for any broken or bricked phones that result from this how-to. Rooting your phone will most likely void your phone's warranty, and if something goes wrong it may very well turn your phone into a pricey paperweight. Proceed at your own risk.
Step 1: Getting root access
The first step toward total control of your Android device is obtaining root access. Unfortunately, my favourite method to gain root on an Android device, the Easy Root app, no longer works as well as it once did, due to recent Android updates. Thankfully, the basic process remains the same - you'll just have to roll back to a slightly older Android release, after which you can install a custom ROM of your choice.
Before you get started, note that rolling back your device to a previous version of the Android OS will likely erase any data not on the SD Card or stored on Google's servers.
I'll use the Motorola Milestone and Windows as an example, along with instructions from the CyanogenMod Wiki. First, download and install RSD Lite and the Motorola USB drivers, and then download a copy of the SPRecovery SBF image file. Connect the Milestone to a Windows computer via USB, and turn off the device. Turn it back on while holding down the power button and the up key on the directional pad to boot into Recovery Mode.
Once the phone has booted, run RSD Lite (right-click the icon in Windows and choose Run as administrator), select the SPRecovery SBF image, and click Start. RSD Lite will apply the recovery image and reboot the Milestone. If you do not receive a 'Pass' message from RSD Lite after the device has rebooted, apply SPRecovery with RSD Lite again.
The next step is to install a pre-rooted version of Android OS 2.1 on the Milestone. To do so, you'll need to download the Android OS image and rename it to update.zip. Connect the Milestone to your PC via USB, mount the device, and copy update.zip to the root of the SD Card. Unplug the USB cable, power off, and then reboot the Droid while holding the 'x' key.
When the phone has booted, use the volume keys to navigate and the camera button to select Wipe data/factory reset. Choose Wipe cache partition, then Install, and Allow update.zip installation. The update will now be applied, after which the Milestone will reboot into a rooted version of Android 2.1.
Don't have a Milestone? Not to worry: You can find detailed instructions for gaining root on a number of Android devices on the CyanogenMod Wiki.
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