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I see lots of tutorials telling me how to root my phone (Motorola Droid), but none of them mention any potential "side effects."

Aside from a few relatively minor issues that seem to require rooting to fix, I'm basically happy with the phone and therefore a little leery of messing with a device that cost me a lot of money and is only a few months old.

Assuming that I'm just talking about rooting, and none of the typical post-root actions (like installing a custom ROM), am I taking any risks by choosing to root?

  • Does it have the potential to brick the device?
  • Will it void my warranty?
  • Will I stop getting updates?
  • Will the cops show up at my front door the next day? (Yes, I'm being facetious.)
  • Anything else I should be aware of?

(See also: Are there any risks to flashing a ROM?)

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See also Security risks of rooting Android, which is marked as a duplicate of this, but actually isn't. –  romkyns Oct 13 '13 at 15:23

5 Answers 5

up vote 42 down vote accepted

Does it have the potential to brick the device?

Although it has become relatively simple on the Droid, some methods of rooting pose more risk than others. So in short yes there is a potential.

Will it void my warranty?

Yes technically this does void your warranty in most cases.

Will I stop getting updates?

No, unless you install a third party ROM these will usually continue to come in and may unroot your phone if you install them.

Will the cops show up at my front door the next day?

I certainly hope not ;) but if rooting involves cracking a bootloader, it could theoretically get you in legal trouble in some jurisdictions (anti-circumvention laws, etc.)

EDIT: Also be aware that there are different root methods based on which current build you are running.

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11  
re: warranty, you can just unroot if you need warranty, right? –  MGOwen Oct 7 '10 at 3:49
2  
@MGOwen Usually yes; no guarantees. –  Matthew Read Feb 16 '11 at 3:53
    
See also Security risks of rooting Android, which is marked as a duplicate of this, but actually isn't. –  romkyns Oct 13 '13 at 15:24

Does it have the potential to brick the device?

Yes, it is possible to brick your phone, but should be very unlikely. Usually there is a way out of even what seems to be a brick.

If you do not know what you are doing and want to use the ADB method (entering shell commands manually) to root your phone, then be sure to follow all of the directions exactly as listed. If you somehow brick your phone, then it does not matter how good your phone insurance is with your cell provider; if they find out you rooted or attempted to, they will not fix it.

If you do somehow brick your phone, then do not panic. Try these things:

  1. Post a thread to where you downloaded the root program or where the root method was posted.
  2. Post to XDA under their questions and answers section.
  3. Search the web. Someone else has probably had the same problem as you.

It is quite possible to unbrick your phone, but it will take some time and patience to sort it out.

Will it void my warranty?

Yes. But in most cases you can restore your phone to a condition that they'll never know that you rooted your phone. And sometimes they do not even check to see if you rooted your phone when you return it.

Will I stop getting updates?

Yes and no. If you flash a rom, yes. But most likely that rom has constant updates (such as CyanogenMod). Also if you root and keep stock rom, you will still get OTA update notifications (but running an update will un-root your phone).

Anything else I should be aware of?

May the force be with you. No, really, it's a relatively painless process with a lot of these "easy one touch (un)root tools" and even then there is a plethora of guides and help from XDA to guide you and troubleshoot any problems you might have. But if you are happy with your phone just the way it is, then don't root.

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Rooted phones are just as secure as an unrooted phones if you never grant root permission to any apps. The problem is that if you root your phone, you're bound to give root permission (otherwise, why are you rooting your phone in the first place), and applications that you give root permission may turned out to be rogue or leak their permission to allow an untrusted applications to gain root-like permission.

Running rooted phone is safe as long as you know which app to give root access and which are not. Problem is, even assuming that you only pick trustworthy apps they still can leak permissions inadvertantly (in security parlance, this is called confused deputy problem), so you must really be careful when choosing trusted apps.

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Is root one of the permissions that show up on the permissions dialog when installing an app? –  Jeff Jun 13 at 16:37
    
@Jeff: no, it isn't one of the permissions in the permission dialog, at least not on non-rooted devices. I figure a root manager could potentially integrate root permission management into the permissions dialog, but that would most likely not be a good idea as most people had the habit of just clicking through the permission dialog without inspecting it carefully. –  Lie Ryan Jun 13 at 18:38

Some malwares can escalate to root permissions even on a un-rooted phone. Like the one they just recently found in over 50 (popular) apps on the android market.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/221247/droiddream_becomes_android_market_nightmare.html

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They were copies of popular apps, not the popular apps themselves. –  Aistina Mar 3 '11 at 11:07
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By popular I meant that they have been downloaded many times. But indeed they were copies of relatively well-known apps with malware code added to them. –  DrDro Mar 3 '11 at 13:32
    
I didn't think any of the Android trojans so far actually bothered to escalate to root? They just asked for more permissions than that sort of app generally needs, and that gave them enough access to do all they wanted? That is after all what a classic trojan does, gets you to let it in and give it the access it wants. –  GAThrawn May 23 '11 at 16:16
Does it have the potential to brick the device?

Yes.

Will it void my warranty?

Definitely.

Will I stop getting updates?

Yes, if you install a custom ROM.

Will the cops show up at my front door the next day?

Yes, but only if you're Chinese ;-). And even then, only if your police administration is near enough to Beijing.

And you should be aware that it is a security risk. A root user has access to the entire phone, including all of its functionality, and the memory of all running applications. A backdoor could be installed in a custom ROM. It might not even be to your disadvantage, but your phone might become part of a botnet.

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5  
This seems a little alarmist. Most of these ROMs are open source, so any backdoors would be found quickly. And I thought that it was very easy to root a Droid; can you point me to a link or resource about this Motorola issue so I understand whether or not it can affect my phone? –  Aaronaught Sep 14 '10 at 18:39
    
I have read it on a codeproject newsletter, don't have it anymore. I don't know anymore, but the 'destroy' part was specific to one line [latest probably] of mobile phones. (it's a kind of fuse, which PERMANENTLY disables your phone if you attemp to load a custom ROM) See here for the nearest thing to a reference: theunlockr.com/2010/07/14/… –  Quandary Sep 15 '10 at 10:46
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@Aaronaught: I've never seen the source of one of these ROMs. Maybe I didn't look good enough. But even if I had the source, you need to compile from that source, there's no telling whether the ROM image was actually compiled from that source. Then, you've to review the entire source. Good luck with that. If you are really good, it takes you about a year. Then you've to create a gold-card, and some of these tools were closed-source, and that makes me a little bit uncertain about their FOSS motives. Just as the phone companies that don't release the drivers or digitally sign the boot ROM. –  Quandary Sep 15 '10 at 10:53
    
You won't brick the phone, it'll just refuse to boot until you flash a signed rom back on it. That whole "e-fuse" thing was fear mongering. –  Broam Sep 15 '11 at 13:58
    
The e-fuse doesn't brick. –  Matthew Read Jan 4 '12 at 23:38

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