Permanent root or temporary -- Which is for you?

Android Central forums member ItsAllAndroid brings up some really good questions -- which root method (temporary or permanent) is easier, and what are the advantages of permanently rooting your phone?  For some of us, the obvious answer is to perma-root and go, but not everyone is comfortable with the methods, or potentially canceling the warranty on their $500.00 Android phone.  Let's take a look at each method, and maybe it will help you make your decision, after the break.

We're always talking about root, and probably confusing the daylights out of many of you guys and gals when we toss it around like everyone knows exactly what it is.  If this describes you (and there is no shame in not knowing), we have a pretty nice resource you need to read.  Have a look at it here, then come on back.  We'll wait, :)

So now, hopefully you have a better idea of exactly what we mean when we say "root your phone."  But if you still don't, that's OK, too.  There's a lot of questions that could be asked, and the Android Central forums are full of helpful members and Advisers, ready to discuss.  So hit them up until you're comfortable with the idea of rooting.

Temporary root

These are usually one-step apps that you install on your phone, and they give you root access until the next time your phone is restarted.  They are a great way to get your feet wet,and you can do a lot with them -- both good and bad.  The ease of use makes temporary rooting pretty popular, and it's a fine choice if your reasons for rooting are to use root-enabled apps from the Market.

That being said, some apps just aren't going to work unless you go all out and permanently root your phone.  This depends a lot on which phone you're using, as manufacturers have an endless supply of dirty tricks to keep the hardware you paid for under lock and key.  You'll either have to ask users with the same model as you're using, or use trial and error.  The good news is that the popular root-enabled apps, and the ones you're most likely to want to use should work without a problem.  Titanium Backup, Wireless Tether, Root Explorer and the like should do just fine.

The last thing to keep in mind, is that not all changes will be permanent.  For example -- using a utility to "freeze" bloatware (applications from your carrier that you don't want or need) may not keep them frozen and hidden after a reboot.  Also some of the newer HTC phones have an evil little bug a feature that reverts any changes you have made to the system, bringing it back to the way it was before you started hacking away at it.  In those cases, the only fix is to perma-root your phone.

Permanent root

This is where things get a bit hairy.  Some phones, like the Nexus One, don't need to be rooted -- they can be unlocked via the Android SDK and modified at will.  Other phones, like the OG Droid, are really easy to root, and will only take a few minutes.  Finally, some phones, like the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G force you to jump through flaming hoops and follow often cryptic instructions, laden with warnings about bricking your phone.  That's a whole 'nother rant for a different venue, but it does need said so that you know what you may be getting yourself into.  You'll need to do your homework, ask any questions you feel are unanswered or are unsure of, and weigh all this into your decision.  Everyone who says "It's easy!" (including me) really means they found it easy -- that doesn't necessarily mean you will.

Now that I've sufficiently scared you, it's time to talk about why anyone in their right mind would go through this.  Besides the advantages of keeping changes persistent between reboots, and those few Market apps that won't work with a temp-rooted phone, you have what many consider the best part of owning an Android phone -- custom ROMs.

To flash any custom recovery, kernel, or ROM, you're going to need to have permanent root access to your phone.  Flashing new firmware is very low level stuff, and you need read and write access to everything.  The good news is that usually the rooting is the most difficult part, and a custom recovery gives you access to a tool that can take a snapshot of your system, and save it as a restore point.  That's a good thing, because once you start flashing, you're hooked -- and a single command restore is priceless. 

Hopefully I've helped a little in your decision making, and remember -- there is always help in the Android Central forums.  Find the specific area for your model of Android phone, and look for the link at the top to the hacking section.  Those guys live for this stuff, and will steer you in the right direction.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • i want to temporary root my incredible....can anyone help me?
  • U can use universal androot its free on the market
  • Congress passed a law last year that rooting your phone will no longer void your warranty...
  • Thats not true. They voted that we can't go to JAIL for it. Google is your friend taylor
  • Lol you may have some extra reading to do buddy... Manufacturers set the warranty... all the Library said was that Jailbreaking/Rooting isn't illegal ... when following certain guidelines
  • LOL...dude obviously is a lawyer and knows what he is talking about ...*cringe*.. ;-)
    Put down People magazine and google DRM & DMA and understand what you are talking about ....
  • I have always wondered if the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act would be useable in a (class action) lawsuit against a carrier/mfg who says you warranty is voided. Do we have any lawyers in the crowd? The reason I say this and perhaps it could be pushed into new case law is that smartphones never existed when this was written unlike computers. I have to say these captcha are getting really annoying, and I will likely stop bothering to comment. I am registered, I participate and yet every post requires this.
  • That's an interesting thought. Have you had a warranty voided? Do you think there's a lack of disclosure?
  • I thought there was a ruling that jailbreaking phones was not illegal.. doesn't say that it has to be approved of or officially allowed, or that it doesn't void your warranty. Just means that the police won't come after you for it, but I don't think many people were particularly concerned about that before!
  • I wish that app worked for a permanent root on the phone they are showing in that there pic ;)
  • My Liberty touting Droid X thinks you'll be OK. ;)
  • "Chrome to Phone" for reading on the train!... DAMN I LOVE GOOGLE!
  • I want Gingerbread on my wife's Vibrant.
  • Temp root did not work at all on my evo no matter what I did. I understand that the EVO is a phone with the fix bug. Sucks
  • I have permanent root on my EVO. Getting bored with flashing roms and not having all of my apps, etc after new rom install. Am I doing something wrong?
  • There are different reasons for this, such as wiping the /data folder, system/app folder, etc. Check over at XDA in the appropriate ROM thread for the exact method of how to keep your current apps in the ROM you wish to flash. Of course, a titanium backup is an easy way to restore your apps after a flash as well.
  • The best tool that I have found is to use Titanium Backup. You can find this in the market. All that you have to do when you flash a new ROM is to re-download TB and restore all apps. Piece of Cake. Takes all of 3 minutes. Happy flashing.
  • I've tried both Titanium Backup and My Backup Root, and neither app restored the Market links... any idea how to make that happen?
  • As the article says, temporary root will not work for freezing or uninstalling bloat with an app like Bloat Freezer on most HTC phones, but temp root should work for most other phones. Pretty much any phone you CAN permanent root with Z4, you can freeze bloat, even if you only temp root. This is because of nand locking on htc phones.
  • can someone give me a website to temp root the incredible please!
  • Hey Jerry, I think you should note that despite calling in "permanent" rooting, you can still "un-root" your device to return it to stock if necessary. I know some people are hesitant to root their device if they think that there's no way to ever undo it.
  • How come there are never any posts about how to UNroot your phone? "OMG why would you want to do that!!1!!!1!" ... Why does it matter? Why cant we know how to go back to stock if we want to? I think people would be a lot more comfortable with rooting if they knew in advance that they could backtrack if they want.
  • Check out The Unlockr they have an Unroot for every phone you can root.
  • Thats a great site, but it doesnt say anything about unrooting...just how to root.
  • What phone?
  • Thanks for adding more rooting coverage to the site!! This is great...hopefully more people will start to realize that they don't need to complain about not getting OS updates. All they need to do is root, and they can have whatever version of Android they want.
  • Permanent!
  • You raise some very good points Jerry. But the important question is "should n3wbs root at all". I cannot count how many threads i see on XDA and Cyanogen that are newer android system users that have no idea on how Linux works or or the Android file system works. And yet they want to root their phone and flash the newest nightly out there. So we help them root their phone. then they want to know how to flash the recovery image, then they want our opinions on ROMS, seen one person call them "ROOMS", and so on and so on. The average Android consumer has no business rooting their phone. One click root methods are nice. But they give people the false security that it takes to properly handle a rooted phone. They need to be taught, trained and know the proper methods for doing. i think you guys should do a 101 series like crackberry and break it down from "turning on the phone" to "boot loader" and the difference between fastboot and hboot....... I cannot believe you people are advocating n3wbs to do this.
  • The important question should is "How do you gain experience doing something if people constantly call you a n3wb and don't help you." I kid, but everyone was a noob at some point. You don't just pick up one of these phones and instantly know everything about it. For those who have questions about rooting, search the XDA or Android Central forums for your particular device. Do a permanant root (which is what I whole-heartedly recommend; MIUI and Snap 7.6 FTW!), but read all the disclaimers and know all the risks. Also, make sure you follow directions EXACTLY. If you do all that, you should have a healthy and productive rooted Android phone.
  • the first time you did it, you were new too.
  • I agree. And i do take the time to help people and point the in the right direction. I have no problems helping people. But there comes a point in time when you are sick of seeing people with less that 10post asking how to do something that you KNOW there is a thread on 9/10 times sticked to the top of the sub-forum in question. People see these types of post and see people saying "permanent root FTMFW" and think "man my phone isn't rooted" and instantly jump on XDA/Cyanogen and want to ask "how do i do it" not even taking the time to read. If one would read, they would find all of their question have been answered at some point in time. there are MILLIONS of these various phones floating around this globe. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else did to, and it's been answered.
  • +1 But I always enjoy helping someone so long as they follow the time honored rule: "Search first, post second"
  • OK, so I've had my Incredible since it was released but haven't attempted to root it. The only reason I personally have to do so at this time would be to remove the bloatware. The questions are:
    1) Is the Incredible one of those devices that HTC tries to restore back to their chosen state after changes have been made? 2) Is the Unrevoked process considered temporary or permanent?
  • unrevoked forever for me
  • Have a permanently rooted G2. Why? So I can run CM7 Nightly's overclocked at 1.5ghz, pulling Quadrant scores of 2700+.
  • think u could help me achieve that awesomeness
  • Anybody know what happened to Z4mod on the Epic? I got it from the Market and it worked like a charm. Then I unrooted it because of the Dec. 26 Froyo rumors. When I went back to reroot it didn't work anymore. I uninstalled it and when I went to the market to reinstall I couldn't find it. I know I can find it on XDA but just wondering what happened.
  • Google does not allow for "rooting" tools to be dispatched via the market.
  • i wonder if the rooms was an autocorrect. and spelling newbs like that was such a fitting end. saying that someone shouldn't root or have root because they dont have a history or knowledge that you deam nessissary is wrong. it may be nieve but put the warning there and move at your own risk. if someone paid for something then they have the right to crap it up if they jump in over there head to get a couple of free features.
  • It wasn't an auto correct. Even after someone corrected him and asked him that he continued to spell it "room". I'm not advocating shunning people off. Heck i only have "1" post here on the central. But telling them what they want to know v. showing them where the answers lay are two totally different things. when i broke into the Android world i was shown what to do, where to find the answers. Today in the every growing android army people seem as if they want to share PC connections and have someone do it for them. It's pure laziness that i rant against.
  • First of all, it was the Library of Congress which ruled that rooting your phone did not violate the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. (Not the Congress, not the Courts). The Library of Congress gets to make that call under the terms of the DMCA. It was never "illegal" in the criminal sense, so you were never in risk of "going to jail" for rooting. The Library of Congress' decision has nothing to do with whether the warranty will be honored or not by Verizon or anybody else for that matter. Folks are confusing three different issues. Secondly, there are several good posts over on Lifehacker on how to UNROOT your phone, and I believe a relatively recend one over on XDA Developers on unrooting. Finally, if you're going to root, make sure you know what you're doing, and go all the way. "Temporary rooting" just doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense for the trouble. On a Rooted HTC Droid Incredible, S-OFF. Verizon, hands off my Droid.
  • Permanent all the way
  • i would love to root my g2 but its my only one if i had had a back up phone in case i did muck up my device i would attempt it but like its older brother the g1 i had a boot loop issue and i dont wanna spend another 7 hours trying to get it back to factory my friend was so mad lol but i have had success on my droid droid incredible and my friends evo i wish there was a one click root for the g2 and even if it was it was illegal i would still do it i paid for it its mine
  • Sorry repeat
  • Cool, got a story about my question!
    Thanks for the clarification!
  • I rooted my EVO with UNREVOKED3. Do I need busybox? If I want to perm root should I restore my nandroid backup and then use UNREVOKED FOREVER?
  • Lets say I got a MyTouch 4G and rooted it. If I backed it up and then I flashed a new ROM, would the backup include the old ROM? Would restoring it to the backed-up state completely restore it to the way it was with HTC sense and stuff?