Your Android device is capable of many great things, but it's actually a bit more restricted than you might think, as you're not allowed full access to the Android operating system.
For most people this isn't a problem. However, by gaining access to root privileges, which gives you complete control over Android, you're able to install many more apps, and tweak your smartphone or tablet to work just the way you want it to.
If you're annoyed by the pesky apps that your phone manufacturer has insisted on installing, then gaining root privileges can also help you remove them.
Thankfully, the process of rooting your Android device – which gives you access to the root privileges – is pretty straightforward, though there are some things you should bear in mind before you begin.
The fact the Google and phone manufacturers don't want you to root your phone should give you an indication of the risks involved. There are security implications that come with granting apps more privileges then they're supposed to.
It could void your device's warranty, so if you encounter problems and need to send your device back, make sure you reverse the rooting process before you do. If you're using a rooted phone, you might also find that the phone maker's help lines won't be much use if you encounter problems in the future.
There's also a minor (but still present) risk of your phone becoming unresponsive after rooting (known as bricking), which, though unlikely, is still worth keeping in mind.
Back up your device
Rooting your Android device is easier and safer than ever, but it still doesn't hurt to be a little cautious. Back up your files and settings before you begin.
Android now comes with a number of settings, which means it can back up your important stuff without needing any additional apps. To make sure they've got you covered, open up the Settings menu and scroll down to the "Backup & reset" option.
Make sure that "Back up my data" is selected, and that the backup account is the right one so that you can access it if anything goes wrong.
It's also worth going back to Settings and selecting "Accounts". Tap the settings icon (the three vertical dots) and make sure "Auto-sync data" has a tick next to it.
Finally, if you have photos and videos you don't want to lose, either connect your device up to a computer and copy them over for safe keeping, or ensure that Android is saving your photos and videos to your Google Drive account.
Download Kingo Root
The easiest, quickest and safest way to root your Android device is by using Kingo Root, a handy free application for Windows PCs that will do all the leg work for you.
All you need to do is head over to the website and click "Download for Windows". This will automatically download the android_root.exe film. Once downloaded, click it to begin the installation process.
Accept the licence agreement, then select where to install it. When you're happy with your selection, click "Install". When it's finished installing you can launch Kingo Root by clicking the "Finish" button.
Kingo Root supports a huge range of Android devices from the most well known manufacturers. Before you download and begin using Kingo Root, it's worth making sure that it will work with your device.
To do this, head over to the Devices page of the Kingo Root website, which will list all the compatible manufacturers.
Enable USB debugging
Now that Kingo Root is installed, you can use it to root your Android device by connecting it to your PC via a USB cable.
However, you will need to enable USB debugging on your Android device before you begin. To do this on a phone running Android 4.2 or later, go to Settings then tap on "About Phone". Now tap where it says "Build number" seven times.
A new option in the Settings menu will appear called "Developer options". Tap it, then tap on "USB debugging" to enable it.
If you have a different version of Android – or your phone manufacturer has installed its own interface, which means the "About Phone" section is hard to find, then search online for "how to enable USB debugging" along with the model name of your handset.
Now that USB debugging is enabled and Kingo Boot is loaded up, you can now plug your Android device into your PC via a USB cable.
Begin the rooting process
When you plug in your device, Kingo Root will find it, and, if necessary, install drivers as well. A pop-up might display asking to install new device software – if this happens click "Install".
A message will also pop up with an option to select "Always allow from this computer". Make sure you check this before you continue, otherwise the Kingo application will display an error saying you have an offline device.
Once the drivers have been updated, Kingo Root should connect and correctly recognise your device. The Kingo Root logo will display on the screen of the Android gadget you want to root, confirming it is connected.
On the PC tool the screen will also list the warning of rooting your device, which we went through earlier. A small tick box appears next to "Try the smallest fast browser for free" - uncheck this to prevent it being installed.
Once you're happy, press "Root" to begin.
Kingo Root will now get on with the rooting procedure by itself, leaving you to do other things. Helpfully, it displays a list of what it's doing if you want to keep an eye on the process.
Your handset will also restart itself a few times, but don't worry, this is perfectly normal.
Once your Android device has been rooted, the Kingo Root program will display a page confirming that everything has completed successfully. If you get this page, then you don't need to do anything else.
If anything has gone wrong, you can enter in your email and the people behind Kingo Root will get in touch when your device is supported.
Kingo Root supports a large range of Android devices, but if you device is not supported, there are other methods of rooting.
Other ways to root
If Kingo Root doesn't support your Android device – or you don't have a Windows PC handy to install it on – then there are other ways to root your device.
Towelroot is another relatively straightforward way, and it can be done on the handset itself, so no other bits of kit are necessary.
First of all you'll need to allow your Android device to run apps from other sources. To do this, go to Settings and then Security. Scroll down until you see an entry for "Unknown sources" and tap it to turn it on.
This allows you to install apps from places other than Google's Play Store. This gives you more flexibility, but means you'll need to be careful what you install.
Apps on the Google Play Store have been vetted and tested for viruses and other nasties; apps you download elsewhere don't have that safety net.
Still, Towelroot is fine to download and install, and you can do so by going to its website on your Android device and clicking the large orange icon. Once installed, follow the instructions to root your device.
If you're still having trouble, forums such as XDA developers have in-depth rooting guides for a range of Android devices.