Rooting is the process of allowing users of the Android mobile operating system to attain privileged control (known as root access) over various Android subsystems. As Android is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel, rooting an Android device gives similar access to administrative (superuser) permissions as on Linux or any other Unix-like operating system such as FreeBSD or macOS.
Rooting is often performed with the goal of overcoming limitations that carriers and hardware manufacturers put on some devices. Thus, rooting gives the ability (or permission) to alter or replace system applications and settings, run specialized applications ("apps") that require administrator-level permissions or perform other operations that are otherwise inaccessible to a normal Android user. On some devices, rooting can also facilitate the complete removal and replacement of the device's operating system, usually with a more recent release of its current operating system.
Root access is sometimes compared to jailbreaking devices running the Apple iOS operating system. However, these are different concepts: Jailbreaking is the bypass of several types of Apple prohibitions for the end user, including modifying the operating system (enforced by a "locked bootloader"), installing non-officially approved (not available on the App Store) applications via sideloading, and granting the user elevated administration-level privileges (rooting). Many vendors such as HTC, Sony, LG, Asus, Xiaomi and Google explicitly provide the ability to unlock devices, and even replace the operating system entirely. Similarly, the ability to sideload applications is typically permissible on Android devices without root permissions. Thus, it is primarily the third aspect of iOS jailbreaking (giving users administrative privileges) that most directly correlates to Android rooting.
Rooting is distinct from SIM unlocking and bootloader unlocking. The former allows removing the SIM lock on a phone, while the latter allows rewriting the phone's boot partition (for example, to install or replace the operating system).
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