30 Jan 2015

Getting Started with XDA

XDA Developers is a mobile software development community of over 5 million members worldwide, started in January 2003. Although discussion primarily revolves around Android, members also talk about many other operating systems and mobile development topics.

Why would I use XDA?

Have you thought of rooting your Android device, or changing something that is not really available using an app? If yes, I'm sure you've come across XDA. As I already mentioned, XDA is a site where people discuss about Android and find guides to customize their devices to the highest levels.

XDA is a also the major hub for Open-Source Android Development and there is always something to learn.

The following sections give you the basics to understand XDA lingo

What is rooting? 

Well there’s no real definition to rooting. But I would say it as “Gaining superuser access to an android device”. Its similar to running programs as administrators in Windows, or running a command with sudo in Linux. (sudo is "SuperUser do")

Some important terms: 

Root:  It is the permission obtained to run special apps to enhance the working of your Android device. This can include SetCPU or Helium. This can be done by either flashing the SuperSU application through the recovery or flashing a custom rom which has root privileges.

Flash:  When you install something on your device using methods other than running a simple installer. These methods are generally "flashing" from a custom recovery or bootloader.

For eg. When you install the Gmail app from the Play store it is not called flashing.

But if you install Gmail on your phone using the recovery, it can be called flashing. Why would you install Gmail using the recovery? Read on to know what GApps are.

ROM:  A rom is the firmware (software) that runs on an Android device. There are two types of ROMs.

Stock ROM:  This is the original firmware which comes with the device when you buy it and/or gets updates from the manufacturer.

Custom ROM:  This is the ROM you flash when you want to completely change the software your phone is running. Popular examples include CyanogenMod, AOKP, Paranoid Android.

GApps:  When you first install a custom ROM, you need some apps to actually use the device. These apps are generally the Google apps. These apps are standardized according to your Android version in a package called GApps that is flashed right after flashing the ROM.

Bootloader:  Lowest level of software which runs all code for the OS to boot up.

Recovery:  It is a piece of software which allows you to take backup of ROMs, flash ROMs and many do many system level tasks. This is also a main part of rooting a device. In most cases it is recommended that you first install a custom recovery like TWRP or CWM.

Brick:  Bricking an android device is the act of ruining the internal firmware or the kernel. Again there is soft brick and hard brick. A soft brick, is usually just when you're phone is stuck in a bootloop, and as the name implies, is caused by a software error, usually the lack of a system to boot from or some other minor software bug that glitching boot. Hard brick as the word suggests means that the phone can now be used only as a paper weight.

Kernel:  A kernel can be thought of something which communicates between the firmware and the hardware of your device. There are many custom kernels too which can be used to overclock the CPU or enhance battery life and things like that.

ADB:  It is a command-line tool from Google to communicate with your device when it is connected to the computer. It stands for Android Debug Bridge.

OEM:  This is an acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer. Every Android device manufacturer is an OEM.

A more technical post can be found here [Link]

(Based on OEM)

(WARNING!: This is not the recommended guide for your specific device. Official rooting guides can be found on xda-developers. )

There are some applications which help you root your device. However it is not recommended as they can brick your device unless they are verified by users.

Since Samsung releases a heck load of devices every year, so it keeps changing from device to device. Old Samsung phones like the Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Pop, etc., required just flashing a Superuser zip file on a ClockWorkMod Recovery. Samsung phones(2012-2013) need Odin (which is a tool from Samsung to tweak Samsung phones) to flash a zip file to root your devices.
Newer Samsung devices have difficult procedures to root due to implementation of Samusung Knox on Exynos chipsets.

Just a few years back HTC phones were the toughest phones to root.
These days HTC phones are as easy as they can come. But you need to register on their website to your device.
There are also plenty of HTC rootkits available. 

Since Sony is becoming open day by day the methods of rooting their phones is also becoming easier. Older phones like the Xperia S/T/U require the rootkits from Sony. Newer phones get rooted using TowelRoot itself (Xperia Z/Z1). 

This is surprising but there this app called StumpRoot which root can all LG devices. 

Since these devices are from Google, they require some special steps to root the device. ADB should be installed on the PC, bootloader should be unlocked using this and custom recovery should be flashed. Using the custom recovery flash the SuperSU zip and you’re done.
But one important thing of note is that there is almost no way of hard-bricking a nexus.

There are also some devices which come pre-rooted which enables the user to have root permissions out of the box.

The Moto G has already been covered in a previous blog post.

Consequences of rooting: 

  • Warranty is void (On most phones).
  • Chances of getting bricked become high.
  • If you don't know what you are doing, you may get unexpected behavior.

How do I use XDA without harming my device?

While following guides

  • Read the whole guide once and check if have all the prerequisites to complete the process
  • If you don't know how to do something, ask around or find out
  • Follow each and every step carefully and do not skip anything or mess up the order.

Should I register on XDA?

We were all once new to XDA-Developers, and it can be daunting to get started on a site as large as XDA. If you use XDA to simply read and download files (attachments), there is no real use of registering on the website. But if you want to post questions and add your own stuff then you should register.

I would also like to mention that there is a mobile app, where you can browse forums.

You should really watch this video if you want to be a member on XDA

If you run into problems, feel free to tag the author, Sanjay Krishnan, Gautam Padiyar or Sushant Rao and ask a question on the G+ Community. We’ve all been in those situations.

Don't forget to +1, share, comment and point out mistakes (if any) in the comments section below.

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