How to tell if your phone is rooted

How to tell if your phone is rooted

“How can I tell if my Android phone is rooted or not?”

This is a common question we hear from parents and employers who want added functionality with our software on their Android. Often, there is no apparent indication that an Android device has root access. There are no blinking lights, no labels anywhere, nothing to tell us whether or not an Android has root access.

In the right circumstances, an Android phone could be rooted in about 15 minutes. If you give an Android phone to a child or employee to use, they may root the device to run some fancy program. Maybe the phone was left unattended for some time and you just don’t know if someone rooted the device without your knowing.

You may not know how to tell if an Android phone is rooted yet. In this article, we’ll tell you how to check whether or not your Android device has root access.

What is root access?

The Android operating system is based off of the Linux operating system. In Linux, high-level operations, especially those which can change the system, are password protected. To tell the computer that you are authorized, you must tell it that you are the “superuser” before running password-protected “superuser” commands.

Most desktop computers and laptops have root access (are rooted) when you get them. Since mobile phones are under strict private and federal regulations, root access for tablets and smartphones has not been standard.

To prevent users from having too much freedom with their hardware, cell phone manufacturers do not allow “superuser” access on the phones by default. A superuser would be able to read, control, and edit all of the high-end components of the device.

Why would I root my Android?

Most of us do not want to completely change all of the software that the manufacturer created. Some of us just want certain apps to have complete access in order to offer functionality that may be locked away.

For instance, remember when Android phones first came out with the LED flash for their camera? Users without root access could not use the LED as a flashlight. Control of the LED was locked away behind a system password. The only way to use the light on the phone as a flashlight would be to root the phone and download an app that would be able to control it.

Eventually, manufacturers included control of many of the features for software developers to use. But there are still certain things that the phone has the ability to do but are not allowed to us by default.

So, does my Android have root access?

For starters, brand new phones do not have root access by default. So if it is a brand new Android phone, it is not rooted and does not have root access.

Check the applications. In the process of rooting the Android, an application called “SuperUser” or “SU” is often (but not always) installed. This is the program that will determine if certain “superuser” commands are allowed to be used. If you see a superuser program installed, then it is most likely rooted.

And, if you’re still unsure, you will want to use an app to verify if the phone has root access. Root Checker Basic is a free app from the Play Store or app market that will tell you whether or not the phone has root access.

Another simple way to find out is to download and install a “terminal” client on the phone. A “terminal” is a text-based window that allows us to run commands on Linux devices such as an Android phone or tablet. It is the command line interface for Linux, similar to DOS.

Upon opening the terminal, if you see a “#”, then the phone has root access and is in superuser mode.

If when opening the terminal you see a “$” then the phone is not in superuser mode, but that doesn’t mean that it has not been rooted.

Type “date” and press enter. It should display the date and time. If the date does not display, then the terminal doesn’t work, try downloading another terminal client.

Otherwise, type “su” without the quotes. If the device has been rooted, the next line will display a “#” signifying that you have root access and the device is ready for superuser commands. If it has not been rooted, then the terminal will not recognize the “su” command.

Type “exit” to exit the terminal and close the program.

8 Responses to “How to tell if your phone is rooted”

  1. Jon S. says:

    I always wondered what was the hype with rooted Android phones. It is also nice to know, there is an app for it… just the information I needed. Thx guys :)

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Ms Kelly Austin,

    Since you are a writer in Mobile Spy, I would like to point out that all the companies have committed misrepresentation in their sales pitch.

    They all claim that you can download their programs after payment and monitor this and that. Then, later, the buyer will discover that the target phone has to be rooted in order for viber and whatsapp to be monitored. As this is the first time I come across the word “root” for handphones, i realised that this is not easy…may take up to 15 minutes.

    So what is the point of purchasing this programs if u r unable to monitor viber and whatsapp which is widely used.Isnt there a company with a spy program that does not require rooting the phone in order to instal a spy program ?

    • Kelly Austin says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of programs that don’t require rooting to monitor those particular apps, it depends on the particular software you’re looking at. There are some programs that require you to root the smartphone in order to take advantage of certain features, while others don’t require rooting.

      One of the most important things to look at before purchasing software is the feature list. Each website should give you a list of all features and options offered with their product and should point out any additional requirements such as rooting so consumers can decide if they want it or not BEFORE purchasing. For example, here is a link to the Mobile Spy Android Compatibility page. This page gives a complete list of all features and options available with Android devices, and points out specifically which features are only available for rooted Android devices to avoid any confusion.

      Thanks, hope this helps

  3. suspicious activity says:

    Hi, I am curious what Viber is? What is it used for or can be used for. I have been suspicious that someone has either, hacked, cloned or been spying on my phone for years and at one time I was sent a password for an app filled Cover that I didn’t request. Among other things such as battery during, static, not receiving texts and calls, cm messages edited, phone completely, deserting itself, losing all my contacts and. more . so I’m curious what Cover is and any other info on cloning, hacking or spying you can give me. It would help a lot. I have en dealing with this for 3 years plus. Thank you!

    • Kelly Austin says:


      Viber is not a “spy” app, it is a social networking app used to stay connected to friends and family.

      I’m not exactly sure what the whole issue it that you’re experiencing, but here’s a quick tip if you believe something has been added to your device: If you believe something was installed on your smartphone without your knowledge/permission, simply do a factory reset on the device. Unfortunately this will remove everything not installed when you first received your phone, but it will also remove anything you believe has been added thereafter.

      Also, keep in mind that monitoring/Spy software is not remote; meaning it has to be installed directly onto your phone. To prevent this, never give your phone to someone you don’t trust, and use security and lock/unlock settings to protect your device.

  4. nipesh says:

    thnks for your great information. i have been searching many more ideas about the root information, finally i’ve been satisfied with your article.

  5. Lance says:

    How can I root a Samsung Galaxy S4 without using ‘Superuser’…I don’t want a ‘telltale’ app to be on the phone?Thanks


  1. P. Van Buren says:

    Thanks for the info. I was thinking about rooting my phone, this gets me started on the right track. Thanks ;-)

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