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How to unroot Android

If you've rooted your Android device, here’s how to get everything back to normal

Android-powered phones are everywhere, seen in devices manufactured by tech giants from all parts of the world: from Samsung and Google, to Nokia and Xiaomi.

That's why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Android holds the title of the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, with a market share of almost 73%, according to Statista. Data from IDC is even more generous, estimating that Android’s smartphone shipment market share will grow to just under 85% by 2025, leaving other smartphone operating systems in the dust.

One such rival is iOS, Apple’s flagship operating system. Despite reigning supreme in the US, with a 59% market share, its presence is quashed in other parts of the world. One of such countries is the UK, where iOS is only seen on every third (37.6%) of mobile devices. According to data from Kantar, the most-commonly used smartphone operating system, installed on 62% of UK phones is – yes, you guessed it – Android.

So what makes Android so universally popular? From a developer’s point of view, it’s the adaptability of the operating system which stems from it being based on open source foundations. This means that users are able to modify their device’s software to their liking, or even replace it altogether with more niche operating systems, such as Pure OS, Plasma Mobile, and lune OS.

These privileged capabilities are gained when users are given root access to the Android code – hence the term ‘rooting’. ‘Unrooting’, on the other hand, means revoking these ‘superuser’ privileges and returning your Android device back to normal – for example, when you’ve decided to give it away or sell it.

These processes tend to be rather complicated, therefore we wouldn’t recommend that novice users unroot Android by themselves. However, if you have enough confidence to try this out, you’ll be happy to hear that there are a number of tools at your disposal that will make unrooting easier. Although we’ve selected three to get you started, it's worth bearing in mind there are other alternatives you can pick from.

Whichever you choose, remember to backup all your apps, data, and services, as unrooting your Android device may wipe your phone completely.

Unrooting Android: ES File Explorer

A screenshot of the ES File Manager homepage

ES File Explorer

For users hoping to manage their data on Android devices, there's ES File Explorer. This app offers a variety of tools, although very few users might be aware that it can also be used to unroot Android from a device entirely. While this is a free app, be wary of ads.

  1. Download the ES File tool from the Google Play Store.
  2. Once launched, you'll be shown a long list of functions the app can perform. Ignore these, and select the menu drop-down at the top left.
  3. Scroll down this menu until you see options with button sliders, some on and some off. One of these will be the Root Explorer option (off by default) - switch this on and it will ask for root privileges.
  4. Back on the main screen of the app, hit the box with the storage information at the top of the screen and locate the device's root folder - this will typically be in "system" | "bin". Find and delete both the "su" and "busybox" files.
  5. Now head back to the main screen, hit the storage info box again and this time look for the "app" folder. In here you want to delete a file labelled "superuser.apk".
  6. Once that's done, you can restart your device. Once it boots back up, your device should be unrooted and back to its original state.

Unrooting Android: SuperSU

One of the most popular methods to root and unroot an Android device is SuperSU. If your device is already rooted, chances are that you have this installed on it already. If you don't, it is easy enough to go to the Google Play Store and download it.

  1. When this is installed, launch the app and tap on the Settings tab.
  2. Scroll down the page until you see an option called "Full unroot", then tap on this.
  3. The app will then ask if you are sure you want to completely unroot the device. Tap continue. 
  4. Once this is done, the app will automatically close and you will need to restart the device.
  5. Once it has rebooted, you can uninstall SuperSU and your device will be unrooted once more. 

Unrooting Android: Universal Unroot

A screenshot of Universal Unroot

Universal Unroot

Another popular tool is Universal Unroot, which makes it possible to unroot your smartphone with one tap, at no cost: users can simply download the app, tap the 'UNROOT' button, and allow Root Access when prompted for permission. The device will then proceed to reboot and will be completely unrooted once finished booting.

Having previously cost around 78p, Universal Unroot is now free to install. However, this means that the main source of the app’s revenue is advertising, which results in users being bombarded with ads.

Although less popular than SuperSU, Universal Unroot also works as an alternative for owners of Android-powered smartphones or tablets. This is because the app is exclusive to Android, which means that iPhone users will have to try their luck elsewhere. However, it’s important to point out that not every Android-powered smartphone is compatible with Universal Unroot, with users often reporting that the app doesn’t work on any Samsung Galaxy device released from 2013 onwards, due to incompatibility with the Knox security tool that comes pre-installed on Samsung devices. Another smartphone brand which can be immune to Universal Unroot’s workings is LG, with users reporting that the app either doesn’t work, or that their smartphones display “Rooted” after the reboot, despite being, in fact, unrooted. This flaw has been attributed to the app's incompatibility with LG’s eFuse software. However, Android smartphones that are neither manufactured by Samsung or LG should work fine.

Overall, Universal Unroot is a simple app that might not be for everyone, but is free to install and mostly delivers the right results.

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