Ultimate guide to jailbreaking and rooting

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The latest version of Apple’s operating system iOS 4.3 was only around for just over 24 hours before it was jailbroken by a determined community. Why is there always such a speedy response to a new operating system?

To answer that question we decided to take a closer look at jailbreaking, or rooting as it is sometimes known, to try and find out why some people are in such a rush to break new systems.

What is jailbreaking or rooting?

Despite the fact that phones these days are becoming more and more open and the opportunity for customisation is increased, some people would still like more choice of how to personalise their phone.

Jailbreaking is the term used for “hacking” into Apple devices. Rooting is the term for hacking into non-Apple devices. The reason for the different term is the depth required to get into the operating system, with Apple having the most closed operating system in the domain.

Rooting is more easily done that jailbreaking due to the more open nature of non-Apple systems, like those of Android.

How do you do it?

Disclaimer: Jailbreaking or rooting your phone can cause irreparable damage and void your warranty. If you choose to jailbreak your phone then you do so at your own risk.

The ease of getting deep into the operating system differs depending on what system you are using.

Android

As mentioned, more open systems are easier to obtain root access, and are also less likely to cause irreparable damage to your phone if it goes wrong.

To root Android, all that is required is a piece of software such as SuperOneClick, SuperBoot and Instant Root. Searching these software pieces will allow you to find out exactly how to do it if you so wish.

Google appear to be proud of their open system, and suggest that it is possible to have a happy medium between “device openness and security” which allows safe unlocking of phones.

Windows Phone 7

Access to the root of Windows Phone 7 has been possible due to ChevronWP7, although that tool has been taken from the internet after contact from Microsoft.

It seems that Microsoft is almost encouraging of “exploration” into the inner workings of their operating system, and has suggested collaborating with the trio responsible for ChevronWP7.

Similarly, when renowned hacker GeoHot recently announced his intention to work on Windows Phone 7, Brandon Watson, Director of Developer Experience for Microsoft, tweeted that Microsoft would provide the device for GeoHot to work on.

At the end of the tweet, Watson put “let dev creativity flourish”, possibly summing up Microsoft’s point of view in four words.

BlackBerry

For BlackBerry phones, you can access the engineering screen which allows for changing settings of several menus. Although not hacking as such, changing the settings can still damage your phone.

In order to do this you need to access the “Help Me” screen on your BlackBerry by pressing Alt+Shift+H.

If you input that information into this website you then receive a code to access the engineering screen for access to menus including Mobile Network, OS and JVM – like a process screen on a computer.

Symbian

Symbian devices are more difficult than the others to hack into. Whereas previous versions of Symbian allowed for use of simpler software like HelloOX2 to access the root, Symbian^3 is a little more complicated.

For a detailed explanation on how to hack your Symbian phone, follow the link to Symbian Zone.

iPhone

The iPhone is one of the most sought-after phones on the face of the planet. Unfortunately for the more creative among us, it is also the most closed operating system there is on the face of the planet.

You cannot change the look of the phone and you can only purchase and download from the Apple App Store. The OS is impossible to alter unless you jailbreak it.

Since the first iPhone, hackers have managed to jailbreak each version of iOS very soon after it comes out, as evident by the latest jailbreak of iOS 4.3.

Unlike Microsoft, which seems to be encouraging “creativity”, and Google which is a fan of openness, Apple has tried as hard as it can to stop jailbreaks from occurring.

Each new version closes holes currently open, and new features are introduced in order to try and prevent people wanting to jailbreak iPhones. It also tries to make clear the risks of jailbreaking your phone, including the invalidation of your warranty.

It doesn’t take long to find a piece of software that allows jailbreaking for iPhones. Some better known ones are Redsn0w, made by former iOS developers, Limera1n, the work of the aforementioned GeoHot, and JailbreakMe, one that allows jailbreak without the need for a computer but only up to iOS 4.0.1. Greenpois0n is also available which is Linux compatible.

Here is our sister website’s guide to jailbreaking your iPhone using JailbreakMe.

Why would people want to jailbreak?

The main reason to jailbreak a phone is to increase the choice that you have. You can customise the appearance of your phone with changes in icons and panels etc. This is particularly attractive to iPhone users, given that at present there is little you can do to make your iPhone different to anybody else’s. You can hide apps you don’t use and change the way that the UI works as well as change the layouts.

Jailbroken phones are able to download third party apps which increases the amount of apps you have available. Fore example, once an iPhone is jailbroken, users can download Cydia apps, which increase the capability of your iPhone. These include simple but effective additions that Apple has not yet included.

For things like Android, you have a chance to build on the original basic Android. Some phones come with skins on them when they are sold. Jailbreaking means you can get back to basic and work on that.

You can also download and install custom ROMs, which include a whole package of changes to improve the look or functionality of the phone.

Not only are there possibilities of changing the way a phone looks, but you can also look to increase the performance of your phone through overclocking.

What are the risks?

The biggest risk of jailbreaking is that you could “brick” your phone. This basically means that something goes wrong and you leave your phone useless. You must be aware of the chance of this happening before taking the risk of jailbreaking your phone.

No matter what you read, there is always a chance that this could happen.

Certain parts of jailbreaking a phone can invalidate your warranty. If you attempt something and it goes wrong, or if it causes damage to your phone, you may lose any chance of getting it fixed or replaced.

Of course, it may be possible for you to reinstate the original firmware and settings, but again it must be something that you are aware of before jailbreaking your phone.

Is it legal?

At first, you immediately think of jailbreak as hacking, and therefore illegal. But, if you consider that the only thing you’re hacking into is your phone, owned by an individual, then it is easy to change your mind.

Apple has often claimed that jailbreaking an iPhone amounts to copyright infringement, and also that it is well known to degrade performance and stability.

The U.S. Copyright Office has put a dent into Apple’s beliefs here when including an exemption to copyright “where circumvention is accomplished for sole purpose of enabling interoperability”.

This basically means that jailbreaking is legal as long as it is for the individual that owns the phone and it is without the intention of playing pirated games.

The story is similar in the UK, although no legal precedent has been set for this kind of case. Different devices designed for hacking videogame consoles have been made illegal, but again this is due to the principle goal of these being to play pirated games.

Although there is no way to prove that jailbreaks are not being used for pirated games, the main reason for jailbreaking iPhones or other phones is in order to change the way it looks or to download third party apps – which presumably comes under the term of interoperability.

In addition, the attitudes of the likes of Google and Microsoft towards jailbreak or “dev creativity” certainly suggests that jailbreaking is not illegal, and moreover something to be entertained for the benefit of development.

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