Custom Android Without The Custom ROM, Part 1 – Root

Chainfire's SuperSU

Yesterday I told you about the Tao of this Android modder:

Buy a phone (usually a Nexus);
Figure out how to root it;
Wait for custom ROMs;
Try out custom ROMs;
Settle on a custom ROM (usually CyanogenMod);
Be happy.

Today I’ll show you how to root a new Nexus running Android 6.0 “Marshmallow”. Only catch is, I don’t actually have a Nexus 5X or 6P at the moment—Howard is working on that. For this tutorial I’ll be using an old Nexus 5, sans “X”.

There are currently two ways to root a Marshmallow device, both courtesy of legendary XDA developer Chainfire: one is an “experiment” that doesn’t touch the system partition; the other requires a modified boot image. I chose the latter, a choice that would ultimately yield me a rooted but unencrypted device. The good news is that my 2013 Nexus 5 absolutely flies on Marshmallow; it even benchmarks higher than my other Nexus 5 running stock 6.0 without root.

Assuming that you’ve already got adb and fastboot tools on your desktop computer, here’s the rest of what you’ll need before you begin:

Here’s a video showing the entire procedure:

Andorid…? Maybe I better lay this out for you myself:

Step 1: Unlock your bootloader.

This is the easy part; if you don’t know how to do this then Google it. If you still can’t figure it out maybe you should just stop here.

Curiously, the bootloader on my Nexus 5 stayed unlocked even after flashing Marshmallow.

Step 2: Reboot into system.

You can skip through the set-up screens as your data is going to get wiped. Several times.

Step 3: Reboot into bootloader and use fastboot to flash the modified boot image.

Step 4: Reboot back into your system.

Make sure everything’s in order (ie. no boot loops). Ignore the set-up process (again) as you’ll be shortly formatting your userdata partition.

Step 5: Reboot back into bootloader and flash TWRP.

Step 6: Reboot immediately into TWRP.

You’ll be greeted by an alert asking you to allow modifications. Select “Yes”.

Step 7: Still in TWRP, go to the Wipe Menu and select “Format Data”.

Step 8: Reboot back into system, ignoring set-up yet again.

Before rebooting TWRP will ask you if you want to flash a superuser zip—do not do this! You’ll be flashing the SuperSU beta instead.

Step 9: Transfer SuperSU beta to the internal storage on your phone.

You can also check your encryption settings if you want. Encryption should be off.

Step 10: Reboot into TWRP and flash SuperSU beta.

Step 11: Reboot in system and set up your rooted device!

At this point I directed the on-device browser to F-Droid and downloaded the app. After installing it (remember to allow “unknown sources” in your security settings) I immediately found my beloved AdAway:

AdAway Seeking Root

Looking good…

TWN Ads Blocked

Bam! Ads are now blocked on the go-to weather app for Canadians from The Weather Network.

I’ve noticed that when I run the same app on CyanogenMod, the screen is redrawn over the empty space where the ad would otherwise be. Custom ROMs do seem to have some other advantages over stock ROMs with root. And when we’re talking about CyanogenMod, one of those advantages is the ability to theme your device.

Tomorrow I’ll show you how to theme your Marshmallow Android, without a custom ROM… 😎

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