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How to unroot Android

If you've gained root access to your device, we explain how to unroot Android and restore system defaults

Android is unquestionably the most popular mobile operating system in the world, with an array of devices manufactured every year by the likes of Samsung, Google, Nokia and Xiaomi. One aspect that makes it so desirable, of course, is the capacity to make drastic changes to the operating system. 

Many users who’ve previously gained root access to their smartphones to customise these devices – but are now hoping to restore it to default settings – may, however, be wondering how to unroot Android.

The reverse of the rooting process, known as unrooting, means revoking superuser privileges and restoring the device to its default settings. This might be desirable when you’re parting with the device or selling it as a second-hand smartphone. 

This all comes back to why Android devices are so much more widely used than iOS devices. As far as developers are concerned, the fact the operating system is based on open source foundations makes it adaptable. Users, therefore, can tweak the system to suit their needs, and they may even wish to completely replace the platform with alternatives like Lune OS, Pure OS and Plasma Mobile.

Unfortunately, reversing this process is complex, so we wouldn’t recommend beginners attempt to unroot Android on their own. There are, however, a number of tools available that aim to make the process easier should you wish to embark on it. There are three main routes that can get you started, but these only represent a handful from a broad array of methods. Regardless of which method you opt for, it’s vital to remember to make a full backup of your device as unrooting an Android devices wipes its memory entirely.

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.

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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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