Android Power User: What is the Bootloader?

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This is the first episode of our new series, Android Power User, where we talk about technology, definitions, and concepts to help regular Android users become Android Powerusers!

The bootloader, in almost any computing environment (not just Android), is executable code that runs before the operating system loads and starts to run. Distilled down to its most basic function, the bootloader contains instructions to boot the operating system.

Bootloaders are specific to the hardware upon which they’re running which explains why every kind of phone and tablet, as well as every laptop and desktop computer has a different bootloader.

Why is the Bootloader Locked?

Since Android is an open source operating system, why are bootloaders locked? First off, the bootloader isn’t part of Android, it’s what lets the device boot into Android. Device¬†manufacturers generally want you to stick to the version of Android they preloaded on the device. Their reasons for doing this include carrier restrictions, feature lock-downs, and to keep you from bricking your device.

Why Would Anyone Want to Unlock the Bootloader?

If you want to run a custom ROM (like CyanogenMod or AOKP) or if you want to run applications that require root permissions, you’re probably going to need to unlock your bootloader. This varies by device, along with the instructions on how to unlock your device’s bootloader.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.