Root Explorer Lets You Reach Deep Into Android’s File System

Andy Betts 16-01-2017

Root Explorer is the best app for viewing and editing system files on your phone. It’ll cost you $4, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s been downloaded more than half a million times and has a 4.7 star rating on the Play Store.


Root Explorer isn’t normally needed for the most common root activities, like flashing a custom ROM How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More , installing Xposed modules The 13 Best Xposed Modules for Customizing Your Android Device The Xposed Framework is one of the best reasons to root Android, and these Xposed modules add awesome functionality. Read More , or running advanced Android battery enhancements 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More . It may not be an app you use every day, but if you’re heavily into modding and hacking your phone, it is an essential tool to keep on hand. Let’s take a closer look.

Download: Root Explorer ($3.99)

Why You Need Root Explorer

Since stock Android doesn’t come with a built-in file explorer (though some other versions of Android do Which Smartphone Manufacturers Are Best for Android Updates? Android phones aren't always guaranteed updated, so how do you know which manufacturer to go for? Read More ), folks are forced to turn to one of the many third-party Android file explorers The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android There are a bunch of file management and file exploring apps out there for Android, but these are the best. Read More .

Limiting access to internal storage is a basic security precaution. If you can’t get to the system files, then you can’t break your phone, and neither can malware. The only way you can get to this part of the system without rooting is by using the ADB tool How to Use ADB and Fastboot on Android (and Why You Should) Learning to master ADB and Fastboot can make your Android experience a whole lot better. Read More  with your phone connected to a desktop computer.

When you root your phone, you unlock the entire file system, but you still need special software to access it. This is where Root Explorer comes in.


Upon launching the app for the first time, you’re asked to grant root privileges. From there you’re thrown right into the root of the file system. It’s mounted as read only by default, to avoid any chance of you doing any damage.

Gaining write access is as simple as tapping the Mount R/W button. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t make any changes unless you know what you’re doing — it’s easy to brick your phone otherwise How to Unbrick Your Android Phone: 4 Methods for Recovery Is your Android phone bricked? Follow these tips to unbrick Android and get your phone back to working order. Read More .

What You Can Do With Root Explorer

Root Explorer isn’t just for root activities — it works as an everyday file manager too. You can create new folders, search for files, cut and paste them from one location to another, and so on. It’s also fully compatible with cloud services, so you can move files and archives to and from your phone with ease.

Root Explorer Lets You Reach Deep Into Android's File System root explorer features


There are also several more advanced functions, including:

  • Tabbed interface. Open folders in their own tabs so you can switch between them quickly.
  • Built-in text editor. Open and edit files such as build.prop without needing extra software.
  • Create and extract ZIP and TAR/GZIP files. Create backups of files and folders, or extract compressed files.
  • Extract RAR archives. Use RAR files without needing any extra software.
  • APK Binary XML viewer. View the manifest for any APK on your phone.
  • Open With function. Override defaults by choosing which app to open a file with.
  • Permissions control. Set read/write permissions when copying or editing system files.
  • MD5 Hash check. Check the integrity of sideloaded apps to ensure they haven’t been tampered with.

It’s a pretty comprehensive tool. And unlike many root apps, it has a polished user interface that makes it very straightforward to use.

Specific Root Explorer Mods

But now you might be wondering, what are some specific examples of things you can do with Root Explorer? Here are four suggestions:

1. Backup and share APKs. Most third party apps are stored in the /data/apps folder, and pre-installed apps in the /system/apps folder. Both require root to access. You can create backups of APKs, or share them — perhaps with your Amazon Fire tablet to overcome its limited selection of apps 10 Best Android Apps Not in the Play Store The Play Store isn't the end-all-be-all of Android apps. If you've never ventured outside of it, you're really missing out. Read More . There’s no guarantee apps will work on other devices, though, especially if they’re reliant on things like the Google Service framework.


2. Edit system files, including build.prop. Editing system files is a bad idea unless you know exactly what you’re doing. If you want to do it, you can with Root Explorer. The most likely file to edit is build.prop.

Root Explorer Lets You Reach Deep Into Android's File System edit build prop

This is a configuration file that contains information about your device, including screen resolution, manufacturer, Android version number, and more. It can change how your phone works, and make “incompatible” apps compatible with your device. It’s found in the /system folder — backup first, and beware that errors can cause bootloops.

3. Delete bloatware or install new system apps. Almost every phone comes with an extra set of apps beyond the usual Android and Google offerings. These are often categorized as bloatware due to them using resources while offering little value.


Root Explorer Lets You Reach Deep Into Android's File System delete bloatware

These apps are located in the /system/apps folder and can be deleted if you don’t want them. (Again, make sure you know what you’re deleting before you do it.) Conversely, you can install other apps as system apps by placing them in the same folder. Set the permissions to:

User: Read and Write

Group: Read

Other: Write

Then reboot your phone to finish the process.

Root Explorer Lets You Reach Deep Into Android's File System bootanimation

4. Change the boot animation. The animation that plays when you boot your phone is found in the /system/media folder. Simply replace the file with an alternative of the same name and you can personalize how your phone looks while it is starting up.

Free Alternatives to Root Explorer

Of course there are free alternatives to choose if you’d rather not pay. There are a few main options.

There are plenty more as well. They all have similar features, but different levels of usability and bugs. It’s worth testing a few to see which you like. Given how much power a root file manager gets, you need to make sure you use an app that you trust.

Do you use Root Explorer? Or do you prefer a different root file manager? Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments below.

Related topics: Android Rooting, File System.

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  1. Jerzy
    January 18, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Huawei Honor 8 is a great phone. He valued in Poland. Attractive price for technology in the phone.

  2. deen
    October 30, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Hi, thanks for posting this. I was thinking about splurge on Root Explorer when I found this writing. I think File Explorer did same job quite nicely . And it's free :)

  3. Alexis Noremoner
    May 23, 2016 at 6:02 am

    There's a function "Link to this folder".. What does it mean..??

  4. Ylucky
    March 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

    I installed RE - when i tried to access its says Your phone doesn't appear to be rooted. I am using Samsung Grand.. what should i do to root it?

  5. Mashood
    January 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    I am using zte u930 and got root access through some software. Now the problem is that the software RE that is installed now in it is in chinese. I tried to uninstall it but failed.
    How to change it in english version

  6. Eric Wilborn
    December 22, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Been a while since I've used Root Explorer. It's definitely improved.