/). All files/folders/filesystems are stored in or mounted under rootdir. On Android, the filesystem may be either
initramfs: a section in Android’s boot image that the Linux kernel will use as
rootfs. People also use the term ramdisk interchangeably
bootpartition: these 2 are actually very similar: both are Android boot images containing ramdisk and Linux kernel (plus some other stuff). The only difference is that booting
bootpartition will bring us to Android, while
recoveryhas a minimalist self contained Linux environment for repairing and upgrading the device.
systemas rootdir instead of
Here are a few parameters to more precisely define a device’s Android version:
We will use Android API level to represent LV and RV. The mapping between API level and Android versions can be seen in this table. For example: Pixel XL is released with Android 7.1, and is running Android 10, these parameters will be
(LV = 25, RV = 29)
Android booting can be roughly categorized into 3 major different methods. We provide a general rule of thumb to determine which method your device is most likely using, with exceptions listed separately.
|Method||Initial rootdir||Final rootdir|
initramfsas rootdir, and exec
systempartition as rootdir and exec
(LV = 28)
(RV = 28).
(LV < 29)Android Go devices?
initramfsas rootdir and exec
initis responsible to mount the
systempartition and use it as the new rootdir, then finally exec
(LV >= 29)
(LV < 28, RV >= 29), excluding those that were already using Method B
(RV >= 29)
From documents online, Google’s definition of SAR only considers how the kernel boots the device (Initial rootdir in the table above), meaning that only devices using Method B is officially considered an SAR device from Google’s standpoint.
However for Magisk, the real difference lies in what the device ends up using when fully booted (Final rootdir in the table above), meaning that as far as Magisk’s concern, both Method B and C is a form of SAR, but just implemented differently. Every instance of SAR later mentioned in this document will refer to Magisk’s definition unless specifically says otherwise.
The criteria for Method C is a little complicated, in layman’s words: either your device is modern enough to launch with Android 10+, or you are running an Android 10+ custom ROM on a device that was using Method A.
SAR is a very important part of Project Treble as rootdir should be tied to the platform. This is also the reason why Method B and C comes with
(LV >= ver) criterion as Google has enforced all OEMs to comply with updated requirements every year.
When Google released the first generation Pixel, it also introduced A/B (Seamless) System Updates. Due to storage size concerns, there are several differences compared to A-only, the most relevant one being the removal of
recovery partition and the recovery ramdisk being merged into
Let’s go back in time when Google is first designing A/B. If using SAR (only Boot Method B exists at that time), the kernel doesn’t need
initramfs to boot Android (because rootdir is in
system). This mean we can be smart and just stuff the recovery ramdisk (containing the minimalist Linux environment) into
recovery, and let the kernel pick whichever rootdir to use (ramdisk or
system) based on information from the bootloader.
As time passed from Android 7.1 to Android 10, Google introduced Dynamic Partitions. This is bad news for SAR, because the Linux kernel cannot directly understand this new partition format, thus unable to directly mount
system as rootdir. This is when they came up with Boot Method C: always boot into
initramfs, and let userspace handle the rest of booting. This includes deciding whether to boot into Android or recovery, or as they officially call:
Some modern devices using A/B with 2SI also comes with
recovery_a/_b partitions. This is officially supported with Google’s standard. These devices will then only use the boot ramdisk to boot into Android as recovery is stored on a separate partition.
With all the knowledge above, now we can categorize all Android devices into these different types:
|Type||Boot Method||Partition||2SI||Ramdisk in
These types are ordered chronologically by the time they were first available.
Further details on Type III devices: Magisk is always installed in the ramdisk of a boot image. For all other device types, because their
boot partition have ramdisk included, Magisk can be easily installed by patching boot image through Magisk Manager or flash zip in custom recovery. However for Type III devices, they are limited to install Magisk into the
recovery partition. Magisk will not function when booted normally; instead Type III device owners have to always reboot to recovery to maintain Magisk access.
Some Type III devices’ bootloader will still accept and provide
initramfs that was manually added to the
boot image to the kernel (e.g. some Xiaomi phones), but many device don’t (e.g. Samsung S10, Note 10). It solely depends on how the OEM implements its bootloader.