When you start to look into rooting your phone, remember what Uncle Ben said:
"With great power comes great responsibility."
I struggled with whether to post this thread under "Development" or "General." I didn't see anything similar already under Development, and I firmly believe a thread such as this needs to be front and center in the Development area. As the OTA has been leaked (twice!), more and more inexperienced "junior modders" have started to comment in the forums. This is all well and good, but there really should be a central, basic tutorial including terms, do's and don'ts, etc. available to those that need it, while at the same time cleaning up the threads for specific ROMs from non-ROM-specific questions.
With that being said, I am going to post some basic guidelines/facts below. If you believe any of this information is not correct, please PM me so that we can come to a collaborative agreement without spreading confusion within the thread.
General Information for Beginners (Please At Least Read This Info!)
1. ROOTING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! Please don't root because it's "cool" if you don't have any idea what you're doing. There really is nothing wrong with waiting for the official OTAs, etc. If you want to experiment with your phone, I applaud you - but see #2.
2. Always read ALL of the directions in a thread FIRST. Keep in mind that many threads will direct you to yet another thread for full instructions on a process - read those instructions entirely too!
3. Once you read the instructions. FOLLOW THEM. Do not take shortcuts. If you do, you may be the owner of a very expensive paperweight.
4. If you think your phone is stuck, boot looping, frozen, or whatever else, especially during a system, radio or ROM flash - DO NOT REMOVE YOUR BATTERY. Step away from the phone, and give it time. Give it at least half an hour, then reassess. (Thanks to sryan2k1)
5. If you encounter a pitfall, you should search the thread before you post your request for help so that you can see if others have had similar difficulties, as well as how they resolved them if they did in fact fix the issue.
6. If you found a solution to your problem you've asked for help on - please, post that you resolved it, and HOW you resolved it, especially if none of the advice offered by others helped.
7. The developer community is inherently an open and helpful one. Always feel free to post your questions, but please try to do your research first and always post your questions in the proper forum and thread. (Thanks to Linux4me28)
8. It's good practice to always make a backup! That may take the form of Nandroid (backing up your entire system, usually through Recovery), but if you start dabbling in ADB it also means rather than overwriting files you should simply append the old file's name until you're sure you've got it right (myfile.zip > myfile.zip.bak).
Rooting and Mod Terms, Basics, etc.
1. "Rooting" means, essentially, providing yourself with administrative rights to your phone.
2. A "ROM" is basically an entire system image - think of it like Windows XP versus Windows 7.
3. A ROM will *not* root your phone.
4. "Bricking" your phone means it's permanently borked. If you can turn your phone on and get to virtually any system screen, you're probably not bricked, and there's probably hope for you and your device!
5. You must be already rooted to install a ROM.
6. A ROM is installed through a custom recovery, such as ClockworkMod Recovery.
7. There are tools in existence, such as UnrEvoked3.x that will assist in easily rooting your phone.
8. The "Radio" is (in layman's terms) the part of the phone that interacts with a service provider's tower, and it too has firmware. Flashing a Radio image is a bit more of a risky proposition than just flashing a ROM, but it may be required in some cases. Again, ALWAYS READ THE DIRECTIONS.
9. ROMs are device-specific and, oftentimes, Radio-specific as well. This means that you must pay attention to the requirements for the ROM you want to install.
10. Remember: Rooting doesn't mean that you'll have any more success in "pirating" software. It just means you'll be able to control more of your phone's functions. I think you'll find that the developer community is even more protective of IP rights than the average user-base. A lot of developers work off of donations, but that doesn't mean that credit for their original works shouldn't be given.
1. Google is your friend, and so is the "Search Thread" tool. Please do not post questions in a thread when you could easily, and more quickly, find the answer by doing a search. That's just lazy .
Links to Other Helpful Threads
HTC Droid Incredible Helpful/Popular Threads (Thanks to stroupified)
I welcome any additions, but let's keep this polite and courteous. I was new at this once, myself - three weeks ago I purchased my first Android device, the Dinc. And yes, I mean that to be a somewhat strange statement. Before I've done ANY modifications, I've read the instructions, read the entire thread, and followed all directions to the letter. The only pitfall I've had was because I took a shortcut - once (but I learned my lesson!).
08/04/10 - Cleaned up some formatting and spelling. Added contributions from others.
08/05/10 - Added links from other contributors, as well as additional information. Things were also getting unwieldy, so I broke things up a bit to make it more readable. If everyone prefers it all mashed together like it was, please let me know.