What is a bootloader? At its most basic level, your Android smartphone is like a hard drive, made of up several partitions. One of those partitions holds the Android system files, another holds all the app data you accumulate (which is how you're usually able to update without losing all your stuff), and others to do more behind-the scenes stuff.
Think of the bootloader as a security checkpoint for all those partitions. Because if you're able to swap out what's on those partitions, you're able to break things if you don't know what you're doing. Or, with a little hackery, you're able to run custom ROMs.
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