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How to: Unlock the Galaxy Nexus Bootloader

galaxy nexus bootloader

We may be just days away from the release of the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, and I’m sure that many are starting to think about this whole bootloader unlocking process. As a Nexus device, the bootloader does not have to be bypassed or hacked like you have probably had to do to your last couple of phones. It’s a developer device that is made to be open. You can unlock your G-Nex within a couple of minutes as long as you have all of the right tools in place.

To get you prepared, we have put together a set of instructions that should cover the whole process. The big trick here is to get the Android SDK installed and to have it recognize your device through adb. Once you have done that, you should be able to unlock your phone with 2 simple commands and a quick volume press on the device.

And we are telling you about this now, because unlocking the bootloader of your Nexus should be step 1 before you get into customizing it to your like, downloading your favorite apps, etc. Unlocking the bootloader wipes your phone clean, so you will want to take care of this step from the get-go instead of having to start over on your phone down the road. Once your phone is unlocked, you won’t have to worry about unlocking it ever again.

So your homework until the phone arrives, is to check out the first 7 steps that we have below to get your Windows computer all set up for adb through the SDK. If you can get your phone to reboot to the bootloader by typing “adb reboot bootloader” then you should be all set. Your current Android phone should work just fine in getting this all set up.

Ready?  

Instructions:

*Windows only.

*You will need to install this Samsung driver.

*If that driver does not work, you may want to try this one.

1.  Most important piece to this, is getting the Android SDK set up properly. [Instructions]

This can be one of the most difficult things to get set up, however, you cannot go forward without the SDK and adb set up and working. The instructions we linked should get you setup. Once the SDK is installed, you can move on to step 2.

2.  Place a fastboot.exe file in your SDK/Tools (or Platform-Tools) folder (same as your adb.exe file) if it is not there already. [Download]

*You may also need to move AdbWinApi.dll into the same folder as your adb.exe and fastboot.exe if you are running into issues. I believe in the latest SDK, that everything defaults to SDK/Platform-Tools rather than SDK/Tools. Just depends on the version you are using. The big thing, is to get adb.exe, fastboot.exe, and AdbWinApi.dll into the same folder.

3.  On your device, turn USB Debugging on.

Settings>Developer options>USB debugging

4.  Plug your phone into your computer.
5.  On your computer, head into your SDK/Tools folder or wherever your adb.exe and fastboot.exe files are.
6.  Hold SHIFT and right click – choose “Open command window here.”

7.  Type the following command:

adb reboot bootloader

8.  Your phone will turn off and reboot to the bootloader.

9.  Type the following command:

fastboot oem unlock

10.  Your phone will then ask if you want to unlock.

11.  Using the volume keys, highlight “Yes” and then press the power button to select it.
12.  Your bootloader will now be unlocked.

13.  Choose to start your phone and it will factory reset itself and reboot.

*During reboot, DO NOT BATTERY PULL. The phone may loop and loop, but battery pulling will soft brick you and you will have to flash factory images to reset yourself. I was able to unplug from the computer while it was looping and the phone then rebooted itself. Or you may just have to wait a while since it is factory reseting during this first boot.

14.  You are now operating with an unlocked Galaxy Nexus.

Quick video instructions:

YouTube Preview Image

Tips:

-We know that many of you are running into a “waiting for device” issue when apply the fastboot oem unlock command. This is a driver issue and one that a reader has a suggestion for:

1.  Open device manager on your PC.
2.  Right click on Android 1.0 with the yellow ! mark on it.
3.  Choose update driver.
4.  Choose browse my computer.
5.  Choose Let me pick from a list.
6.  Scroll down and find the Samsung driver with newest date. Should be the driver you downloaded above. (Possibly dated 11/25/2011 ).
7.  It will give you a warning about installing the driver, just click yes.

Alternate USB driver:

-And if that driver still does not work, try this one.  [Download]

Questions:

-Can I still receive OTA updates after unlocking the bootloader?

-Answer:  Yes. Your phone really does not change at all when you unlock the bootloader. You will still receive updates from Google. Now, if you start putting on custom recoveries and  rooting, you may run into issues with receiving OTA updates. The good news is that Google usually releases the system image files for their Nexus phones which makes it a breeze to go back to stock for updates.

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If you run into issues along the way, be sure to drop them in the comments and we will all do our best to help you get through them. The SDK portion will be the most difficult, but there are countless resources out there to get you fully up and working in that department. Once the SDK is ready to go, this really only takes about 5 minutes.

  • Xman

    Hello,what can i do to be able to use my locked samsung galaxy with a another carrier?Thanks

  • Chobanov Elchin

    How I cat lock my phone again? I heard its not safe when my cellohone unlocked…

  • 8bitS

    thank you.. everything it works like you said..and my nexus stop rebooting.. love ya!!

  • Woody Fentress

    Confused by the stuff above?

    Wugfresh Nexus Root Toolkit is seriously a lifesaver for backing up, unlocking and rooting for someone like me who has not rooted a phone in over 2 years and has no idea what he is doing. I was about to walk away from the idea of rooting but my mostly android clueless ass was able to follow his instructions and app very easily.Hope this helps someone out there!Just putting it out there in hopes that more people use it!

  • dan

    hey guys not sure if anyone knows whats going on with my galaxy nexus, but after performing an unlock on my hone it’s rebooted into it’s factory default i guess, but it’s in chinese?I don’t know what to do

  • mudleyblind

    when i run ‘adb reboot bootloader’ it gives error: device not found. My phone is connected as media device and the drivers are updated and show up as Galaxy Nexus in the other drop down under Device Manager. I don’t see Android 1.0 though, but I think that’s the driver thing I already have as Galaxy Nexus. Please help

  • http://www.facebook.com/SneakyJ420 Jose Luis Vigil

    i got a question when i type in
    fastboot oem unlock it doesnt go the unlock the phone and in my command screen it says waiting for device please help

  • 11knives

    Thanks guys! Just got my Nexus Friday and just unlocked it today. Your directions are spot on. Oh and the driver update tip is priceless!!

  • Tom Park

    Hey for ppl having problem w/ android 1.0 and/or adb. What you can do is install the drivers for the samsung galaxy (ie i897,i9000). I had the galaxy and when I plugged in my nexus, it already worked with those drivers

  • Bryant Patel

    Is there a way to save all my apps before I do this? Or am I doomed to buy them all over again? :(

  • tonyupnorth

    After i unlocked the bootloader and started the phone all my apps said error when then tried to reinstall so i went to market and tried again and it said error? so i did a factory reset and it seems to be working just fine now. so if this happens dont worry a factory reset should fix it

  • http://twitter.com/Pollita_Droid Erica M.

    Awesome, worked like a charm.After trying for a few hours off my mac I finally moved to a PC. and of course followed all of the instructions and BAM. Boot loader is unlocked and I couldn’t be happier. 

  • Jaschart

    Just use the pdanet usb drivers, so much simpler…

  • Cape Disorn Maneewongwattana

    i’ve got failinvalid argument when i type “fastboot oem unlock”

  • Cward66

    Ah shoot, I think I really screwed something up.  I finally got around to unlocking my gnex (I told myself I wouldn’t touch it until I got my law school apps out of the way)…

    Anyway, I did everything (correctly, I’m pretty sure) and not its just bootlooping.  Its pulling up the Google screen with the unlocked icon.  I believe the problem was when it was booting for the first time after unlocking, my roommate accidently stepped on the cord and detached the phone from the comp.  Maybe that’s not the problem tho.  Anyway, I tried to turn it on, and its now just bootlooping.  Any help would be beyond appreciated! 

  • daryle barden jr

    Question…and before i ask i know i should have unlocked my phone before i even started toying with it. Well at least now i do. I want to unlock my phone but i have pictures and music (i think that’s all) that i want to save. Some music is on the cloud so that’s fine. I’m thinking my best bet is to move them from my phone to my computer right? And what about apps. I have about 77 apps. Will they all sync when i sign back in to my Google account? Anything else i need to know about as far as things being erased from my phone? Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Looks like I did everything right.. its unlocked and i hit “start” and it boots up but the “3g” signal doesnt appear so i can sign into my google account.. Any thoughts on this?

  • robertk943

    I got the “Unlock Bootlaoder?” message and I don’t want to. Unfortuantely, phone does not offer the yes or no choices when the volume controls are pressed up or down. How do i get rid of this message without unlocking bootloader? 

  • Anonymous

    i cant get past the fastboot oem unlock… nothing happening… just “waiting for device”

  • Ed Dy

    I have some doubts if I help to do this first clarify my nexus updates will be automatically ie version 4.03 is coming to fix a bug with verizon coverage and whether to unlock my nexus can not get this update would be fatal, and another question is my nexus would be free to use any sim from another company to say at & t, thanks for your responses and apologize for my ignorance.

  • http://twitter.com/snakesnake449 Jacob Guttenplan

    BEWARE! THIS WILL WIPE YOUR PHONE! INCLUDING PHOTOS, BACKUPS, ETC. EVERYTHING GONE!

  • Wejfew

    this was very good work. Very easy to use, thanks man

  • Anonymous

    Never rooted or did anything with my OG…got my GNex the day after launch and still had no plans to do any of this…finally couldn’t resist and just joined all of you in having an unlocked GNex. Very first time and worked perfectly! :D

    Let me just point out that when I rebooted the bootloader I noticed in my taskbar that the install drivers thing came up and said it was installing Android 1.0. I waited until it was finished and it told me my device was ready to use (showed up as Android ADB Interface–I think–at that point). THEN I did the fastboot oem unlock. No problems at all.

  • Anonymous

    I see it, but there is no exclamation point ant ideas?