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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.

_____________________________________

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.

  • http://twitter.com/snowblind9094 Patrick O’Brien

    I was getting the wait for device… when i went into devices and printers ( wrong spot ) but i saw the android 1.0 with a yellow exclamation point. I clicked on it and properties/ update driver. manually browse and then choosed driver from list. I saw samsung android phone… proceeded with fastboost oem unlock etc…boom all went well

    • http://www.facebook.com/nadeemqasem Nadeem Qasem

      you choosed what driver from list?

      • http://twitter.com/snowblind9094 Patrick O’Brien

        I installed the driver from samsungs website for the phone.
        when i found the android 1.0 =  update driver/ browse computer for selected driver/ (when directory list comes up) select: let me pick. and then chose samsung mobile MTP device for 11/25/11

        • Steven Beck

          The only way I can get to the samsumg drivers is by choosing to browse form the list. I choose ADB Devices and have 6 options for samsung – ADB Composite Interface, ADB Interface ver. 5.14.0.0 and ADB Interface Version 2.9.104.921 each appears twice. What do I choose?

          • Mkelleygcsi

            Choose the option with the date of 11/25/2011

          • Thebird36

            i’m having the same prob and none of mine have a date on them and under google inc and samsung there are choices for adb interface and under samsung there are 2 

        • http://twitter.com/bnm27 Brady McEwen

          worked for me too. I picked the Samsung Android phone from the device list, then the ADB Interface from 11/25/11

    • Whackjester

      Same problem here and as soon as I updated from the devices and printers section, good to go.

    • Keendog

      You the man

  • Steven Beck

    I am getting hung up too after typing in “adb reboot bootloader” once I type in “fastboot oem unlock” it just says waiting for device. Can anyone help?

  • A_3

    Installed “Verizon_Wireless_I515_Galaxy_Nexus_USB_Driver_v1.4.6.0.exe” as linked.  Windows detects phone when first plugged in.  But after adb reboot bootloader command, windows searches for drivers again and can’t find them.  fastboot oem unlock doesn’t work because drivers don’t appear to be properly installed.  Also tried “Samsung_Mobile_USB_Driver_V1.3.800.0.msi”

    • A_3

      PS, manually choosing the “android_winusb.inf” file did not work.  And yes, I followed the instructions here: http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/wiki/Howto:_Install_the_Android_SDK#Windows

      • A_3

        I little digging turned up this: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4174784/usb_driver.zip
        This manually installing the driver works.  Thanks to the folks at Android Forums: http://androidforums.com/galaxy-nexus-all-things-root/452146-how-root-samsung-galaxy-nexus-2.html
        Rebooting to see if it works…

        • Jay

          This did the trick for me also! Thanks for posting this!

  • Wizard

    I can run the adb reboot bootloader command and it does go to the bootloader but when I try the fastboot oem unlock command it just says “” then nothing happens. It just stays like that..help?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=734005385 Jason Lister

    Been working on this.  When I do the “fastboot oem unlock” the phone just sits there.  Any help?  Did all downloads and followed all instructions.

    • Kevin Parlee

      Same here

      • Chris G

        same here

        • Chris G

          got it fixed.  was the android 1.0 issue. 

          thanks all.

    • Anonymous

      This is a guess, but I think your USB drivers aren’t properly installed.  Open up your device manager and you’ll see an “Android 1.0″ device (most likely).  Update the driver and chose the option to manually update the driver.  Go to C:android-sdk-windowsextrasgoogleusb_driver and click OK.  The computer should show a few driver options.  Choose the most recent and click ok through any warnings.  Once installed, restart the phone and the ADB process and things should work.

  • Anonymous

    Without sounding stupid, did anyone else get stuck between steps 8 and 9? it allowed me to adb into fastboot mode, but then as it restarts, it boots back up in device monitor as ‘android 1.0′ – if i try ‘fastboot oem unlock’ it says ‘waiting for device’ and just sits there.

    • Sean Bello

      it’s happening to damn near everybody. the instructions were shoddy, and nobody’s around to help. you’re supposed to update that driver, but when i point it to extras/google/usbdrivers, it does nothing.

      • Nick

        Im having the same problem. I can navigate all the way to usb_drivers/i386 but I can’t select any of the files located in the folder. It wont even show them.

        • Nick

          NVM, figured it out

          • Tdh008

            HOW??

          • Thatspsychotic

            Seriously, when you figure it out, don’t just say it, TELL US!  I still don’t have it, I’m exactly at this point and can’t get past it.  No drivers show up.

    • Anonymous

      OK! I’ve worked it out (much like others here)

      I had windows 7 so it made it a bit more confusing.

      if you’re stuck at the part where it says waiting for device, you’ve already downloaded the drivers, and it’s saying ‘android 1.0′ on device manager,try this

      Go to device manager, right click on android 1.0, click ‘properties’
      click ‘update driver’ 
      click ‘browse my computer for driver software’
      click ‘let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer’
      click ‘show all devices’ then ‘next’
      click ‘have disk’
      click ‘browse’
      go to the folder you saved the new usb driver in (/extras/google/usb_driver) – you dont need to go into the subfolder
      it should offer 3 options – choose the top one

      that should do it!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/nadeemqasem Nadeem Qasem

        perfect thank you!!!! your instructions worked.

        • Anonymous

          I’m glad I was able to help!

      • Sean Bello

        you are the effing MAN!

      • Anonymous

        You’re awesome!  Was having a hard time with that, went as far as deleting the android sdk and reinstalling.  Thanks for post

      • Anonymous

        I have all the drivers installed but I don’t see ”
        android 1.0″ in device manager.
        All I see is:Under “Portable Devices” >> “Galaxy Nexus”
        and Under “SAMSUNG Android Phone” >> SAMSUNG Android ADB Interface”

        any help?

        • Anonymous

          you’ve already booted into fastboot mode right? It shouldn’t be showing you SAMSUNG Android ADB Interface if you’ve booted into fastboot mode!

          • Anonymous

            oops I wasn’t. thanks for clarifying that out.
            So now, I’m stuck at 
            “go to the folder you saved the new usb driver in (/extras/google/usb_driver) – you dont need to 
            I have no idea where i saved it.. When i downloaded the “Verizon_Wireless_I515_Galaxy_Nexus_USB_Driver_v1.4.6.0″ from the samsung website. i saved it to my desktop, and so, when I try to search for it in desktop, its not show. its asking for a “*.inf” file type??

          • Anonymous

            NVM, found it//

            THANKS!

          • Anonymous

            Glad I could help!

          • Anonymous

            Ooookk.. that isn’t the right driver. I think you’re getting a little mixed up!

            Did you follow all the instructions on the link given in step 1 above? Somewhere near the end, it has you download a zip file with a .inf file that updates the google USB driver you downloaded using the APK manager. This hasn’t got anything to do with the Samsung driver.

            The Samsung driver just makes sure your phone is recognised in the first place, allowing you to adb to it. If you’re able to go to the command prompt (following the steps above on the post by Kellex) and do adb devices, and it lists anything, then that is all good so far.

            Then, when you do adb reboot fastboot, it should reset your phone into fastboot mode, and THAT is where it should try to recognise the driver as android 1.0 in device manager.

            Until you actually have your phone sitting in fastboot mode, it won’t show you the android 1.0 driver issue, so you can’t fix it until that!

            Let me know if this works for you :)

          • http://twitter.com/AaronBrodsky Aaron Brodsky

            Okay, I’m having issues.  I got the .inf file replaced from above.  I right click on Android 1.0 in device Mgr and go to the file like in the instructions, but i only have the 1 option, the .inf file I replaced.  when I select it, it says “The specified location does not contain information about your hardware.”  Also, when i picked the device, the only one showing was Samsung Android Phone.  Never says Samsung ADB Interface anywhere.  Please help!

      • Anonymous

        Kellex, get this into the original article pronto!

        • http://twitter.com/ooja3k ooja3k

          Hurry!  Took me a while to find this comment ;)

      • Adamw135

        Thank you! 

      • Anonymous

        Thanks a lot, man!

      • Jason

        Your the man!! Thanks for the help!!! 

    • Anonymous

      I’m having the same problem.. sits at 
      ‘waiting for device’ after i input  ‘fastboot oem unlock’

  • Sean Bello

    ok, i just wanna use my phone. is there a way to reboot it either from the phone or adb if i’m stuck in the bootloader and my PC won’t recognize my phone as a device?

  • Justin Kos

    i had to open the device manager, then find ANDROID 1.0, and goto properties

    then i had to manually choose the  driver from the SDK google/extras/usb_driver

    i went to the i386 because i dont use lolamd, also i had to choose from a list of 4 drivers, i did the topmost one that looked like it corrosponded with the  video above

    those stuck at waiting for device have some sort of driver problem like i did

    • Sean Bello

      are you stuck in bootloader now too?

    • Zyork

      I can’t find Android 1.0

  • joemomma

    i got bootloop after ota then unlocked… now what?

    • Anonymous

      I appear to be having the same issue…. wait… EDIT:  it went thru the boot animation for about 3-4 minutes, then rebooted to ‘Google’, went thru animation, now back to initial setup screen

  • Sean Bello

    Ok, I need help. stuck on bootloader screen.

    Using Win7x64, in my device manager it says “unknown device”

    After waiting 5 minutes for “waiting for device”, I X’d out the Command Prompt window, reopened a new one in the platform-tools folder because that’s where my fastboot and adb files are together. Still says “waiting for device”.

    I unplugged the USB cable and plugged it back in (still on bootloader), and retried “adb reboot bootloader” and it says “device not found” and still says “waiting for device” if i try “fastboot oem unlock”. 

    What do I do? Is there a way to reboot the device?

  • Usawrestling

    Unlocked the bootloader and now its stuck at the “google” prompt, with an unlocked lock. It won’t boot. Please help!

  • Jrock941

    pretty sure 2.5 hours of frustration before work is enough for me to say ill wait until the process smoothes out a bit

  • Dkuhlman

    Win 7 (x64) drivers installed successfully.  When I type adb reboot bootloader  the phone reboots into bootloader, but when I type fastboot oem unlock it just says .  fastboot and adb are in the same directory.  Any suggestions?

    • Justin Kos

      goto device manager and find android 1.0, goto properties and choose the driver manually from the android SDK, (extras google usb_driver)

    • Sean Bello

      we’re in the same boat…so much for help, huh?

  • http://twitter.com/Skitz_Marz Alex Gandero

    how long does it usually take? mine says waiting for devices after typing in fastboot oem unlock

    • Jac_White

      Read the comments just below.   When you reboot the bootloader it loads it as a different device without driver support.  You need to update this driver to the updated drivers.

      • Dkuhlman

        How do you do this step?

      • Guest

        Yes, how do you do this step. Repeating the same thing over and over again does not help us. Please be a little more specific, thanks!

  • Jac_White

    Curt……You da man.   Thanks a ton.   UNLOCKED!!

  • http://twitter.com/czechonit Curt Sindelar

    After running the adb reboot bootloader command, my device was showing up as Android 1.0 device in my device manager, and my command window was stuck on “waiting for device”.  Just update that driver and point back to the same updated USB driver in the Extras/google/usbdriver folder and then it worked just fine.

    • EmoMorales

      Yes, listen to him. This works!

    • Mike

      so the updated river gets added to the extra/google/usbdriver folder and not into platform-tools?

      • Jac_White

        Yes.   you move fastboot to the platform-tools.  The updated driver gets loaded to the usbdriver folder.

    • Dansan

      this did it.. thanks a lot man!

    • Sean Bello

      Mine isn’t showing up as an Android 1.0 device, it’s showing up as an Unknown Device. What driver do I update it with?

  • Jac_White

    Same as people below…..reboots bootloader….just waiting for device after “fastboot oem unlock” have adb and jdk installed correctly.  Have newest drivers installed from Samsung

  • Larrysteinburg

    “waiting for device” in console after fastboot oem unlock. nothing happens…..

  • EmoMorales

    I have double checked everything. Fastboot is in the right folder, new drivers downloaded, etc. I cannot get fastboot oem unlock to do anything, just sits in bootloader. 

  • Cdford

    worked for me!

    make sure to download that new usb driver and replace.

    • Dansan

      my mac recognized the phone and installed the drivers in my virtual machine running Win7 but fastboot oem unlock doesnt do anything. just sits in bootloader and hangs out. yes i have fastboot in the same folder.

  • http://twitter.com/M_R_Fish Fish

    Go here: 
    http://www.samsung.com/us/support/downloads to get the drivers for the GNex… only problem is once you boot into the bootloader, no driver support.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1260893691 Matthew O’Sullivan

    I’m getting no device connected too. It’s pissing me off.

    The USB drivers for mass storage work fine, but I’m not seeing ADB drivers in my device manager at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1260893691 Matthew O’Sullivan

      OK, now I have the ADB driver showing up, but no devices found when I run ADB from the cmd prompt

  • Jonathan Duke

    Done, on my new LTE GNex!

    • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg

      i cant get my device to fastboot oem unlock. it just says waiting for device

      • SBH

        Hmm, how did you guys even get abd to work? My laptop (win 7) automatically reads it as the Galaxy Nexus and it won’t let me install the drivers

        • SBH

          NVM…

          • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg

            is anyone able to get the fastboot oem unlock to work?

          • Anonymous

            I had the same issue.  Wait until the phone is recognized via USB before doing the fastboot.  It worked just fine after that.

          • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg

            how do you verify its recognized

          • Anonymous

            on a Windows PC, on the system tray.  Once it says that the device is recognized, then put in the fastboot oem unlock command.  Also, like SBH said, make sure your fastboot is in the correct folder.

          • SBH

            Also if anyone is having issues having their computer find the abd devices, try switching your phone from media to camera mode when it is connected to your computer. That is what worked for me.

          • http://twitter.com/M_R_Fish Fish

            When the phone restarts into the bootloader, the driver comes up unrecognized as “Android 1.0″ and I can’t find anything to make it install as a recognized device so that adb works at all

          • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg
          • http://profiles.google.com/gorgio1 Alex G

            IF YOU DONT HAVE THE ANDROID 1.0 DRIVER FOR ADB YOU CAN FIND IT HERE:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4174784/usb_driver.zip

          • Dkuhlman

            How do you get these to work in ADB?

          • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg

            Nm figured it out, update drivers, and make sure you have all the files (fastboot & adb) in the platform tools folder

          • Mike

            which updated drivers did you use, the CM ones?

          • Anonymous

            what updated drivers are you referring to? Can you post a link?

          • SBH

            I got it to work just now. Make sure you have Java Development Kit installed. There is a link to it in at the Step 1 instructions above. Also make sure you have fastboot.exe in the same folder as adb.exe, not just in the main folder. My adb.exe was in c:android-sdk-windowsplatform-tools (which is also the folder you want to open the command prompt from). It did it almost instantly once I had everything setup correctly.

  • Anonymous

    what do you guys recommend, using this method or modaco’s superboot?  also, since this is a nexus device, when installing the sdk, is it necessary to use the modified driver inf file from CM?

  • http://twitter.com/Galpdawg Galpdawg

    all set got my razr to reboot into bootloader.  now need nexus in hand tomorrow to finish these instructions

  • Hillbilliegreg

    Windows computer ? Jeez,i don’t have a windows computer nor do I know anyone who owns one. This is a linux phone, how bout some instruction for linux computers.oh well never mind we will figure it out

    • http://twitter.com/AthoraX athorax

      Wow, you sound absolutely retarded. If you’re going to be elitist, at least pretend to not be completely technologically illiterate.

  • Pete

    My anti virus does not like that download link for fastboot.  Is there another location to get it?  Thanks

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update teh Jax

    Kellex: I recommend you add some common resources that are good to have on your “sd card” prior to doing this so it’s much easier to recover after “soft bricking” a device. Otherwise, it is HELL trying to get files onto the “sd card”. This is going to be one of the major pain points with hacking the GNex.

    Since there is no SD Card to take out and put files onto, once you bootloop it, you have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to get files on there. Additionally, because of the “media partition” instead of an internal SD Card, not all “Mount USB” type resources work in recoveries right now.

  • http://twitter.com/Reevine Vladimir Krasko

    Well no release in the US yet. They moved it past the 9th and supposedly its going to be the 15th. That’s only two days away. I could care less when they release it because im not on Verizon and ordered the International version. However if they don’t release it soon for the holidays they will loose a lot of money.

    As far as the unlocking goes this was the case with the Nex-1 as well. Google provided a factory unlock process. (too bad i recently broke it [insert sad panda face] ). I’m not sure if this was the case with the Nex-S though. I skipped that device

  • http://twitter.com/_elemenopee_ Kavin Nguyen

    I followed the instructions and got the phone to reboot to the bootloader screen, but when I typed in “fastboot oem unlock” it says and I don’t see the “unlock bootloader?” screen. what did I do wrong? Please help!

    • http://twitter.com/ChrisDCrawford Chris Crawford

      I got my nexus this morning and i’m stuck at the same point

  • Anonymous

    Real step 1: Finally. Obtain. Nexus.

  • http://twitter.com/RebelWitoutFear Joe Ingram, Jr

    Probably a stupid question, but what about us few that are working on Macs (Intel)? I noticed that the same SDK build is on both Windows downloands and Mac as well. Do we have a option, or is it a “find a PC or Boot Camp” solution for the moment? First thing I’ll be doing when I get this is unlock, reset and root, so I’m just making sure if I can do it this way right now.  

  • http://twitter.com/nakrohtap Patrick Horkan

    I just tried to reboot my Droid to test it out using “adb reboot bootloader” and it just reboots, not to bootloader.  Is there something I missed?

    • Joel

      Mine did the same thing, just simply rebooted. Can anyone confirm if this means it worked?

      • zach taylor

        same here but on a mac

  • Anonymous

    The simple fact that these instructions can be published prior to the release of the phone shows how amazing having an unlocked phone will be. I’m not sure who’s more excited, me about getting the phone or my OG Droid about me no longer pushing it beyond its limits.

  • Mike

    if all i want to do is unlock the gnex, do i have to instal Eclipse or JDk before downloading the SDK? (this will be on a mac if that matters)

  • Knightcrusader

    So this bootloader is actually locked? Or will odin work without having to actually fastboot unlock?

  • Yoji High

    does this method not work for macs??

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25001493 Hank Godwin

      It does, but you have to download the SDK for Macs.

  • Anonymous

    Very helpful. Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Hill/1566015169 James Hill

    I’m sure there will be an odin package that will make this much easier for those who want to just go straight to a custom rom. Maybe Humble Nexus, or Gummy Nexus?

  • Halloum

    Will this work on the European version?

  • Haproot

    I was under the impression that all you had to do was hit the little lock button on the bottom of the screen during bootup… Adb not needed at all. Is that completely wrong?

    • RW-1

      Mine too, however perhaps that is only a status indicator, I would hope that if unlocked, it goes away …

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25001493 Hank Godwin

      Yes, that is incorrect.

  • Benjamin Mackie

    Ready to go, your move verizon

  • http://twitter.com/OptimusIM Olatunji

    So if I install super user I cant get OTA updates?

  • Anonymous

    Has this method been confirmed working on a Verizon Galaxy Nexus?

    I know the one in the pictures above is the HSPA+ version…

  • http://twitter.com/sequenceoftweet Sequence of Sound…

    What about MacAndroid fans? For me it’s Mac Computers + Android Phones. 

  • Scott

    Dumb question, does this void the warranty?

  • Anonymous

    linkhide.com.ar/47632

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662761387 Nader Elkurd

    Any Macintosh instructions?

    • Anonymous

      Google “mac adb how-to”

  • makako

    what about mac os X?

  • Anonymous

    Kellex, this is awesome info and the reason I come to DROID-LIFE first for all news android. thanks!!