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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.

  • Anonymous

    It does not show up for me. Any ideas?

  • Anonymous

    Well this sucks. I have tried every damn thing and i cant get past the waiting on device part. I have installed/uninstalled everything multiple times. I dont see the yellow ! in device manager, i tried changing the usb from mtp to ptp and back nothing. 

  • HELP

    So I get into the Bootloading screen and and in the command i type in the Fastboot oem unlock. It says that it is “waiting for device” and thats it ! please help!!! thanks in advance

  • Anonymous

    I am stuck on this. I have downloaded the SDK and I am following the instructions on the Cyanogenmod Wiki but when I get to step 4 (launching SDK Manager) but instead of giving me any options it just flashes what looks like a terminal/cmd prompt screen and then nothing. Is there something that I am doing wrong?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tasha-Joy-Schouweiler-Farrell/1465145027 Tasha Joy Schouweiler-Farrell

    anyway you guys could post instructions to unlock the nexus on a mac?

  • Zu

    You have to make the WIPE OUT part bold!!! I lost all my data by doing it.. T_T
    All I wanted is to change the boot animation…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the detailed instructions; worked great. A few questions though…

    #1. 
    How can I verify that my Nexus is now indeed locked? I thought the intro screen icon will show the padlock open instead of closed… though after following the steps above I still see the locked padlock.

    #2.
    My Galaxy Nexus was over-the-air updated to 4.0.3 after activation. Now after unlock it shows 4.0.2… I clicked on “check for update” and did not find an update. Is this normal? Will my phone no longer get automatic updates?

    Thanks!!

  • Mike M.

    I have issue where why screen is not responding to my touches.  I have already unlocked bootloader but need to return to verizon.  Is there any way for me to enable usb debugging from my computer.  Currently when I type in adb devices the list doesnt show anything.  I assume this is because usb debugging is not enabled?

  • Anonymous

    Worked liked a charm for this unlock/root newbie. I’m so exited to have found this community (a close second to the excitement of having my new Nexus!) Thanks.  

  • Anonymous

    The SDK instructions need updating……

    Installing SDK

    The only package we are
    concerned with at this time is “Android SDK Tools, revision 15″,
    “Android SDK Platform-tools, revision 9″ & “Google USB Driver
    package, revision 4″. You can reject all the others if you are not
    interested in them. All these version numbers are increased by one now but for the Google driver, its still 4, but I continued.Unzip the file & inside you will see android_winusb.inf. Copy this file to C:android-sdk-windowsextrasgoogleusb_driver replacing the “stock” android_winusb.inf. There is no “android_winusb.inf”
    to be found. There is no such path as “extrasgoogleusb_driver”.
    There is an empty “add-ons” folder. I put the recommended .inf in
    there.

    Also know if you get stuck at with the command prompt window still open go check for splats again! Aha! Now update the driver. BAM! Continue on…….

  • ironick

    when i enter adb devices into cmd prompt it says “list of devices” but lists no devices. Samsung adb onterface and galaxy nexus are both listed in device manager but no exclamation points. Does this mean Im all set?

  • Tim Swann

    I am running XP on my computer. When I try to do the Shift and right click, I don’t get the open cmd prompt option. Anyone else have this issue?

  • Ryoung1036

    Alternate USB Driver worked like a charm!! GREAT THANKS!!

  • S1341

    I’m also stuck at the waiting on device screen. I opened device manager and got to the let me pick from a list. I dont see any samsung driver on the list but i know i downloaded it. any help please?

  • StingRay

    Dalton

    Thanks much for the clarification…worked like a charm! Onward to root!

  • http://www.whatsyourissue.tv/ HeathCliff Rothman

    Phone doesn’t recognize ADB – have used every conceivable method – downloaded Samsung drivers.  Downloaded PDANet.  Uninstalled Samsung and tried Naked Samsung.  I got the phone unlocked.  But I CANNOT get the PC 64 to recognize ADB when I am in fastboot.  HELPPPPPPP.  I’ve been working on this for TWO DAYS, and it is RUINING my Christmas holiday.

  • Anonymous

    I soft bricked my phone.  These instructions worked great to get in back working.

    You just do:fastboot flash boot boot.imgfastboot flash system system.imgfastboot flash userdata userdata.imgfastboot rebootWorked great to fix my phone   

    http://rootzwiki.com/topic/12054-how-to-flash-factory-images-to-fix-your-brick/ 

    This guy saved my ass!

  • anonymuze99

    So I followed all the instructions, installed SDK and downloaded Samsung driver, when I enter the prompt “adb reboot boatloader” it just restarts my phone…
    any help or suggestions? first time unlocking a phone

    • theblast

      Once you do that it will bring you to the Android with his chest popped open. That’s the bootloader menu.  From there you issue the other commands to actually unlock the bootloader.

      • anonymuze99

        it didn’t go to that menu, it went straight back to to rebooting the phone and to the home screen

  • OTG

    like everyone else, i ran into the waiting for device message and encountered Andrdoid 1.0 in the device manager after running adb reboot bootloader.  when i went to manually update the driver from a list, i saw the samsung android phone listed, but when i clicked on it, no drivers could be found.  i tried all this on a machine running windows xp sp3.

    i tried again on a windows 7 machine and everything worked just fine.

  • Anonymous

    Just gonna toss this out there.. but if you notice in the video he has PDANet installed on his machine. For those having driver issues, you may want to uninstall the samsung crap, reboot your PC, then install PDANet (follow the prompts) and then proceed to unlock the bootloader. Worked for me on my win xp 32bit machine. 

    • QtDL

      Thanks for this. I’ll have to try it tonight.

    • http://twitter.com/_itstee itstee

      this worked.. did exactly what you said and it worked! Thanks man!

  • Anonymous

    Help – I’m stuck at the bootlader screen.  I am unable to select the start button.  Actually I can’t select anything at all.  I was at the Bootloader screen and my computer failed to recognize the phone.  At this point my computer has been restarted and can’t communicate with the phone.  I’m afraid to do a battery pull, but I’m not sure what else I can do because the phone isn’t responding at all.

    • Anonymous

      Figured it out, battery pull fixed all.

  • Nuttsta

    ive went through the whole process. and when my phone boots, it shows the unlocked paddlelock, but all the apps that need root access say that my phone is still not rooted? any suggestions? when i ran thru these instructions again, the phone said already unlocked?

  • Anonymous

    Please, oh please droid life help me. What the **** is going on?!??!? I am on yet a THIRD different computer and this one is running Win7!!!! So I’ve tried Vista, XP and now Win7 all unique computers. I installed the samsung driver on my computer that was linked in the article. I then went here: 

    Howto: Install the Android SDK – CyanogenMod Wiki

    and installed the “latest” sdk and as he suggested used the .zip file. I extracted it to the root of my c drive (then later moved it to the desktop and tried it there too-no luck). I ran the sdk manager as administrator. The window popped up asking me if I was sure and I said yes, then the firewall popped up so I also said yes, but then when it didn’t work I shutdown the firewall. 

    EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME I got a small, fast black DOS screen that popped up and quickly went away. EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! and that’s it……is that all I’m supposed to get or is there something else? I thought there would be some options as what to install. Is there a different sdk I should use? Am I being punked?

  • Eric

    can i re-lock the bootloader using the reverse method?  Having a problem with the phone and need to exchange for a new one!

  • QtDL

    Holy Sh#% I am a moron.
    For those of you getting “waiting for device” at the command prompt, go into the USB computer connection settings on your phone and change from MTP device to PTP device (like a camera). MTP device is for Mac computers – why the hell would this be the default setting?!? I was unlocked and rooted in under 2 minutes.

  • Anonymous

    finally got my GNex today. Unlocked the bootlader, will now root it. Thanks Droid-Life!

  • QtDL

    Any suggestions on how to get my PC to find my Nexus? When I plug it in
    it says “There was a problem installing this hardware: Samsung Mobile
    MTP device. An error occurred during the installation of this device.
    The required section was not found in the INF.” I already installed the
    Samsung driver on my computer.

    • Anonymous

      which USB drivers did you use?

      • QtDL

        I installed the one from the samsung site, and the alt one (unzipped and extracted to C:). When I plug the phone into the computer I get the error message before (with USB debugging off). With the USB debug off, nothing shows up – not even that yellow exclamation point thing. When I turn on USB dubugging, it will show up in my device manager as “Samsung Android ADB Interace” but it is still not working properly.

        • Anonymous

          interesting – glad it worked out. enjoy!

  • sw

    my original comments disappeared…

    i get to “waiting for device” before the computer “fails to properly install” the phone as soon as it’s in the bootloader and when i go through the “tips” section to install the proper driver, in step 6 the list where i need to choose it from is empty. on my home computer i get the same problems. i know that drivers are installed, because i can use the adb reboot bootloader command to get into the bootloader, so i’m at a total loss as to what’s happening. i’ve uninstalled and reinstalled many of the packages with no results.

    • Anonymous

      I had the same issue. I even updated the driver manually and tried again – but there was one thing I didn’t pay attention to. In XP, I noticed every time I rebooted the bootloader step 7) a pop up appeared asking me to install adb drivers again. I just selected the defaults and it worked fine.

    • http://twitter.com/_itstee itstee

      same here.. when i go to type “fastboot oem unlock” nothing happens on with the phone.. all i get is “waiting for device” on the command prompt.

    • http://www.twitter.com/nblufire12 Nathan Patel
  • Al

    I am stuck the bootloader screen.  The command window said “waiting for device”.  I browsed to the drivers but after installing them it says “cannot start device code 10″.  I tried the alternate drivers as well.  I since closed out the command window and unplugged the phone from the computer but it is stuck on the bootloader screen and I cannot shut it off.  What should I do from here?

  • Hamanj

    Working on the android sdk and stuck on step 11.2 “Copy this file to C:android-sdk-windowsextrasgoogleusb_driver replacing the “stock” android_winusb.inf.”. I don’t have an”extras” folder. The only foldwrs i have in android-sdk-windows are add-ons, platforms, platform-tools, temp and tools. Do I just create the extras folder or did I do something else wrong?

  • Anonymous

    OK, same problem on this computer. The other one was with Win Vista, this computer is Win XP. It’s all with this step:

    4. When you launch the SDK Manager for the first time it will ask for which packages to install. The only package we are concerned with at this time is “Android SDK Tools, revision 15″, “Android SDK
    Platform-tools, revision 9″ & “Google USB Driver package, revision
    4″. You can reject all the others if you are not interested in them.

    It just opens a black window and then closes. I have no chance to select anything. I have it extracted to the root of my C drive as it said

  • Tysoncrosby21

    I am getting a waiting for device error, but when I got to device manager I don’t have an android 1.0 line with a yellow exclamation point….

  • nick

    I have a few problems after unlocking/rooting the phone. I thought it was a SIM card issue, but it’s not. After I unlocked and rooted the Gnex, my 3G/4G service just disappeared, I had none. So I re-locked and unrooted it, and I got data service back. Any thoughts? (I did go to Verizon a couple hours ago to see if it was a SIM card issue)

  • Regggie16

    What are some advantages of unlocking the bootloader? Im coming from a unrooted OG Droid.

  • MattXB

    Thank you so much for these instructions. Very easy to follow and the only issues I ran into were caused by me not reading the instructions closely enough. 

  • Thebird36

    When I plug my device in it says it can’t find the driver and before that it couldn’t set up the adb driver

    • Thebird36

      nevermind I fixed it

  • Nflstar06

    wait so if u unlock the bootloader it erases ur gmail and contacts

  • Johnny25543

    Anyway to root the Nexus with a Mac?

  • Trent Moore

    anyone know of a way to do this on a mac yet? or is there a step by step guide on doing it 

    • geno villafano

      +1 If I find a way I’ll post here.

  • http://twitter.com/ProfessAndObey Nathaniel Watkins

    Heads up, if you are getting a message that the device is offline, perhaps you should try another USB port on your computer (probably better to use one on the back).  I had this problem and was so confused, because searching around gave me no answers.

  • Help

    HELP!!!  Don’t see Android 1.0 in Device Manager, only Samsung ADB Interface and I’m stuck at waiting for device.  Not sure what to do next, please help!

    • guest

      Make sure you’re launching the command window from the folder containing adb.exe (it’s  not necessarily the Tools folder, could be in Platform Tools).

  • http://twitter.com/kenbarnum kenbarnum

    Any Win 7 users having trouble I tried and was successful with these instructions from Droidfroums:

    http://www.droidforums.net/forum/galaxy-nexus-development/186129-how-unlock-bootloader-root-galaxy-nexus.html

    • Anonymous

      How lond did this one take? I have been looking at 3 or 4 different methods and got as far as
      installing adb, then I saw your post and can’t decide..
      If I’m this far which one should I use?

  • RW-1

    Hello Everyone, RW-1 Here …

    I finally grabed a Nexus tonight!

    ADB install went somewhat okay, got a couple of error messages related to renaming of a folder, however it did detect my Nexus, and I had installed the Samsung drivers prior.

    I did have to do the Android 1.0 manual driver find, but after that I ran it, half expecting it to boot loop.

    It sat there, and like Kellex, I decided not to panic, unplug it from the computer, and let it sit. Came up to the logon, and I’m good to go unlocked!

  • Italia1918

    is anyone else having problems with the sound being low when you touch/select apps or type?  the keypress volume is really low?

  • Italia1918

    worked perfect just take your time and walk through the steps before doing

  • Ascdew

    Completed the unlock process without any issues. On reboot of the nexus get the Google  logo and unlock icon.  Phone pauses for a few seconds and reboots. 

    Phone is now in a continuous reboot?  What did I do wrong and how do I fix this?

    • http://twitter.com/Transhawn Tran-Shawn Yu

      Mine was in boot looped a few times… I just let it sit there and do its thing, its fine now?

    • Ascdew

      Disregard – for anyone having this issue find the post by Joseph Yonke – that’s the fix.  many thanks Joseph

  • http://www.facebook.com/Goldenboy504 Quincy Williams

    hey guys… Got my Nexus and I just gotta say Im cvoming from an OG droid ….I cant get the SDK sto install properly.. is there anyone who would be willing to take over my computer and install it for me? you guys are such wizzes Im sure it would take u no time and thats actually how soemone rooted my Droid for me in the beginning.. Im not lazy Ive tied 6 times… all yesterday and today and Im missing something. plus Ive redownloaded everything so many times I think i messed it up.. [email protected] is my email for any kind soul…

    • Anonymous

      I don’t see any way this plan can backfire.  Godspeed.

  • Jaredpepper

    im getting a hang after fastboot oem unlock…. ” waiting for device” ? any help

    • Anonymous

      im getting the same thing…

  • Shane Curren

    Ok so I’ve gotten to the point were I need to reinstate the driver for Android 1.0, and I open the Samsung USB Driver folder that was installed when I installed the drivers I downloaded from this sight, but there are like 24 sub folders named like “Simmental” and “Siberian”. Help? I don’t know what to do to update the driver. Can anyone help me step my step? O.o

  • Dshudson

    just getting waiting for device after first command.. bootloader does come up, i have the driver installed, but no lulock screen.. wtf? Help?