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How to: Unlock the Nexus 7 Bootloader

Before we start, I’ll just get this out of the way. Yes, we know that you can use a 1-click tool, like the one from WugFresh, to do this all without any work. You won’t need to worry about the Android SDK or drivers or anything, which is why it’s called a 1-click. This set of instructions is for those that want to know what that 1-click does. It’s also a way to get the SDK setup so that you can use it in the future if you were to run into any problems. While we understand the need for 1-clicks, we also recommend that you know exactly what they are doing to your phone or tablet. This guide will give you that. 

Instructions:

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 Developer options and USB Debugging on.

Settings>Developer options>USB debugging

4.  Plug your tablet into your computer.
5.  On your computer, head into SDK/Platform-Tools 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 tablet will turn off and reboot to the bootloader.

9.  Type the following command:

fastboot oem unlock

*This step will fully wipe your device, just like a factory reset does. It’s a good thing to unlock your device before you start to customize it and load it up with all of its apps because there is no way to avoid losing it all with this command.

10.  Your tablet 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 tablet and it will factory reset itself and reboot.
14.  You are now operating with an unlocked Nexus 7.

Quick video instructions:

*The device in the video is the Galaxy Nexus, but don’t worry, it’s the same exact process.

YouTube Preview Image

This is essentially just a copy of our Galaxy Nexus bootloader unlock tutorial since all Nexus devices can be unlocked the same way. To figure out any issues that you may run into, that post is a great place to start. There are some 500+ comments with users addressing issues like crazy.

  • Guestapo

    Make that “XDA”, not “ADK”.

  • Guestapo

    Can’t get a driver to work on Windows 8 Consumer preview edition, 64 bit. ADK had the right driver, but it did not have a hash, Win8 wouldn’t install it, can’t override it. PDA 64 bit drivers wouldn’t install either. Any ideas?

  • David Salsburg

    Question please. Should I accept the OTA JB upgrade first (when my 7 arrives tomorrow) and THEN unlock?
    If I unlock FIRST, will that then negate me from the initial OTA update?

  • jorge ruiz

    i dont want to wipe my nexus 7 :C

    • Seth Forbus

      Same problem I ran into. When I rooted my Galaxy S ll I kept all my data. =/ Wouldn’t be such a big deal if my internet didn’t suck so much. took 8 hours ot get my apps loaded.

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

    how do i root?

  • Bsody

    Nice work, some of the other guides out there are less detailed as they are aimed more towards the veterans among us. Looking through the comments, it appears we have quite a few new faces to the nexus crowd. Welcome, be prepared to not want to go back.

  • http://twitter.com/PanameraDev Panamera

    Great guide, however if anyone’s willing to help me out on a small issue, it’d really be appreciated:

    I’m running Ubuntu 12.04 on my PC, & have already installed the Android SDK & the platform tools. I attempted to unlock my N7 bootloader following this guide, & I got as far as cd’ing into “/android-sdk-linux/platform-tools” via Terminal (where my fastboot executable is located), & I tried to run “adb reboot bootloader”, but Terminal is saying the adb command isn’t recognized.

    I’m guessing some adb drivers or something aren’t installed, I can’t be sure.. Although, there is an adb executable file located in the same platform-tools folder, but I can’t seem to get it to do anything.. Apologies if I sound like a noob; this is my first time attempting this.

  • bombhills

    Unlocking a bootloader is only good if you’re thinking of rooting right?
    Or is there any other benefits?

    • Bsody

      Well you do get the nifty unlocked icon on the Google startup screen. We all know the chicks dig it…

  • markgbe

    i can’t say for sure that i’ll be unlocking or rooting my 7, i kind of like it stock. we’ll see how it goes though. :)

    • Bsody

      Im currently unlocked and rooted, but still have the stock ROM and kernel. If you are planning on modding at some time, I would unlock now before customizing your entire OS since you will loose everything.

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

    So i can’t use the toolkit now and need to wait til they update it because of the new build?

    • Bsody

      It still worked for me.

  • fanboy1974

    Can’t believe it’s been 7 months since I unlocked my Verizon Nexus. I had forgot about the pda.net drivers for win64.

  • ddevito

    4.1.1 installed, unlocked and rooted. Wireless tethered to my GNex. Sweet.

    • Bsody

      Im in the exact same boat…gotta love Android.

  • ddevito

    this thing sure is sweet.

  • JDHokie

    Just finished unlocking and rooting my Nexus 7. Used the Wugfresh tool kit on my GNex, but went through the steps this time (following a walkthrough video on YouTube)

  • http://lukeskaff.com/ LukeDukem

    Anyone else getting the following error “error: device not found”? I installed the google USB drivers from the “SDK manager.exe” and my path variables are already setup from when I did this on my galaxy nexus awhile ago.

    • http://www.goosio.com/ Adam Siekmann

      Make sure the Nexus is properly installed in Device Manager (if you are using Windows) and also make sure USB debugging is Enabled ( I am sure it is)

    • http://lukeskaff.com/ LukeDukem

      I got it working had to go in to device manager and manually update the driver for the nexus 7 giving it the path “C:android-sdk-windowsextrasgoogleusb_driver”

  • http://www.goosio.com/ Adam Siekmann

    This is the first thing I did after I did an initial boot to make sure my $25 credit was there. :D

    Also need to make sure you have the right drivers installed. Windows did not automatically detect them for me. So I installed the universal naked drivers from XDA http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1766220

  • brkshr

    I completely agree with your opening paragraph!

  • Randy

    What’s the point of locking a boot loader? If it doesn’t really do nothing when you unlock it? I understand encrypting it but locking it without an encryption? That’s like saying you put a lock on the door but you didn’t close the door.

    • Randy

      Not that I want an encrypted boot loader but just wondering.

      • helpfulness

        Locked boot loaders prevent unsigned boot images from being run on a device. They protect your data by making it so the only way to get past the lock is to delete all your personal data. Think about this, your phone has a SIM Lock, and a PIN code. None of that matters if someone can just boot an insecure image and dump your whole phone.

  • dcvolcom909

    “Product name – Grouper”? lol I think a “Tuna” looks better (Galaxy Nexus). Does anyone know the names of the other Nexus devices? I didn’t know googlers were fisherman?

  • EvanTheGamer

    I just used WugFresh’s Root Tookit 1.5 to unlock my Nexus 7 and it worked like a charm. Took all but 3 minutes.

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewizkid95 Jesus Otero

      If you need a Toolkit to run a Nexus device, I don’t think you should own a Nexus

      • EvanTheGamer

        Who the hell asked you anyways? I know I didn’t.

        I own a Galaxy Nexus and have unlocked and rooted my phone the old fashion way, but because I didn’t want to F up my NEW Nexus 7, I did it the easier way. PLUS, I was being impatient and just didn’t want to wait and do it the LONGER way. Happy?

        Thanks for stopping by!

        • Guest #69101180

          lulz. he mad

          • EvanTheGamer

            Yep, that’s probably it! haha

      • ReebyWantsYoMom

        I used toolkit also. I crashed my computer a while back and didn’t feel like installing SDK java and all that. But had to do all that anyways because the toolkit wasn’t working. Not sure if it was that or because it was checked stay awake while charging by default but I finally got it to work.

      • droyd4life

        You’re retarded.

      • Bsody

        Thats like saying, if you use a calculator to do calculus, you should probably stay away from math…I guess I didnt feel the need to do it manually anymore. Sorry I didnt get your permission first..

        • EvanTheGamer

          Exactly!

  • John Burton

    Just to verify, this doesn’t wipe the device, correct? This is my first Nexus, so I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing an oem_unlock.

    • EvanTheGamer

      Unlocking the bootloader does actually wipe the device, but once you’ve unlocked it, you will never have to worry about wiping again, unless of course you decide to install a ROM.

      And if you just got your Nexus 7, unlocking the bootloader should be the first thing you do, so that you don’t have to worry about having to backup everything if you didn’t unlock it and now have a lot of stuff on your tab.

      • http://twitter.com/ChrisCorp ChristopherCorpening

        I have the same question – will my free magazines, books, and movie be gone once I unlock my N7? Or will they remain as “purchased” and I can get them back after installing those apps again?

        • EvanTheGamer

          Yep, that’s correct! Everything that was originally tied to your gmail account will always come back. Like the free Transformers film, it’ll be there after the wipe, you’ll just have to re-downloaded it again if you had downloaded it to 100% previously. So yeah, everything tied to the original account will always be tied to that account.

  • Taylor Daniels

    I don’t know too much about rooting except that it gives the user root access to folders. I don’t really care that much about roms, so should I just leave my Nexus as is or is rooting/unlocking recommended?

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      This isn’t rooting. This is unlocking the bootloader so that if for some reason down the road, you want to get into rooting and ROMs, then your device is ready.

      • Taylor Daniels

        I know, I just asked because I figured those who already unlocked a device before, would’ve rooted theirs also, so I was just asking for an opinion.

      • Tweekex

        I find it funny how little you actually comment on your own website.

        • http://www.facebook.com/treswaters Tres Nugget Waters

          He comments on here quite a bit, actually

  • http://www.facebook.com/rickylashes Rick Lashes

    how about a link to a compatible su.zip we should be flashing after we unlock this thing and flash a recovery.

    • dcvolcom909

      I’m sure that post will be coming, as well as the “un-root and re-lock” post. It’s prob safe to say we will get a “Complete Guide to the Nexus 7″ post because it’s a nexus and DL is just awesome like that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500698751 Paul Hansen

    Should know what I’m doing to my “phone?” That’s one big a$$ phone lol.

  • Pedro

    You should throw in the little tidbit that
    fastboot oem unlock
    erases EVERYTHING on your device. There is no way back. It’s the red pill Sure, it’s in the screen you have to agree to, but really….

    • kevinc

      it says that right in the picture in the article. no need to repeat it, most of us that read this blog aren’t morons, despite what the comments might lead you to believe ;)

      • Pedro

        I guess my head wasn’t turned QUITE enough sideways.

        Oops. :)

  • Ben Tarpley

    Can’t wait to do this as soon as UPS and I can get on the same page!

    • http://twitter.com/branshaw09 Brandon Shaw

      I feel ya. Mine was set to be delivered today and I just got a notification that it was “missed” at the shipping site and now scheduled for tomorrow! I’ve already opened up a case to get a refund on shipping since they missed the 2nd Day Air guarantee.

      • Doug

        lol, they didn’t miss anything, you did.

      • will bartlett

        you will not get any money back. you werent there when they showed up. that is your fault, not theirs.

      • jeesung

        odd. they just left it at my front door. no sig required

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10215724 Raj Bhatt

    Huge +1, anyone rooting their device should understand the process. Thanks Kellex.