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How to: Root the Nexus 5

nexus 5 root

Now that the bootloader on your Nexus 5 is unlocked, you are probably thinking about whether or not you should flash a custom recovery and root. If you decide that root is for you, we’ve put together a set of instructions for you to root your device in the old school, manual way. The good news is that you don’t have to use our instructions, as there are already at least two automated methods out there that will get you to the same place. We’re just a bit old school, I guess, and like to do things the long way. 


*These instructions assume you know how to use adb and have the Android SDK all setup. If you don’t, feel free to use one of the many root toolkits available here, here, and here.

*Seriously, if you don’t feel like spending the 5 minutes that this tutorial takes, there are automated approaches at all three of those links.

1.  First, unlock your bootloader. [Instructions] 2.  Download the latest TWRP recovery for the Nexus 5 to your computer. [Downloads] 3.  Place the .img file in your SDK platform-tools folder.
4.  Plug in your phone in and open a comand prompt from with your platform-tools folder.
5.  Type:

adb reboot bootloader

(Note:  on a Mac you have to use ./ in front of commands.)

6.  Once it boots to the bootloader screen type:

fastboot flash recovery openrecovery-twrp-

(Depending on when you read this, the recovery.img file name could change Adjust accordingly.)

7.  Wait until the recovery finishes flashing and reboot to recovery.

Press Volume Down until you see “Recovery mode,” then press Power.

8.  You should now be booted into TWRP recovery.
9.  Tap “Reboot” and then “System.” TWRP should prompt you to root your phone.
10.  Follow the on-screen instructions to root, should be swiping a bar from left to right.
11.  Your phone will reboot. A notification should appear that reads:

Tap to install SuperSU and root your device.

12.  Tap on it and follow the instructions to install SuperSU through Google Play.
13.  Once it updates, go into your app drawer and open SuperSU. It may prompt you to update “su.”
14.  Follow the instructions to update and then reboot when it tells you to.
15.  You are now rooted.

  • jsssg

    directions worked flawlessly for me on 4.2.2 nexus 5. thanks for the write up!

  • Paul

    So I did this, and it was great. But then I downloaded the 4.4.1 OTA and sideloaded that. Now root isn’t working. When I open SuperSU it says it needs to update the ‘su’ binary, but it doesn’t reboot to TWRP automatically and when I reboot to recovery, nothing seems to happen. How do I get this back?

    Seems like twrp should have a dedicated “root ROM” option in advanced or something rather than an (apparent) one-time thing that runs when you choose “Reboot->System”.

    • Doktor

      This happened to me too. Still had TWRP for recovery so I flashed the v1.80 SuperSU zip file as per instructions on http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2507905

      (you can just copy the file over to your phone if you don’t feel like using ADB)

      • Paul

        Thanks! It’s a little disappointing that TWRP can install SuperSU the first time but not subsequent times. I would have prefered just having the SuperSU zip file on my phone from the start.

  • 3M4NU31

    Stuck on after ./fastboot flash recovery openrecovery……………device isn’t rebooting into recovery
    Any suggestions?

  • novybajwa


  • If the way can be successful, please attach one pictrue. don’t make fun of us.

  • oh , I follow this artical, but i can not reboot my phone to Android when step to 11.

  • Sean Stone

    So I followed these instructions and I seem to be stuck at the boot logo, it just keeps spinning. Any help much appreciated. I’ve always had things go relatively smoothly when unlocking and rooting, never had it stuck like this before. Thanks

    • Greg

      Same thing happened to me. I flashed the factory images and that at least let me boot again. http://www.droid-life.com/2013/11/05/how-to-flash-nexus-5-factory-images/

      • Sean Stone

        Looking on twrp’s page http://teamw.in/project/twrp2/205 you need to reboot between the unlock and the root/recovery. Pretty sure that’s where the issue is

        • TecoRaidboss

          Yes I didn’t restart mine and it was just stuck on the loading screen also another thing that I noticed was the custom recovery image was asking for a password everytime I launched it restored the phone as Greg mentioned and tried it again but now with all the resboots and it worked.

  • Nathaniel Webb

    Root/custom recovery In a nutshell:

    -‘adb reboot bootloader’
    -‘fastboot oem unlock’
    -‘fastboot reboot’
    -‘adb reboot bootloader’
    -‘fastboot flash recovery filename.img’
    -volume key to reboot to recovery mode
    -adb push supersu_filename.zip /sdcard
    -install ^^ in recovery

  • Dan

    So strange that I didn’t pre=order order or even consider buying a Nexus 5, but one showed up at my door yesterday.. I just got the Galaxy Note 3 day of release and I am not willing to part with it for any device.. But I am also scared to sell this thing too.. Has my name on it but its no place on my account.. Hummmmm

  • Tyler

    Seeing this article really brings back the memories from when I was looking at all the rooting articles for the Gnex. I’m going to miss not having a nexus from Verizon.

  • Allan

    Is there a reason why people are moving away from CWM and going with TWRP?

    • Carlton Crasher

      on my s3 and galaxy nexus i had nothing but problems with the TWRP versions….bad flashes, incomplete flashes, and bad backups, bad restores….maybe it was just me but CWM hasn’t failed me but less than i can count on 1 hand..

      • Allan

        Yeah it’s all I’ve ever used and haven’t had any major problems. It seems like TWRP is becoming more and more popular though…

      • Tim

        Same here. The forums for the ROMs I’ve used were filled with people having issues flashing ROMs and making backups. Turns out, they were using TWRP. TWRP may look better, but at the end of the day, I don’t spend very much time in recovery mode, and I prefer functionality over appearance.

    • Butters619

      The only problem I have ever had with TWRP was that it soft bricked my Nexus 7 when trying to root. Besides that I have used it on my One X and Nexus 7 with absolutely no problems. I think more people started using it because it was more consistent and supported more phones. I know the One X never got an official CWM.

    • New_Guy

      I prefer it because of its built in file explorer, clock, ability to charge while in recovery, and ability to run AROMA installer (which is friggin awesome). Very easy to use touch interface as well.

    • Raj Bhatt

      I used CWM for 4 years and just installed TWRP on my GNex right before switching to the N5. It is way more user friendly and has touches like allowing the screen to sleep while it works in the background and swiping to confirm instead of finding a “YES” in a sea of “NOs”.

      You can also create a queue of zip files to flash so you don’t have to keep choosing over and over again when flashing multiple files like ROM, GAPPS and kernel.

      That is barely scratching the surface but you should give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

    • simp1istic

      For one, TWRP stores backups in an intelligent location rather than system

  • Butters619

    It’s funny, I used this exact same method with TWRP to root my Nexus 7 and it soft bricked my tablet.

    But this worked fine

  • Tim

    I’ve grown accustomed to ClockworkMod Recovery and have had far less issues with flashing ROMs with CWM than I did with TWRP. Anyone know if it’s available for Nexus 5? If it is, flashing a SuperSU zip would be just as easy.

  • shamatuu

    why would you want to root the Nexus 5 when its already good to go out of the box?

    • Butters619

      Adblock, titanium backup, root explorer?

  • Vetal

    maybe off topic but maybe someone knows. Tmobile hspa+ on nexus 4 i generally got 9Mbps down and now on tmobile lte nexus 5 I am getting 7Mbps down, same location. is there a reason for this?

    • Allan

      No idea. But I do know that I’m getting faster speeds on T-Mobile than I am on Verizon. Good news for me!

  • TheDrizzle

    So do I still get OTA updates with a custom recovery? I know I will lose root but just want to keep getting updates from Google.

    • snapple

      For you, its UTA… Up The A**

      • Kevin Gallagher

        I just laughed out loud (seriously) thanks for that.

    • Rodeojones000

      No, custom recoveries block OTAs. You won’t even get the notification for one.

      • TheDrizzle

        You sure? I’m pretty sure I had TWR on my N7 and still got OTAs.

        • Rodeojones000

          Pretty sure. Although I guess it’s possible I could be wrong. But I’ve owned an OG Droid with a custom recovery, as well as currently owning two Nexus 7s and a Nexus 10, plus I just retired my GNex. All have custom recoveries and except for any out-of-the-box OTAs I’ve never been prompted to update. The recovery is “supposed” to block them.

  • Godzilla

    How to root Verizon phones:

    1. start a bounty
    2. Hope that your phone is popular enough for a developer to give a damn
    3. Hope they can work miracles around today’s very tight security
    4. keep waiting……..
    5. keep waiting……
    6. Sell verizon phone on e bay
    7. Buy Nexus 5
    8. Cancel verizon
    9. Achieve root in less than 5 minutes
    10. enjoy

    • Shawn Spring

      I weep only because of how true this really is…

    • Dave

      hahah this if funny and now true for att too 🙁 unless you buy unlocked

      • snapple

        Buy a Snapple instead Dave, and save everyone the hassle

        • Godzilla

          dafuq did i just read?

          • Stephen Gutknecht

            Americans sucking the advertising teet

        • Wyatt Neal

          A friend of mine got a Snapple once. Under the lid it said “This isn’t a contest, but if it was, you would have been the grand prize winner.”

      • Butters619

        The One X took so long to root/unlock after the locked it up.

    • Rodeojones000

      Or, stay on Verizon; buy LG G2 (essentially, Nexus 5 but better specs and surprisingly decent and useful LG UI); spend 5 minutes running a few commands in ADB; have root and TWRP on phone; enjoy.

      (Not bashing the Nexus 5, I’d have one if i had another carrier option. Just pointing out that hope for rooting/ROMming a Verizon is still alive and kicking.)

      • pookietookie

        LG UI < Android Stock

        • Rodeojones000

          I used to think so. Go back through my posts and you’ll see I’m one to bash OEM skins until my fingers were sore from typing. But aside from the look (although the look is actually very stock-like), the features LG brings are incredibly useful. Lots of stuff I would get from 3rd party apps is build right in. And regarding the look, as i’m rooted, a few simple mods took care of the things I didn’t like. To each his own though.

          • duke69111

            Agree completely.

        • Good thing is you can flash AOSP to the G2

        • HarvesterX

          I have used CyanogenMod for the last days, each of one stable. I’m gonna go back to a LG ROM though (debloated and deodexed) and add any mods manually. CyanogenMod is great (personally I love AOKP but not supported and still presents same issues here), but you can’t take snap pictures with the back buttons, or long press them to go straight into an app, or have the phone pop up so calls don’t disturb your apps (sms/MMS pop-ups are present though) and a list thst continues (having the Browser open in its own window over a text editor and on a code reference page while I’m coding something so I don’t need to flip back and forth,.. 3d performance.. etc etc.). I’ll flash a 4.3 LG ROM when /if an OTA allows us to build it. Same with 4.4 (but I’ll flash vanilla 4.4 though and just get over what I’m missing). The LG UI is quite nice and Android could steal many parts of it.

          • Andy Stetson

            Completely agree. As much as i miss using Carbon, which ran great on my GNex, i would miss way too many features of the G2 stock rom if i switched to an AOSP rom. Malladus is running great, and with Xposed, i can have my phone however i want. And the battery life is just astounding.

        • C Jacobs

          The Nexus 5 nor any other device runs stock Android. It’s a common rookie mistake so I won’t hold it against you. But for the record, stock Android is the source code that Google pushes to AOSP. And that source code will not work on any device until it is compiled for the specific hardware it is compiled for and has the appropriate drivers added to it. The Android experience on a Nexus device is a skinned experience just as Sense, TouchWiz, etc. are.

          • pookietookie

            Whew! What a relief that you won’t hold my rookie language against me! So maybe “stock” Android is not the correct term here. Vanilla Android might be better. I agree that drivers need to be individually addressed per device but I would hardly call that a skin. We’re talking about UI, not device drivers. Nexus reflects an otherwise untouched UI, with the exception perhaps of the home launcher. But, I would consider that a default from Google and not an added skin. LG and others are slapping a thick coat of paint on top.

    • Great plan… Assuming you get service on T-Mobile or AT&T

    • HarvesterX

      Fairly accurate lol. Phone model plays a big role though. G2 was a quick root/bootloader work around only cause the loki exploit was already used in I think o some Samsung phones? And happenes to work with little effort on G2. But yeah, that’s how the process goes… Sad but true

  • Pdiddy187

    This guide will show you how to remove the need for the ./ on Macs. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1917237

    Scroll down to near the end of the OP. Or search nano ~/.bash_profile

  • korn

    Anyone tried running one of the major Linux distros in a chroot (ie. Debian or Arch Linux)? I’d like to get a real Linux shell and filesystem. I also like the ability of apt-get/pacman installing software or, if need be, make && make install them.

    • chris

      if you make a linux version i will bake you cookies and ship them to you.

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    • mateor

      sure. I was using Botbrew and had full apt-get on my Nook Color. The same guy also offered a chroot installer called pengdroid.

      That particular project is out of date now, but I think others have at least a token of that functionality. Little Debbie, I think it is called?

    • pickles

      You’re asking the wrong crowd.

  • Wyatt Neal

    Anyone have the chance to try out Ti Backup and rooting with the Nexus 5? I thought that the new SELinux permissions might screw up it’s ability to do such things (my Nexus 5’s charging and therefore not had it’s root-cherry popped just yet).

  • Lucas Rains

    A friend shared this link with me: http://www.ibtimes.com/nexus-5-release-date-unlocked-model-will-run-sprint-network-1452872

    It claims that the Play Store Nexus 5 can be activated on the Sprint network without extending your contract. I’m not on Sprint, my friend is.

    Anyone know anything about this?

    • rthvk

      Your friend is correct. I’m glad you’re not the one using Sprint… The downvotes would hurt

      • Lucas Rains

        I figured I had to make that known before getting ridiculed haha. So he can do this if he wants to?

        • rthvk

          Unfortunately, yes 🙂

          • Lucas Rains

            Thanks for the info! I’ll pass it along.

      • Snapple

        Wow, aren’t you a sassy little biznatch! Who do you like taking it from, t-dildo?

        • rthvk

          Kellen or Tim, wanna bring out those supercool mod powers? 🙂

  • rthvk

    Automating this is no fun… It’s just the “HAHA, I’M SUCH A HACKER” feeling you get when you use ADB; it can’t be beat.

    • snapple

      You’ve obviously never done meth!

      • jmsbwmn


      • nb

        Hahahaha! Nice one!

  • Gnex


    • Butters619

      So the other day I said you needed to update your avatar soon.

      Well……apparently Google doesn’t like you anymore…

      • Gnex

        • Butters619

          It’s not official :p

  • zmr333

    Manual is where it’s at. Also gets you set up for a custom rom

  • PuttsMoBilesiCit

    meh, phone has everything I want. no need for root.

    SPEAKING of that. 32GB Black gets here tomorrow 🙂

    Goodbye Verizon, Hello Straight Talk!

    • Wyatt Neal

      It’s the best decision you’ll make all day. I moved to T-Mo and it’s like I have service again!

    • snapple

      Yeah, you like it “black”, don’t you big boi. And 32 gigs? Mmmmm the bigger the better 😛

      • PuttsMoBilesiCit


    • ScoobySnack

      Cellular Adblock?

      • snapple

        No silly, adBLACK

  • EC8CH

    I would root you so good… if only 🙁