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How to: Unlock the Nexus 5 Bootloader

nexus 5 bootloader unlock

Whenever we get a new Nexus device, like the Nexus 5, our mind thinks two things immediately. The first is to unbox the device (Nexus 5 unboxing) and let you all see which product is up next for us to review. Once we are finished there, we immediately go and unlock the bootloader. Why? Well, because unlocking the bootloader of a phone puts the device through a factory reset. Rather than setting the phone up and making it all personal, we like to unlock the bootloader so that we don’t have to worry about it ever again. Once done, we can then get on about our business reviewing the phone and turning it into our daily driver. Plus, if we decide we want to flash a ROM, root it, or put on a custom recovery, we are all set to do that without issue. 

If you are interested in any of those things in the future, this is your first step to making that happen. But you should be warned that unlocking the bootloader of your phone “may” void its warranty, at least according to the unlock screen. You can always re-lock it if you’d like or should you run into warranty claims.

Ready?

Instructions

*Warning – Unlocking the bootloader of your phone, “may” void your warranty.

*First things first, you need to setup the Android SDK so that you can use adb and fastboot commands. There are countless tutorials around for getting this setup, but it’s really not that difficult any longer to get this up and running. Simply download the latest Android SDK from Google, unzip the contents of the file, and head into the platform-tools folder where adb and fastboot should be located. Open a command prompt from within there.

1.  Enable “Developer options” by tapping 5 or 6 times on the Build number in Settings>About phone.
2.  Hit back once and choose Developer options; check the box for USB debugging.
3.  Plug your phone into your computer.

usb debugging nexus 5

4.  You’ll need to give it USB debugging access (don’t forget to check the box).
5.  Once you have given your computer debugging access, it’s time for commands. Type in a command prompt:

adb reboot bootloader

(Note:  If using a Mac, it’s ./adb reboot bootloader or ./fastboot -insert comand-)

nexus 5 bootloader unlock

6.  Wait for your bootloader screen to appear. Once it does (big Android with START), type:

fastboot oem unlock

7.  A bootloader unlock confirmation page will appear. Tap Volume Up to highlight “Yes,” and Power to select it.

nexus 5 bootloader unlock

8.  Your phone will then be erased and the bootloader unlocked. Shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

nexus 5 bootloader unlock

9.  Your bootloader is now unlocked and ready for root, ROMs, recovery, etc.

*Note – We did not just root your phone or flash a recovery or really do much. Your bootloader is just now unlocked and ready for you to tinker as you please. You “may” have voided your warranty though.

10.  You should be on the bootloader screen showing “Start.” Press Power to reboot your phone.
11.  During reboot, your phone will go through a factory reset.
12.  Once it boots back up, you are done. If everything went correctly, you should see an unlock icon during boot.

More on the way!

  • samosa king

    pornhub

  • vidi

    What if the device has the status locked and I can’t even see the “About phone” information and settings?

  • George

    “abt” is not a regocgnized……

    i can’t unlock it, can anyone help me please? :o

  • ed

    How to re lock my N5 bootloader ?

    • joo

      yep how

    • http://droid-life.com/ Rthvk

      Same thing, except with “fastboot oem lock” in case you haven’t figured it out already

  • BuzzKillington

    It should probably be mentioned that you may have to install the USB drivers (found here: https://developer.android.com/sdk/win-usb.html#top) first, in order for the computer to be recognized in the debugging settings.
    I followed the instructions and was wondering why the heck that notice to allow my computer as a debbuger wasn’t popping up on my N5 and after looking around in the Windows device manager, I saw that I needed the USB drivers (had to do the same thing with my GNex, too).

    • Kal5el

      Only useful comment on the page. This worked for me. If you get everything set up, and plug in the phone, and it says USB debugging but does not give you the screen with the computer’s RSA key and the checkbox, this is probably why. It was for me.
      And from Buzz Killington, of all people.

    • randomPerson

      At the time of this comment, Google does NOT have a driver for the Nexus 5 on the “Google USB Driver”-page. They direct you to go to LG. BUT LG does NOT have these drivers yet either!!!!!

      • PotatoOfDestiny

        The one he linked to works fine for this even though the N5 isn’t specifically listed. I ran into the same issue last night.

        You can check whether your device was actually recognized with the command “adb devices”, incidentally. If you don’t see anything listed you probably need the driver.

    • Ryan Rhodes

      thank you i needed that lol

    • JC

      I followed your lead and process claimed my drivers were up to date. Doubting that, I tried the alternate path using sdk manager and it flashes open for a sec and then disappears. BL: I don’t see that second notice either.

    • Tony

      Thanks, needed this.

  • Paul

    How do we root the Nexus 5?

  • Cory W

    I unlocked my new Nexus 5 bootloader following steps in the article, but then discovered one of the bottom speakers is dead and the play store is sending me a warranty replacement. So I need to re-lock. I have not done anything beyond unlocking the bootloader, I have not rooted or loaded a custom recovery. So can I just run the command “fastboot oem lock” to re-lock for return to Google?

    • nexusguy

      Speaker isn’t bad, it’s a mono speaker the other grill opening is the microphone, bummer on a device of this caliber to not have stereo. So, your device is fine.

      • Cory W

        Thanks. The sound is better than my GNex anyway. I won’t complain, I just got the idea it was stereo from a lot of the reviews. So I’ll leave her unlocked and continue to enjoy the new Nexus.

  • Rob

    before everyone starts unlocking their bootloader and thinks in case of warranty needs that they can relock it and everything is fine, I just want to say how LG did the bootloader-check on my Optimus 4X (Tegra 3 SoC though).

    The state of the bootloader on the optimus is determined by a binary string that is stored in a fuse memory on the SoC. This is a small memory (a few bits only) where each byte can only set (burned) once. That means a 0 can be burned into a 1 but physically can not be reverted to a 0. The bootloader does some fancy mathematical, binary and string operations to generate some kind of (binary-)hashvalue and checks something like the last 4 digits, if they are like 1011 the bootloader is unlocked, otherwise it s locked. This means, because you can only change 0 to 1, but not 1 to 0, there are only some correct strings and you can only unlock and relock the bootloader about 16 times (which is not that much if you want to relock your bootloader for security reasons). But furthermore it means that LG can check the fuse-string (it is accessible through the android filesystem) to see how many times the bootloader was unlocked and relocked and thus see, if you voided your warranty. This does not depend on the current state of the bootloader, whether it is locked or unlocked. There is no way to reset the fuse or the counter, unlike the triangle-away hack for the galaxy s phones. Some people managed to burn their fuse to complete 1s, which results in a permanently locked bootloader (manually editing the fuse was the only way to unlock the bootloader on the optimus 4x international versions, which are not unlockable with the official method from LG, it only works for open EU-versions, but a the beginning people didn’t fully understand how the fuse worked and the first successful unlock-method only worked because the fuse was burned accidently to an accepted value).

    I don’t know if LG chose the same method on the Nexus 5 (or Nexus 4), I just want to emphasize that it *might* be possible, and if so, they *might* say your warranty is void (like the article said).

    On the optimus 4x the fuse can be found in /sys/firmware/fuse/odm_reserved. But even if this file is present on the Nexus or not does not ultimately mean, that LG chose this way to lock/unlock the bootloader or if they will check the string to see, if the bootloader was unlocked. Before unlocking you might want to check on XDA, if someone knows more about this…

    Sorry for the long post…

    • br_hermon

      Just leaving a comment so I can see if anyone responds to this. I’m curious if the Nexus 5 does in fact have systems in place to tell if the phone has been unlocked and then re-locked.

  • Joe Avery

    Please be responsible and explain to your viewers the reason for the locked bootloader and the wipe it does unlocking the bootloader Droid Life.
    Also, it should be explained that the only reason for unlocking the bootloader is to install a custom recovery. Once installed one can Root/ROM all they want with a locked bootloader.
    While some of your audience might be well educated in Android ways, much of your audience is not. Leaving the bootloader unlocked is a bad idea. While I understand the reasoning, I would never recommend anyone except a developer whose phone does not leave the desk and who needs to update the Recovery often.
    Even then, once the Custom recovery, such as TWRP is installed, and the phone is rooted, I believe one can update the recovery even with a locked bootloader.

    • Nate Bousfield

      The article states that unlocking your bootloader will wipe the phone multiple times. Also, anyone reading Droid Life knows that and also knows why you would unlock the bootloader.

      • Joe Avery

        Yes, it tells you it will wipe the phone. It even says it will void the warranty. It never explains the security risk. It never explains why Google has it wipe the phone when, it would have been more convient for them to have made it not.
        And no, droid life readers don’t necessarily know about this. After all if they did, you wouldn’t have to wire this how to.

    • Skittlez

      lol you recommend to never leave the bootloader unlocked, unless it stays on your desk? why is this?

      • Joe Avery
        • Incognegro

          Sounds pretty paranoid to me.

          • Joe Avery

            Well I prefer to be paranoid over sorry later.
            My real point is Droid Life should be more responsible. If they take them self’s seriously as journalist. If they are just a BS re-blog site, then go for it give people bad info, or don’t warn them of the risks involved.

          • randpost

            You sound like someone who tries to find a reason to speak when you are probably better off shutting your mouth. You come off as a whiner and blow things out of proportion to support your weak testimony. The majority of Droid Life readership knows about the risks involved with what you choose to whine about.

          • Joe Avery

            I think you should shut the Fup… I’m bringing up a valid point. If the Readership knows about it, then Droid Life doesn’t need to explain to them how to go about typing in Fastboot oem unlock.

            Don’t sit here and tell me that the Readership is smart enough to know the security risk but too dumb know basic fastboot commands.

            And speaking of someone who is looking for a reason to speak…

            It’s not the first time Droid Life has done this. Droid Life constantly tells people to install APK’s they obtain from unknown sources, without explaining the risk involved. This is why I prefer other Websites for my news. I find Droid Life to be irresponsible.
            It’s not that I don’t know better. I’ve been doing Android since The G1, which means before Droid Life existed.

          • randpost

            If you prefer other sites, then go there. You probably work for a competing site.

            Troll got trolled. I win.

          • Joe Avery

            Good job… you won the internet today..
            Douche…
            Funny you bring up troll. Were you not the one that came into a conversation that was done and over with and started popping off at the mouth.
            Know what I think… I think your mad, cause I might have just cause someone to lock the bootloader on a phone. One less phone your Thieving ass won’t be able to hack their personal info out of when you get your dirty little hands on it.

          • randpost

            Stop getting so worked up, it just makes my posts look better and it shows your immaturity. Free life lesson. You’re welcome.

          • acras

            You are entitled to be as paranoid as you want to be , but to come to a website and bash it because it’s writers don’t follow what YOU perceive as being responsible is foolish. Following that up with name calling when presented with a differing view discredits your statements.
            I’ve had unlocked bootloaders for years , and NOBODY other than the NSA has had unauthorized access to my data because I use common sense and personal responsibility. If someone unlocks their bootloader simply because they read about it here then they are stupid and no amount of warning from DL will stop them from being stupid. Why would a reasonably intelligent person do anything without knowing what they were doing and why?
            The security risk of an unlocked bootloader is insignificant considering the bad guy that could exploit it would need physical access to the device , and since several studies show a good portion of users don’t secure their devices with pin,password or pattern , so the bootloader state means nothing. If they turn off app verification, sideload questionable apps and like to leave their phone unattended, then tough s*** . Do you leave your wallet laying around for strangers to play with? Your ssn?

  • Ej McCarty

    I remember getting my g nex. Running In the door grabbing my computer and unlocking it :( good times. Stuck with my note 3 :(

  • Dave

    I take it the “Alt F X” method doesn’t work?

    • snapple

      Keep your ALT lifestyle away from our children, you homosexual apple boi

  • Jeremy Gross

    this is why verizon didnt take it….

  • Santi

    Will the Nexus 5 work on LTE band on Verizon..? On Google Play Store says Nexus 5 supports LTE 4 band. I think Verizon is 4 and 13 bands? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks)

    • ITGuy11

      Doesn’t work, I already tried my vzw sim card.

    • adbFreedom

      Band 4 is Verizon’s AWS spectrum, right now I believe it is only in New York and maybe Los Angeles. So, yes the N5 technically can run on VZW band 4 , but the AWS market areas will be minimal for a while. Band 13 is the main LTE band, which the Nexus 5 is unfortunately lacking!

  • Godzilla

    This is the only phone that makes me jealous versus my S4.

    • feztheforeigner

      LG G2, HTC One and Galaxy Note 3 should all make you jealous.

  • Kahsay Cooley

    Glad to have the freedom yet again of being unlocked, rooted and having a custom recovery. Back in heaven

    • TheDrizzle

      That’s funny, I’m looking forward to running mine stock and getting the OTA updates. Gotta love having choice.

      • Kahsay Cooley

        True, but when there is an update there will always be a developer who will put it into a ROM and whatnot so it all works out and from the looks of battery life I already wanna tweak this a little.

        • TheDrizzle

          Yeah I hear ya. It’s just that you have to depend on the same dev unless you want to go through the hassle of backing up and restoring all your apps every time. I might eventually play around with some ROMS but I’m hoping I won’t need to.

          • Kahsay Cooley

            True that is a down fall but yet I am still going to enjoy making the phone mine to the fullest extent. :)

      • JMonkeYJ

        Haha, it is funny that the easiest devices to mod are the ones least in need of it. No offense intended to anyone who does mod it.

      • http://www.techmantis.net/ Minja Miketa

        After rooting, unlocking, and installing a custom recovery you will still receive OTA updates. Doing so might cause you to lose root, but you can just do that again. Only custom ROMs will stop you from getting OTA updates.

        • acras

          If the N5 is like the Gnex, you will get the ota update, but if you are rooted the download will fail to install because of the modified recovery. Several custom ROMs still receive the ota’s . I tried to install ota’s over my rooted stock and a couple customs and never lost root

  • TheDrizzle

    Ok I’ve been doing custom ROMs and junk since the Moto Droid. But I’m blanking on if unlocking the bootloader keeps your from getting OTA updates? Please refresh my memory!

    • rthvk

      Alone this will not interfere with OTA updates. If you start modding or flash a custom recovery it likely will interfere.

      • TheDrizzle

        Thank you kind sir.

    • JMonkeYJ

      You will still get OTAs, but they will often cause you to lose root and overwrite your custom recovery, so you will have to re-install those.

      • acras

        Not with Nexus direct from Google. Carrier ota’s often break root , but not ota’s from Google, unlocked bootloader you can still update from ota , custom recovery or any mod will just cause the update to fail to install.

        • JMonkeYJ

          This was not my experience with the Nexus 4 or HTC One GPE, but it’s possible I was doing something in a sub-optimal way. With both phones I could install OTAs with a custom recovery, but the recovery would be overwritten and I would lose root. In fact I would get the Android with exclamation mark when I would try to boot into recovery, so I would have to flash a new recovery (either stock or custom) in fastboot before I could use recovery features again. Is that way off from your experience?

          • acras

            Guess I should have qualified my statement. My experience with the Gnex was as I mentioned , And I heard the same for the N4. I tried to install OTA’s from Google over several different ROM’s and all they did was fail , I never lost root. As for the GPE edition , don’t the updates for those come from the manufacturer , in which case they could be doing something to break root as well?

          • JMonkeYJ

            Ah, yeah, I think the difference in our experiences is that I don’t (usually) use ROMs. So I have a custom recovery, but the stock ROM. I didn’t even realize it was possible to get OTAs (the automated ones that show up as notifications) on custom ROMs. I think if you keep the stock ROM then you can take OTAs even with a custom recovery.

          • acras

            I’ve had the same results with stock , just rooted , custom recovery and deodexed to do a little theming . On my stock modified , I’ve gotten where I disable the updater , but that seems pointless now.
            I flash through custom ROM’s every once in a while just to see whats new , but nothing has managed to keep me on one for more than a week . Strange how our OTA experiences are so different. Probably my phone , it didn’t want to root when I first got it , I had to modify the commands slightly from conventional wisdom to get it to root.

  • beng8686

    Off topic: I really wish they gave you an option to change the status bar colors…

    • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

      That’s what root is for.

  • Rodeojones000

    Congrats to all getting to tinker with their new toy. Wish I was joining in on the Nexus fun.

  • Shssael Perez

    Noob question. Can I do the same to a VZW Galaxy Nexus ?

    • MichaelFranz

      yes, you can probably find steps anywhere online but it is typically the same

      • Shssael Perez

        Thank you!!!
        Just found the Droid-Life piece on it http://www.droid-life.com/2011/12/05/how-to-unlock-the-galaxy-nexus-bootloader/ only two years old.

        • MichaelFranz

          no problem, but just be warned, doing it will void warranty blah blah blah and also it will wipe the device. So if you have had it a while be prepared to lose everything and start as if it was out of the box.

          adb reboot bootloader once you have ADB installed and confirmed working then you can do fastboot oem unlock and it does the same.

          etc etc, but just google it

    • beng8686

      Pretty much the exact same instructions.

    • http://www.techmantis.net/ Minja Miketa

      I remember the day that was posted since I got my Gnex day one on Verizon…good times

      Note: Unlocking the bootloader will also wipe the SDcard partition. If you have pictures or files you care about back them up.

  • Ray Gray

    wondering if the nexus 5 will work on verizon band 4 LTE if you stick a already activated sim card in?

    • MichaelFranz

      reports are a big N-O, or as a verizon customer a big F-U from them :)

    • Rodeojones000

      This has been asked 100s of times recently. Short answer – no.

  • Matthew Rebmann

    Think anyone will ever find a way to unlock the carrier versions of the Moto X?? When I get it I know I’ll love it but… the unloacked bootloader on my GNex will be missed

    • JoshGroff

      If I remember correctly, all but the Verizon model can be unlocked.

      • Matthew Rebmann

        That’s no bueno if you’re correct. I’m on VZW

      • Ryan

        The consumer model of the AT&T and Verizon ones can’t be unlocked by conventional means. The Developer Editions can be unlocked though. Still waiting for MotoMaker to be available for the T-Mobile variant…

  • DroidzFX

    Nexus comes in tomorrow then showing Verzion my Bootloader. Got an unlimited plan going for sale.

  • Jon

    Im new to unlocking/rooting. What more will I get out of my nexus 5 if I unlock it?

    • DroidzFX

      Freedom!!!!

      • Jon

        Would you elaborate? I’ve had my nexus 4 for a year now. I dont know anyone thats good with rooting IRL, so I dont try it… But im willing to learn with the nexus 5 (:

        • DroidzFX

          its easy to root and flash roms. Hard to break with system images out there to fall back on if something goes wrong.

          If you ever want to flash custom roms your bootloader will need to be unlocked.

      • EC8CH

        ……

    • Butters619

      As Android progresses there becomes less and less a reason to root. However, with root you can run apps with root privilege (like titanium backup) or modify system files if you wish.

      With an unlocked bootloader you can flash new ROMs with different customizations, or new kernels for overclocking or underclocking or connecting a DAC or a handful or other things, or flash a new recovery so you can make backups. There is a bunch of cool things you can do.

      And Nexus devices traditionally have the best dev community.

    • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

      If you unlock the bootloader and install a recovery, you will have root access. For most people, this is useful for installing third-party ROMs. I don’t know if any ROMs are yet available for the N5, but it shouldn’t take the devs long to make them. Try AOKP or CyanogenMod. Both have a very stock look, but offer 100 times more customization than stock.

      • http://www.techmantis.net/ Minja Miketa

        Unlocking the bootloader and installing a recovery will NOT give you root access. To get root access you will need to flash over SuperUser. This tutorial is literally just unlocking the bootloader.

        • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

          Installing a recovery gets you root access, assuming the recovery has the SU binaries.

    • http://www.techmantis.net/ Minja Miketa

      Custom ROMs will add a lot of functionality not included in stock android. Also, you can run root only apps which is cool. I would at least unlock the bootloader now. It doesn’t actually do anything tangible but it allows you to flash things later. Unlocking it wipes your phone so it is best to do now if you don’t want the phone cleared.

      NOTE: This includes the SDcard partition. If you have any files saved they will be gone too.

  • Rock_Kickass

    Bookmarked, only 2 more days of wait.

  • MichaelFranz

    just tried this on my droid maxx….why it no worky??

    big JK here, just jealous

    • Dave

      You need to hold Alt+F+X on that model….or maybe CNTRL/ALT/DEL.

      • snapple

        you need to hold YOUR+TONGUE+PENIS and connect the dots.

      • feztheforeigner

        I think you mean cntrl shift esc

        • Snapple

          I think you mean Gun+To+Head…

      • snapple

        Once again, Dave, you need to hold your Tounge+Penis+Mouth

  • markgbe

    first thing i did of course. Loving my new nexus… best yet for sure.

  • Steve B

    More Nexus, more!

    • shirin

      dear:After a long time of waiting, the Google Nexus 5 is finally here. It is available at $349 for the 16 GB version and $399 for the 32 GB version of Google’s official website and PlayStore. But regardless of the price, at first glance, the Nexus 5 looks beautiful and definitely premium. As a flagship device for Android’s newest operating system, it received a lot of positive reviews from the tech experts and news articles. Let us see if we are going to end up with the same conclusion as the others.
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  • Greg Morgan

    I wish it was that simple on all android devices…

    • sylviapotter91

      Computer Science is a science of abstraction – creating the
      500USD per week is now easy by following this… Bay35.coℳ

    • CHRIS42060

      I agree. I remember when I had the HTC Rezound and it took 3 times the steps, and you got less out of it.

      • zmr333

        The Rezound was a b**** to unlock. I eventually bricked mine flashing an update to CM when the power went out. Whoops.

        • CHRIS42060

          I never did that thankfully. I do miss not having to do the “wire trick” to get S-Off on my newer phones haha.

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      Sienna. true that
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    • bill

      Android devices are very advanced. Many possibilities there are other devices that do not exist. Than thank youپارتیشن دو جداره