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How to: Unlock the Nexus 6 Bootloader (Nexus 9 Too)

I get that the timing of this post seems super silly, especially after the conversations we had yesterday, including one where I said I don’t buy Nexus phones to flash all the things, but you know what? Many of you did buy a Nexus 6 or Nexus 9 to do just that, flash and tinker, so we want to make sure you know how to get started. Also, the process for unlocking the Nexus 6 or Nexus 9’s bootloader that we are about to walk through is something I do with all Nexus devices I own, because there is always a chance I may want to tinker later on down the road. Why not be prepared? 

As a reminder, unlocking the bootloader of your phone allows you the opportunity to do things like flash a ROM, root it, or put on a custom recovery. It opens up your device to all sorts of access and power that you wouldn’t typically have in an out-of-the-box experience. It doesn’t immediately provide you with any new features, but with an unlocked bootloader, the opportunity is there.

The process does technically void your warranty, so please understand what that means before going forward.

Ready to unlock?

Instructions


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

*This will factory reset your phone. Thankfully, Lollipop has an awesome restore feature now, so you should have no trouble getting your phone set back up in no time.

*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 or navigate to that directory in a command prompt.

*These instructions include screenshots and images of the Nexus 6, but the process is the exact same for the Nexus 9.

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.  While in there, also check the box for “Enable OEM unlock.”
4.  Plug your phone into your computer.
5.  You’ll need to give it USB debugging access through a pop-up (don’t forget to check the box).

nexus 6 bootloader unlock

6.  Once you have given your computer debugging access, it’s time for commands.

*If you didn’t see the “Allow USB debugging” pop-up, you should when you type the first command below.

7.  Open a command prompt from within the Platform-tools SDK folder where your adb and fastboot files are.
8.  Type the following command:

adb reboot bootloader

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

nexus 6 bootloader1

9.  Wait for your boot screen to appear on your phone. Once it does (it’s a big Android with START), type:

fastboot oem unlock

(Again, it’s ./fastboot oem unlock on a Mac)

10.  A bootloader unlock confirmation page will appear. Tap Volume Up to highlight “Yes,” and Power to select it.
11.  Your phone’s bootloader will now be unlocked. Shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
12.  Once finished, you should be on the boot screen showing “Start.” Press Power to reboot your phone.
13.  During reboot, your phone will go through a factory reset.
14.  Once it boots back up, you are done. If everything went correctly, you should see an unlock icon during boot.

nexus 6 bootloader2

  • yeah, I want to post this tutorial in my website. http://www.jeroanhp.com

  • mizo

    For any Mac users who are new to the rooting process(like me), this(http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1917237) thread helped me out dramatically. At first, I swore up and down I followed the instructions perfectly and I couldn’t get it to work. But with some persistence(including partitioning and installing an earlier version of OS X[Mavericks > Snow Leopard] which may or may not have been the culprit) I have achieved success! I was at the lowest of the low for a few days there, haha. But seriously, don’t give up! Keep on keeping on!

    • mizo

      I also made a few errors in the instructions as well, so double check your steps…and then double check them again.

  • krudl3rx

    http://edwardsamuel.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/fixing-adb-device-not-found-with-nexus-5-devices-in-recovery-mode/

    Add that to the instructions… getting the Windows drivers working is the most difficult part of the whole process…

  • Destroythanet

    Does this void third-party warranties/protection plans like Squaretrade’s?

  • s0uth

    For Verizon as well?

    • Rodeojones000

      Carrier doesn’t matter. The bootloader unlocking process is exactly the same on every Nexus device.

  • Pakmann2k

    Apparently only 43% of readers in here even know what the significance of this is. The other 57% will complain about bloat, locked down features, and will wonder why their splash screen is an At&t commercial. /s

  • geedee82

    The Nexus 9 actually doesn’t display the little unlocked padlock at the boot screen like all the others do to show that its been unlocked. It freaked me out at first a few weeks ago, I thought I did something wrong. I’m a little disappointed, I always like seeing that there on boot. I think it uses an HTC bootloader instead of one from Google.

    • ReturnfTheMack

      Yeah i was a bit surprised to see it uses HTC’s hboot setup.

  • Butane87

    Just noticed this on my N6….if you open your overview and clear everything thats in there…..then exit to your home screen. click the back button repeatedly then go back into overview…there will be random things open. WTF?

    • Butane87

      nevermind….doesn’t do it anymore. I’m an idiot.

  • Carlton Crasher

    I Fastbooted the OEM-Unlock Command, ran a .img that decrypted my phone, and rooted….Nexus 6 is alive..But that AT&T logo thoo oh thats right the case covers it. But that AT&T splash screen thoo…i need a dev to fix that

    • ReturnOfTheMack

      Seems like you can take a credit card and rub off the AT&T logo on the back. As for the AT&T splash screen (bootanimation.zip) and AT&T ringtones, since you’re rooted you can just delete them from /oem/media. Or just delete the entire /oem/media folder, looks like it’s safe to do so.

      http://forum.xda-developers.com/nexus-6/general/remove-att-carrier-customization-thread-t2947581

    • MistaButters

      It’s all the same model number right? Just flash the stock Google images.

  • Godzilla

    It DOES NOT void moto care however. Just so you know. You can still drop your unlocked phone and get replacement.

  • Audio

    I don’t know if the SDK has changed or if I am just using different tools but the commands I use for OSX are:
    ./fastboot-mac
    ./adb-mac

    It is certainly possible I have different tools (I got them from Android Central) but, when I used the SDK, I thought the commands were the same

  • WCM3

    Great write up guys!

  • misphit_917

    Yes Wugfresh was updated to work on the nexus 6.

    • Godzilla

      gotta love wugfresh

  • ReturnOfTheMack

    I was wondering if an article like this was going to be posted, usually happens every year when a New nexus device is released. I remember when y’all first got a Verizon Galaxy Nexus and everyone was so happy all of this was possible on Big Red.

    On that note, nice Samsung/Galaxy Nexus usb cable haha.

    • TairyHessticals

      The cable though…. The shame.

  • Salem Al Habsi
  • Shadowstare

    Those instructions sound strangely similar to every other android device that can unlocked through adb.

  • Salem Al Habsi
  • enigmaco

    hack the planet!

  • Jim

    I thought unlocking a nexus bootloader would NOT void the warranty, Does anyone have confirmation?

    • MistaButters

      It “may” but it won’t. I had to warranty exchange my Nexus and I even told them it was rooted and unlocked when they asked and it was fine. I have never heard of anybody being denied a warranty repair for a Nexus bootloader unlock. (Actually, I’ve never heard of anybody being denied a warranty exchange for any bootloader unlock).

  • Allen George

    Flashing isn’t everything. IT’S THE ONLY THING!

  • Matthew DiGiacomo

    LOL how is this 14 steps???

    • Probably because it assumes zero knowledge of how this type of process is undertaken. Better to err on the side of covering all steps, no matter how obvious or intuitive it might seem.

      • Pakmann2k

        And based upon the recent polls, the new guys need all the steps we can offer.

    • athorax

      Because that is how many steps it takes?

      • Matthew DiGiacomo

        No it doesn’t?

  • staticx57

    See, it is the same as the GNex. The GNex was clearly ahead of its time.

  • Chayes

    For those of you that are more averse to the manual ADB commands, check out Wug’s Nexus Root Toolkit. Just google and download it for free. Does everything for you reliably, with one click. I won’t even go into details as the user interface is so friendly and easy to figure out. Seriously, those of you that are on the fence, go Google it and see if you don’t decide to unlock/root

    • Corey Foltman

      I always use Wug’s toolkit. it’s an awesome tool to have.

    • Guest

      Do you know Wug’s Nexus Root Toolkit works for Nexus 6?

    • ReturnOfTheMack

      His toolkit is great, especially if you want to streamline everything. At the same time though I do encourage people to at least gain a basic understanding of ADB/fastboot commands and how this stuff actually works. It helps to understand everything that’s going on and you can even put commands in yourself using the toolkit.

      • Gideon Waxfarb

        Do you still have to install Java to get ADB up and running? If so, I’d rather have my balls crushed by a wooden mallet 😛

        • Pakmann2k

          You realize there is such a thing as uninstalling? Skip the mallet and install, do your deed, and uninstall. No need to kill your seed. Lol

          • Gideon Waxfarb

            I don’t wanna have to do that every time I get a new device though. Maybe a virtual machine is in order 🙂

      • simmons elton

        Well not a big fun of Nexus and I hear lot s of problems with Nexus 6. So…to save you from headache, I recommend getting phones that are top rated (see http://www.rankingslisted.org/phones/ for example…) instead.

    • MistaButters

      I don’t think a toolkit really saves you much time with bootloader unlock on a Nexus device. The main thing it saves you time with is downloading adb & fastboot.

    • VAVA Mk2

      Best. Toolkit. Ever.

    • t.russell

      …or just buy a better phone, one that is highly recommended (see http://www.marketguide.net/best-phone/ so you don’t need to go through this problem of unlocking.

  • ITGuy11

    Trying to regain some street cred?

  • adbFreedom

    Thank you Kellen. I doubt you remember my comment on the other post yesterday, but this is what I was talking about. Not everyone needs to root or has to root… I get that, but it feels good to have the site get newcomers excited over it!

  • Jay Ward

    Already did this yesterday. Old news DL.

    • Primey_

      Who cares if you did it? It might not be old news for someone else

      • Jay Ward

        Optimus Prime, I am gonna go to walmart and get you a get well soon balloon. I hope you’re not mad at me tomorrow.

  • DanSan

    flash all the things!