How to root the Google Nexus 7, unlock the bootloader, install custom recovery

The Google Nexus 7 is a pretty great tablet right out of the box. It has a speedy NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, a 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display, and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software.

But before doing anything else with my Nexus 7 when it arrived, I wanted to unlock the bootloader, root the tablet, and install a custom recovery.

Those three steps let you:

  1. Install a custom recovery or other software
  2. Run apps that require root permissions, such as Titanium Backup
  3. Completely backup and restore the device or flash custom firmware

Since unlocking the bootloader will wipe all data from your device, it’s a good idea either to back everything up before starting, or to just do it as soon as your Nexus 7 arrives, so there’s not much of anything to wipe. I chose the latter option.

There’s also always a chance that something could go wrong, so proceed with caution.

Update 10/15/2012: If you’re running Android 4.1.2, you may want to check out our updated guide for rooting the Nexus 7 running Android 4.1.2.

Fortunately, there are very easy ways to accomplish all three goals — using one tool: Nexus Root Toolkit.

You can download the latest version of Nexus Root Toolkit from the xda-developers forum. It’s designed to run on a Windows computer, and once you’ve downloaded the file, go ahead and install it on your PC. Then follow these steps:

On your Nexus 7 Tablet

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to open the notification area.
  2. Tap the settings icon next to the time and date.
  3. Scroll down to the Developer options area and tap it.
  4. Slide the switch to turn on Developer options.
  5. Check the box that says USB debugging
  6. Hit the back button to return to the previous screen
  7. Tap the “About tablet” option.
  8. Make a note of the Build number — the last item on this screen.

On your PC

Installing drivers

Open the Nexus Root Toolkit and click the button that says “Full Driver Installation Guide.” If you’re running Windows 7 you can try the Automatic Driver Configuration option on the next screen.

Follow the instructions, and connect your Nexus 7 to your PC with a USB cable when prompted to do so.

The automatic configuration didn’t work for me, and I got an error message. Here’s what did work instead: I found the directory where Nexus Root Toolkit was installed, opened the Windows Device Manager, found the entry for the Nexus 7, and used the “update driver” option.

Then I browsed for files on my PC, and told Windows to look in the C:\Wugs_NexusRootToolkit.v1.5.2\data\drivers directory.

That worked.

Unlocking, rooting, and installing custom recovery

Once your drivers are installed, you can use the other tools included in the Nexus Root Toolkit. Make sure to choose the model type that corresponds with your device.

The toolkit also supports the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, so if you’re using it with a Nexus 7 tablet, scroll down to the Nexus 7 section and choose the build number that corresponds with the one you found in the About tablet area.

Nexus Root Toolkit

The unlock button will reboot your device, unlock the bootloader, wipe all your data, and then return you to the Android 4.1 setup screen.

The process takes a few minutes, and your device may reboot a few times. Don’t worry. This is normal.

Rooting your device lets you run apps that require root privileges, including the excellent Titanium Backup utility for backing up and restoring your apps.

You have two options for rooting: You can just root your device, or you can also install ClockworkMod Recovery (or CWM).

ClockworkMod is a utility that lets you completely backup your device and restore from that backup if anything ever goes wrong or you just want to restore your device to an early state (but not the factory settings).

I actually chose to simply root my device, because I prefer TWRP, or Team Win Recovery Project. It’s a different custom recovery that’s a little easier to use on devices with touchscreens, and it includes a file browser and on-screen keyboard for changing the names of your backups, among other nifty tools.

Google Nexus 7 with TWRP

You can install TWRP simply by downloading and installing the GooManager app from the Google Play Store, running the app, tapping the menu icon, and then choosing the option to “Install OpenRecoveryScript.”

This will let you reboot into TWRP by tapping the “reboot recovery” option in GooManager. But this is sort of a one-time thing. The next time you reboot the tablet, the Nexus 7 will overwrite TWRP with the default recovery.

If you want to replace the default recovery permanently with TWRP, here’s what you need to do before installing TWRP:

  1. Root your Nexus 7 following the steps above.
  2. Install ES File Explorer from the Play Store.
  3. Open the app and tap the menu icon, then choose the Settings option.
  4. Check the box that says “up to root.”
  5. Scroll down and check the boxes that says “Root Explorer” and “Mount File System.”
  6. Make sure to grant superuser permissions if you encounter a prompt along the way.
  7. Return to the ES File Explorer main screen.
  8. Tap the Up box to go to the root directory.
  9. Select the System directory.
  10. Either delete or rename the recovery-from-boot.p file. This is what causes the Nexus 7 to automatically overwrite your custom recovery upon reboot. I prefer to rename it in case I want to go back to custom recovery later.
  11. Now go back to TWRP and install the OpenRecoveryScript.

Now time you can reboot into TWRP as often as you like using GooManager or another app of your choice.

The Nexus Root Toolkit also lets you relock your device if for some reason you would prefer a locked bootloader, flash the stock version of Android that comes with the Nexus 7 and remove root, or backup and restore your device from your PC — assuming you’ve installed ClockworkMod rather than TWRP.

 

  • Azagthoth

    Awesome. Thanks Brad.

  • Krishna

    Thank you for the very detailed write up,

    Before I get started with this, I have one question-If I just root my device and install ClockworkMod will I be able to directly accept updates from google? or will i have to relock to accept updates?

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      As long as you’re still running the stock Google version of Android you should still be able to get OTA updates – although you may lose root access after an update.

  • Anon

    Good write up – next how to is to be able to dual boot both Android 4.1 along with Lubuntu (with each being encrypted, so that if device is stolen, no problems)… where each gets their respective updates…, of course with ability to back it up fully onto a USB drive attached to the Nexus 7? Anyone know of how to do this? To bad we don’t have a bigger drive (32GB) built-in along with HDMI port to make it so we can have just one device and use it at various locations.

    • plasmaboltrs

      To back it up to USB you could use an otg cable and USB flash drive… I bought one and I can stick an SD and micro SD in it as well use TWRP to back up to external storage.

  • bob

    Great article, thanks!
    have you messed around with USB external storage?

  • bsphil

    What if my build is “JRO03D” instead of “JRO03C”? I just installed the update last night for 4.1.1.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      I’ll let you in on a little secret — I used the C option even though I have a D build, and it worked just fine.

      • bsphil

        Excellent, it worked just fine. Thanks for the guide and the tip!

  • naveen

    hey could you please help me by letting me know how to make the nexus7 compatible for the following
    1. To detect a memory stick/usb drive
    2. To access internet via a huawei usb dongle

    Thanks in advance for the help

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      1. Download an app called StickMount from the Google Play Store.
      2. Nothing comes to mind.

  • http://twitter.com/sjprowse stephen prowse

    I have tried to unlock and root the Nexus 7 on two different computers running Windows 7 and cannot get past a message saying “Checking ADB status”. I have checked the device manager and the drivers are installed. Anyone have any suggestions as to whatt I am doing wrong?

    • Steve Mobs

      It’s quite easy to spot what you’re doing wrong. When I reveal it you’ll smack yourself. Ready? OK here it is… You’re using windows.

    • Jaurigue

      Hey Steve, I had the same issue I was able to root my device I just had to keep on killing the ADB32.exe process.

    • Jason Jaurigue

      Your drivers are configured, but they configured using 32bit drivers, and am guessing that you have a 64bit operating system,. Please try uninstalling the drivers completely using USBDeview and then re-configuring them with the 64bit drivers posted early in this thread: http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…9&d=1342290861

  • speedym7

    I found that I could not use a USB 3.0 port on my laptop had to use a 2.0 port.
    Hope this helps some people having issues

  • http://twitter.com/equalizer1988 equalizer

    I had to kill the ADB32.exe process as well. Also during rebooting, it got stock. I had to kill the reboot process as well. That closed the toolkit and I had to start over. The second time everything worked

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.howard.779 Nicholas Howard

    How difficult is doing this and could I damage the tab

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      There’s always a risk that something could go wrong, so proceed with caution… but the steps outlined above worked for me.

  • nnick789uk

    Hi just like to thank everyone for there help just rooted my nexus by using the above took a while worst bit was configuring the drivers but managed in the end.

  • EB88

    can i root with a locked bootloader?

  • Won Choi

    How do I boot into TWRP? I reboot into recovery using Goo Manager or Quick Boot, the N7 reboots to a screen with the Android figure on his back and a red exclamation sign over his open chest. The only way I can figure out to get into TWRP is to reinstall it through Goo Manager (i.e. your instructions above). By the way, thanks for the instructions which worked great for me.

    • Won Choi

      Sorry about the typo above. What I meant to ask is: how can I boot into TRWP after it is successfully installed? I tried rebooting into recovery using Goo Manager and Quick Boot, but it leads to the screen I described above. Thanks.

      • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

        Ahh, I missed that problem the first time around. It looks like you can boot into TWRP once after installing it, but once you reboot the Nexus 7, it overwrites the recovery… unless you rename or remove the “recovery-from-boot.p” file from the /system directory first.

        You can do that using Root Explorer or a root-capable file manager such as ES File Explorer.

      • Won Choi

        It worked thanks. Your post encouraged me to search the XDA forums and found these instructions:
        http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=29341560&postcount=589. I used Root Explorer to add the .bak extensions.

      • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

        Glad I could help… and thanks for pointing out the missing piece in my how-to article. I’ve updated the post with instructions on renaming/deleting that file.

  • Thanks

    I had no problem rooting and unlocking. I selected to permanently flash clockwork mod recovery but how do I boot into clockwork?? I can’t figure it out. Please help!

  • CM

    I don,t have either Model of the nexus 7 i have a JRO03D

  • James Hui

    Im having the ADB issue as well. At first it recognized the Nexus 7 and ADB stalled. Now it keeps saying ADB device not found. Can you repost the 64bit drivers? The link seems broken

  • Frank

    I,m chicken. Can you do for me

  • Tyler Osborne

    Btw, if any of you read the FAQ for Google Wallet it says they don’t support Google Wallet on rooted phones..

  • http://www.facebook.com/dialta Aliou Dia

    Just received my N7, can i still use this procedure?

  • Dean Smith

    Great job, so happy with my rooted nexus 7

  • Darren Thomas

    hello once this process is complete can other operating systems be installed..thank you

  • BenFuF

    Hey, i’d like you to help me decide whether i should root my nexus 7 or not. This is my first android device and i’m a complete ‘noob’ at the moment, since it arrived 2 days ago. Since then i’ve been reading about rooting continuously and i would’ve done it already but i’m a bit concerned. I don’t want to lose my warranty and i’m aware that i can unroot the device to get my warranty back but what if something happens to the screen or power button or something like that? Would i still be able to unroot it so i could return it for repair? My other concern is about the rooting process itself. I’ve read that it’s 99% safe but anything can go wrong. Is this a big risk? Would i be able to ‘unbrick’ it if something happened?
    Thank you for your answers.

    • Nick

      Do it. I was a noob at first, but now I’m a pro. I was surprised at how simple and painless the process was…and I’m using a Mac! It took like 10 minutes to learn how to do it and to actually do it. Rooting is totally worth it!

  • Hasibul Haque

    I need your help very much

    I have Asus Google nexus 7 and it is locked.

    My problem is my tba stuck on loading screen. it shows loading and loading…Now i have tried to unloc my device according to your suggestion but I am unable to configure from My table because it is not starting OS.

    So i cannot do following

    >Swipe down from the top of the screen to open the notification area.
    >Tap the settings icon next to the time and date.
    >Scroll down to the Developer options area and tap it.
    >Slide the switch to turn on Developer options.
    >Check the box that says USB debugging

    And Nexus root toolkit gives message

    “fast boot device was not found.
    - use OEM usb cable to to connect….

    Your driver need to be properly configured…

    Please help me