Google recently started rolling out an Android 4.1.2 software update for the Google Nexus 7 tablet and some other devices including the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The update lets you view the home screen in landscape orientation on 7 inch tablets, and includes performance and stability improvements.

But there’s one thing you might want to know before installing the update — you’ll lose root access or any custom recovery you may have installed when you upgrade from Android 4.1.1 to Android 4.1.2 using the over-the-air update.

If you want to keep root access though, there’s an app for that.

Note: If you forget to do this, or something goes wrong, you can also follow our guide for rooting a Nexus 7 tablet that’s already running Android 4.1.2

These instructions will walk you through the process of updating a Nexus 7 tablet from Android 4.1.1 to Android 4.1.2 while keeping root access. Note that the process may be different for other devices — and this doesn’t apply at all if you’re running a custom ROM such as CyanogenMod 10.

Protecting root access

If you have a rooted phone or tablet, all you need to do is install and run OTA RootKeeper before installing the operating system updated.

OTA RunKeeper is available as a free download from the Play Store. The first time you run the app, you should see a pop-up asking if you want to grant it root permissions. Tap the yes button.

OTA RootKeeper

Then tap the big button in the center of the screen that says “Protect Root.” Once you’ve done that, the box that says “Protected su copy available” should be checked.

After that’s done, it should be safe to go ahead and install the Android 4.1.2 update. Note that it will still kill your root privileges and overwrite ClockworkMod or TWRP recovery with the stock recovery — but as long as you’ve protected your root, you’ll be able to restore root access with a tap of a button.

Install the update

If you see a notification alerting you that an update is available, just tape the notification and it will take you to the updater.

If there’s no notification, try going to your settings menu, scroll down and select the “About” option near the bottom of the screen, and then choose “System updates.”

From there you should see a message letting you know what the update does (sort of), and asking if you want to restart your tablet and install the new software. You can also check for updates if there’s not one waiting for you.

Or you can download Android 4.1.2 for the Google Nexus 7 directly from the Google servers and install it using TWRP or ClockworkMod if all else fails.

Restore Root

Once you choose the reboot and install option, it should take about 5 to 10 minutes for your device to install the update and reboot into Android 4.1.2.

When that’s done, you won’t have root access anymore — until you fire up OTA RootKeeper again and this time choose the option to “Restore Root” rather than protect it.

That’s it. You should now have root access again and be able to use apps that require root permissions including Titanium Backup or root file explorers.

Installing Custom Recovery

A custom recovery utility makes it easy to flash (install) software updates, make a complete backup of your system, or make other changes in a pre-boot environment.

Once your tablet is rooted, the simplest way to install a custom recovery is to install the free GooManager app from the Play Store, open the menu, and choose the option to “install OpenScript Recovery.”

That will download and install the TWRP custom recovery on your tablet. You can boot into it at any time by opening the GooManager app again and choosing the “Reboot Recovery” option.


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14 replies on “Update Google Nexus 7 to Android 4.1.2 without loosing root”

  1. I was not able to perform this because I had a custom kernel. OTA RootKeeper was not able to preserve my root. I had to perform a backup of my apps, data and then perform a clean wipe/factory reset followed by a fresh install of 4.1.2. This might only work if you have a STOCK ROM, STOCK KERNEL, normal boot-loader and an un-edited build.prop.

  2. I’m having the same problem updating my Nexus Seven as Dan. Now when I check for updates it tells me that I already have the latest update even though I’m still running 4.1.1.
    If I do try to install manually, should I wipe Dalvik cache and wipe data?

    1. Mike, go to your app settings and clear all the data from your Google Services Framework. Now check for updates again and it should at least find the 4.1.2 update to download.

      Now whether either of us can actually get it to install remains to be seen.

  3. I keep getting the “dead Android with red exclamation mark” screen every time I try to install the OTA update. I’ve followed the instructions in this article for using RootKeeper, and I even tried its option to temporarily un-root before performing the update, but no luck. Anyone have any ideas? I’d prefer not to install the update manually unless I have to.

      1. Yes, bootloader was unlocked when I originally rooted.

        Like I said, I wanted to avoid doing a manual install if possible as it sounds more involved than I’d like to get into, and I’d really like to figure out what’s causing this problem for my own curiosity’s sake, but it looks like I’m going to have to bite the bullet.

        1. I had this problem before and solved it by reinstalling ClockWorkMod recovery

      2. Used GooManager to install TWRP and tried installing 4.1.2 through it. Still fails every time. I give up.

        1. Hmm, that’s pretty much exactly the procedure I followed with no problems. What error message are you seeing in TWRP, exactly?

          1. assert failed: apply_patch_check (” /system/build.prop” , “96900041ce902079627c4cad
            E: Error in /sdcard/(long name of the update file here)
            Error flashing zip ‘/sdcard(name of file)

            I read someone on another forum who had run into a problem caused by a modified build.prop file, but I restored my build.prop to original with Build.Prop Editor and the problem persists.

          2. Hmm… certainly sounds like it’s still a build.prop error. I wonder if it’s possible to download/replace your build.prop with one from another N7 in case something’s going wrong when you try to edit.

            I suspect until you get this resolved you won’t be able to install any future updates.

          3. I found a copy of the vanilla build.prop file on another site. However, I have no idea how to replace my current one with the vanilla copy. It seems it can’t simply be copied over in File Manager HD.

            Any suggestions?

          4. If you’re comfortable using adb, this would help:


            Or you can use ES File Explorer to edit it manually. Follow the Method 2 steps from this link to find/edit the build.prop file.


            And copy/paste the text of the build.prop file you found online into that file before rebooting.

            Before doing *either* of those things, I’d recommend using TWRP to make a complete backup of your device. That way if something goes wrong and your device isn’t bootable, you should be able to boot into recovery (which may require connecting to your PC and running adb) and restore your backup containing your current build.prop.

          5. Brad – thanks for your first post with instructions above which I followed when upgrading this morning to 4.2.2 on nexus 7. I used two roof checker programs during the process. After I upgraded, as expected, root checkers confirmed that device no longer rooted.I then hit the restore button (OTA root keeper) and run both root checkers again and both confirmed the device had successfully re-rooted.

            I hope others who experienced problems got the issue sorted.

            Thanks again for a very useful post.

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