Here’s How to Root the Nexus 7 – But Should You?

I waited several weeks for my brand new Nexus 7. I opened the box with lingering anticipation, powered it on (without charging it first, even though I know better), salivated as I saw the new home screen, and started downloading app after app hoping to find a barrier that this little beast couldn’t surmount. I found nothing. I found absolutely nothing this quad-core $200 steal couldn’t lay to waste.

Satisfied? I should be. Am I? No. I’m an Android lover, and Android lovers aren’t so easy to please…

What Tweaking Can Lead To…

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7, Manufactured by Asus

I think Android fans may be a technologically-minded congregation of masochists. Those of us that have been with the ecosystem for a long time anticipate that something will go wrong. Yet we stick with it. Whether you were an early adopter of the G1 or a true believer in the “Droid” line, you adapted to the flaws in the hope that someday, this ship would right itself.

For me, Android offered a budget-friendly path to touch-screen capability, to 24/7 connectivity, to something to do while I’m sitting in a desolate reception area waiting for my job interview. But the day that Nexus 7 came in the mail, I was already seeking a way to tweak it, to make it better. I was scouring the forums for ROMs, longing to improve upon the performance, to eke out a slightly better benchmark. My device is ranked under the Transformer Prime? Erroneous! I can change that with a quick bootloader unlock, root, custom recovery, Linaro-based kernel, a few init.d tweaks…

Why? It wasn’t until I starting comparing my device against others that I began desiring something with a bit more horsepower, customizations, and tweaking. At one point, a 600MHz processor fit the bill. When that passed, a 1GHz Snapdragon held its own. When that looked like a tick in molasses, I bumped it up to a dual-core Tegra 2. Was that enough? No – my computer at home has four cores! I demand such things from a device a fraction of the size. And while we’re at it, I demand it be reasonably priced.

Now I have four cores in both my phone and my tablet. Moore’s law has been crushed by the mobile onslaught, and Android – which began as a pipe dream for a handful of developers and Google – has evolved into an OS to truly compete with Steve Jobs’ brainchild. It grappled the international market capturing a majority of the world’s smartphone users. It finally saw its first hardware victories in creating the first dual-core devices. And with Ice Cream Sandwich, it reinvented itself, finally delivering on its long-overdue promise: a complete mobile handset.

The Nexus 7

Nexus 7

The best tablet $200 can buy.

Now, with Jelly Bean, and a spectacular and affordable tablet, we are still pining. When I pitched this piece to my editor, I had just received my Nexus 7 and followed suit with most Android anticipations. I was ready to dig into this tablet, dissect its many secrets, root it, unlock it, drop a new ROM, and see what I could knock out with a benchmark. But then I spent a few days with it.

I am actually already an owner of the older, but very capable, ASUS Transformer TF101. Yes, the original. I use it for browsing, reading, gaming, and so on. So when I expressed my interest in the Nexus 7, people asked me why. To be honest, I just like the 7 inch form factor. If I want to watch a movie, I turn to a laptop or my TV. But if I want to lie in bed and read, or take something into a business meeting for quick reference, I like the 7 inch tablet – just like Rita. When I saw the Nexus 7 for cheap, I figured it’d last me a long while.

I wanted a leisure device. Something with which I wouldn’t fool. I wanted a HD screen (check), a fast processor (check), good battery (check), and lightweight enough that it could go everywhere I did (check). A few weeks with the Nexus 7 and I feel that customization is unnecessary. I wanted so much and this device fulfilled every need.

So tonight I sit here, with my shiny new tablet in front of me, ADB already pulled up, and everything ready to go. This thing is about as easy to root as anything could be. But, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to pull the trigger. Maybe I’ll just have another beer and think about it while I catch up on Breaking Bad with this 1280×800 screen.

How to Root It

If you choose to go forward, I include the instructions below. It’s about as simple as an easy-bake oven. I just wanted you to think twice before you let the little green monster out of you.

Find the ToolKit here: http://d-h.st/xMX

  1. Download ToolKit.
  2. Extract.
  3. Install driver in “drivers” folder if not already installed (it will say PdaNet)
  4. Plug in device to computer and place in USB debugging mode (Settings > Developers Options > USB Debugging)
  5. After drivers are installed, run root.exe.
  6. It will asked if your bootloader is locked or unlocked. If you just bought it from Google, it’s locked.
  7. Select your preference of “super user” or “supersu” for root (just a preference choice).

Once you make this choice, it will do its magic. Just keep in mind that if your bootloader was locked, it will wipe all your data. If you’d like a video of the process, check out the video below.


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  • http://gregschier.com Gregory Schier

    mistake?

    “I waited several weeks for your brand new Nexus 7.”

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Yup – my fault. Bad editor. Fixed; thanks for letting me know.

  • Nigel

    Provided the app developer allows tab screen size – Google Shopper is a no go at the moment.

  • http://androidblog.site666.info android underground

    Of course you should root it. How else are you gonna make a backup that includes everything?

  • Keiff

    Be advised that… if you have already set up Google Wallet on your Nex7, you’ll want to clear all its settings from within the Wallet app before you root and rom. Otherwise, you’ll permanently break the NFC’s security element… forever. No going back. I learned this the hard way with my GNex.

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  • Daniel

    I was expecting something more from the article. In fact, I hoped that you would also write about what you lose without root, and why it might be a good idea to keep it like it is (maybe considering that rooting just per se, isn’t that great, at least in my opinion).

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Hey Daniel, what do you think of To Root or Not to Root? It’s getting a little old now, but I wondered if that’s the kind of thing you were hoping for.

    • ssujana

      I rooted my nexus 7 yesterday and my main purpose was to expand the storage if needed using stickmount. I’m also in he same boat..I dont know what to do after rooting. I looked at different ROMs but don’t know which one to install. The nexus root toolkit made it easy, but haven’t tried going back to stock yet.

  • ssujana

    I didn’t erase the Google wallet stuff but when you unlock the device it resets the device so isnt that the same?

  • gust

    switchMe will allow you to have a tablet for multiple users (example: a family) and it requires root access :)

    • Alecia

      Thanks! Everybody else told me that I have to wait for an update and then go into settings and look for users.

  • Anon

    Kaspersky detected a trojan on the rootkit. :( That makes me sad.

  • trier

    Rooting worked incredibly good. No Trojan …

  • alfiealgie

    i just picked up my brand new nexus7 without reading the specs or watching reviews on youtube and now i just found out that nexus7 does not support flash :( and so ,y search began on how to install flash on jellybean and to my disappointment there is no other way but to root it… guys need help!!! are there any other wa to install flash without rooting my nexus7?

    • Agent_Sm1th

      You dont have to root your Nexus to install flash.
      Go to Security on the Settings screen and tick Unknown sources check box. Then download this version of Flash from the link. Others i have tried have worked for video, but the sound did not. If the link doesn’t work or you feel happier getting it from another source, then just make sure its the Flash file version that ends 5011.apk. Heres the link.

      https://www.dropbox.com/s/bqqvm18yyzqn545/Adobe%20Flash%20Player%2011.1-111115011.apk

      Once downloaded click on the file to install it.
      Chrome doesnt work with flash on the Nexus 7 so you’ll have to install firefox. You may have to tick the enable checkbox in the plugins screen of Firefox’s settings. I installed Flashify as well from the store so that if i use Chrome and come across a Flash page it sends it to Firefox to view.
      Hope this helps.

  • frankie

    You can download Flash but doesn’t work with chrome
    Here’s link :
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1787521

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Thanks!

    • demus

      Yeah, but Flash works with other browsers like Firefox

  • Dave McCormick

    Was all set to buy until I read that there is no expandable memory or uSD. How is this different from Apple Ipad in regards to memory? meh…

    • demus

      there is a root app that allows connection to memory stick/flash drives

    • Zarat

      sure, same options as ipad but $500 less. There are plenty of more feature rich tablets running Android if an SD slot is what you need. And they are still half the price and don’t have an o/s that locks you to the itunes store.

      • Zarat

        Sorry, $500 less in Canada. I expect the price difference is less in the USA…

  • gary

    I’m a new, recovering appleholic and got my first android, the nexus 7.

    Just unlocked and rooted. Question though, I did this on my work PC, does this mean I can’t do it on my home PC? Like if I install the toolkit at home, can I do the backup and recovery or do I have to redo everything so that its all on my home PC and not tied to my work PC anymore?

    Also….nandroid backup using the toolkit. When I do this, it asked me to check off a bunch of stuff. What should be checked and what shouldn’t? And what’s the difference between the nandroid backup on toolkit and the CWM app backup?

    Thanks guys/gals

  • Ian

    @Gary its not like itunes, you arent’t locked to 1 PC. You can use as many as you want.

    As for nandroid, I can only talk about my experience with phones.
    A full backup is just that.
    If you don’t back up cache you will lose some data.
    I would tend to do full backups, then your texts, call log etc are also backed up.
    I don’t know difference between CWM backup and nandroid…I always thought they were same thing?

  • Mrs Yvonne Woolley

    Being a real old novice !!over 65, If root my new Nexus 7 so that I can watch my DVD s from a flash drive, How do I back up all my files before I root it? Thank you for all your help. OH If all goes wrong what is the worse case? From a bit scared to root old f–t lol

  • TheDante69

    Greetings….Ive had my Nexus seven for about a week now and im loving it. I also have an Evo View 4G Tablet which i like very much as well. That one has a 32 Gig Mem. This Nexus of mine had 8G mem. I’m a little disappointed in the lack of an SD card slot. It really wouldnt have messed with the price so im a bit bummed they didnt include it. But im learning to enjoy streaming Video and Audio from my Mac-Media hub in my home..and also Dropbox/ Google drive…etc etc. Getting used to the idea of cloud computing. Anyway i do need to Root it in order to attach a USB drive and also for my PS3 controller to work. Thanks for these instructions but i always have a problem . Had it when i rooted my Evo 4G LTE/ my Evo 3D and before that my OG EVO. I rooted them all. The problem i speak of is i am now a Mac user , OSX lion to be exact. And i always have to wait a while before someone puts up instructions on how to root with Mac. Please let me know what i must do that is different. Usually its a little bit of code using terminal. I never have to install drivers though. Anyway i would appreciate if you or anyone could help me with this! Thanks in advance – Dante69

  • Andreas

    Hey! I just had a small question about rooting. Will it keep me from getting OTA updates? I know that custom roms for my S3 cant be updated OTA. But if I keep the Nexus7 stock rom and root it will I be able to update with OTA? Oh and btw. I live in Sweden so I didnt buy it directly from Google so how do I know if it got locked bootloader or not? Thanks for an answer =)

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      You will still be able to update OTA, but you’re most likely going to lose the root then. Check out for tutorials then to see how to keep the root before updating.

  • http://little-apps.org Nick

    I was just wondering what the point is of rooting the Nexus 7? Is there anything that I could do then if it wasn’t rooted?

    • JSJ

      you can plug in the USB host cable and connect cameras or usb drives.

  • ss

    Nexus 7 media importer program works great for USB thumbs. No root needed. Works great.

  • ss

    Root for overclocking CPU to amazing speeds until the nexus 7 vaporizes. Serious gaming for future games. I won’t root until tab can’t handle awesome graphic games smoothly. Also free up some resources from pre-installed bloatware.

  • Tay

    Warning, Nexus-7-root-toolkit-v.1.5 (from http://d-h.st/xMX link) containt a trojan (Win32:Trojan-gen)!!!!

  • paco

    When the tools finished downloading a popup stated that it couldn`t finish cos it couldn`t read the source file and avast blocked the url saying it was malicious ?????????????? any comment ?.Thanks.

  • Rod

    People saying the root toolkit has a trojan just have cheap anti-virus software. That’s just a false-positive, the file is as clean as the sky on summer.

  • Rich

    No shit that was probably the best written internet article that I have ever read. Informative, subtly funny, and good linearity of thought. Bravo you have a bright future.

  • Fred

    Irony: in Chrome on a PC, the avatars render on top of the text in comments. Renders just fine in IE10

  • Phil

    Avast! chokes with a Win32:Trojan-gen virus alert and moves “root.exe” to chest.
    Thought you should know.

  • Morgan

    For those saying the file contains a trojan: You must not know much about software.

    A trojan is a type of malware that is used to gain root access to your operating system. What do you think rooting is? You’re installing a trojan under your own control onto your phone.

    Hell, the original “jailbreak” for the iPhone was done by visiting a website that exploited a browser bug to install the jailbreak trojan on your phone. We’ve come a long way since then, but “rooting” your device is just a fancy way of saying you’re installing a trojan on your device.

  • mark

    the ToolKit @ http://d-h.st/xMX contains a virus (reported by Avira) called TR/Rogue.kdv.750732.1

  • Guy

    This file contains a Trojan, and it has nothing to do with being a rootkit.

    Go over to XDA developers forum to get the rootkit that isnt sending AV programs nuts, and maybe you wont get a trojan like the rest of these fools.

  • tyrone

    After rooting the Nexus 7, I wodered why?. Root is a rude word to Australians you know. I managed to achieve this wonderful thing by brute force and determination. Youtube videos were of little used, based on Toolkit 1.5.2. like they all are. I had to take a bit here, and a bit there from all the usually wrong advice out there on the Internet.

    After I did all this I discovered that it is not possible to save a backup image of all apps on a Nexus 7. You have to backup apps one at a time, and it could all be done using the 1.6.2. Toolkit without rooting. Furthermore, contrary to what many bleat about losing their apps, I rooted my Nexus 7 without losing a single app or data item. You just press the little circle with the six dots along the bottom of the Nexus screen and all the apps you have downloaded are still present. Just drag an app icon onto one of the windows and it asks if you are a return user. Click “Yes” and you have your app with data back.

  • AleciaWhat does it do though

    What does it do though? What is the difference between a rooted nexus 7 and a non-rooted nexus 7?

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