How to Root Your Nexus Phone or Tablet

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Use the Nexus Root Toolkit to quickly root your Nexus devices, whether you’ve got a Nexus 7, Galaxy Nexus, or even a Nexus S. Rooting allows you to use powerful apps that don’t work in Android’s default sandbox.

We’ve covered rooting Android before, and the method provided didn’t work for many users – it’s hard to give instructions that will work with all the Android devices out there. This method should work perfectly, but only with Nexus devices.

This process will wipe the data from your Nexus device, so you’ll have to back up and restore your data during the process. You’ll also unlock the Nexus device’s bootloader during this process, allowing the installation of custom ROMs.

Install the Nexus Root Toolkit

You can download the Nexus Root Toolkit, developed by WugFresh, here. Run the .exe file after downloading it to install it. The Nexus Root Toolkit will launch automatically after you install it. Select the device model and Android version you’re using.

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If you’re not entirely sure of the device you’re using, open the Settings screen on your device and select About Tablet or About Phone.

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Driver Installation

Ensuring your computer has the correct drivers so it can communicate with your Nexus can be one of the most complicated parts of rooting. The Nexus Root Toolkit includes automatic driver configuration – if that fails, it can walk you through the process of setting up drivers manually.

You’ll need USB debugging enabled on your Nexus to unlock and root it. Open the Settings screen, select Developer Options, set the slider at the top of the Developer Options screen to On and enable the USB debugging checkbox.

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Click the Full Driver Installation Guide – Automatic + Manual button in the Nexus Root Toolkit window to get started.

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Try the Automatic Driver Configuration button, assuming you’re using Windows 7 – ideally, this will take care of everything for you.

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Connect your Nexus to your computer with its included USB cable when you’re prompted. After Windows finishes installing the drivers, click OK.

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If this didn’t work, you’ll have to follow the steps in the Driver Setup window to configure your drivers manually. Complete each step in order, following the instructions – they’ll walk you through the process. Personally, I had to complete the manual driver setup, installing the Samsung drivers (the Nexus 7 is an ASUS device, but the Samsung drivers worked for me).

Back Up

This process will wipe your device, so you’ll probably want to back it up first. Click the Backup button to back up your device.

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Click the Create Android Backup File button to create a backup file containing your apps and data. Tap the Back up button that appears on your device’s screen to continue.

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You should also use the Backup data/media option to back up your device’s media files.

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Unlock & Root

Once your Nexus is backed up, use the Unlock button to unlock your device. The unlock process wipes your device, so ensure you’re backed up before continuing!

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You’ll be prompted on the Nexus to unlock the bootloader. After you agree, your bootloader will be unlocked and your Nexus will be wiped and reset to its factory state. You’ll have to go through the setup process on your Nexus and enable USB debugging mode again before continuing.

After you have, select Do not flash CWM unless you also want to flash ClockworkMod to your device, and then click the Root button.

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Once the Root process completes, open the SuperSU app on your Nexus and update the SU binary.

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Launch the BusyBox app, grant it root permissions, and tap the Install button. You’re now successfully rooted!

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Restore from Backup

You’ll now probably want to restore your Nexus from the backups you took earlier. Click the Restore button.

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Use the Restore Android Backup File and Restore data/media buttons, selecting the backup files you created earlier.

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Tap the Restore my data button when the Full restore screen appears on your device. Agree and your apps and data will be restored.

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Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.