This how to guide for the Asus Google Nexus 7 covers backup, encryption removal, restore, rooting and stock rom installation.
My girlfriend and I have been using the Wi-Fi version of the Asus Google Nexus 7 (first generation) released in 2012 for over a year. This tablet has been a workhorse and leisure device, used by both of us. It was time to reinstall a stock rom, root and put a good backup solution in place.
This ‘how to’ guide documents everything I’ve recently done to the tablet, and I hope you find it useful. A ‘thank you’ via the comments would be appreciated.
By following this how to guide you will break your warranty, and might even kill a Nexus 7. I use the Google Nexus 7 (not 3G) released in 2012, and so can not advise on whether any problems will be experienced by second generation or later users.
You are responsible for your own actions, and can not hold 8Bit Mammoth or anyone else responsible for any damages and costs.
How to set up the Nexus 7 for the first time
I’ve started the guide with basic setup instructions for first time users or those reinstalling a stock rom, which is covered later in the guide.
If at any stage you leave the tablet unused for too long, it will blank the screen. Just gently press the power button once, and the display will return.
- Select your language. i.e. English (United Kingdom).
- Choose your Wi-Fi (wireless) network from the dynamic list, else select ‘Other network…’, to manually add a network, which is mainly for those using hidden networks. Once you’ve selected your network, select to ‘Connect’ to it.
- You can now choose to enter a Google account. If you wish to use Google Play and utilise other Google services, you probably should fill in the details at this step.
- Once logged into your Google account, you are presented with various options to choose from, covering: backup and restore, location and communication.
- Now you need to decide whether to set up a credit card for purchases. You could do this later or not at all. You obviously do not need to associate a credit card to download free apps from the Google Play store.
- Now you can assign a name, for the primary person using the tablet. You don’t have to provide a surname, if you don’t want to.
How to unlock the bootloader, root and install ClockWorkMod on the Nexus 7
If you are feeling brave, then you can choose to install to install CWM on your tablet, but this will break your warranty and could ‘brick’ (kill) the device. i.e. It won’t work! That being said, I easily unlocked, rooted and installed a the CWM recovery package.
I prefer the backup options provided by CWM, and even install custom roms if I wish to. If you want similar functionality, here are the instructions.
Please note: I was running the KitKat version of Android at the time of creating this guide. Perhaps depending the version of Android you are using, and the version of the packages at the time of your installation, the instructions might vary slightly.
You need to make a few configuration changes to your Nexus 7 before you begin making the major system changes. Later in the instructions you will need to refer back to these basic changes.
How to turn on developer mode, enable usb debugging and change transfer mode:
- On the Nexus please visit the ‘Settings’ area and then select ‘About’.
- Find the build version (probably down the bottom), and press it multiple times until it states you are a developer. *
- Now go back to the main ‘Settings’ area and select ‘Developer Options’.
- Select to enable USB debugging.
- Again from the ‘Settings’ area, select ‘Storage’, and then click on the three column icon in the top right.
- Change the USB connection from MTP to PTP.
* This is how you change to developer on Android 4.2.2 KitKat.
Installing Skipsoft Android Toolkit.
To make life easier I’m going to refer to a toolkit, that can unlock the bootloader, install CWM Recovery and root the Nexus. I’m sorry, but the software is only for Microsoft Windows.
- Disconnect your tablet from the computer.
- Visit here to download the Skipsoft Android Toolkit.
- Install the toolkit.
Note: You will need an internet connection to run the software, as it does download some files, such as a stock rom.
Using the SkipSoft software.
Next it is time to use the toolkit software, and hopefully you’ve already done the preparation mentioned above.
- Run the package, and then select your specific Nexus 7 from the list.
- Unless you’ve paid for the auto-update version of the toolkit, type ‘no’ when asked whether to check for an update.
- Select the version of your Nexus stock rom to install. Unfortunately the software didn’t list the latest version, so I opted to install the previous version.
- Select your preferred download location.
- Make sure your Nexus is disconnected from your computer, and then choose to install the device drivers (option 1).
- Select the ‘Install Universal USB Drivers to your PC’ option.
- You then install the Universal Adb Driver package.
- Connect your Nexus 7 to your computer via USB.
- Now select option 3 to unlock your Bootloader.
- You Nexus should then reboot and present you with the option of whether to unlock or not.
- Next select item 4 to root the Nexus 7.
- Decide which Superuser method to use. I used ClockWorkMod.
- You will now have to setup your tablet again, including reconfiguring all the settings mentioned under ‘preparation’ above.
- You tablet will then reboot into recovery mode, but leave it alone, even if it seems to have crashed / paused for a while, as it should eventually reboot.
- Select option 6 to flash CWM or TWRP to the Nexus. I opted for ClockWorkMod Touch Recovery.
How to backup the Nexus 7
I have got the Google backup option enabled, but I wanted to go further and use a variety of backup methods. To enable me to move files from my tablet to a computer via USB I did the following:
How to enable USB file transfer.
I was slightly surprised to find the usb file transfer option was not enabled by default. Here is how I enabled it on 4.x.x.
- On the tablet go to the ‘settings’ area.
- Click on ‘storage’, and then the three column icon in the top right of the screen.
- Select ‘USB computer connection’ from the drop-down menu.
- Select either ‘Media device (MTP) or ‘Camera (PTP)’.
I selected the media option, as I just wanted to hook up my Nexus to my laptop, and transfer some files.
How to export installation packages (APK setup files).
In most situations you can just redownload the APK files from the Google Play store. Though perhaps you might find yourself without an internet connection or maybe the software is no-longer available via Google Play.
- Install the ‘App Backup & Restore‘ package from Google Play.
- Now you can select individual packages to backup.
How to use CWM to backup and restore a Nexus 7 tablet.
Further above instructions were provided for installing ClockWorkMod via the SkipSoft software. When using this version of CWM, you can either use the touch screen method or volume buttons and power button to selection options.
Warning: Please make sure your battery is charged before proceeding.
Below are the instructions for performing a backup via CWM:
- Hold the power and volume down button until the Android graphic and menu options appear.
- Press a volume button until the ‘recovery mode’ option appears, and then press the power button to enter the mode. This will launch ClockWorkMod Recovery.
- Please select ‘Backup and Restore’.
- Please select ‘backup to /sdcard’.The backup process took five minutes on my tablet, but the time it takes will depend on how much you’ve installed, placed on the tablet and size of the cache.
Performing a restoration of a CWM backup:
- As mentioned above, please enter ‘recovery mode’ and find your way to the ‘Backup and Restore’ options.
- Now select ‘restore from /sdcard’.
- You now be shown a list, and you can select which ”image’ to restore.
After you are finished with ClockWorkMod.
When you are ready, you can go back to the main root menu and select ‘reboot system now’.
How to transfer your CWM backups from your Nexus 7 to your computer.
Obviously it is important that you then transfer the backups off your Nexus 7 to a computer. Unfortunately I originally had trouble even locating the backups! Depending on the version of Android you are using, the backup location might be different. Here is how and where I found the CWM backups:
- Install ES File Explorer and from the menu options and select ‘Root Explorer’.
- Then browse to the path /mnt/shell/emulated/clockworkmod/backup/
- Now you can copy the backups to another location, ready for either transfering via USB cable, else to a network attached drive. i.e. I transferred the files to a location which my computer could see when connected to the tablet via a USB cable.
How to remove Nexus 7 encryption
Encrypting the whole tablet felt like a great idea, especially as I use it out and about. However whilst others have reported a slight slowdown in their tablet, my frustration has stemmed from the very slow boot time. I decided to forgo the data protection provided by the encryption and remove it.
Warning: Please make sure you backup your tablet first, as this process erases all the data on the tablet.
- Make sure your tablet’s battery is fully charged.
- Visit the ‘Settings’ area and select ‘Backup & reset’.
- Select ‘Factory data reset’.
- Then confirm you wish to erase all data.
When your tablet reboots, the encryption will be removed, but you will need to re-setup your tablet again.
If you intend to use the same Google account with the tablet, and you are using Google’s backup and restore service, it is best you uninstall any unwanted software before you perform the reset, as it will be restored during the re-setup phrase. Otherwise you might find some rather large unnecessary downloads occurring.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where possible I’ve tried to address questions during the guide, but I’ve also put together a small FAQ, which might provide further assistance.
Q. How long does it take for a Nexus 7 to boot / start up?
A. My 4.4.2 KitKat tablet with installed apps and wifi enabled, but without encryption takes just under a minute to start up.
Q. Does Google’s restore service save game progression?
A. No it does not! So if you perform a factory reset, do not expect your saved game data to be restored.
Q. How can I find the product name, variant, hardware version, bootloader or serial number?
A. You can find these details in the bottom left area when you boot into recovery mode.
Q. How can I boot my Nexus 7 into recovery mode?
A. Press the volume down and power buttons during the boot up of your tablet.
I hope you’ve found this monster how to guide useful, and please expect more Nexus 7 and general Android blog posts to be published in the future.