[International / GSM] Reasons to Unlock the Bootloader (or Root) on a Galaxy Nexus

Last Updated:

  1. jboku

    jboku Well-Known Member


    So I have a couple questions...

    Currently I have an OG Droid running CM 7.1 and love it. The reason I installed CM was because my phone was just so slow and CM 7.1 sped it up a lot. I also wanted to have the latest and greatest gingerbread I could have on it...

    Now my question is with this Galaxy Nexus...

    1 - should I unlock the bootloader if I don't plan on ROMing, at least initially. If so why? If I unlock it, I know it wipes the phone to factory defaults, will I need to re-activate it w/ verizon?

    2 - I was under the impression I would not need to really use custom ROMs because I would be getting the latest and greatest updates directly from google anyways... perhaps some people just like to ROM for fun?

    3 - If I unlock the bootloader and do not root I understand that I can still get OTA updates just fine, however if I root as well, there may be an issue w/ recieving OTA updates? Why unlock the bootloader if you're not going to root? The only reason I root is to use wifi-tether and titanium backup.

    Sorry for the "silly" questions, I was just looking form some clarity. I am very excited to get this phone but have not owned a nexus phone before. My only 2 smart phones i've had are the Droid Eris and OG Droid.

  2. trophynuts

    trophynuts Well-Known Member

    1. Yes. Six months from now if you change your mind and decide to root then unlocking the bootloader will wipe all of your stuff. So i would do this first.

    2. The G Nex will be vanilla android just like your OG droid was. So the same reason you put CM7 on your OG could also apply here. Yes if you stay stock you will be getting the latest and greatest updates from Google. Also yes some people like to just Rom for fun. It can be addictive.

    3. Even if you root and unlock the bootloader i wouldn't worry too much about the updates. There will be plenty of Devs working on this phone that will probably make updates easily flash'able. Also i'm not sure about a Nexus phone but even on like a Droid X simply rooting won't prevent you from getting OTA updates. When you start modifying system files is what prevents the OTA's.
    GalaxyNexus likes this.
  3. So I'm new to this game. I've sadly had a garbage BB for 2.5 years and I've been waiting for something special to come out to upgrade. Now that it's about the be here(the Gnex obv!), I want to ask some basic questions about unlocking and rooting the phone. I'm green but I'm not totally non-techie or anything - I've worked in logistics systems consulting for 10 years, just to give some background. So here 'goes...

    (I apologize in advance if these questions have been asked but the search feature has just been hanging for me and I've browsed threads and found mostly the 'hows' of the topic but not the 'whys'.)

    1) Why unlock the bootloader? What is the advantage?

    2) What is the difference between unlocking the bootloader and rooting?

    3) If I unlock the bootloader but don't root the phone, what is the advantage?

    3a) Will this void the warranty?

    4) If I root the phone, and install a dev version of ICS (like CM9, proper terminology?):

    4a) What less constraints do I have with the phone?

    4b) Would I be able to tether using it?

    4c) Will this void the warranty?

    5) I've heard about bricking phones and frankly I find it pretty scary. Actually, I read somewhere on this forum or another that 'a good healthy fear of bricking a phone is a good start to rooting', lol. How concerned should I be about this?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance! Can't wait for Friday!! Woohoo!! :D:D
    NexusTootsie and Lohung like this.
  4. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator

    I'll take a quick shot at this:

    You need to unlock the bootloader to be able to gain some lower-level access to your phone (one example: this will allow you to mount the /system partition in read/write mode so that the root programs can be installed)

    Unlocking the bootloader is removing the permissions / restrictions on gaining special access to lower-level features and functions of your device.

    Rooting is installing the root programs (the su program and the Superuser.apk app). These programs, in combination with each other, allow you to run other programs under the "root" account under Android (which is actually a flavor of Linux). Programs that run under the root account are not restricted like normal apps are.

    For most folks, not much. For those trying to recover a semi- or soft-bricked device, having an unlocked bootloader will allow the use of some special and privileged fastboot commands.

    I believe so, yes.

    Not exactly sure what you are asking...you mean, what will be different between standard ICS Android and CM9? Well, no "official" support from your carrier, etc. if you encounter issues. But you're likely to see lots of nice features and options, which is really what Android is all about: choice :).

    Yes, although I would caution you to be aware of your carriers terms-of-service regarding that.


    I certainly would caution everyone that is thinking of rooting to do their research, reading, and due-diligence prior to doing so. You, and you alone are taking responsibility for whatever actions you take on your phone.

    Since there is not a 1-click root solution / tool or app for the GNex, the method we'll use for rooting, involving fastboot and the adb utility, might lead some folks to rush-in and type commands that they should not have. Paying careful attention to the instructions and always verifying the MD5 checksums prior to booting or flashing a file will go a long way towards keeping you and your phone safe.

    That being said, this should be a pretty forgiving device, assuming that a stock image is available for reflashing.

    Hope that helps :).


    By the way, I do think I'll probably need to move this to the all-things-root sub-forum, but I might let it sit here overnight in case there are others that are wondering about this and haven't visited the root sub-forum yet.

    Sound okay?

  5. brandonhutch

    brandonhutch Well-Known Member

    I have a couple things to add/ask:

    Can a rooted phone be un-rooted? For example, if I happen to have an issue with it requiring Asurion to replace it, can I un-root it so that it appears that I haven't done anything with it?

    Also, you mention to be aware of the carrier's terms of service re: tethering. This is the absolute only reason I would have to root the phone as stock works just nice for me. Only, I will be getting a Transformer Prime and want to be able to use it when no wifi is available. What do you mean "be aware of your carriers terms-of-service"? I know that it's not legal to tether ... but is there a way that Verizon can see that I've tethered my TP to the Gnex? Otherwise, how would they know? I'm grandfathered into Unlimited Data and this is a huge thing for me to be able to use my TP with my Gnex.

    Thanks in advance for the answers.
  6. blkbeltkid17

    blkbeltkid17 Well-Known Member Contributor

    Yes all can be undone although it is a bit more technical to unroot then to root
    But very well step by step guides will be out soon

    And no if you have unlimited vzw has no way of knowing without a police warent... The worse they can do is throttle your data to almost 2g speeds if they find out... But then you flag a data throttle remover and your up and running again

    I am rooting and unlocking my phone as soon as i get it Friday so anymore questions don't hesitate to ask or pm me
  7. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator


    I have moved this thread to the all-things-root sub-forum.

    To address Brandon's questions:

    1. Yes, you'll be able to un-root. You'll either just remove the root apps that you've installed when you rooted and did not install a custom recovery and/or custom ROM. Or, you'll flash the stock recovery image back over your phone (that will put things back to how they were when you first received the phone).

    2. As far as tethering goes, yes, the carriers can tell, even if you have an unlimited data plan. There are lots and lots of threads here at AF that discuss this issue and the technical details. I'll try to dig-up some of the better ones for you and post their links back here if you want.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Slug

    Slug Check six! Moderator

    ...and I've merged it with another similar topic. Hope nobody gets dizzy but it's best to keep important stuff in the one place. Thanks fellas! :)
    trophynuts and scary alien like this.
  9. blkbeltkid17

    blkbeltkid17 Well-Known Member Contributor

    Ahhh to much moving owell the op of this thread and are pm ing so we working it out
  10. s1ck s0n

    s1ck s0n Well-Known Member

    I would really appreciate that too.
  11. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator

    Okay, firstly, one of our Guides has recently populated each of the Android carrier forums with a thread linking and repeating each carriers policy regarding tether. Here is a sampling of links to those threads for the major US carriers:





    So, if you do have a question about whether or not tethering is acceptable on your carrier, please consult your specific device's forum for their tethering terms-of-service policy.

    As far as other threads here at AF, I found a few (I couldn't find the one I really wanted that really received a lot of attention in the Droid X root forum--I'll keep looking for that one). But these are at least interesting to read in term of peoples positions and opinions regarding tethering.

    It was my understanding that tethering could be discussed here at AF, but not in terms of how to circumvent or violate a carrier's terms of service. You'll see that a few of the threads below were locked by one of our Moderators for doing just that.

    If you do have a question about something, please hit the !Report button to contact a Moderator, or feel free to PM a Moderator to get their final word on a tethering-related post.





    Hope that helps.

  12. John Markley

    John Markley Member

    Still waiting, like everyone else in USA. In the meantime I'm wondering if anyone knows (from personal experience preferably) if the device can be oem unlocked straight out of the box without any activation/setup first other than a battery charge. That is, the very first time it's turned on is by a boot to bootloader (fastboot mode) ?
  13. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator

    I don't know for sure, but that was what I was (am) planning to do, too. I was going to purchase it at a local store and tell them I would activate it myself since I didn't want to deactivate my Droid X yet.

    I would think that being activated shouldn't have anything to do with its unlocked status...

    Perhaps our GSM brethren will shed some light on this...

    John Markley likes this.
  14. John Markley

    John Markley Member

    Exactly my plan as well. Any UK users out there who have done this?.....
  15. teddyearp

    teddyearp A guide with guides

    +1000 ^^^ this

    Actually p3droid has written a one click root app as of Dec 5.
    GalaxyNexus likes this.
  16. s1ck s0n

    s1ck s0n Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much!
  17. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator

  18. kchoadley

    kchoadley New Member

    My questions are:
    -Once I oem unlock the bootloader I can replace it with something else, say CWM without having to root, right?
    -Assuming I can replace to bootloader without having to root, will I be able to do backups and restore from backups without root? (I understand the rom manager app requires root but I am fine doing things manually)
    -regardless of wether I need to root to use CWM, will flashing (and wiping cache/data reset/etc.) wipe backups made in CWM or only affect the "partition" with the system files (not to sure it is an entirely different partition of the drive, but the location of the system file, please feel free to clarify how this portion of the phone storage works) Essentially I'm also asking if things like app data stored on the Gnex will get wiped as well.
    -What specifically will probably prevent me from getting OTA's (unlocking the bootloader, changing the bootloader, rooting) I know flashing something other than the stock ROM (radios etc) will stop this but I don't plan to do that in the near future.
    -Assuming I do put another bootloader on the Gnex (like CWM), will I still be able to manually flash the OTA files once google releases them online? I read that is the best option for rooted Gnexii, but I wanna know if the bootloader used will make a difference. I'm guessing I would need something like CWM as the stock bootloader AFAIK can't flash files like that.
  19. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator


    First-off, welcome to the AndroidForums!

    Secondly, whoa!, that's a big set of questions :), but I'll take a quick shot at them.

    Well, the bootloader and ClockworkMod are two totally different animals. The bootloader is what actually gets your Android device up and running (loading other parts of the OS, etc.). ClockworkMod is a customized version of the recovery utility which lets you perform recovery and special functions on your Android device. The stock recovery is pretty limited in what you can do (purposely so, to keep folks from wielding power they may not necessarily be ready for).

    Well, you can flash and soft-boot ClockworkMod custom recovery without being rooted, but you won't be able to keep Android from overwriting it with the stock recovery upon first reboot without rooting and deleting a specific file that tells Android to re-flash recovery.

    So, if you want a custom recovery to "stick" on the Galaxy Nexus, you'll need to install the root binaries (su / Superuser.apk).

    Same answer as the above. Running ClockworkMod custom recovery (to do your backups and restores) doesn't require that you be rooted, but it helps ;).

    The wiping functions won't (shouldn't--see more comments below) affect / impact your Nandroid backups that you'll make with custom recovery.

    The only caveat is that the SD card, which is normally a separately mounted /sdcard filesystem, is apparently just a separate mount-point off of another partition on the internal memory (i.e., since its not a separately, removable card like in other Android devices).

    I think that a "factory reset" (i.e., which also happens when you unlock the bootloader), will indeed wipe the internal SD card, but I'm not 100% sure about that at this point in time.

    I do believe that this (wipes from within CWM) will all be sorted-out by Koush (author / dev of ClockworkMod custom recovery) at some point so that custom recovery behaves in the same way we've all come to know and love :). By the way, the USB toggle for the SD card is apparently not yet working correctly in CWM for the GNex.

    Usually, the OTA's update.zip files have assert checks that validate OS and other key file version information. So, if you remove, modify, or freeze various system files, the OTA might attempt to install, but will fail. There are also things you can do to explicitly keep the OTAs from being checked-for.

    Simply installing the root binaries (su and Superuser.apk) should not cause you to recieve a future OTA (you might find that you'll lose root after an OTA and have to re-root, but that's pretty easy to fix; btw, the reason you "lose root" is that the su and Superuser.apk files get their root permissions undone during the OTA installation--the files are still there, but they won't be "rooty" :).

    You could always re-flash your phone completely back to stock (including the recovery partition), or, if you are still stock Android, you could just re-flash (or allow Android to) the stock recovery. I believe that there should be a way to flash / install the OTA .zip file from CWM, but you'd certainly want to make sure that you are not running a custom ROM when you do so (i.e., don't want to mix your apples with their oranges).

    That's all I got ;). Hope that helps :).

    jruther2 likes this.
  20. ferdasyn

    ferdasyn Active Member

    It seems there are different software versions for stock Nexus.

    Google engineer also commented that other/localized versions ("yakjuxw", "yakjuux" etc) than pure Google ("yakju") of GN receive updates (or don't) from Samsung, rather than Google.

    First time android user, didn't think I would start fiddling around with ROMs and rooting, since only thing I might be interested would be undervolting. However it might be worthwile to flash the official Google "yakju" build to get timely updates. Since stock localized images might not be available for downloads, would it be beneficial for warranty purposes to do a backup of unrooted system at first boot?
  21. blkbeltkid17

    blkbeltkid17 Well-Known Member Contributor

    You can't do a full ndroid backup unless you are rooted and there in lies the caviat
    ferdasyn likes this.
  22. scary alien

    scary alien not really so scary Moderator

    If you unlock the bootloader, you could use a fastboot command to dump (save) a copy of your partitions to the SD card for later re-flashing. I won't post the commands here because its a very dangerous thing to do if you get the partition information wrong, but it could be used as a poor man's backup and doesn't actually require that you be rooted.

    Certainly not a substitute for a good Nandroid backup, though ;) :).

  23. blkbeltkid17

    blkbeltkid17 Well-Known Member Contributor

    That is to much work and it ain't as good lol
  24. jboku

    jboku Well-Known Member

    So I will definitely unlock the bootloader day 1 but I woudl also like to root it for the simple reason of using tether. Its the only reason I personally like to root. Will I need to re-root every OTA update? Will I still be able to recieve OTA updates?
  25. SolidOrange

    SolidOrange Well-Known Member

    rooting is worth it for free tethering and AdFree alone. i usually include "removing bloatware" in that list as well, but it doesn't apply so much to the nexus.

    i have been dieing having to see ads in the apps on my unrooted razr. since i have never had to see them before, they are all i can look at when they are on the screen. also, since the only difference between many "free" and "paid" versions of the same app is the inclusion of ads, you can save yourself a couple bucks by using AdFree.

    per mod request, i won't post anything further on free tethering. just know that it is an option, and will save you significantly more than the "couple bucks" AdFree will save you. ;)

Share This Page