How to unlock and root the Nexus 4

Nexus 4 shipments are starting to arrive for the very lucky souls that were able to get an order in. If you plan on unlocking your bootloader (and subsequently rooting) you Nexus 4, we recommend doing it first thing since unlocking the bootloader will reset and erase everything on your device. If you’re ready to go, you’ve come to the right place, just hit the break to get started.

**These instructions are straight forward and easy, but things can go wrong so we don’t take any responsibility.


  1. You must have the sdk installed and be able to access and use adb and fastboot.
  2. You must have USB debugging enabled on your Nexus 4. If this is the first time going into developer options on your Nexus 4, just go into “About Phone” from your settings and tap the build number seven times. You will now see all developer options from now on.


Unlocking the bootloader

**By unlocking the bootloader you will completely reset your device so make sure to back up anything you want to keep.

  1. Connect your Nexus 4 to your PC via the USB cable that came with it
  2. Launch Terminal / Command Prompt
  3. Navigate to the fastboot/adb folder which will be inside the location where the Android SDK is installed (On Windows, it should be in C:\program files (x86)\android\android-sdk\platform-tools)
  4. Enter the following command: fastboot devices (You should see your device ID. If you don’t, you don’t have the proper driver installed and you can’t move forward unless you get this resolved. See below for help. If you see the device ID move on to step 5)
  5. Enter the following command: fastboot oem unlock  (If you didn’t get a device ID from step 4 and you moved to this step by mistake, it will be stuck on “Waiting for Device.” If this is the case, just hit CONTROL-C to stop it and see the below driver information)
  6. It should say Start in the top right. Hit the power button to reboot.

**If you ever want to lock the bootloader you can simply enter fastboot oem lock instead for step 5.


Gain Root Access

  1. Turn on USB debugging again
  2. Download the latest CWM recovery file for the Nexus 4 (either non touch or touch) and place it in the fastboot folder (again this location should be C:\program files (x86)\android\android-sdk\platform-tools in Windows)
  3. Download and place directly under /sdcard on your device
  4. Enter the following command: adb reboot bootloader
  5. Enter the following command: fastboot flash recovery recovery-clockwork- (or whatever is the name of the current file name)
  6. Tap the volume down so it shows Recovery Mode in the top right, then hit the power button.
  7. At this point you can perform a backup from the “backup and restore” option in case anything goes wrong. If you need to restore this backup ever, just use the restore option.
  8. From the main menu, navigate to install zip from sdcard > choose zip from sdcard >
  9. From main menu, select reboot system now
  10. After reboot you should see SuperSU in your apps drawer, open it and tap on continue to make sure your installation is successful. 

If you followed these instructions correctly, your Nexus 4 bootloader is now unlocked and you should have permanent root. Congratulations!!!


**Driver Issues

You might find that even though you can access your Nexus 4 via Windows, you might have a problem with the driver not installed correctly from terminal mode. You will know you have this problem because the device ID didn’t appear in Step 4 or for Step 5. it’s stuck on “Waiting for Device.” You can’t unlock the bootloader until you get this resolved. The following may help…

Make sure the Google USB drivers are installed from the SDK.

Go to your Control Panel then Device Manager. You should see Android Phone with a Yellow ! mark on it. Right click on it and choose update driver, choose browse my computer, then Let me pick from a list. Select Android ADB Interface. You should be good to go. Return to Step 5 under Unlocking the bootloader.

If you’re having any other issues, make a comment below or head to this XDA thread.

About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.

  • Cole Hoffele

    Will this working nearly exactly the same if im using a Mac?

    • Thomas K

      I think we mac users need to hold off. Although if you’re running bootcamp you can use this method

  • Alex Enfiedjian


  • Francois DESLANDES

    Thanks a lot for the drivers tips. Very useful !

  • marc

    thanks…very useful. crashed my nexus (display) but have to wipe data before sending it in