Unbricking the Nexus 7

Bricked Nexus 7
Bricked Nexus 7

My Nexus 7 took its second dirt nap yesterday. Note that it’s been software problems both times. Apparently it automatically patched itself into an unbootable state.

The top search results dealing with this issue were useless, and the ones I eventually found involved downloading crap from dubious sources and/or had serious omissions in the instructions (here’s a link to the instructions I used but note that my instructions here actually work), so as a service to Google’s other Mac-using victims customers, here’s how I fixed my problem.

You will need to:

  1. Forget about the stuff on your Nexus 7. It’s gone. (Note that your Apps will reinstall, and if you’ve been automatically backing your device up to your Google account or whatever, everything will come back eventually — it’s actually quite impressive, although it doesn’t make up for the whole self-bricking thing, or how difficult the process you’re about to undertake is.)
  2. If you don’t have Java installed, you’ll probably need to install it. If your copy of Java is out-of-date you may need to patch it.
  3. Download the Android SDK (you’ll need one tool from it called fastboot). Get it here (download the Use an existing IDE link to get the least amount of crap. Expand the resulting archive, rename the folder android-sdk and move it to your home directory.
  4. Download the appropriate factory image from here. (I downloaded “Nakasi for Nexus 7 WiFi”.) Drag the resulting 275MB archive to your desktop, expand it, and rename it Nexus 7 Factory Image.
  5. Now connect your Nexus 7 to your Mac using the USB cable that you charge it with. Hold down the power button until the Google logo disappears then immediately press and hold the volume down switch until you see the Nexus 7’s “FASTBOOT MODE” screen (it’s in tiny nigh-unreadable red text accompanying picture of an Android having open-heart surgery). (At any point you can get back to “the fastboot screen” using this process.)

    Fastboot Mode — helpfully rendered in illegibly small type
    Fastboot Mode — helpfully rendered in illegibly small type
  6. Now (assuming your Android SDK is where you I told you to put it), launch terminal and enter ~/android-sdk/tools/android. This will launch a butt-ugly Java application. Check the box next to Android SDK Platform Tools and click the Install packages… button. When that’s done, quit the app.
  7. Next, in terminal enter cd ~/Desktop/Nex and hit TAB (it should autocomplete the name of the factory image directory).
  8. Now, enter ~/android-sdk/platform-tools/fastboot devices and press enter. It should list attached Android devices, in particular your Nexus 7 (along with some funky number).
  9. Now, press up arrow and then replace devices with erase boot and hit enter. Repeat with cache, recovery, system, and userdata. You may get some funky messages such as “are you sure you don’t want to partition”. Unless you get an actual failure or error message you should successfully have deleted all your precious data.
  10. Now, and this is the step missing from the instructions I eventually followed, you may need to unlock your bootloader. Hit up arrow and replace erase userdata with oem unlock. (Don’t worry, you can undo this later if you want to go back in the walled garden.)
  11. Next, hit up arrow again -w update imag and then hit TAB (to autocomplete the name of the image file you’re going to flash onto the device).
  12. At this point I think my device booted itself, but if not you may need to continue:
  13. Now, hit up arrow again and …fastboot reboot bootloader followed by …fastboot reboot
  14. You may want to return to the fastboot screen and use …/fastboot oem lock to return to the walled garden.

That’s it. I hope this saves someone the problems I had.

  • You just saved me. THANK YOU!!!

    My Nexus 7 bricked. It was horrible. Thanks for saving it!!!

  • Shota Ishizawa

    keeps saying not a directory when i do cd ~/Desktop/Nex [tab]

  • Nicole

    Thanks so much. Folders are a little different in current Google download but it works a charm and easy enough to figure out.

    Thanks for taking the time to post this.

  • nerdhunter

    Got all the way to Step 11:
    Next, hit up arrow again -w update imag and then hit TAB
    Where in the terminal command do I enter -w update imag?

  • You hit up arrow to get your previous command, and then add that command line option and hit TAB to autocomplete the line.

  • Ioni Nielavitzky


  • Eddie

    i get stuck on step 8

  • accept

  • Christopher Thiem

    So my question is when he says save the sdk to your home directory what does he mean by that. That has to be a specific download location in order for your terminal operations to work perfectly.

  • The “home” directory is a standard place on Mac / Unix / Linux systems (~). If you’re doing this on Windows I’m not sure what you should do (presumably it’s very similar).

  • carlinscuderi

    Hi, I tried this but get a bunch of “Command not found” errors. Any way to fix this?

  • Command not found probably means you’re in the wrong directory or typing a path incorrectly.

  • Dave J.

    Thanks anyways but these directions are not good. Step 8 is ambiguous at best.

  • The home directory on a Mac is quite specific (it’s ~ in Terminal, and the directory marked with a little house icon in Finder). Sorry, I haven’t gone through the process in detail on a Windows box.