How To: Root the Samsung Nexus S (Updated 01.20.11)

I. Before You Begin

1. This will unlock your phone’s bootloader (so you can flash recoveries and ROMs), and can be undone very easily (unlike the Nexus One).

2. This WILL ERASE all your information on the phone.

II. Setup ADB

1. Head to our How To Setup ADB procedure, once you can see your phone’s serial number after typing adb devices then come back to this procedure and continue.
(MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW ALL THE STEPS IN THE WRITTEN PROCEDURE AS THERE HAVE BEEN UPDATES ADDED).

III. Unlock the Bootloader

1. Turn off your phone.

2. Turn it on by holding Volume Up and Power until fastboot mode comes up.

3. Plug the phone in via USB cable to your computer while it is in fastboot mode.

4. Open a command prompt on your computer by clicking on the Start menu button and typing cmd and hitting enter in the search box.

5. In the command prompt that pops up, type the following with hitting enter at the end of each line:

cd c:\androidsdk\tools\
fastboot oem unlock

6. At this point the phone will ask you to confirm, select yes. You now have an unlocked bootloader.

IV. Flash a Custom Recovery Image

1.  Download the custom recovery image and save it to your computer:

ClockworkMod Recovery for Nexus S

2. Copy the recovery.img file inside the tools folder of the sdk (so it is in the same folder as fastboot.exe)

3. Then in the command prompt that should still be open, type the following with hitting enter at the end of each line:

fastboot flash recovery recovery.img

4. Once it is flashed, leave the phone in plugged in and in fastboot mode.

V. Root the Phone

1. In fastboot mode, select Recovery using the volume buttons and power button and wait for it to boot into recovery mode.

2. Download the Superuser flashable zip file and save it to your computer.

Superuser for Android 2.0 and Up Flashable Zip

3. Once in recovery mode, select Mounts and Storage then select Mount USB Storage so we can transfer files to the sd while it is in recovery mode.

4. Copy the Superuser.zip file to the root of your internal storage (do NOT extract it, do NOT put it in any folders, just on the phone’s storage itself).

5. Select Unmount on the phone.

6. Select Mount System, then select Go Back to  get back to the main menu.

7. Then scroll to flash zip from sdcard and then choose zip from sd card and select the superuser.zip file and wait for it to finish flashing.

8. Once it is done, select Go Back then Reboot System and wait for the phone to reboot.

VI. Stop the Phone from Uninstalling the Custom Recovery Image

1. Once the phone is booted up, plug it in via USB cable and do NOT mount the storage.

2. Open a command prompt on the computer and type the following with hitting enter at the end of each line:

adb shell
cd etc
mount -o rw,remount /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
mv install-recovery.sh install-recovery-no.sh

3. That will mount the system as writable and rename the file that overwrites the recovery image on reboot so that our custom recovery will stay.

4. Turn off the phone and turn it back on by holding down Volume Up and Power to get into fastboot mode.

5. Plug the phone in via USB cable while in fastboot mode and open the command prompt again and type the following with hitting enter at the end of each line:

cd\
cd c:\androidsdk\tools\
adb reboot bootloader
fastboot flash recovery recovery.img

5. Once it is done, you have just reflashed the recovery image and it will now stick. You are all done! You have an unlocked bootloader, a custom recovery image, and root access! If you want to now load a custom ROM head to the next procedure linked below.

VII. (Optional) Load a Custom ROM

1. Head to our How To Load a Custom ROM on the Nexus S procedure.

Thanks Koush for the rooting images!

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  • WARNING TO ALL: Had problems with the clockwork mod listed here (version 3.0.0.0). It did not work! You need to get the latest clockworkmod from http://www.clockworkmod.com and then everything will work awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Windows Vista can’t find drivers for fastboot mode. The drivers for Android device installed just fine. I then booted into fastboot and then connected my Nexus S to my PC and Windows Vista needs to install drivers…but said drivers aren’t found.

    • Peter Minin

      Here is a solution: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=12347750&postcount=2. There “extrasgoogleusb_driver” is “c:androidsdkextrasgoogleusb_driver”.

  • Aloha73

    Please help. (See screenshot)
    I cannot progress beyond step VI (Item 2)
    (STOP THE PHONE FROM UNINSTALLING THE CUSTOM RECOVERY IMAGE)
    adb shell
    cd etc
    PROBLEM BEYOND NEXT LINE (tried both variations!)
    mount -o rw,remount/dev/block/mtdblock3/system
    mount -o rw,remount /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
    CMD DISPLAYS:
    Usage: mount [-r] [-w] [-o options] [-t type] device directory
    IS THIS OK TO CARRY ON FROM?
    mv install-recovery.sh install-recovery-no.sh
    CMD DISPLAYS:
    failed on ‘install-recovery.sh’ – No such file or directory

    THE ICONS ON MY SCREEN DOES DISPLAY “Superuser,” and the phone is working fine.
    I want to get to the end, but am stuck here at present.
    Can anyone help/advise me.
    Many Thanks.

  • Chris Kelly

    Great guide, but i’m having an issue. when i type mount “-o rw,remount/dev/block/mtdblock3 /system” i get the message “mount: Operation not permitted” 
    any help is appreciated. thanks in advance.

    • Mniivan

      I get the same response.  It seems that we do not have root access to our phones.

      • Did either of you ever figure this out? i’m having the same issue

  • Bhayden73

    I can not get it to rename my recovery in the step where you type install-recovery I get failed read only error can anyone help  me with this.

  • Rickjames8974

    Can I root or unlock my Samsung nexus s Android with out a computer just with the phone or I need a computer. And how can I use any service provider instead of Fido?

  • Anonymous

    I worked on this for awhile before noticing it, Thanks for all the good work! And yes work if your on 2.4 or w/e

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  • Yosemitesame

    How can I access and edit the ASEC files/Game files on my Nexus?

    • You can try to gain root access using this method and then downloading Root Explorer from the market

  • Anthonyaldrete

    not sure if this is a driver issue or not but when i setup adb and go into a command prompt and type “adb devices” i see a serial number which im guessing is my nexus s.  Now when i power the phone off and type in adb devices again i get nothing ? is that normal or should i still see my device serial number there 

    • Minivan

      You are not going to see your phone listed when you type ‘adb devices’ while your phone is off because your phone is off.   adb devices lists all the phones it is connected to.  when your phone is on, and not in fastboot, if adb sees the phone, it will list it.  hope that helps

  • Danamoncivaiz

    i cant access mines either the cmd says path not recognized what am i doing wrong?

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