How to install Android 4.4 KitKat on Nexus 4, 5, 7 and 10

Google starts the KitKat rollout for Nexus 7 and 10 owners

After launching Android 4.4 KitKat alongside the Nexus 5, Google released the latest version of the mobile OS for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The roll-out of the OTA upgrade kicked off on November 13 and the factory images arrived a couple of days later. Since I have already explained how to use the OTA files to get KitKat up and running, in this article I will show you how to do the same by leveraging the factory images.

Aside from allowing users to install Android 4.4, the KitKat factory images also come in handy for those who wish to upgrade, return their Nexus device to stock before selling it, and install various bits (the radios, the bootloader, etc.) to use with custom Android distributions. As you can tell, the factory images have a broader scope and, therefore, I will also cover the other most important ways you can benefit.

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Backup

Before going any further, you should perform a backup of the data on your Nexus device. Nearly every outcome presented in this guide involves removing personal content, so it's best to err on the side of caution.

Requirements

Regardless of why or how you want to install Android 4.4 KitKat (or use the factory images), you will need a couple of things to get started:

  • The Android SDK Tools, that you can download from the Google Developers site;
  • The factory image for your Nexus devices, that you can also download from the Google Developers site;
  • A program that can handle archived files, like 7-Zip or WinRAR (either one is fine; links to the official download pages are included).

I recommend you to store the downloaded factory image in a folder that is easy to access (as close as possible to the root of the drive). For the purpose of this guide I will use a folder named Root on the C drive (the default drive for Windows installs). The path for the folder, in this case, is C:\Root.

Preparations

Now that the aforementioned files are downloaded on your PC, you will now have to install the archiver of choice and the Android SDK Tools. After the latter is installed, open the Android SDK Tools Manager and select the following two items for download:

  • Android SDK Platform-tools -- it contains essential tools for the process;
  • Google USB Drivers -- it contains the right drivers for your Nexus device.

The two are needed to ensure that the PC is able to communicate with your Nexus device, and handle the files needed for the process. I advise you to only use the files provided by Google (and not resort to ones from third-parties) as those are always up-to-date.

To keep things as simple as possible going forward, go to the folder where Android SDK Platform-tools is installed (in my case its location is C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools) and copy the following files to the Root folder:

  • AdbWinApi.dll;
  • AdbWinUsbApi.dll;
  • fastboot.exe.

For verification purposes, if you have followed these steps correctly you will have the following files in the Root folder (the picture below shows the folder items for the 2013 Wi-Fi Nexus 7):

  • AdbWinApi.dll;
  • AdbWinUsbApi.dll;
  • fastboot.exe;
  • The Android 4.4 factory image for your Nexus device.

You will now have to extract the contents of the Android 4.4 factory image to the Root folder. A file without any extension will show up; open it (use the Open With option in the context menu) with the archiver (look for the executable in the C:\Program Files or C:\Program Files (x86) folder) and also extract its contents to the Root folder. A new folder will be created inside Root (in my case its name is razor-krt16o); open it and copy all the contents inside it to the Root folder. Finally, the Root folder will look like in the image below.

The number of files inside the Root folder varies depending on the Nexus device. Factory images for the Wi-Fi Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 yield the same number as shown above whereas the factory images for the Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and 3G/4G Nexus 7 will add one extra (the cellular radio).

You will now have to install the right driver for your Nexus device. Follow the next steps for this process:

  1. After connecting the device to the PC, power the Nexus off.
  2. Turn on your device in fastboot mode; the key combination for your device is either volume down + power button (2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 and Nexus 4) or volume up + volume down + power button (Nexus 5 and Nexus 10).
  3. From Device Manager (Computer -> Properties -> Device Manager) identify your device (it will show up with a yellow exclamation mark icon).
  4. Right click on it, select Update Driver Software and then select Browse my computer for driver software.
  5. Select Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.
  6. From Have Disk... option manually install the android_winusb.inf driver (in my case, its location is C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\extras\google\usb_driver). Accept any prompts you may receive.
  7. Select the Android ADB Interface option when presented. Accept any prompts you may receive.

Final Check

In order to determine whether your Nexus device is ready for the process, you have to enter fastboot mode, open a command prompt window and test if it can communicate with your PC.

To perform the test, go to the Root folder, right-click inside it while pressing the Shift key and select Open command window here. Afterwards, type the fastboot devices command and press the Enter key.

If your device is listed you can continue as the drivers were installed correctly; otherwise you have to repeat the necessary steps as the drivers were installed incorrectly. The image below depicts both cases, with the former shown on top.

Clean Install/Return to Stock

In this scenario all your personal data will be erased from the device, so make sure you have taken my advice to perform a backup. Here is what you have to do to initiate a clean install or return to stock:

  1. Connect your Nexus device to the PC in fastboot mode.
  2. Open a command prompt in the Root folder.
  3. Use the fastboot oem unlock command to unlock the bootloader. A prompt will show up on your Nexus device; use the volume keys to select Yes and press the power button to validate. This command will erase all personal data from the device.
  4. Use the flash-all.bat command to perform a clean install of Android 4.4 KitKat.
  5. Optional: use the fastboot oem lock command while in fastboot mode to re-lock the bootloader. This will not alter the state of the data stored on the device.

Upgrade

Using this method you can upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat and keep all personal data on the device. There is one major caveat, though -- the bootloader had to be unlocked before any personal was stored on the Nexus smartphone or tablet. Here is what you have to do in order to initiate the upgrade process:

  1. Using Notepad, open the flash-all.bat file (or, right click on it and select Edit). To avoid any issues make sure that your Nexus device is disconnected from the PC beforehand.
  2. Identify the fastboot -w update sequence.
  3. Remove the -w so it now appears as fastboot update. Save the file.
  4. Connect your Nexus device to the PC in fastboot mode.
  5. Open the flash-all.bat file in the Root folder (or, you can use the flash-all.bat command in a command prompt window opened in the Root folder).

Install Individual Images

If you are looking to keep the current software (either stock or custom) but wish to install individual components from the Android 4.4 factory image -- the list usually includes just the bootloader, kernel, radio and recovery (which is what I'll discuss below) -- you have to go through the following steps:

  1. Connect the Nexus device to the PC in fastboot mode.
  2. Open a command prompt window in the Root folder.
  3. Use the fastboot flash bootloader/boot/radio/recovery file_name command to install the bootloader, kernel, radio or recovery image (use the matching command, like fastboot flash bootloader bootloader.img).
  4. Use the fastboot reboot-bootloader command to reboot the device in fastboot mode. This is only required for the bootloader and radio installs (in both cases the same command applies).

You can now restore the backed up data and enjoy your Nexus device running Android 4.4 KitKat.

Update: The story was updated to remove section about the lack of the Nexus 10 factory image (the file can be downloaded from said page).

53 Responses to How to install Android 4.4 KitKat on Nexus 4, 5, 7 and 10

  1. PhoenixPath says:

    Ugh..

    Good stuff to know, to be sure. For those that are already familiar with adb and fastboot and just want to get it done without all the hassle: One word.

    Wugfresh.

    Google it, download it, run it, sit back and relax.

    • Mihaita Bamburic says:

      Yeah, sure. There are lots of tools available, but doing it like this is probably safest.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        Depends on what you think may go wrong.

        Wugfresh doesn't do typos, doesn't accidentally skip a crucial step, etc...

        If you haven't checked it out yet, do so. Write it up. It's arguably one of the most popular tools that's ever existed for Nexus devices among those who use stock images/unlock/root/install custom roms.

        I know, I know...I sound like an advert now. *sigh*

        it's good stuff though. Really.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        I think I've used it before, but I'm going to keep it in mind for a future story. Thanks for your suggestion.

        Nice talking to you again by the way. I think it's a subtle hint to cover more Android stuff. :)

      • PhoenixPath says:

        FYI...

        Manta/nexus 10 image for 4.4 is available, you just have to scroll down to it's section. For whatever reason it is not listed at the top.

        Another little reminder that JBQ is gone...

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        Didn't spot it, so thanks for letting me know to look more carefully. I've removed the part about the Nexus 10 factory image now.

        Yeah, JBQ is gone and he seemed happy to be at Yahoo.

      • David Kinder says:

        Looking at their site and had a question. Can you choose the kitkat to root to or does that have to be done after rooting? Thanks.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        Honestly no idea what you mean by "choose the KitKat to root"...

        Once installed, you tell it what version of android you are currently on and go from there. Once it knows what you have, it will use the proper tools to do whatever you select; be it unlocking, rooting, flashing a newer stock image, etc...

      • David Kinder says:

        Ok, i think that answers my question. Basically I am on 4.3 but want to root and flash to 4.4 at the same time. Sorry if I worded it a bit confusing, have only rooted my original kindle fire so far and that was directly following Cyanogen's instructions.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        No problem.

        What device are you working with?

      • David Kinder says:

        Nexus 4. So I know the utility works with it and the 4.4 factory image is released by google. Just didn't know if the utility would bring the factory image into play or not.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        Yep. Upgrading the image is a bit awkward. You need to basically tell it you want to "return to stock/unroot".

        Tell it to use the 4.4 image when it asks you to pick and it will download/verify/flash it for you. From there you just choose 'root' and follow the instructions.

        Good luck!

      • David Kinder says:

        Ah, thanks a lot. That actually makes a bit of sense. Ill give it a go. Thanks for the help.

  2. Neoprimal says:

    Method 2:

    Step 1: Wait a few days-weeks for the OTA update.

    Step 2: Download OTA update when you get it.

    Step 3: Install OTA update when you get it.

    Win!

    • Mihaita Bamburic says:

      Thanks for the constructive comment :).

      You can also not wait and use the available OTAs.

      • Neoprimal says:

        That's why I called it Method 2 :)

        You put the instructions that non-techies will no doubt attempt to follow; if they make 1 simple mistake, whoosh! their phone or tablet is semi-bricked.

        This is why people have issues with Android. They follow these "guides" to update and make silly little mistakes in executing the commands necessary. You can fix your issues, people who follow guides and only know as far as what they're reading, cannot. Rooting and unlocking bootloaders is also the 2nd biggest problem with advancing Android malware, which will permeate systems that are open in this way regardless of good AV protection because they're able to go around it completely. The 1st problem is of course, people installing any and every app from every and any place other than the Play store. Another subject though.

        Anyway, good luck to the folks unlocking their bootloaders and rooting just to get what they will anyway in a few days. Now is better than anything else, I guess.

      • Richard Saunders says:

        Except it's not actually bricked. Bricked is when it's damaged to the point that it will be expensive to fix. There's no part of these instructions that you can flub bad enough to do that to a Nexus device. Worst case scenario you end up in a complete factory state, which wouldn't matter if you backed up your data.

        The only way I can think of to brick any Android device I know of is to flash a bad baseband image, which isn't part of this process. But even then that can potentially be recovered on some devices.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        You're looking at this guide as if its sole purpose is to get Nexus users to unlock their bootloaders. That is not my intention.

        This guide is designed for those who wish to install (or upgrade to) Android 4.4 KitKat now and down the road too, on their Nexus device. The OTA method I linked to is as safe as waiting for the OTA to arrive. Choice is a good thing, no? That's what Android is all about.

        Maybe someone wants to return the software to stock and know that there's nothing left behind, or go back to stock after running a custom distribution and so on. There are a number of major uses for Nexus users.

        I think you are forgetting the fact that Nexus devices are pretty much newbie-proof. If something breaks it can easily be restored to stock (hey, another use for my guide). They're not unbreakable, but they're very close to it. And no warranty is voided if the bootloader is unlocked, because it's designed to be unlocked.

        Unlocking the bootloader on a Nexus device is as simple as installing an app, and just as "complicated" to undo. :)

        As far as I know, unlocking the bootloader is not considered to be a real security threat. Installing malware is. But, then again, no one is forcing users who do unlock the bootloader to keep it that way. A simple command will put the lock back on, though common sense will put the lock on malware more than a line of characters can.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        "This is why people have issues with Android...."

        *laughs*

        Well, it's why some very few people have issues with Android. The vast majority have no idea these options even exist.

        Most of the folks getting into this part of Android are warned (in virtually every post /guide on the subject) and know where to find help should they make any "mistakes". It is incredibly easy to recover any Nexus, Samsung, or HTC from virtually any "semi-brick" state if there is a factory image, ODIN image or RUU.

        In that respect, the only real thing missing from this post is the:

        "Warning: Following these instructions could (maybe, possibly, if you're really unlucky and/or accident-prone) damage your device and could possibly void warranties. Betanews takes no responsibility for the actions of users or any consequences of following this guide." in big red letters.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        You made my day with that last part of the comment :)).

        You know, it did not even cross my mind to add it because honestly if something does break it's fixable by going through every step again. I have yet to meet someone who broke their Nexus device with no hope of returning it back to stock.

        Like you said, it's incredibly easy to "recover" (as you say) any Nexus device. They're made for this sort of thing, after all. People seem to forget the market segment targeted by Nexus devices -- developers (and modders, and consumers) who are always toying with them.

      • Neoprimal says:

        I should have just gone with that instead of being facetious! lol.

        Yeah, sticking a warning in there is what he needs to do, just in case any non-devs/etc. find a link to Google on "how to update..."

        I have never met someone who bricked a Nexus, I did say semi-bricked, which is technically wrong but what I call getting "stuck", which is recoverable but not everyone knows how and there's nothing in these instructions that tell you what to do if something unexpected happens. I also haven't ever had problems updating mine, though I've been lucky enough to get my updates before curiosity beats lazy for me :)

        And what I have seen in terms of "issues" with going this route is really funky, weird stuff. One of my own friends who did it (4.3) has wi-fi issues where he didn't before. I've also read issues that many people who use these images have. Phones rebooting, batteries burning way more, etc. Little niggling stuff that makes you think it might be the hardware but it really can't be, since it worked before and then make you consider the software, yet others who have done it, their devices work fine. Remember the files are only as good as the computers they come from, and if said computers have issues then corrupted files can be pushed.

      • PhoenixPath says:

        " I've also read issues that many people who use these images have. Phones rebooting, batteries burning way more, etc. Little niggling stuff that makes you think it might be the hardware but it really can't be, since it worked before and then make you consider the software, yet others who have done it, their devices work fine. "

        Sounds about the same as what I've seen from OTA's as well. They're just pushed from different sources. (Like applying the OTA via sideload vs. direct OTA)

        It happens. You even get niggling issues on iOS. (WiFi being one of the worst offenders in my personal experience)

  3. Hawk Eye says:

    Where did you get the flash-all.bat file?

    • Mihaita Bamburic says:

      I explained how to extract the factory image in the story. You have to extract a couple of files to get it there.
      1. Extract factory image.
      2. Extract the extensionless file (open with WinRAR).
      3. There it is :).

      • Drew Lynch says:

        I don't have an extensionless file. Any ideas?

      • Hawk Eye says:

        If yoy dowload the factory image from google you get only one file which when you extract gives you only one extracted file with no file extension. This file cannot be unzipped as suggested in the description by the author. What i did was google occam-krt16o-factory-75ccae7a.tgz and found a file with the image and accessory files such as flash-all.bat.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        It can be extracted using WinRAR. Try again :).

      • Hawk Eye says:

        The file without extention cannot be opened or extracted by winrar as it is. You have to add an extention ie. tar to it for winrar to recognize the file. Then you can extract it with winrar which gives all accessory files too. Alternatively 7 Zip will extract the file without extention.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        Right click on it, select open with, go to the WinRAR exe and open with that. This is also a solution. How do you think I did it? Look at that paragraph carefully and read what it says again :).

      • Drew Lynch says:

        My folder looks exactly the same except for the second file from the bottom (the file above the "razor-krt16o..." thats NOT a winRAR file). I may be missing it but i dont see it anywhere or any way to find it.

      • Mihaita Bamburic says:

        Of course that is "NOT" a WinRAR file, because as I have said it does not have an extension.

        Open it manually with WinRAR. That's what I said in the guide.

      • Hawk Eye says:

        Drew download the image file from google. Extract that file using winrar. Now add the file extension .tar to the file without an extension. Winrar will now see that file and you can extract it to provide all needed files. Hope that helps.

      • Drew Lynch says:

        Thank you, I've figured it out. Also, thanks for not being a dick and throwing your weight around because you wrote the article.

  4. Binay Kumar says:

    Great Info ...... Very accurate ...

    Just updated my Nexus 4 to KitKat with the steps.

    In case, you don't find the USB drivers in the mentioned location, you can download them from "http://developer.android.com/sdk/win-usb.html".

  5. Captain555 says:

    Any of this work for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus ?

    • Mihaita Bamburic says:

      Sadly, no because there is no official factory image.

      But, you can install a custom distribution. I am not sure which top one is available with Android 4.4 KitKat, so I can't recommend anything at the moment.

  6. n4user says:

    Thanks for the great post. So there's no difference in manually flashing the factory image as compared to waiting for the OTA right? I am ok with losing all content so no need to wait for the OTA right?

  7. Kirk Leopard says:

    Thanks for the guide. Just migrated over to the Nexus 4 from a Motorola phone. MUCH easier. It's an awesome phone. I don't see myself upgrading for a while, which is exactly what I said about the Atrix HD.... so..... LOL Seriously though, I love the phone and the instructions were exactly what I needed.

  8. Nadeem Ansari says:

    The official update to Android 4.4 for Nexus 4,7(all models) and Nexus 10 was never easy!! Check it out right here!! http://goo.gl/fgfTXq

  9. Richard Saunders says:

    If you're already unlocked, you can just use this method to upgrade instead of wiping:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2528057

    Quickest way to get fastboot if you don't already have it:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=42407269

    • Amrut128 says:

      thank you very much for this link. i almost copied fastboot.exe from wrong place, and got the error fastboot.exe stops working but the above mentioned link saved me, thank u once again !!

  10. Jason Williams says:

    I followed the instructions for "How to force Android 4.3 OTA update on your Nexus 4" (I know it says 4.3, but I thought why not give it a shot). go to http://www.bgr.in/news/how-to-force-android-4-3-ota-update-on-your-nexus-4/ It worked great and was super easy!

    • Yehia Abdelmohsen says:

      You tried this with Android 4.4 right? not 4.3?

      • Jason Williams says:

        Yes. I did it with 4.4. Phone was running 4.3 and I cleared the framework as described in the article. Went to system updates and bam!

      • Yehia Abdelmohsen says:

        Read your comment after finishing the whole process would have been way easier! I'll try it next time though! :D Thanks anyway!

  11. Othon Kyriakides says:

    Does this method root the device? Do we loose the warranty?

    • Yehia Abdelmohsen says:

      No this doesn't root, but you're unlocking the bootloader, so you are voiding the warranty. You can lock the bootloader again if you want to.

  12. Othon Kyriakides says:

    Also, I have followed the steps and upgraded. All works well but I cannot see Google cards anymore. Is there something else I should do?

  13. Yehia Abdelmohsen says:

    Did we really have to unlock the bootloader. It's been hinted by others on the interwebz that flashing doesn't require an unlocked bootloader.

  14. Steven Piper says:

    A warning to all, DO NOT use the method outlined in this guide to update your tablet, it does not work and wipes everything, and i mean everything. So annoyed...

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