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My Nexus 7 2013 is no longer working properly: I cannot get the screen to come on, and I don't see any evidence of back-lighting even in a dark room. I believe the device starts up and shuts down properly because when it's connected to my computer via USB, I can browse the files on the tablet.

On two occasions, I was able to see the boot screen ("Google" logo with an open padlock at the bottom of the screen). The 2nd time it happened, there was an unusual white horizontal line (typically the background is solid black) crossing the screen. That was two days ago; nothing since.

I suspect it's a hardware issue, but I don't know how to test. So I have two questions:

  1. What can I try to fix the problem? I'm open to using ADB, fastboot etc, but need detailed instructions (am noob).
  2. If the problem can't be fixed, how can I safely clear all my info from the device before I dispose of it?

The Nexus is on Android 5.1.1, and is rooted with an unlocked bootloader. The device is also fully charged.

More info:

When I plug the device to my TV's HDMI, the Nexus outputs the Android UI to the television, and the tablet screen can sense my touch (I can navigate the touchscreen, although nothing is displayed on the tablet itself). So if any diagnostic or fix requires me to see what's on screen, it's doable

  • Did you have ADB activated before this occurred? If you can "pretend" to unlock the phone – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 0:08
  • @EthanZ not sure what you mean by "ADB activated", but I think the answer is yes: I've used ADB with this tablet before and I don't remember disabling it since. How can I "pretend to unlock the phone"? – BeetleJuice Dec 31 '16 at 0:10
  • Turn the phone on and let it sit as if it was starting. Then, do what you'd do to unlock the screen. Plug it into the computer you used to root it and See if it shows up in the ADB device list – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 0:14
  • I updated my answer. Sorry about that. – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 1:41
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This is hardware damage. Your local electronics repair shop can probably replace the screen if you would like. The manufacturer is a possibility too, but it will be expensive.

As for recovering data, most of what you will need to save is stored to the SD card (emulated most of the time), and you said you could view the internal storage. Save whatever you feel you want (always downloads folder and DCIM). Most other data is saved to the cloud by Google and can be automatically imported into a new device.

If you were able to access ADB, you can take a full system backup using the backup command. When it requests access, tap the bottom left corner of the screen after unlocking the screen as if it worked correctly. It's okay if this doesn't work, what you can already access should be sufficient.

You're lucky. Most people cannot access the internal storage when this occurs.

As for wiping the device, you have access to the screen! Navigate to Settings-> Privacy -> Factory Reset. This will delete all data on the phone.

  • Ethan I've added a bit of info to the OP. I'm trying to figure out how to get ADB working (I used it a couple of years ago with this tablet, and I use ADB to sideload apps frequently on another device). adb devices doesn't list the tablet while it's connected via USB. As for the data, you misunderstood my question. I was asking how can I securely clear my data from the tablet; given that it's still working behind the screen, someone who gets it can access my private data. – BeetleJuice Dec 31 '16 at 1:24
  • @BeetleJuice Since you can see the screen, you don't need ADB to wipe it anymore. – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 1:38
  • If you can see the files on a PC, perhaps try booting the PC with some kind of Linux LiveCD and then go through the phone that way. You might be able to even do a total wipe. – SDsolar Dec 31 '16 at 3:17
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    @SDsolar that would probably hard brick the device. If he wants to have it repaired, that's not a good idea. – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 3:33
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    @SDsolar completely agreed. We live in a world of electronic gadgets that are becoming more and more insanely expensive. You don't need that new $1000 iPad or iPhone. Get a cheaper device, use it while it lasts, and don't get too attached to it. I'm using a 4 year old Moto X I got for only $200 when it was 2 years old, and, with some TLC and CyanogenMod (RIP), is still chugging along. – Ethan Z Dec 31 '16 at 12:26
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I had this happen to a Nexus 8 (which is the same, basically), though mine would not show files from the PC. I could see enough on my screen to know it was booting, with weird lines and shapes changing as it did so.

But I was able to see the screen output on the HDMI output. So I connected a regular mouse to the USB port and went into the backup/restore section of settings and there is an option to reset it to factory.

Upon contacting the reseller, I found they would exchange the unit for $40 if I shipped it back to them. That is more than half what I paid for it.

So then I decided to explore fixing it myself. To replace the screen and/or digitizer is very intricate. The digitizer alone was about $20 on Amazon.

There is a very detailed Youtube video on the process. I suggest you watch it and decide for yourself what you want to do.

After watching that video, I canceled my order for the digitizer and never even looked up the price for a replacement display portion of the screen. It wasn't really beyond my skill level, but I already didn't like the memory limit and decided to look around for other options.

My answer:

I put it in a junk box then bought a refurbished 10 inch RCA Viking Pro with 32GB and 1GB Ram, from Walmart, for about $80 or so, then a nice soft black carry case with a handle on Amazon for about $15, and have not looked back.

In the end I am glad my Nexus broke. I could still use it with a mouse and HDMI if I wanted it, but at least I got my personal info erased from it, and all my personal apps and settings came right back from Google onto the new device. I use my phone as my Google Authenticator for the 2FA security.

The Viking Pro (with the keyboard) is so nice it was worth going through all that. It is 10 times the machine for just a few dollars more than trying to cobble together a fix for a broken one. What really makes it shine is the full detachable keyboard. It is not a cranky bluetooth keyboard, either. It has a back button and a screen-off button, and it does copy/paste and all the other control characters just like my desktop - (and that makes it work much better for Lastpass - without the paste function you might as well not even try to use it, and there goes your security).

The carry case is what really makes it work out well. I can still carry it to church and use it as my Bible. One more thing: superb battery life, and easy access to airplane mode when you want.

--EDIT: More info based on comments:

Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2O5Dt1ITD0

Here is the Viking Pro: https://www.walmart.com/ip/134784177

Here is the carry sleeve: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HJCUBZ6

Another interesting development: Since it has so much memory I was able to get my Google Voice running on it, and there is an app that allows it to make phone calls and do SMS messaging via WiFi with no voice or data plan. All using my Voice number which rings on my home computer, the cellphone and the tablet. That alone has saved more than the unit cost.

Plus, the sleeve has a pocket in which I carry my phone for authentication.

That 32 GB storage (plus the 32 GB SD Card) makes a huge difference. It integrates well with Google Drive and with EF Explorer I can move things around however I want, including some fairly large videos, so I don't have to play them directly from Drive. And Netflix allows you to download Netflix Originals onto the card, too. All in all, it makes me wonder why I bothered with the Nexus in the first place.

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    Thanks for taking the time to share; links would have helped :-) I'll look for that video, and try to get a price quote from the nearest repair shop if those are still around. About the Viking Pro: if I get another tablet a 10in is too big for my taste. 7 is ideal, but 8in is acceptable. – BeetleJuice Dec 31 '16 at 4:55
  • You got it. I just edited to include links. The 10 inch is perfect, when carried in the case. And there is no substitute for the keyboard, which is detachable. It allows all the ctrl commands you use in Chrome and word processor on your desktop, for instance. copy/paste, new tab, close tab, etc. Love it. Have a nice day. – SDsolar Dec 31 '16 at 7:38
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    Did you root the tablet? When was the last time it received a Google security update? (go to Settings -> About Tablet and look at Android security patch level) – BeetleJuice Dec 31 '16 at 11:00
  • Funny you should ask. That's the reason I kept the Nexus in my junk box - so I might do that later. But since it is not a phone I don't really see much point. And I have adequate control over storage and such on the new one. But one of these days I will try that out, hooked up to an HDMI monitor, just to see what changes. Here is an article about that topic: cnet.com/how-to/how-to-easily-root-an-android-device – SDsolar Dec 31 '16 at 18:08
  • As for updates, I don't remember about the Nexus. The Viking (Lolipop 5) gets app updates regularly. More than once a month. But I don't think I have ever noticed a Kernel update. By way of comparison, my cellphone is a Tracfone Sonic OneTouch - Alcatel A851L - $19.99 for a 5 inch screen, triple minutes, and 4G data, 4GB memory, and it allows you to move apps to the 32GB SD card - Kit Kat 4.1.2, and it gets some app updates now and then. Thanks for the tip about the security patch level - I'll check that out. – SDsolar Dec 31 '16 at 18:21

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