I recently unlocked the bootloader on my Nexus S, and I am looking at ways to finish rooting it. Every reference I find seems to be written assuming non-Google hardware, but the Nexus S is supposed to be open.

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    Is there anything in particular that dissuades you from simply using a custom recovery? The issue is that the /system partition is read-only by default in Android, and you need a way to get su and Superuser into /system/app. The easiest way is a custom recovery (no write restrictions) or flashing a boot image that gives you root access from adb. Jan 10, 2012 at 14:20
  • I'm looking for a way to get sudo with the minimum changes required - replacing the OS or recovery images just seem like overkill, and I'm hoping there's a simpler way (but if there isn't then I'll do just that). Jan 10, 2012 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


Your best source probably is Nexus S: All Things Root Guide -- which is a compilation/collection of several guides. Here you can probably pick your minimalist solution as well as go for the "big thing". In case you need some addional sources (easily to find with a simple Google search, by the way, as that is what I just did):

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you didn't search (your question clearly indicates you did). I put this just for reference by other interested readers here, who might need more details.

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    While references are fine, we want to be a self-contained resource. Per the FAQ, answers that are mostly links may be removed: http://android.stackexchange.com/faq#deletion Oct 12, 2012 at 18:33
  • It's hard to include full 5 guides, while at the same time not making the answer 20 pages and still not miss necessary details. I always try to include an abbreviated extract -- but sometimes this is simply not an option. You see the OP accepted the answer, so it was helpful -- which is IMHO the most important part (it's not always politics ;)
    – Izzy
    Oct 12, 2012 at 20:36
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    5 isn't necessary, 1 is. This post needs to be useful to future users and survive link rot. Oct 12, 2012 at 22:22

I've just done this for my Nexus S running 4.1.2 so thought I'd let you know how I went about it.

I firstly downloaded the Nexus Root Toolkit on my computer (note that you'll need a Windows machine for this to work). From that point you can pretty much follow the instructions in the application itself and on the site, here's the instructions from the site:


  1. Select the correct device and build (what you are currently running)
  2. Configure your drivers if you haven’t already using the driver guide (If you aren’t sure use Step 3 of the driver guide to test your drivers).
  3. If you need to, backup your important data.
  4. Unlock your device
  5. Root your device

Rather than going through each step in detail (the documentation and help in the application is pretty extensive already) I thought it'd be more helpful to mention the issues I came across.

  • Forgot to unlock it (Step 4) -.- Spent half an hour trying to figure out why it wasn't working and realised I'd skipped a step, you need to unlock the bootloader.

  • Getting the drivers installed - Although I already had the Android SDK and hence the Android Composite drivers the application didn't seem to work with these, it needed to downloaded some new drivers which it does automatically. On Window's Device Manager usually I'm used to using the 'Browse to Folder' option and letting it automatically search but this didn't seem to work for the new driver, instead select the 'Let me choose a driver from my PC' option and choose the Android Phone drivers and the driver is the "Google Nexus S ADB Interface".

  • Not finding the device - This happened a few times where the program couldn't find the device, said it wasn't connected, did I choose the right model etc. The problem seems to be that the adb server was out of date and needed to be restarted but the program wouldn't do that. In order to restart it I just ran adb devices from the command line. For this to work you'll need to have ADB installed and added to the computers PATH. This then allowed the Toolkit to find the phone and proceed on.

  • Left on non-Android screen at end - After the rooting stage the application left a recovery application open on the phone rather than the Android OS, if this happens to you then go to Reboot and just reboot the phone.

This is the last screen you'll see:enter image description here

The SuperUser bit is fine, the Toolkit will have installed it onto your phone for you, I just updated it using the Play store option that is presented in the application.

The Toolkit didn't seem to have installed BusyBox onto the phone but if you do want it then just go to the play store, download BusyBox and then install it.

Good luck!

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