Going Back to KitKat

In December 2012 I bought an Asus Nexus 7 tablet. This was the 2012 Wi-Fi only model as they did come out with a cellular version later on in 2013. I had used the tablet for school, community service project as well as for looking up information at home from the comfort of my couch. Everything was going great, that was until Google pushed out Lollipop (Android 5.x) late in 2014 and my tablet became a very expensive paperweight. It was sluggish and would freeze randomly. Oddly enough, it worked fairly well when I was using it as in car GPS with Google Maps this past spring. Well, except for the issue that it was draining the battery quicker than it could recharge (or it could’ve been the car charger I was using).

After doing some quick searching on Google, I found out I was not the only one disappointed with the performance with Lollipop on the 2012 Nexus 7. I had found some tweaks that let me go in as a developer and disable some the animations and while it did help some, the tablet still froze and lagged. I had read accounts of many people reinstalling KitKat (Android 4.4.4) with great success. This was one of those things that has been on my to-do list for a while now. Since I wanted to get this done before I went back to school next month, I took sometime out earlier this week to get this done. I would say it took about a couple hours from downloading the needed software, install Android 4.4.4 and root the tablet (more on this later). It did take me two attempts to install Android 4.4.4 as I mistakenly downloaded and tried to install the version for the cellular Nexus 7. This resulted in the tablet being stuck in the bootloader, but was easily resolved by restarting the install process with the correct version of the software.

Some things to keep in mind before you do this:

  • This may void your warranty (especially rooting the device). But, if you have an older device such as the 2012 Nexus 7 your warranty has long since expired.
  • This will wipe your device clean!!! This is just like when you do a reinstall of Windows, all your data is wiped. So if you have pictures, videos, music, etc you will need to back those up before doing this.
  • There are backup utilities you can install to backup your data. DO NOT backup your apps, besides being time consuming you will run into issues when trying to restore the apps due to the different version of Android.
  • You will need the USB/Charging cable that came with your device.
  • Your battery should be at least at 50% charge.
  • Your device (not your computer) will reboot several times during the process.

I found these directions by Josh Smith on Gotta Be Mobile fairly easy to follow. Here are some tips:

  • When you go to get the Android factory image from Google, be sure to pay attention not only to the device name but also the type (Wi-Fi or Mobile)
  • The ADB Installer for Windows was very simple to use and will install the drivers (if you don’t have them) for your device and computer to talk to each other. Use the Google Drive download link. Mac/Linux users can find instructions on the same site for using XDA.
  • Be sure to read ALL the directions in the Unlock Nexus 7 if you have not enabled Developer Mode in the past.
  • In the Wipe Cache and Factory Reset section he mentions you do not need to be connected to a computer to do this. You may however, remain connected to a computer during this process.
  • Install Android 4.4.4 KitKat. This where I ran into trouble the first time. I should have known something had gone wrong as it did not take “a few minutes’ before it would reboot. In fact, if I recall, it did not reboot and when I did reboot, I was stuck in the Bootloader.
  • Once the final reboot is complete, you will need to reconnect your device to your WiFi network, so be sure you have your WiFi SSID and password handy.
  • You will also need to sign in to your Google Play Account again, so be sure you have your email address and password associated with your Google Play Account handy as well. Depending on how your Google Play Account is setup it may re-download the apps you had installed prior (but you will still need to place them on your screen).

Rooting the Device

You do not have to root your device if you don’t want to. Rooting the device allows you to run non-Google software and make further customizations to your device.  The main reason I recommend rooting the device in this case is to be able to use the DisableService App to disable the system notification to install Lollipop. You can not remove the update notice once it prompts you and there is a chance you could accidentally install the Lollipop update.

Rooting was fairly simple and does not wipe your personal data. I used Nexus Root Toolkit v2.0.5. You will need to re-enable Developer Mode on your device as well as USB Debugging before you can root your device. Upon running the app you will see a screen similar to the one below. Note: If you have already reinstalled Android 4.4.4, the Bootloader is still unlocked and therefore you do not need to Unlock.  Important: Make sure Custom Recovery is NOT checked below Root. Click Root and follow the prompts.

The Nexus Root Toolkit will install on your device SuperSU and BusyBox Installer. SuperSU lets you grant root privilege on-demand to any app that requests it. After you have rooted your device you will want to install on your Device (via the Google Play Store) DisableService app. Once you have installed the DisableService app and upon first run, you should get pop-up from SuperSU letting you know that DisableService is requesting full access. Tap Grant to continue. There are two place where the System Update Service need to be disabled:

  • Google System Services node (this one may already be disabled)
  • Google Play Services node (screenshot from Yen’s Blog)

Once you have disabled the SystemUpdate service, you will no longer be bugged about the newer version of Android. Note: this does not affect the updates for your apps, those will still continue.

That’s all there is to it! You now have KitKat again and a working device. If you rooted your device and disabled the System Update Service there is no risk that you will accidently reinstall Lollipop. Take a look at the cool stuff you do with your rooted device.