Jun 25 AT 8:29 AM Brooks Barnard 33 Comments

Breathe new life into Nexus 7

Nexus 7 Custom Kernel

By now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with Dustin’s thoughts on the Nexus 7. But there’s another side to the story. I, for one, really like my Nexus 7. Mine still performs admirably for a one-year-old device. In fact, I even bought my dad one for Father’s Day. As far as I’m concerned, the Nexus 7 is still the best bang for your buck in the 7-inch tablet market.

Dustin’s post left me with a few questions. For one, why is my tablet still working? And, have I made a huge mistake in buying one for my dad? Then it dawned on me: I have had similar issues with my Nexus 7. But I figured out a way to fix them.

Boot and Root

Modding devices is a hobby of mine. I unlock the bootloader and root my devices from day one. It’s how I best enjoy the Android experience. For me, this has cleared up a lot of the issues other users have had with the Nexus 7. It’s unfortunate that the Nexus 7 has undergone a drop in performance in its stock state. Rooting may be an option for those of you who are unsatisfied with your device.

As always, we advise you to exercise caution when rooting your device. The process will void any warranty the device may still be under. (However, early adopters of the Nexus 7 are likely no longer covered, so what the hey).

In general, the Nexus 7 is very modding friendly. If you would like to try rooting your Nexus 7, I strongly recommend WugFresh’s Nexus root toolkit. The toolkit includes a step-by-step guide (which you should read before starting). It will walk you through each step of the bootloader unlock and root process. If you don’t like what you’ve done, the toolkit can also help you return your Nexus 7 to stock.

Please note that unlocking the boot loader will completely wipe your device. You will need to use an app like Helium to backup your data prior to rooting your Nexus 7.

LagFix (fstrim)

Note: This app DOES require rooting.

This suggestion comes to us from our readers! LagFix is an app available in the Google Play Store that aims to correct lag issues with the Nexus 7. According to the developer, “The source of the [Nexus 7 lag] problem is that internal storage is not trimmed when needed.” (You can find more information on XDA).

Custom Kernels

Note: This method DOES require rooting.

Back in February, around the time of the Android 4.2.2 release, I remember experiencing uncharacteristic lag with my Nexus 7. To fix this, I explored using a custom kernel.

In your day-to-day, you never directly interact with the kernel, but it’s extremely important to how your device operates. As Faux123, a popular kernel developer, eloquently puts it, “The kernel is the foundation in which everything else builds upon in any software system. The kernel is like the engine, electrical system and transmission of a car. The library, framework and apps are the body frame.”

Custom Kernels

Using custom kernels allows you to tweak your device in a variety of ways. You can overclock it, undervolt it, adjust sound and color settings. There’s tons of stuff you can change and break!

But, if you’re willing to try, there are a few highly recommended custom kernels for the Nexus 7 running Android 4.2. Franco.kernel has come highly recommended to me and is one I think is very easy to implement.  A free app is available from the Play Store that allows you to directly download the latest version of the kernel.  You can even flash it right there from the app without having to boot into your custom recovery.


The paid version of Franco.Kernel adds a nice user interface that aids in carrying out an unbelievable number of modifications within the app, without having to edit any code. If you’re not into overclocking or undervolting, the the free app should fully meet your needs.

I’ve been running CM10.1 with Franco.Kernel since February and haven’t looked back. My Nexus 7 may not be as snappy as the Nexus 4 or recently released flagship devices, but I have no complaints.

Franco.Kernel isn’t your only hope. The Nexus 7 has a huge development community behind it, so that means options. Dig around a little bit and see what kernel might be right for you. Make sure you backup your device prior to flashing a kernel in case you don’t like the end result. Don’t let modding stress you out; just have fun with it!

But I Don’t Want to Root!

Although rooting the device seems to have vastly improved my experience with the Nexus 7, some make the argument that you shouldn’t have to modify a device to enjoy it to its full potential. I hear you loud and clear, and I agree. In addition to a factory reset, there’s one more non-root method you can try.

Cleaning House

This method has made a difference for our very own Dima, new to Android And Me from DroidDog. Some users who are able to free up at least 3 GB of storage on the Nexus 7 have reported better performance from their devices. This may be attributed to ASUS using sub-par RAM in the device.

Obviously, this method is not ideal for owners of the original 8 GB Nexus 7. That device comes stock with just a smidge over 5 GB of available space as is. But, it may be worth a try if there’s a chance to breathe new life into your Nexus 7 without rooting.

Cleaning House

There’s no one trick that will rectify the issues you may be facing. This method did not work for Dustin, even after a factory reset, and is met with skepticism in many corners of the webisphere.

Hopefully Google gets it together and solves the issues that have been plaguing Nexus 7 owners. Because those of you who don’t want to root are right; you shouldn’t have to root a device to enjoy it. We loved it when it came out a year ago, and it still has some pretty respectable hardware under the hood. It should still be able to deliver. Maybe Android 4.3 will bring the optimizations we’re looking for.

Let us know your thoughts. Is it finally time to root your Nexus 7? Have you tried any of the methods mentioned here? How did they work out for you? Any other suggestions for Nexus 7 owners hoping to revitalize their device?

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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  • Matt

    I’ve got the same issue with my nexus 7 that dustin describes. After reading the comments in his post I found that disabling Currents and installing and running Forever Gone has helped somewhat in speeding it back up a bit.

    Hopefully google will sort it out on the next update because as you say you should NEVER EVER have to root a device to make it work properly.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      I completely agree. Thanks for sharing what worked for you. It could very likely help out others!

    • jbarr

      I I agree 100% that you should NEVER EVER have to root a device to make it work properly, but you may have to root it to make it better. Performance issues such as the lags described are certainly something that stock Android should address. But for taking advantage of not-so-standard features, rooting can be a Godsend. I rooted my nexus 7 and flashed the Vanilla RootBox ROM, and it has improved several apps by letting me tweak the pixel density on a per-app basis. So some apps that are Tablet-optimized often work better. And for those that do not, then the phone density works just fine.

      The great thing about most Android products, and the Nexus 7 in particular is that they are tailorable to whatever the user wants. Keeping it stock is CERTAINLY an excellent thing to do, and companies like Google should strive to ensure that stock continues to provide enough benefit for people to actually want to use it.

    • monk

      I agree that root should not be necessary in this case, but I’m also tired to hear people talk about root like it is some vudu or exorsism stuff. Root Its just getting admin access to YOUR device, like the administrator user that Windows have since 1.0. You don’t void your hardware warranty when using Windows administrator, even if you are so dumb to delete the c:\Windows directory. It should be the same on android.

  • Sir Alex

    I don’t know what Dustin is talking about.

    Are there widespread reports that people are experiencing what he experienced?

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      Dustin’s post struck a chord with maybe thousands. As I looked through the comments it seemed pretty mixed whether people were having a great or horrible experience with the Nexus 7. It likely has a huge dependance on what apps you have on your device and how you use it. If you’re not having issues, congrats!

      Like I said in this post, I noticed uncharacteristic lag or hanging with my Nexus and went seeking for something to fix it. A custom kernel is what did it for me.

    • Jay

      It’s widespread and Google admitted there was a problem and it’s fixed. But it doesn’t look like it’s really fixed. See the thread here https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/mobile/loqbCbKVMWE/5rC-GykZo0YJ

    • http://technicquill.com Jess Blanchard

      It made the front page of the Reddit! Internet famous. :P

  • Matthew

    It’s not the N7, it’s 4.2.2. The release is a dog.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      That’s when I started seeing the issue with 4.2.2. I’m really hoping they can figure out better optimization with 4.3. The Nexus 7 hardware should be able to handle what we can throw at it

  • Dan

    For me it was disabling Currents and clearing cache. I have also since used Forever Gone, but my problems were fixed before that. It is becoming more apparent most people experienced this lag after upgrading. I have seen mention that there was a bug that was fixed in 4.1.2 that addresses an issue with the internal storage. I will save the details but it is explained here:

    Thank you Brooks for taking the time to write an article like this instead of just whining like Dustin.

  • Desi

    I was having issues as well, then I backed up my apps to my computer, wiped and repartitioned my internal memory, pushed a fresh new ROM back to internal memory via ADB, then started over from scratch with that new ROM. I restored only the apps I actually used (I had ballooned up to 180 apps, then dropped to about 70).

    Since then (about a month ago) my N7 has been great again. I’m not sure why all that happened, but it definitely got bogged down and it happened slowly over time so I didn’t notice it until it becamse unusable (tons of force stops, lag, etc).

    It’s a great device when it’s working well, it is disheartening to hear that so many are experiencing issues.

  • nicholas

    I highly recommend Forever Gone as well for fixing the lag issue. it should fix it permanently compared to lagfix which needs to be run all the time


    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      So a few people have mentioned Forever Gone. I want to get my facts straight with this app and how to use it. It’s a non-root app that clears up space? So it’s just an app that helps with keeping that 3 GB of space available? Or is there more to it?

      • Matt

        It doesn’t clear space really. What it did was it went through and filled every bit of free space on the storage – completely full – then it deleted all that stuff and when you rebooted you are back to the same amount of free storage you had before. I don’t know exactly why that helps but it does genuinely seem to.

        • osm0sis

          As I understand it, it helps the same way fstrim (Lag Fix) does; it clears out all the “leftovers” from writes and deletions.

  • Marcell Lévai

    All these haver been known for ages. I don’t own a Nexus 7, bit I’ve read these a very long time ago. Also I didn’t understand the other article – a half decent google search provides you with these solutions.

  • Nathan D.

    At this point I have rooted all my devices. Also friends devices looking for either a change or better Performance. Although, some devices are harder then other to root. Routing has always made head way for the devices in so many ways.

  • osm0sis

    Worth mentioning that you don’t actually have to be rooted to run a custom kernel provided you plan on just using the kernel defaults. All you need is an unlocked bootloader.

    You could technically set any custom settings you want on boot with init.d scripts and still not technically root your device when it’s booted.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      Interesting.Thanks for sharing. It’s important to have all the facts.

      However, what your describing is a beyond what I’ve gotten into. I’m sure I could figure it out, but it sounds like more work than just installing an app after rooting. Bootloader unlocking and rooting is so easy with toolkits and howtos, then using an app to install a custom recovery I feel isn’t too technical. Just my opinion…

      • osm0sis

        Yeah I agree, the init.d stuff is pretty technical, so kind of redundant for an advanced user who might as well root anyway..

        But nothing easier than just unlocking the bootloader and flashing the kernel. No root required there and f.K defaults are always the best balance of battery and performance. :)

  • kazahani

    This is exactly why 8GB is TOO DAMN LITTLE SPACE for a device without expandable media storage.

  • timothy pleines

    On Father’s day, my dad also received a Nexus 7, courtesy of me. It wasn’t raining money at the time so I did not go for the iPad. I have also been using the Nexus 7 for a year. I was so impressed that I bought one for my father, who never was there for me as a child. I also picked up some NFC tags and programmed them for him, placing them underneath his coasters in his TV room. Rest a NFC capable device on one coaster, and the tag is readable through the 1cm of cardboard composite and BOOM you are instantly controlling the TV with an accelerometer-based remote app. Rest the Nexus on the Seargent Pepper coaster and BOOM your device is connected to his WIFI network. I rooted his Nexus before Father’s Day, so the thing is pimped out, with all of the tweaks and mods that I have used on mine, and everything is layed out to be intuitive, so there is no need to explain how most things work. Swipe two fingers down, open up Chrome. Swipe two fingers up and open a file manager. Double tap to open CPU profiles, to quickly switch from performance to power saving. Swipe up with one finger show notifications. Hit the big red button to launch a VNC server for remote assistance from me if he has any issues. I like my dad, but I do not like him enough to spend any more than 200 dollars on the guy. Also, always make sure to pick up a USB OTG cable. When the next iteration of the Nexus comes out, we will both be upgrading and regifting the old ones. If you ask me, Google has a darn good word of mouth marketing campaign going.

  • Prozac69

    Timothy – Your post made me LOL. Why you’d even spend $200 on a dad you dont like is beyond me! You should have just given him a card and made done with it!!

  • Erik Jensen

    ForeeverGone is a app that do the same as lagfix. No root need!
    All 3 my Asus units was laggy.

    My old Asus Transformer TF101 was nearly impossible to use from the beginning and my never, very expensive Asus Transformer Infinity TF700 was the same also with a clean unit, and that make me deeply frustrated.

    My Asus Nexus 7 was a okay from start but was beginning to lag and behavior strange with crash and so on.. Only my Samsung Galaxy S3 was performing very vell…

    ForeverGone gave me my trust back to Android units from Asus. They all work like brandnew or proberly better, all thanks for ForeverGone that I never had heard before last week.

    And more news that I will share: Chargecard (a kickstarter project) is now landed!

    A very thin rechargeable credit-sized battery with built-in USB plugs, allways ready for use with fresh and livesaving juice in your wallet. I realy love mine that I got yesterday, Best at all its made in California and not China…

  • Gdog

    Test sorry

  • JimW

    Much simpler to split app load between muliple Nexus 7 User segments to avoid problems for one person. Use a new Gmail account as Owner and keep load low. If a User segment goes bad send to garbage and add new User segment.

  • A380

    And of course we should not forget to mention the superb Greenify app.

  • donger

    Nexus 7 FTW.

  • Lance Miller

    My Nexus 7 has ran great from day one. One thing I’ve done is not allow any apps to auto update & I disabled current. Plus, I run the “History Eraser” app every week to clean up cache / history & other misc items. Plus, I make sure I always keep at least 1.5gb of storage free for the system to use, if needed. For the money I’d put it up against any other tablet, including the way over priced iPad mini. I honestly believe that those who complain about this tablet either have something using to many resources or they’ve filled their storage its limit & left nothing for apps & android to use. I could be wrong but of the 5 or 6 friends that have a Nexus 7 none of us have had any issues at all.

  • unwrap

    Install android 4.3! I received the update yesterday and it made my N7 as snappy as is it was when I bought it!

  • Scott

    I’ve never had any problems with lag or slowness on my nexus 7. It’s still running 4.1.2 since versions 4.2 and later drastically break CIFS and mounting file systems. I’m a single user so I really don’t need the profiles crap, and I bet most devices are used by individual users as personal devices.

    Maybe 4.3 fixes lag problems that 4.2 introduced, but I still can’t upgrade and use cifs in a useful way and the upgraded features are of no use to me. I’m happy I stuck with 4.1.2 since I’ve never had problems and it just sounds like the Google experience has gotten worse, not better fit the things that are important to me.

  • Rafael Fideles

    Had the same issue and today i tried this kernel fix and it indeed worked very well. The custom kernel supports kit kat for those how have already upgraded Android. Thanks for this tweek!