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How to revert back from Android L to KitKat ?

How to revert back your Nexus from Android L to KitKat NexusandMe

As said earlier and again today the Android L is definitely not meant for daily drive as its still a beta. Though the new version of Android came up with some completely redesigned User-Interface of notification drawer, settings, lockscreen, headsup notification and other under the hood tweaks but the bugs in the preview keeps the daily thing away. Don’t know the reason why my favorite game Dots isn’t running on Android L. Is that a bug or because of ART, which is a default runtime in Android L. And the apps I prefer the most the Tasker and Xposed Frameworks are incompatible with the Android L. Tasker may fix the issues prevailed but Xposed Frameworks, the monster may or may not make its way into Android L as it is all set to Dalvik runtime. Most of you guys might have noticed these incompatibility issues with Android L by now.

So, I then decided to switch back to Android KitKat 4.4.4 stable release, where Dalvik is the default runtime. And to wait until the official stable release of the Android L. Below is the quick guide on “How to revert back from Android L to KitKat ?” this is a common guide to all the versions of android. You may choose either Android 4.4.4 kitkat or 4.4.x KitKat its up to you. Lets get started.

Prerequisites :

  • Nexus 4 or Nexus 5 or Nexus 7 running Android L
  • USB Cable
  • Windows PC

How -to ?

If you have gone through my previous guide on How to manually update your Nexus to 4.4.4 KitKat without losing data then you may skip the Steps 1 to 5. If not then just follow the guide right from the beginning.

Step 1 : Prepare your Phone/Tablet

Since this method will utilize Android Debug Bridge (ADB), you’ll need to enable USB Debugging on your device, which is in the Developer Options menu. If you don’t see that menu in your Settings, let’s unlock it now.

Head into Settings, then scroll all the way down to the bottom and hit About Phone. In here, scroll down to the bottom again and tap Build Number seven times in rapid succession.

Next, back out one level and you’ll see a new Settings menu titled Developer Options. Open this menu, then tick the box next to Enable USB Debugging and press OK on the subsequent popup.

usb debugging android l nexusandme

Step 2: Connect Your Phone/Tablet to Your Computer

This is a simple step, but it’s an important one. You’ll need to connect your phone to your PC to apply the update, but the USB cable you’re using to do that is important. Make sure there is no visible damage to the cable and the connection it makes at both ends is firm.

Step 3: Download the Factory Images from Google

Thanks to Google for uploading the factory images for all the Nexus line of Devices. The Factory Images can be downloaded from the Google’s official Developers site. The Factory images here are the exact firmware that came shipped with your device, so there’s no difference between this and an OTA update.

From your Windows PC, click this link scroll down and download the latest 4.4.4 Factory Image under your Device Name. Make sure to note the save location as you’ll need to access this file later.

Step 4 : Install Nexus Root Toolkit

This is a superb tool which not only simplifies the things but also explains each and every option and its purpose. To download Nexus Root Toolkit click this link from your Windows PC.

When the download has finished double click the .exe file and hit RUN. From the next window, click Install.

Nexus Root ToolKit NRT

When the installer is finished, you’ll be asked to enter your device name and Android build number. Choose your device and its built as “OCCAM-MAKO: Android *.*.*-Any Build” from the drop down and click Apply.

Android L to KitKat NexusandMe

At this point, you’ll see a dialog box instructing you to enable USB Debugging on your device. We’ve already covered that part in Step 1, but you’ll also need to allow your computer to connect to your device at this point.

Unlock your device and you should see a dialog box asking you to Allow USB Debugging. Tick the box next to Always Allow From This Computer and tap OK.

Computers RSA Key

Next, NRT will ask you to download a couple of files. Click OK to allow it to download all of the necessary files.

Step 5: Configure Nexus Root Toolkit (NRT)

At this point, you should be looking at the main screen of the Nexus Root Toolkit. First, you’ll need to install the ADB drivers if you haven’t already done so. Right up top, tap the button that says Full Driver Installation Guide to get things started.

Nexus Root ToolKit Initial Setup

On the next screen, click the Step 3 tab and take note of the Recommended Driver Solution. Click the corresponding driver solution below it, then follow the prompts for driver installation.

ADB Drivers installation

To check whether the drivers configured properly or not. Goto Step 4 and hit the Full Driver Test.

confirm your drivers configuration NRT

When finished, head back to the Nexus Root Toolkit’s main page.

Step 6 : Unlock the Bootloader

If you haven’t unlocked your bootloader you may now have to. Inorder to flash stock or any other custom rom on the device you first have to unlock it and this process erases all the data on your device. So, it is recommended to take a backup of all your apps and their data before you begin this process.

Now, just go ahead and click the Unlock button.

Unlock Bootloader NRT Nexus and Me

The phone then boots into bootloader and thus begins the process. At the end you may notice the “Lock State – unlock” which states, the phone has been unlocked successfully.

Step 7: Flash the Update

Back on the main screen of NRT, click the button labeled Flash Stock + Unroot.

Back to Stock NRT Nexus and Me

On the next screen, be sure to tick the boxes next to Other/Browse and I downloaded a factory image myself…, then click OK.

browse factory image

Use the next window to browse the Factory Image  file that you downloaded in Step 3, then click Open.

Next, you’ll be asked to enter an MD5 number to verify the file’s integrity. You can get this MD5 Checksumnumber from the Google Developer Website next to download. Copy the text and paste it into the field in that window and click OK.


Note : If you get MD5 Checksum Error as “Mismatch” then choose the default options “Automatically download + extract the factory image selected above for me” and click OK.

After a bit of processing, a window will appear that summarizes the install options you’ve selected. Click OK here to begin flashing the update, making sure that your phone doesn’t get disconnected from your PC during this process.

When it’s done, you may see a window asking you to change your build number (Step 3). This is for NRT’s own sake, and it’s not necessary here, so just click Cancel.

That’s it, you are now successfully reverted back to the stable version of Android – 4.4.4 KitKat. Stuck at any point during the process then feel free to ask using the below comment section. And if you are willing to root your nexus device running the current 4.4.4 kitkat then here’s a common guide on How to Root your Nexus 4/5/7 running Android 4.4.3 Kitkat for all the nexus line of devices. Share it with your fellow Nexus owners if you find this article useful.

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  • Patrick

    In this process, will I lose data?

    • yep, this process wipes your entire data, there is an option under settings but is not recommended.

  • Sam

    Thank you for this guide to down grade to KitKat 4.4.4. I followed your steps as well as prompts along during the NRT process. I am at step 6 now, phone is on the boot screen (fastboot mode), it says “writing…” at the bottom, been like that for almost 10 mins, is it frozen, if so what do I do? Or is actually doing something?
    Thanks again,

    • Sam

      FYI, I pressed the power button again and it booted. Looks like I am back to KK 4.4.4.

      • You are welcome 🙂 May I know two main reason why you downgraded to KitKat. Why, Lollipop is not that sweet as Google states ?

        • Sam

          Here are 3 🙂
          1. Phone microphone stopped working whenever I plugged my regular earphones in. It was working fine with kitkat , not with Lollipop – very annoying during calls.
          2. Look and feel – I found KitKat simpler and more intuitive to use, and more pleasing to the eye. I guess that is more cosmetics than functionality.
          3. The sliding bar under Data Usage in Settings to view usage by day or anu number of days in a billing cycle seems to have disappeared in Lollipop.

          • Jennifer Bonner

            I too found many problems with Lollipop… apps kept crashing, I couldn’t open a simple app for more than a few seconds before it shuts down… don’t like the interface. A couple of things were ok about it, definitely preferred kitkat.

          • yep you were right, those issues surely matters. And the lollipop upgrade is also a blow to all app developers as they have to redesign there apps to match the current trending Material Design user interface. And that is a whole new thing to learn and execute without any errors.

  • Troy

    Hi, went through all the steps and on the final step, I get the error, “FAILED (remote: Bootloader is locked.)”

    Now it will not bootloader mode.

    Thanks for any help.

    • The first and the foremost thing you suppose to do is to unlock the bootloder > then the remaining steps. The guide over here is for those phone whose bootloader is already unlocked. That’s the reason I didn’t mentioned but the Nexus Tool Kit does, if not, Try again 🙂

      • Troy

        I missed it… Thanks, working great now.

  • Mouhamad Mansour

    will this wipe my text messages, app data, etc..?

    • yep, this process wipes your entire data.

  • Tommy Vance

    I’m not sure what I have done wrong but I have a 2012 Nexus 7 “nakasi”. Android L wrecked my tablet so I’m trying to revert to KitKat. I followed the steps and everything worked as said but after the flash my tablet is stuck on what I think is the boot screen. It says Google in the middle and Start with a green box around it. I am unable to get off of that screen except to just shut it down. I tried to go through the flash process again but I get an error saying “ADB device not found”. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers but it didn’t help. Do you have any advice for what I might try next? Thank you.

    • ok, reflashing may fix the issue but this time choose “Soft-Bricked/Bootloop” option under “Back to Stock . Current Status” and reflash the kitkat factory image.

      And also make sure you “unchecked” the “Force Flash Mode” option under “Flash Stock” tab in Nexus Root TootKit (NRT) -> options(ctrl+k)

  • Mike Treanor

    I was surprised that Windows requests permission to modify the system when I start the program, since I should not be modifying the Windows system when I do this. I think this permission should only be needed when I install the program. Can you confirm that it needs this permission to run? Thank you.

  • Pushan

    Just finished the entire process. This guide is very uselful.. Thanks! Just a note to all using this tutorial, remember to unlock your phone’s bootloader before you start this process. You can use this link to figure out the process: http://www.android.gs/unlock-google-nexus-5-bootloader/

  • Abdul Lateef Haamid

    will my phone automatically search for lollipop after i’ve switched back to KitKat 4.4.4 using this method? @nkssrikanth

  • aj

    hi im nexus 7 2013 wifi model user currently on android 5.0.2, I want to downgrade to kitakat 4.4.4, I want to make sure, what will I choose for my model type? nexus 7 4.4.4 or my current model type which is nexus 7 5.0.2? thanks in advance

    • You are on 5.0.2 lollipop, right! then obviously you suppose to change the device model and OS to your current settings i.e., “Nexus 7 2013 wifi model, android 5.0.2.”

      Still you got an option to auto-detect…you just leanback and let the NRT to detect the device and OS on which it is running. Cool, isn’t it. Go ahead and try it out.

      • aj

        ok, thanks!

      • aj

        i succesfully downgraded my nexus 7 2013, thanks for the help, but my internal memory total space is 11gb originally it was 32gb, what will i do?

        • aj

          I already fixed it thanks to Google! I just factory reset my tablet and voila my internal memory back to 32gb… 🙂

  • Richard Baby

    just want to thank you for the help me with the downgrade…. Lollipop just messed up battery. could not leave the house with out a charger 🙂 thanks a ton for this article

  • Brian Mutch

    I have followed the instructions to return my Nexus4 back to kitkat. All seems to have gone as described but it now seems to be stuck in an endless re-boot loop with the 4 coloured circles pulsating in the centre of the screen. I did manage to get back into bootloader mode and re-flash using “Soft-Bricked/Bootloop” option. But still stuck in this endless loop. Any suggestions to resolve this?

    • ok, reflashing may fix the issue but this time choose “Soft-Bricked/Bootloop” option under “Back to Stock . Current Status” and reflash the kitkat factory image.

      And also make sure you “unchecked” the “Force Flash Mode” option under “Flash Stock” tab in Nexus Root TootKit (NRT) -> options(ctrl+k)

    • George Syros

      Hey I can solve this!

      Once you installed the stock rom long press the power button to turn the device off. The go to your recovery and select wipe data (restore) and then BOOM! You are ready to go! Just reboot the device and enjoy the KItKat fun!

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for the guide. Between this and plenty of other research the process of ridding my Nexus 7 of Lollipop went really very smoothly.

    Hopefully I now have a functioning device back!

    Lollipop is a great interface but upgrading to Lollipop on the Nexus 7 2012 turned out to be a bad decision. I have been very patient with updates, have worked through major battery drain issues (all now resolved, but came back at every update of Lollipop) but I still found that the performance of the tablet was terrible. I can only conclude that the Nexus 7 2012 is really not up to the job of running Lollipop.

    I’m now back on Kitkat 4.4.4 and have a stable device once more!

    Thanks for the help.

  • benben

    Back to kitkat works great
    Thanks for the guide

  • Tommy

    Somewhere in the process something went wrong. Now my n7 is frozen in reboot. I can restart bootloader but got msg ADB device not found. Tried changing drivers but nothing happens.

    • sidney morales

      i have the same problem. were you able to resolve?

  • Srivats Chandramouli

    Hi srikanth. Im srivats from chennai. i own an nexus 4 and tried to downgrade to 4.4.4 from 5.0.1. everything went good unltill i got this message –
    Archive does not contain “boot.sig”
    Archive does not contain ‘recovery.sig’
    falied to allocate 748585716 bytes
    error: update package missing system.img

    Where did i go wrong? can you help me on this? mine is back to 5.0.1 now

    • Hi Srivats, Overlook boot.sig and recovery.sig they got nothing to do here during this process. I think the problem over here is with the factory image you have downloaded.

      1. Make sure the download is successful(100%)
      2. Unckeck “No wipe mode” and “Force Flash Mode” under settings.

      Not sure which factory image to download then let the NRT itself download the write by checking “Automatically download + extract the factory image above for me.” 🙂

      • Srivats Chandramouli

        Hi srikanth,
        I tried the NRT to download the factory image. It is again giving the same error. Tried for previous version (4.4.3). It says some base band issue. Not able to figure out! 🙁

  • TT

    Help. Everything went well, but when restart the nexus 7(2013) I get a black screen and the white letters “Google” and nothing else happens…

    • hi, I have seen the image you shared. The thing is the device should be in UNLOCKED state then only we can install kitkat or whatever rom. To unlock your device hit the unlock button in middle of Nexus root tool kit, remaining things, it will guide you. Cheers 🙂

      • TT

        Hi, in Full Driver Configuration Guide: step 3: Driver Solution #1 = Google Drivers. Newest Google driver is installed. But when in step 4: Full Driver Test > result: ADB device was not found!!!
        What must I do to get the ADB device found?

        • TT
          • The solution for that issue is very simple that is a driver installation problem and you can solve it manually. Below is a simple guide which is a common solution for all types of driver installation issues.

            1. In windows Goto Device Manager > Right Click on the USB port with exclamatory mark(yellow icon)
            2. Choose update driver software > “Browse my computer for driver software:
            3. Browse to “WugFresh Development folder” in your “C:/program files/…” and click ok.

            That’s it. The installation starts give it a minute or two to complete. Then go ahead and continue with your step 4 in NRT.

            Cheers 🙂

          • TT

            Thanks a LOT. Have both my Nexus 7 (2012 + 2013 wifi) back to KitKat. Much better now.

  • Carl Ferry

    What if I can’t access the tablet settings to allow USB debugging?
    The PC that I’m using does not recognize my tablet when I plug in the USB cable.

  • sidney morales

    i am stuck here. when i was in flash stock + unroot, it always fails and with locked bootloader, please help. thanks

    • The first and the foremost thing you suppose to do is to unlock the bootloder > then the remaining steps. The guide over here is for those phone whose bootloader is already unlocked. That’s the reason I didn’t mentioned but the Nexus Tool Kit does, if not, Try again 🙂

      • sidney morales

        ok thanks i will try.

      • sidney morales

        one more question, it is saying “usb device not recognized” and this happens intermittently. i already followed step 1 and driver is up to date. my tab is showing google and the start logo, but after pressing it it says on the far left “booting failed” and thats where im stuck also.thanks

  • sidney morales

    my tablet fails to boot. it seems like I am stuck. please help

  • Dominic Robinson

    So do Ihave to download my own Adb platform tools?

    • No need, Nexus Root Tool Kit (NRT) does everything automatically for you.

  • Elias

    Hi! I have followed the instructions and I let the nrt to download automaticaly the needed files but I have now stuck on the bootscreen. At the top it says “signature match”. At the bottom says with red color letters “fastboot mode”. Then “product name-grouper …etc and finally “lock-state- unlocked”. I think it is stuck. How can I continue?

    • Can you share the log? In NRT log, you get to know what has happened actually…

    • Got it! The same repeats if you don’t disable the ‘Force Flash Mode’…You can find the option under NRT settings.

      • Elias

        Not sure if I understand. As I said I can’t see anything on the tablet. And windows is not recognise it. Is it dead? I have start searching and reading how to proceed. Can you help me please? An advice?

        • Here is a how-to guide on how to recover your device sstuck at bootscreen or bootloop or soft-bricked


          • Elias

            Thank you. Unfortunatelly I can’t make it work, becouse I can’t see anything on the screen. Windows make sound when I plug it in but nothing else. I noticed that tablet is recognised as APX. The NRT can’t continue the process becouse it can’t find drivers…:(

  • johntwebb

    I have tried to take my Nexus 7 early version back from 5.1.1 to 4.4.4 as it was unusable. part way through the process the tool stopped saying too many files open (I think, sorry). I now have the situation that the Nexus looks at me saying Google with an unlocked padlock at the bottom. I cant do anything the USB debug was turned off on the way and I cant get in to turn it on. I have tried several things but lack of knowledge is not helping. Any comments please?

  • Marc Whitsett

    Just want you to know that my bricked 2012 N7 finally made me nuts as despite several attempts to revert back to 4.4.4 from 5.1.1 using “other methods” I was unsuccessful…so I bought a used 2013 N7.

    The day my used 2013 N7 arrived I found your article, and even while my 2013 N7 was still updating, in 30 minutes I was able to revert back to 4.4.4. Your method was clear and concise, and now I have 2 fast and usable N7s….! Many thanks Srikanth.

  • Billy

    Hi, thanks for the clera and concise steps! however, i seem to be stuck at step 6, its been hanging at this step and i’m not sure if its expected or not. The log shows, would you be able to help?

    Checking Fastboot Connectivity
    fastboot devices
    015d2578374ff415 fastboot
    + Fastboot Device Connected

    Retrying [Attempt #1 of 5]: fastboot getvar unlocked