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How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)
Unlocking the bootloader is the first step in a journey to the land of custom ROMs, rooting, mods, and all other Android hackery, but for a newbie, it might also be a scary undertaking. In this article, we’ll explain in simple terms what’s a bootloader, and guide you through the surprisingly easy process of unlocking the bootloader of Motorola device like the Moto X and Moto G.

First, let’s clear up all confusion around the term ‘bootloader’. Bootloader has a very literal meaning - it’s the piece of code that’s executed before even the operating system loads. The function of the bootloader is basically to instruct the device how to load the OS. To do so, it has to communicate directly with the processor and motherboard (which are different for virtually every phone), so all in all, the bootloader is a very phone- and platform-specific piece of code. That is why it differs on, say, a Motorola and a Samsung phone. Some manufacturers decide to lock the bootloader on their phones as a way to ensure that no one can change their custom Android user interfaces. Luckily, Motorola has gone the more developer-friendly way, and the company itself provides a bootloader unlock, making the whole process extremely easy.

Why would you want to unlock the bootloader, though? Installing a custom ROM is one reason, but an unlocked bootloader is also often required for getting root access to the system.

If you have already made up your mind about unlocking the bootloader, we can get started with the unlocking process now. This guide applies for the Motorola Moto X and Moto G.

First, here are the pre-requisites for it all to work:
  • Back up your phone first!!!

    The phone’s battery must be charged to at least 80%.
  • USB debugging must be “ON”.
  • Motorola USB drivers must be installed on a computer, you can grab them from here.
  • Android SDK must be installed on your computer.

Warning: Unlocking your phone’s bootloader voids its warranty. It also completely wipes (formats) your Android phone’s internal memory including applications, contacts, images and so on.

1. Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable. You have to enable USB debugging mode on your smartphone. To do so, simply navigate to Settings > About Phone > scroll to the bottom > tap Build number seven (7) times. You'll get a short pop-up in the lower area of your display saying that you're now a developer.

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

2. Go back and now access the Developer options menu, check ‘USB debugging’ and click OK on the prompt.

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

3. Now, it’s time to open Command Prompt (terminal) and get serious. Don’t worry, all you’d need to do is copy and paste some code in it, it's not hard at all. To open the terminal in Windows 7 hit the ‘Windows’ key, type ‘cmd’, and hit Enter; in Windows 8, you’d need to navigate to the new Modern UI home panel, and just type in ‘cmd’ there.

Once you open the terminal, you need to change the folder to Platform Tools in the Android SDK. Typically, it looks something like this, but you have to find the exact path where you installed the Android SDK on your computer:
C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/

To change the folder you just copy the above path (as it is on your computer) and put ‘cd’ in front of it, so the whole command would look like so:
cd C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

4. Now, you are ready to start putting in the first commands that control your phone. In the command line type in the following:

adb devices

Hit ‘Enter’, and you should see the following:
List of devices attached
TA8900F923 device

The code will differ for different devices, so just make sure that something along these lines appears in the list of devices.

Next, type in:
adb reboot bootloader

This will make the phone reboot in bootloader mode. You’d need to wait a short while and see the bootloader menu.

Next, type the following in the terminal:
fastboot oem get_unlock_data

This will return you a unique string of code spread across five lines. It should look something like this:
(bootloader) 3A95720615784488#5441383833304C
(bootloader) 47325600585431303332000000#361D
(bootloader) 7293361E178D7D591294131B57789CA
(bootloader) 86EC4#C39412020F000000000000000
(bootloader) 0000000
OKAY [ 0.164s]
finished. total time: 0.164s

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

Congratulations, you have completed the first important part - this is your unique phone identifier. Now, you need to copy just the numbers appearing after ‘(bootloader)’, and that’s a bit tricky in the Windows Command Prompt. First, right click anywhere in the Terminal, select Mark, and mark the whole block of text. Then, hit enter. This will put all this copied text in the clipboard. Now, in an app like Notepad, simply paste the copied text and delete everything except for the numbers. Combine all numbers together so that they appear as a single string like so:

3A95720615784488#5441383833304C47325600585431303332000000#361D7293361E178D7D591294131B57789CA86EC4#C39412020F0000000000000000000000

5. Copy this super-long string and head straight to Motorola’s official website, sign and skip right to step 6.

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)

Paste the already copied super-long string and click on the “Can my device be unlocked?” button. Make sure you have removed all blank spaces from the copied string, and you should get a green light to get your bootloader unlocked.

Accept the user agreements, and head to your email, where Motorola has sent you the final instructions.

6. FINAL INSTRUCTIONS: Copy the 20-character key that Motorola sent you via email. Then, in the terminal (make sure your phone is still connected to your computer via USB), type:

fastboot devices
To check that your phone is listed, and next:

How to unlock the bootloader on Motorola phones (Moto X, Moto G)
fastboot oem unlock UNIQUE_KEY
Where instead of 'UNIQUE_KEY' you type in your own 20-character key that Motorola sent you via email.

7. Congrats! If you have entered all info correctly, your phone should be rebooting by itself, showing you the image you see on the right. And yes, now you have your bootloader unlocked!

It was a bit tedious, but not hard, was it? Let us know if this worked out for you and how the whole process went in the comments section below.

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25 Comments
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posted on 13 Mar 2014, 11:02

1. apple4never (Posts: 974; Member since: 08 May 2013)


is it just me or is this easier with a sony pone?

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 12:10

6. fanboy1974 (Posts: 1293; Member since: 12 Nov 2011)


Unlocking a boot loader is serious business. If you can't follow directions like this you have no business screwing with the boot loader.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 11:16

2. palmguy (Posts: 322; Member since: 22 Mar 2011)


Now can I put my Vz Moto X on Page Plus?

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 11:32

3. stillthisguy (Posts: 10; Member since: 06 Oct 2011)


ATT and VZW phones cannot do this. Both in store and moto maker, only way to do this for VZW is to buy the dev edtition, and the only way to do this for ATT is to buy the GSM dev edition.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 11:40

4. stillthisguy (Posts: 10; Member since: 06 Oct 2011)


I am referring to the Moto X.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 11:57

5. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


Slightly off topic, but can someone tell me how to backup app data before/in the process of rooting? This is for my old phone. Don't mention Helium.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 12:13

7. sprockkets (Posts: 1365; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


Unless you have root or have a custom recovery, you can't do it.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 12:32 1

8. PapaSmurf (Posts: 8923; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Just root first, do a back up with Titanium Backup and viola.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 13:53

9. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


But rooting will wipe everything.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 14:14

10. sprockkets (Posts: 1365; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


Depends on what you mean - using adb to unlock the bootloader on Nexus devices will, but rooting usually involves exploiting a hole in the OS which then won't hurt anything.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 14:30

11. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


What I mean: I want to root the phone (Xperia U) in any way that no files or their data will be wiped.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 17:31

17. apple4never (Posts: 974; Member since: 08 May 2013)


use doomlords easy rooting toolkit and use pc companion to back up, the root wont wipe it

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 17:56

20. sprockkets (Posts: 1365; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)


Youll have to research your phone, like on xda, to see if a root exploit exists for your current software.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 15:22

12. PapaSmurf (Posts: 8923; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Not necessarily. That's if you factory wipe, wipe the delving and system cache. It's highly recommended that you do, but in your case back up your important stuff before rooting (contacts, music, etc.) and then root. You can root without losing everything since I've done it before on my SII and S3. On a Xperia phone, I'm pretty sure it'll work. Check out XDA before doing anything.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 15:32

13. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


So the app data was also kept? And kwl.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 16:19

14. PapaSmurf (Posts: 8923; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Delvik*

If I remember correctly, Titanium Backup does save app data (just checked) and My Backup Root does as well. Here's what I'd do in your case:

1. Backup contacts, messages, music, photos and apks
2. Charge your battery to 80% and root
3. Install SU from the Play Store and grant permissions
4. Download one of the two apps and create a backup (for app data)
5. Save it to the SD card and double check it's there
6. Install a custom recovery
7. Factory reset from recovery menu (wipe data, wipe dalvik cache and system cache)
8. Reboot phone
9. Enjoy

If you plan on installing a custom ROM, make sure you know what you're doing and follow the steps on a XDA carefully. Have fun with XposedMod, AdAway and SU. :)

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 17:05

16. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


So #4 applies to non-rooted device? BTW, MinMinGuard is a better alternative to AdAway from what I've heard.

Excuse my lack of rooting knowledge - I've only rooted once with the toolkit that wiped my data tho I don't mind because it was new that time.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 17:35

18. PapaSmurf (Posts: 8923; Member since: 14 May 2012)


You can download root apps, but they won't unless you're granted root with SU. Idk if Sony locks their boot loaders, but XDA and YouTube will be more than willing to help you.

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 18:00

21. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1472; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


Alright. Trying to get info from more people just to make sure.

@down user: right!

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 17:36

19. apple4never (Posts: 974; Member since: 08 May 2013)


@XperiaFanZone, check out xda, youll get your answers far quicker and theres many how to threads itll def help u

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 16:50

15. saiki4116 (Posts: 365; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)


Samsung Phones Bootloader is unlocked and most of the times, for samsung phones, you root by flashing Supersu/busybox binary from the Samsung stock recovery. But for Sony phones it is tough, It took a literally a whole day to install CM 10 on my friends Sony Ericsson mini. I guess there is a way to root without losing data, but Sony have patched that with updates, So you may need to downgrade and use that method. Sure guys at XDA forums can help.

posted on 07 May 2014, 06:55

22. El_Duderino (Posts: 1; Member since: 07 May 2014)


Really clear and simple instructions. Thanks a lot guys. Great work

posted on 25 May 2014, 08:45

23. gdurieux (Posts: 1; Member since: 25 May 2014)


Hello,

Thanks for your help everything start good.
I arrive to copy and paste the super long string but motorola say that '' my device is not eligible for a bootloader unlocking".

Anyone receive this message and now what to do ?
Thanks all

Guillaume Durieux

posted on 05 Jul 2014, 09:28

24. Tobytenacious (Posts: 1; Member since: 05 Jul 2014)


Helpful, thanks. Through the gate now, and towards the finish...

Any thoughts on ROM choices?

posted on 08 Nov 2014, 14:55

25. mewannaroot (Posts: 1; Member since: 08 Nov 2014)


These are identical to the moto e is there an option anyone knows other than this to root since I see the same issues when the key isn't granted I have 2 rooted devices this is the only one with no root

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