How to manually update your Nexus tablet to KitKat [updated]

With the right tools and a little knowledge, there's no need to wait for your OTA

Update: Nexus 7 (2012) link has been added. Get to flashing!

Update 2: And the Nexus 10 is now good to go.

The Android 4.4 update has started rolling out to the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets around the world. But if your tablet has yet to receive the update, then don't despair — we've got a quick walkthrough that'll get you updated in a few minutes, assuming you've got a little experience with a command line.

Note that this is for stock Nexus tablets, and for people who want to update without really doing any real hackery, but don't mind a little command line work. Nothing we do here is permanent, other than the update itself. If you've already flashed a custom recovery, you should be able to update manually using that, instead of our method. And with that...

Caution: This guide is intended for technically proficient users only. Proceed at your own risk. Dragons ahead, etc.

The prerequisites

  • A completely stock Nexus tablet running the latest build of Android 4.3
  • The latest version of the Android SDK installed
  • The OTA packages (those here are for Android 4.4): Nexus 7 (2012); Nexus 7 (2013); Nexus 10

Check past the break to see the full manual update process.

The process

  1. Place the update .zip package from Google in the Android SDK/platform-tools folder on your computer, but do not unzip it.
  2. On your Nexus, go to Settings > Development options and switch the toggle on. Then enable USB debugging under the "Debugging" menu group.
  3. Power down your tablet
  4. Start up the bootloader by holding down volume up, volume down and power on your tablet.
  5. When the menu loads, plug your Nexus into your computer.
  6. Use the volume up/down keys to navigate to "Recovery mode", then press the power button.
  7. When the Android with the red exclamation point appears, hold down power first, followed quickly by volume up. You should now see the recovery menu. 
  8. Use the volume up/down keys to select "apply update from ADB," then press power to select it.
  9. On your computer, open up a command prompt or terminal window.
  10. Using the command line, navigate to the Android SDK/platform-tools folder 
  11. On Windows, type:
    adb.exe sideload <the complete name of the OTA zip file you want to flash>
    ... or on Mac, type:
    ./adb-mac sideload <the complete name of the OTA zip file you want to flash>
    ... or on Linux, type: 
    ./adb sideload <the complete name of the OTA zip file you want to flash>
  12. The update should begin installing. When it's done, select "reboot system now."
  13. Enjoy some delicious KitKat
Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.