This post is >2 years old, some information may no longer be accurate

2017 Update

Whilst I keep keeping this page up for reference, the information on it is now out of date. KitKat is an old build of android!

If you do still have a Nexus 7 2012 lying around, then I would recommend installing Beanstalk 6.0.1. Install it using TWRP as in the original guide. There is a link to the modern GApps in the Beanstalk XDA thread.

I would also recommend installing ParrotMod to help speed the device up too.

Personally, I have Beanstalk and ParrotMod installed and haven't found any major issues, but I don't use my Nexus 7 very often anymore.


Introduction

One of the most popular 7” tablets in 2012, the original Nexus 7 took the industry by storm with its ultra-low price tag and top end specifications. However, as the months passed, users began to report a major issue with the tablet – slowness. The once speedy tablet ground to a halt with apps taking an age to load, long boot times, choppy animations and just general slowness. The issue got worse and worse and many users stopped using theirs altogether.

The cause of this slowness is actually due to hardware. Whilst the headline specs of the tablet were good for the time, especially considering the price, the NAND flash used in the device was of poor quality. This poor quality NAND led to the tablet slowing down over time. The introduction of TRIM support in Android 4.3 helped somewhat, but never enough. Nexus 7 users just had to put up with the sub-par performance.

Back in the summer, I decided I needed to do something about my Nexus. I loved that tablet, but I couldn’t put up with the performance anymore. I also wanted more customisability and the Nexus line calls out for being rooted. In fact, they are the easiest devices on the market to root. Whilst doing some research, I stumbled across a file-system called F2FS. F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System) was developed by Samsung for use with NAND flash devices. It was built with the intention of being used on eMMC, SSD’s and SD cards, resulting in improved performance over the existing ext4 system used by Android.

Over on XDA Developers, I found a user called Legolas who had been working on a way to bring F2FS to the Nexus 7. He created a conversion app and kernel and released it to the public. However, there was no definitive, easy to follow guide. All information online was aimed at people with experience in rooting. I had never rooted any Android device or flashed a custom ROM before doing this so I really had to stumble my way through it. I did, and have been using my Nexus 7 for 6 months now. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn bit better than before. Let’s get started shall we?

What you’ll need

  • Nexus 7 2012. This is the first generation Nexus 7, identifiable by its dimpled rubber back. This guide works with both the WiFi and 3G versions of the device.
  • Convert to F2FS App from the Google Play Store
  • The latest SlimKat build for your device and Google Apps
  • Nexus Root Toolkit by WugFresh
  • Some time

How to do it

Step 1 – Back up your device

The first thing you will need to do is to take a backup of your Nexus 7 since flashing SlimKat and converting to F2FS will result in all data being wiped from your device. If you have nothing on your device that you need to keep, then you can skip ahead to step 2. Otherwise backing up your data is pretty painless.

Connect your Nexus 7 to your PC using a micro USB cable. Once Windows does its thing and configured the necessary drivers, you should be able to see all other the folders on your Nexus 7. If you don’t, make sure the device is unlocked. Also make sure that the USB Connection is set to *Media Device *on the Nexus. Copy any folders you wish to back up to a safe location on your computer. This will back up things like photos, music and videos. To backup apps and their data, see step 2b.

Step 2 – Configure NRT

For the rest of this guide will need to use Nexus Root Toolkit. This is an all-in-one tool created by WugFresh from the popular site XDADevelopers. The latest version is available from his site here:
http://www.wugfresh.com/nrt/

Once you’ve installed the latest version of NRT, ensure your Nexus is connected via USB and open it. It will first check for updates and download any dependencies – you must allow it to do this! Once everything is downloaded, it will prompt you for your device. To find the Android build you are currently running, open the Settings app and tap About Tablet. Scroll down to the bottom to find the build number and choose the appropriate number in NRT. Press OK.

For NRT to be able to interface with the tablet, it needs to install the appropriate drivers. Click Full Driver Installation Guide – Automatic + Manual and follow the on screen instructions to install them.

Step 2b – App backup

If you want to back up your apps and data the easiest way is through NRT. Click backup in NRT and choose Create Android Backup File. Leave System apps + data and Shared data unchecked. Once NRT has backed up your apps, it is important to check the backup. If it is 0B in size then try again since something obviously went wrong.

Step 3 – Unlock the Bootloader

The bootloader is the part of phone that actually loads the OS. When you turn the phone on it is the first thing that runs. In order to run a different version of Android than was originally on the device the bootloader must be unlocked. This is very easy on Nexus devices. Simply click *Unlock *and follow the on screen instructions and reboot your device when necessary.

Step 4 – Root

This is the part of the guide that will give you true administrator access on your phone. This allows you to navigate the hidden areas of the file system and run apps that require more rights and access. Apps such as the popular Titanium Backup can only run on rooted phones. It gives you much more flexibility with your tablet.

Since the Nexus devices are pure Google, they are easy to root. First make sure that NRT is set to use the right recovery program. You must use Open Recovery by Team Win Recovery, also known as TWRP. TWRP has native F2FS support and is therefore the best option for us. To make sure NRT will install TWRP, open the Options menu and go to the Custom Recovery tab. Make sure Open Recovery by Team Win Recovery is selected and press Apply.

Once you’ve made sure you’re using the right recovery, click Root in NRT. Ensure that Also Flash Custom Recovery is checked. Again, follow the on screen instructions.

Step 5 – Backup (again!)

Just in case anything goes wrong during the next steps, it is a very good idea to take another backup. However, since you’re now rooted, you have to option to do a Nandroid backup. This is a full clone of everything on your device, including the ROM. This way, if anything goes wrong you can revert back to exactly where you were when you made this backup.

Click Backup in NRT and then Create Nandroid Backup w/ custom recovery.

Step 6 – Make SlimKat F2FS compatible

Out of the box, SlimKat doesn’t support the F2FS file system. However, thanks to Leoglas from XDA there is an easy way to make it compatible.

The official way to do it is download the Convert to F2FS app from the Play Store: here. The app does cost 98p though. If you don’t want to pay this and support Legolas, some users of XDA are doing the conversions for you and uploading them in this thread. I don’t recommend this because it is very easy to do yourself and you are then not reliant on others to do it if a vital update comes around. This guide will document the use of the app.

First you will need to download the SlimKat ROM for your device from the SlimRoms website: http://slimroms.net/. You will need to find the latest stable build for your device. At the time of writing this guide, 9.0 is that latest stable build of SlimKat. If you’re feeling more adventurous and don’t mind a few bugs you can choose to use a weekly build. As the name suggests, a new version is pushed out weekly (or thereabouts). They allow you to get the latest features but haven’t been tested as well as the stable builds. If you’re looking for a rock solid experience, then choose a stable build.

The WiFi only version the Nexus 7 2012 is known by its device name grouper. Stable builds for grouper are here: http://slimroms.net/index.php/downloads/dlsearch/viewcategory/1057-grouper. The 3G version is known as tilapia. Stable builds are here: http://slimroms.net/index.php/downloads/dlsearch/viewcategory/1089-tilapia

In the downloads section, you will be looking for Slim-device name-4.4.4.build.build number-OFFICIAL. It will be a fairly large download of around 130MB. Download it and save it to a memorable location. Don’t extract it, leave it as a .zip file.

SlimKat builds do not include any Google Apps such as the Play Store, Maps, Gmail etc. To get these, SlimRoms have put together a package you can download. It comes in mini, normal and full versions which each contain different amounts of apps. Depending on what you need you can download the relevant versions. Download links and lists of included apps can be found here: http://slimroms.net/index.php/new-addons-menu. I recommend the Normal version for most cases: http://slimroms.net/index.php/downloads/dlsearch/viewcategory/1150-addons4-4. Download it and save it to a memorable location.

Now copy both zip files to the root of your Nexus 7. If you are using a pre-converted ROM then you can skip this step. Open the Convert to F2FS app and browse to the SlimKat ROM (not the GApps zip, just the ROM). Choose your device from the dropdown, and press Convert. This can take 5-10 minutes, so be patient. The converted ROM will be saved in a ConvertToF2FS folder on the root of your device.

Step 7 – Convert the file system to F2FS

Now reboot back into TWRP recovery. You can either use the Quickboot app on your Nexus or NRT. Once TWRP has loaded, choose Wipe then Advanced Wipe.

Check System and press Repair or Change File System. Choose Change File System and select F2FS. Once the conversion is complete, repeat for the Cache partition. Don’t touch the Data partition for now, I learnt that the hard way! Then reboot the device back into TWRP/Recovery to ensure that TWRP has updated itself for the new file system.

Step 8 – Flash!

The end is in sight now. Still inside TWRP, tap Install and then browse to the ConvertToF2FS folder. Select the zip file in the folder – this is your converted SlimKat ROM. Confirm the flash and wait for it to complete. When TWRP says successful, tap Wipe Cache/Dalvik. Tap Home then do the same for the GApps zip file – this will be located in the root of your device. Reboot the device back into TWRP again (thanks to all the comments that pointed this out!)

Step 9 – Format data partition

We didn’t wipe the data partition earlier since it contained the ROM we needed to flash. Now we’ve flashed SlimKat and the Google Apps we can now wipe the Data partition and convert it to F2FS. The steps are the same as before. Choose Wipe then Advanced Wipe convert the data partition to F2FS.

This is the last thing we need to do in TWRP so reboot. You should be greeted by a SlimKat boot screen this time. Don’t be alarmed if it seems to hang on the boot screen, it can take 5-10 minutes to boot this first time. Once it’s booted up you should be greeted by the setup screen. Follow the instructions to set up SlimKat.

Step 10 – Re-root

Now you’ve flashed SlimKat, you’ll have lost the root access you had earlier. To get root access once more, we can use NRT again. However, you will need to change a setting inside NRT. Open NRT. Under Your model type, press the Change… button. Leave the device alone but change the build to CUSTOM ROM – KK and press Apply.

Now uncheck Also Flash Custom Recovery and press Root. If there is a new version of TWRP, you can leave this checked, but leaving it unchecked will speed up the process.

Once NRT is done, you can check your root access by using the Root Checker app from the play store.

Congratulations, you’re done! Now go enjoy your faster Nexus 7!

Step 10b

If you have an issue where you cannot login to your Google account, cannot access the Play Store or similar issues regarding the Google Apps, it could be caused by Google Play Services not being installed.

Go to Settings, Apps and swipe right to get to All. Scroll down and have a look to see if Google Play Services is listed. If it’s not listed, you’ll need to install it manually.

Go back to Settings and choose Security. Make sure Unknown Souces is checked. Then download Google Play Services from here: http://www.apkmirror.com/apk/google-inc/google-play-services/google-play-services-6-5-99-1642632-446-apk/

Once you’ve installed this, your issues should go away.

Updating SlimKat

If you do need to update SlimKat to a new version, here is a quick summary of how to update SlimKat. SlimKat will notify you when a new stable version is available.

  • Download the latest SlimKat ROM
  • Copy it to your device and convert it with the F2FS app
  • Reboot into TWRP
  • Tap install and find the SlimKat ROM in the ConvertToF2FS folder
  • Once the flash is complete, you must tap Wipe Cache/Dalvik
  • Reboot

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you have any issues then let me know down in the comments below.