How to use ADB or Flash Tool to manually install Google Pixel updates | #macos | #macsecurity


Google releases monthly system updates for Pixel devices with updated security patches to help keep your device safe. These updates can also include new features and critical bug fixes, providing you with the best possible user experience. You don’t have to sit and wait for the update to install itself, either; you can also do it manually. Check out the guide below to learn more about all the different ways you can install the monthly system update for your Pixel device.

Manually check for OTA system updates

Aside from just waiting for the automatic OTA (Over the Air) update to hit your device, you can also force-check for updates. You’ll still rely on the official OTA method of installing the update; however, kick-starting the process saves you some time. To manually check for your monthly system update, you can do the following:

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  1. Open the Settings app on your Pixel device.
  2. Go to SystemSystem update.
  3. Your device will now check for any available updates and install them automatically.

It may seem obvious to more advanced users, but not everyone knows that you can check for system updates in this manner. You might be surprised to find out the update was just sitting there waiting for you to install it. And if your update doesn’t show up right away, keep checking back — Google rolls out most updates in stages.

Since the OTA update typically doesn’t drop for everyone simultaneously, you may not be eligible to receive yours right away. Rather than waiting for Google or your wireless carrier to send you the update, you can skip that step. If you want to install an update immediately with minimal effort, the Android Flash Tool is the option for you.

Always be sure to create a backup of your device and files just in case there’s a problem. Sometimes accidents happen — it’s better to take a moment and keep your data safe.

To install your monthly system update using the Android Flash Tool, do the following:

  1. Plug your phone into a USB port on your computer.
  2. Visit the official Android Flash Tool website on your computer and click the Get Started button.
    android-flash-tool-get-started-1
  3. Tap Download Android USB Driver and follow the instructions if needed; otherwise, press Already installed to continue.
    usb-driver-android-flash-tool
  4. Click the Allow ADB access button to grant the proper permissions to send data from your computer to your phone.
    grant-adb-keys-flash-tool
  5. On your Pixel phone, confirm the fingerprint key for the computer by pressing Allow when required.
    • Check the Always allow from this computer box to avoid any potential connection issues that might pop up later.
      rsa-fingerprint-flash-tool-1
  6. If you get the No devices available message on the Flash Tool, follow the on-screen steps to prepare your device for the installation process.
    android-flash-tool-no-devices
  7. Press the Add new device button after your device has been set up correctly.
  8. Select your Pixel in the menu popup, then press the Connect button.
    flash-tool-pixel-5-connect


After your phone has connected successfully, you can search for the specific build you want to install through the Android Flash Tool. You’ll find the latest monthly system update for your device under the Public releases section. Click Back to Public, and it’ll automatically select the latest version for you.

flash-tool-public-build

Since you’re using the Flash Tool to update your device rather than undergoing a factory reset, there’s one extra step you need to take. Click the pencil icon on the right to open a new screen with a few additional options.

flash-tool-edit-options

Uncheck the Wipe Device, Lock Bootloader, and Force Flash all Partitions boxes to avoid losing the data on your device.

uncheck-pixel-flash-tool-options

You can also go to the official Pixel system images page, locate your device and the latest version, then click Flash. It’ll take you directly to that selected version in the Flash Tool with the Wipe Device, Lock Bootloader, and Force Flash all Partitions boxes already unchecked by default. Doing this saves you a few extra clicks; otherwise, the rest of the installation process remains the same.

Once you’re ready to install the latest system update for your device, click the Install build button to continue. Review your settings on the overview screen, then press Confirm.


flash-tool-install-overview

Accept the license agreement message that pops up by clicking I Accept.

flash-tool-license-agreement

Your phone will start preparing for the installation and reboot as a part of that process. If needed, click the Reselect device option in the Flash Tool, select your device again, then hit Connect.

flash-tool-reselect-device

The installation process will finally begin. It might take some time to download and install the latest system update for your device, so be patient.

pixel-flash-tool-install-1

Once the update is finished, your device should automatically reboot to your lock screen. It’s ready to use after that.

pixel-flash-tool-install-complete

Sideload the OTA update yourself

Sideloading the OTA update manually is an excellent choice for more technical or adventurous users. Doing so gives you complete control over how and when your device updates are installed. If you’d prefer to sideload your OTA system update manually, you can do the following:


  1. Download the latest Android SDK platform-tools and extract the folder to your desktop for easy access.
  2. Install the Google USB drivers if needed (for Windows users.)
  3. Download the latest OTA update image for your device and move it to the platform-tools folder.
  4. Enable USB debugging on your Pixel device.
    • Go to SettingsAbout phone and tap the Build number section 7 times to activate the developer options. From there, press the back arrow once, then go to SystemDeveloper options. Scroll down, tap the USB debugging option, then press OK to enable it.

  5. Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable.
  6. Open a command window or terminal in the platform-tools folder.
    • If you’re using Windows, you can click the address bar in the platform-tools folder, type cmd, and press Enter. This will open a new command window directly in the platform-tools folder.
      open-cmd-platform-tools
  7. Reboot into recovery mode by typing adb reboot recovery in your command window or terminal followed by the Enter key.
    adb-reboot-recovery-command
  8. If you see the green Android with the red exclamation point, hold the power button for a second and quickly tap the volume up key to enter Recovery Mode.
    • Navigate the recovery menu with the volume keys, highlight the Apply update from ADB option, then press the power button to select it.
  9. To ensure the previous steps worked correctly, you can type adb devices in your command window or terminal, followed by the Enter key.
    • You should now see a unique identifier for your phone with sideload next to it, which means ADB is working correctly on your device.
      adb-devices-ota-sideload
  10. In your command window or terminal, type adb sideload your_file_name_here.zip, replacing the filename with the OTA update file you downloaded earlier.


adb-ota-sideload-cmd

On some platforms (Mac and Linux in particular), ADB commands will likely need to be entered with “./” minus the quotes at the beginning for them to work correctly. For example, type ./adb reboot recovery followed by the Enter key to reboot your device into Recovery Mode.

After you type the adb sideload part and hit the space bar, you can drag and drop the OTA image file onto the command window. Doing so will automatically generate the correct path regardless of where the original file is located. This means you won’t have to bother dragging and dropping the OTA image file to the platform-tools folder.

The installation might take a bit to complete, so be patient as it updates your device. Once the process is finished, press the power button in the recovery menu to select the Reboot system now option, and you’re good to go.

If you have a custom recovery installed on your Pixel, such as TWRP, you can take that same OTA image .zip file and install it from there. The TWRP method allows you to install your monthly OTA update without relying on a computer.

Sideload the full system update yourself

Much like the manual OTA method, sideloading the full system image is possible for more advanced users. However, the main difference is that you can grab the boot.img file from the system image files after you update. You can patch the boot.img file using Magisk to gain root access, which many power users are eager to do after a system update.

If your bootloader is locked, Google won’t let you install these updates using the system image method. As such, this option is only for the advanced users who already have their bootloader unlocked and ready to go — it’s not a recommended choice for the average Pixel customer.

If you want to update manually using a full system image, you can do the following:

  1. Download the latest Android SDK platform-tools and extract the folder to your desktop for easy access.
    platform-tools-folder-1
  2. Install the Google USB drivers if needed (for Windows users.)
  3. Download the latest system image for your device.
  4. Enable USB debugging on your Pixel device.
    • Go to SettingsAbout phone and tap the Build number section 7 times to activate the developer options. From there, press the back arrow once, then go to SystemDeveloper options. Scroll down, tap the USB debugging option, then press OK to enable it.

  5. Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable.
  6. Open a command window or terminal in the platform-tools folder.
    • If you’re using Windows, you can click the address bar in the platform-tools folder, type cmd, and press Enter. This will open a new command window directly in the platform-tools folder.
      open-cmd-platform-tools
  7. Reboot into Fastboot Mode by typing adb reboot bootloader in your command window or terminal, followed by the Enter key.
    adb-reboot-bootloader
  8. Locate the flash-all file in your Pixel system image folder, then open it with any text editor program.
    edit-flash-all-file-1
  9. Find the line towards the bottom that shows fastboot -w update image-your-device.version.number.zip.
    install-pixel-system-image-1-1
  10. Delete the -w part after fastboot, then save and close the text editor.
    • The -w command tells the script to wipe the data on your device, which is important to avoid when installing a routine system update. Make sure you remove the -w part for every new update before running the flash-all script from here on out.
      install-pixel-system-image-2


Now you’ll need to drag and drop all the contents from the Pixel system image folder to the platform-tools folder. The platform-tools folder has the required ADB and Fastboot executables, allowing you to send the proper commands over to your phone.

copy-system-image-fastboot

Once the files are in the platform-tools folder, you can run the flash-all script after that. It’ll automatically start installing the entire system update for you and reboot when it’s finished. Your device is now fully updated to the latest version and ready to go.

install-pixel-system-image-3

If you had root access before the update, now is the time to grab the boot.img file and patch it through Magisk.

pixel-system-boot-img

As you can see, there’s no shortage of the various different ways you can update your Pixel device. Should you prefer to let the system take care of itself or install the updates manually, choose the best method for your needs. Advanced users can take advantage of many options for greater control.

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