Whether it’s the latest version of Android Marshmallow or the Android N Developer Preview, we know how difficult it is to wait for its over-the-air arrival.
Good news! Google posts factory images for each Nexus device, so you can go ahead and update your device to the latest and greatest version right now instead of waiting. We know this can be a little scary — especially for beginners — so that’s why we put together this comprehensive guide detailing each and every step of the way. You won’t find a more complete tutorial anywhere else.
Related: Android N rumors and news
Updated on 05-04-2016 by Robert Nazarian: Google released the May 2016 security patches. You can follow this guide to install the update on your Nexus device since the download link page remains the same. Click here to find out what was patched.
How to flash the factory image on a Nexus
Flashing the factory image differs from installing the over-the-air (OTA) update in that the factory image contains the full system files for your device, whereas the OTA update contains only the upgrade information. In other words, flashing a factory image is more like completely deleting all the software on your device and replacing it. The OTA will only replace what is being changed since your last update.
Some people prefer to install the OTA update since you don’t have to do a factory reset, while others like the factory image method because it’s like starting from scratch with a fresh install of the entire system. It’s more of a pain to factory reset your device, but you are less prone to some of those annoying bugs that seem to crop up after an OTA update.
If you would rather download and install the OTA update, we have complete guides for that as well. Click here for instructions on installing the Android Marshmallow OTA update on your Nexus device. If you want to try the Android N Developer Preview, click here for instructions on how to join the Android Beta Program.
If you want to flash the factory image for either Marshmallow or the Android N Developer Preview, then you’re already in the right place. Just remember to make sure all your data is backed up, because you will lose all your data on the device when you unlock the bootloader, which is required for flashing. There is no way to unlock a bootloader without a factory reset. However, if you happen to already have an unlocked bootloader, then you can forgo the factory reset if you wish. We will show you how later on, but we still recommend that you back up your data in case something goes wrong.