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How to flash Android O factory image on Nexus, Pixel devices

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Like last year, Google has released a developer preview for Android O two months before the company’s developer conference. There’s no public over-the-air update this time around, though, so you’ll have to manually flash the system images to your phone.

Google has posted factory images for the Nexus 5X, 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel, and Pixel XL. We should caution, however, that the first developer preview is often the buggiest. There could be bugs that brick your device, so make sure you back up your data before you do anything. Google also mentions that a public beta will be available at a later date, and this first preview is largely for developers. Still, if you want to take a crack at seeing Android O now, we put together this comprehensive guide detailing each and every step of the way.

How to flash the factory image

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.

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.

Installing ADB and Fastboot

In order to flash the factory image to your Nexus or Pixel device, you must have ADB and Fastboot installed on your desktop computer. ADB stands for Android Debug Bridge, and it allows you to send commands to your Android device over USB through a terminal/command-line interface such as Windows Command Prompt. Fastboot allows you to unlock the bootloader on your Android device.

There are two methods to getting ADB and Fastboot on your computer. The first is to download and install the Android SDK tools from the Android developer site. This method will work on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. If you’re a Windows user, you can download and install Minimal ADB and Fastboot instead, which is actually the easiest method. However, we recommend installing the Android SDK tools because the download will also give you the Google USB drivers at the same time, which you will need in order for your computer to recognize your device. If you do decide to install Minimal ADB and Fastboot, you can still download the Google USB drivers separately. We will show you how to do that later.

Follow the instructions below for either installing the Android SDK tools or Minimal ADB and Fastboot.

Download and install the Android SDK tools

  1. Click here to download and install the Android SDK Tools from Google’s developer site. There are choices for Windows, Mac, and Linux. These instructions are for Windows machines.
  2. When asked what directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdk. If you choose a different location, just make sure you remember it.
  3. Once the Android SDK Tools are installed, launch the download from the Start Menu.
  4. The SDK Manager will open. Just uncheck everything except Android SDK Platform-tools and Google USB Driver. Android SDK Platform-tools is at the top and Google USB Driver is toward the bottom.
  5. Click on Install 2 packages at the bottom right.
  6. Check Accept license and click Install.

ADB and Fastboot will now reside in the C:android-sdkplatform-tools folder if you followed step 2 as outlined. If you chose a different directory, than ADB and Fastboot will reside in the platform-tools folder under whatever location you chose to install the Android SDK Tools to in step 2.

Download and install Minimal ADB and Fastboot

  1. Click here to download minimal_adb_fastboot_v1.3.1_setup.exe from the XDA forums. Note: the version number could be different if a newer version is released after this post has been published.
  2. Launch the minimal_adb_fastboot_v1.3.1_setup.exe file.
  3. When asked which directory to install the software to, we recommend that you set it to C:android-sdkplatform-tools, since we will be using that location for the rest of this guide. If you choose a different location, just make sure you remember it.

Downloading the Android O Developer Preview factory system image

Now it’s time to grab the most recent version of the Android Nougat or Android O Developer Preview factory image. Please click on one of the following links to download the appropriate file for your device.

Just make sure to select the version that matches your device. This is very important, because you must flash the Nexus 5 image on a Nexus 5. A Pixel XL image won’t work on a Nexus 5.

You will notice that each device has a bunch of links under it. Google makes it easy to revert back to an older update if you wish. The most recent update is generally at the bottom of the list. The Android O developer preview is available for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.

Note: Google will post factory images for each and every update moving forward. This means that you can follow this guide again and continue to get the latest preview of Android O right away without the need to wait until your device receives the OTA update automatically.

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