How to install the Android M (Marshmallow) Developer Preview on your Nexus device

Android M Hands On
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Google has announced the Android M Developer Preview, which means that although it’s not quite ready for the public just yet, you can try the early version out for yourself if you have a compatible Nexus device, a little technical know-how, and our handy guide. Google is offering the preview for the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and the Nexus Player.

Before jumping in, there are a few important things to remember. This software is a developer preview, which means that it will have more than a few bugs that could spoil your day. If that sounds annoying, then it may not be for you. However, if you want to live life on the cutting edge with Android M, that’s the price you’ll have to pay. The good news is that if you want to revert back to Android 5.0 Lollipop, you can do so quite easily.

Also, the process may erase all the data stored on your Nexus device, so make sure you have everything that is important to you backed up. This is because it must have an unlocked bootloader to install Android M, and that requires a factory reset, hence the data wipe. However, if the bootloader is already unlocked, your data will remain on the device. To be on the safe side, regardless of what method you use, we still recommend that you backup your data, just in case of disaster.

It might seem like a daunting task to flash a new OS on your phone or tablet, and while there are other guides online, they assume you already know what you’re doing, exasperating the situation. We decided to offer something more comprehensive that will especially help the newbies.

Installing ADB and Fastboot

In order to flash a system image, you must have ADB and Fastboot installed. 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 flash images to 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, but it includes a lot more than what you really need. This method will work for both Windows and Mac machines. If you’re a Windows user, and assuming you don’t plan on developing apps, you can download and install Minimal ADB and Fastboot instead, which will give you just the necessary files.

If you decide to go down the route of installing the full SDK, ADB and Fastboot will be in the C:program files (x86)androidandroid-sdkplatform-tools folder in Windows. If you use Minimal ADB and Fastboot, you can choose the directory you want.

Download the Android M Developer Preview system image

Now it’s time to grab Android M Developer Preview, and it’s available through Google’s Android Developers siteJust 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 Nexus 6 image won’t work on a Nexus 5.

Having made sure, scroll down to the Hardware System Images section, accept the Terms and Conditions, and the download will begin.

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