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You can download and install a new OTA update for the Pixel and Pixel XL without waiting for Google to send it to you by following these steps below.

Sideloading on Android generally means to install something manually. You can sideload an APK file by simply downloading it to your smartphone or tablet and then simply opening it up and installing it manually. You can manually sideload an OTA update on the Pixel and Pixel XL as well, but the process is a little more complicated than just sideloading an application.

To sideload an OTA update we need to have a number of things setup ahead of time.

The process isn’t exactly difficult, it’s just not as easy as sideloading an application. As long as you have no made any modifications to the /system partition then you shouldn’t have any problem sideloading an OTA update on the Pixel and Pixel XL. I will be walking you through the step by step process, and if you get confused then you can simply follow along with the embedded video below this guide.

As always, feel free to ask any questions about this tutorial down in the comments section below.

Note – If you come across a “cannot read” error when executing the command in Step 23 below, you may want to check out this guide I wrote when I came across this issue.

Pixel Sideload Update

  1. Download and install Google’s USB drivers on the PC
  2. It’s advised to reboot the PC after installation
  3. Download the Pixel or Pixel XL OTA update you want to sideload
  4. Rename this OTA update file to “ota.zip” (without quotes)
  5. Enable Developer Mode on the Pixel
  6. Enable USB Debugging Mode on the Pixel
  7. Download and install the Minimal ADB & Fastboot tools on the PC
  8. Copy/move the Pixel OTA update ZIP file to the Minimal ADB & Fastboot tools directory
  9. For me, this is “C:\Program Files (x86)\Minimal ADB and Fastboot” (without quotes)
  10. Launch the ADB & Fastboot shortcut (from step 6)
  11. Then type the following command in the Command Prompt. . .
  12. adb devices
  13. . . .and press Enter on the keyboard
  14. Connect the Pixel or Pixel XL to the PC with a USB cable
  15. If prompted, always allow USB Debugging access from this PC
  16. Disconnect the USB Cable from the Pixel
  17. Boot the Pixel into Fastboot Mode
  18. Then boot the Pixel into Recovery Mode
  19. Press the Volume Down button until the ‘Apply Update from ADB’ option is highlighted
  20. Then press the Power button to select this option
  21. Reconnect the USB Cable from the PC to the Pixel phone
  22. Type the following command in the Command Prompt. . .
  23. adb sideload ota.zip
  24. . . .then press Enter on the keyboard
  25. Wait for the OTA update to upload and install on the Pixel
  26. Once completed, make sure the ‘Reboot System Now’ option is highlighted
  27. Then press the Power button to select this option
  28. Be patient during your first boot cycle after the update

Explanation

If you’ve been following along with the previous tutorials here on Android Explained, then a lot of this will be familiar. Before you begin this guide, you will need to go ahead and setup a number of things ahead of time. So, be sure that you have the USB drivers installed, you have the Minimal ADB & Fastboot tools installed (or any other updated version), and that you have enabled Developer Mode so that you can enable USB Debugging Mode on the Pixel or Pixel XL.

You will then need to start the ADB service via the Command Prompt so that when you connect the USB cable to the Pixel phone, it will be recognized by the ADB service. You can double check this by typing ‘adb devices’ again after you have connected the phone and you should see a device listed there with random numbers/characters to identify it. You’ll also need to download the OTA update ZIP file from Google and then move/copy it to the same folder that your ADB & Fastboot tools are in.

Pixel Sideload Update Download
Be sure to download the build number for your Pixel phone, and that it is the very next update in the chain.

Once all of that is done, you can then boot the Pixel or Pixel XL into Fastboot Mode so that you can boot over into Recovery Mode. After you have bypassed the Recovery Mode splash screen, you can press the Volume Down button a couple of times until the Apply Update from ADB option is highlighted. You’ll want to press the Power button to select this option and then you’ll be greeted with some text at the bottom of the screen that tells you the phone is ready.

So now you can turn your attention back to the Command Prompt, and type out the adb sideload ota.zip command. Press the Enter key to execute this command and if everything has been done properly, you’ll see a percentage number appear on the next line of the Command Prompt. This will tell you the progress you’re currently at, and you’ll also get some text feedback on the screen of the Pixel phone.

As shown in the video above, this process can take a little while, so be patient while the update is applied to the phone. After the installation has been completed, you’ll be taken back to the stock Android Recovery menu, and from here you can simply press the power button to select the Reboot System Now option. This first boot will take some time since an update has just been applied to the phone. So be patient and you will boot right into the Android OS.

[sc name=”pixel” ]

1 COMMENT

    • That is correct. Sideloading an OTA update is similar to downloading the update that Google sends to you via the Notification panel. So if you have made any changes to your /system partition (which a lot of root methods do), then the update will fail and you’ll be rebooted back into Android

      Pixel has a systemless root from Chainfire though (that I wrote about) and that should allow you to do sideload the OTA update with this guide.

      If the sideload/update fails, then it won’t mess your phone up. You’ll just be rebooted back into Android. So it won’t hurt to try.

  1. I realize this is a bit of an old discussion but, I was wondering if this applies to Verizon bought Pixel phones. I’m wanting to leave Verizon and go to T-Mobile but want to be sure my device keeps receiving updates. I read somewhere that with some kind of sideloaded update, the updates will come from Google.

  2. Great tips, thank you.

    quick comments:

    I had trouble getting into recovery mode from fastboot. It seems you hold the power up and volume up for about 10 seconds or so. If you leave it too long it just reboots, too short and nothing happens.

    I also had trouble getting the device recognised once I had selected the ADB sideload option from recovery. It said device not recognised. To overcome this I had to reload the google USB drivers, AFTER selecting ADB sideload from the pixel recovery menu. this help was found from: http://forums.androidcentral.com/google-nexus-7-tablet-2013/461320-why-am-i-getting-error-message-adb-device-not-found-when-attempting-sideload-my-android-5-a.html

    (step 5 is where I loaded it, not step 2)
    Steps below are:
    Reinstalling the google USB ADB drivers
    1) On your Windows desktop, Go to your Control Panel then Device Manager.
    2) You should see Android Phone under Other Devices with a Yellow ! mark on it.
    3) Right click on it and choose “Update Driver Software”
    4) Choose “Browse my computer”, then “Let me pick from a list.”
    5) If you see categories, select “Android Device”, then select “Android ADB Interface”.
    6) The driver will install and you can now run the update with ADB.

    hope this helps

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