Pixels don’t have a “download mode” like Samsung Galaxy phones, so there’s no easy point-and-click way to send firmware files and low-level commands from your computer. What they do have is an even more powerful tool: Fastboot Mode.
Also known as Bootloader mode, this is one way of communicating with your device before it boots into Android. This is important because once the main OS has booted, all security checks are firmly in place and it is practically impossible to change the firmware to get things like root or custom ROMs.
But people are often intimidated by Fastboot’s command line interface. It̵
Step 1: Boot your phone in Fastboot mode
Before you can send Fastboot commands, your Pixel must be in Fastboot mode. Many people have a hard time getting ADB drivers up and running to send the command that boots the device in this mode (adb reboot bootloader), but guess what? You don’t even need an ADB for this part.
Just start rebooting your phone. Long press the power button, and depending on your settings, tap “Restart” from the menu, or choose “Power” and then “Restart”. From there, hold the reduce volume button. Keep holding it until you get to the “Fastboot Mode” main menu as shown below.
Step 2: Connect to your computer
This is a simple step: just connect your Pixel to your computer with a USB data cable. Make sure to leave it on the main “Fastboot Mode” screen while doing this.
Step 3: Download Google’s Platform Tools
Download the platform tools from Google on your computer now. This is a small piece of software, popularly known as ADB and Fastboot, that allows your computer to communicate with your phone at a low level.
Step 4: Unzip the ZIP
Now extract the ZIP of the platform tools. On most computers, you can right-click the file and choose “Extract Here” or something similar from the context menu. Once extracted, insert it platform tools folder somewhere you can easily access (for example, your desktop).
Step 5: Open a command prompt in the correct folder
Now you need to open a command prompt and make sure it is outside of the platform tools folder you just extracted. This is the part most people struggle with, but there is a trick that makes it super easy.
If you’re using Windows, press the Windows button on your keyboard to open the Start menu, then type “cmd” and hit enter to open the command prompt. If you are using Mac or Linux, just open the “Terminal” application.
Then type CD in the prompt, then add a single space. Find it platform tools folder you extracted. Drag it from your desktop or file browser and drop it in the top right of the command window. This will populate the full path of the folder after the “cd” text you typed. Once it does, go ahead and hit enter.
Step 6: Submit Fastboot commands
Now you are all set to send Fastboot commands! You can check the connection by entering the following command:
If this returns a string of letters and numbers followed by the word “fastboot” then you are good to go. Otherwise, if you get the error “Command not found”, send the following command instead:
Notice the difference? You only need a period and a slash (./) for the word “fastboot.” If your computer needs this from you for the “fastboot devices” command, you must do this for all other Fastboot commands (eg. ./fastboot flashing unlock or ./fastboot reboot bootloader).
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