Bought a new Google phone? Here is how to unlock bootloader on Google Pixel and the older Nexus devices. Google’s Pixel lineup is focused on providing the best Android experience on the market. Further, it is also set up perfectly to act as a test bench for developers that are creating new apps on Android. Google’s phone hardware has always been like an example to other OEMs on how should Android be — just like the previous Nexus phones and tablets. To support the cause even more and allow enthusiasts greater control over the device, Google also officially allow users to unlock bootloaders of their phones.
Once you unlock the bootloader, you would be able to flash system files directly onto your phone and modify existing system files. For obvious security reasons, Google ships all phones with a locked bootloader but allows easy unlock if required. For a complete step-by-step procedure on unlocking any Google Pixel phone’s bootloader, we have the tutorial right ahead.
Before we take you through the procedure, make sure you have created a complete backup of your user data as this process will initiate a factory reset and your data will be wiped clean. Again, the process ahead is officially supported and would not require any third-party tools. All the steps have been listed by Google themselves on their Android Developers website.
Why unlock bootloader on Google Pixel?
Pixel phones are Google’s perception of a perfect Android phone. Since Google manages both hardware and software when it comes to Pixel devices, it has become a popular device for enthusiasts and developers.
Now, to fully use the Google Pixel phones and utilize it as a test-bench, bootloader unlock becomes quite necessary. Without it, flashing firmware — be it official or custom — is not possible. Further, if you are looking to test out third-party mods, again, OEM bootloader unlock is necessary.
If the sole purpose for you to unlocking the bootloader is to install or flash a factory image file, we recommend using the Android Flash Tool from your web browser.
How does unlocking the bootloader effect warranty?
In many warranty policies, a bootloader unlock simply renders a warranty useless and void. However, there is a process through which you can re-lock it and return the phone to its original state. This will in turn then return the warranty.
If you have a phone that is over its warranty time limit, unlocking bootloader wouldn’t effect anything. In fact, treat it as an opportunity to modify your phone’s software.
Most OEMs do not support you unlocking the bootloader of your phone. This is mainly due to security concerns and because users might damage their hardware in certain ways which cannot be covered under official warranty. However, Google Pixel fully supports unlocking the bootloader and you doing so will not void the warranty in any way.
Can an unlocked bootloader be locked again?
Before modifying and unlocking, many users are curious about the reversibility of said mod. Well, in case of bootloader lock, you can easily relock it even after it is unlocked. This can be done by reversing the command from unlock to lock.
Reversing will basically return the phone’s software to its official state. For people looking to sell their Pixel / Nexus phone, locking the bootloader before selling it will be an advisable thing to do as it is more secure for the next person. Further, there is no limit to unlock or relocks.
How to unlock bootloader on Google Pixel / Nexus devices
We have put together a detailed step-by-step instructions guide on how to unlock bootloader on Pixel devices. Utilities required include ADB and Fastboot. Please read every line carefully and make sure you read the tutorial once before actually performing it on your Pixel phone.
The following list of Android devices are supported by the tutorial below:
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
- Google Pixel 2
- Google Pixel 2 XL
- Google Pixel 3
- Google Pixel 3 XL
- Google Pixel 3a
- Google Pixel 3a XL
- Google Pixel 4
- Google Pixel 4 XL
- Google Pixel 4a
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus
- Nexus 4
- Nexus 5
- Nexus 6
- Nexus 5X
- Nexus 6P
- Nexus 7 (2012)
- Nexus 7 (2013)
- Nexus 10
Things to remember:
- This unlocking bootloader tutorial is only for Google Pixel and Nexus devices.
- This tutorial has been performed on Windows below, but anyone familiar with Fastboot commands on Mac or Linux can run the same commands easily.
- Make sure you backup all your data in your phone before proceeding as it will erase all data (factory reset).
- After unlocking, your phone will fail SafetyNet checks, but you can fix that with Magisk after gaining full root access.
- Google Play does not work after bootloader unlock, but again, Magisk has a fix for it.
NOTE: A new checkbox, for Pixel devices, has been added in the Developer options in Settings that you have to enable before proceeding below with unlocking your bootloader. First, enable Developer options. Then check the box that says “Enable OEM unlock”. That’s it. Now you can proceed below to the Step 1.
Step 1 – Download Android SDK Platform Tools (ADB and Fastboot) package and install on your computer.
Step 2 – Enable USB Debugging mode on your Pixel / Nexus device.
Step 3 – Make sure you have backup your data as it will be erased. Connect your Pixel to your computer.
Step 4 – Navigate to android-sdk-windows\platform-tools directory and open Command Prompt (Shift + Right-click > Open Command Prompt).
Step 5 – Type in the following commands and press Enter.
adb reboot bootloader
Step 6 – You now have to wait for the phone to reboot to bootloader. If it doesn’t, you can try running any apps. If it still persists, please redo the previous steps. Tutorial: How to Enter Fastboot Mode on Android
Step 7 – Once you are in the fastboot mode, execute the following command (depending on if you have a Pixel or a Nexus device).
- For Pixel phones:
fastboot flashing unlock
- For Nexus phones:
fastboot oem unlock
Step 8 – After executing the above command, your phone should see a prompt. Read through the details and then press the Power button to confirm!
Step 9 – If your Google Pixel / Nexus doesn’t reboot automatically, issue the following command.
That’s it! Your Google Pixel phone’s bootloader should now be unlocked! Now, you can manually flash system updates on your phone, install TWRP on simply root the device.
dePixel8 for Verizon Google Pixel
If you bought a Google Pixel from Verizon, the above method to unlock your bootloader will not work. You need to use a tool called dePixel8 if really want to unlock the phone. It is a third-party tool with no warranty or support – so use it at your own risk. dePixel8 supports the Google Pixel and Pixel XL from Verizon and EE.