android nexus

How to update your Android Nexus device without waiting for the OTA update

Nexus devices carry one big advantage over most all of the other Android devices; updates to the latest Android version are available for them first (most of the time).

However, as many Android users know, Google uses a staged rollout system for both their app updates as well as their system updates. This means that not all users get the update at the same time. Google says this allows them to make sure that the update is working how it should before they deploy it to everyone. For some of us, we just want the update as soon as we can get it.

That’s where Nexus Factory Images come in. These are the full Android package for Nexus devices, and they are available to download well before most people get the over-the-air (OTA) update pushed to them. Even better, it is incredibly easy to use these images to update your device on your own!

Here are a list of steps needed to update your Nexus device with the Factory Images:

  1. Download and install the Google USB Driver (if using Windows)
  2. Download and unzip the Factory Image for your Nexus device
  3. Download adb.exe and fastboot.exe
  4. Put the adb.exe and fastboot.exe files in the Factory Image folder
  5. (optional) Make a small edit in the script to prevent wiping your device
  6. Run the script and wait while the update is installed

So, Step 1. Windows users need to install the Google USB driver which will allow your computer to send ADB commands to your phone. This step can be frustrating for some as sometimes Windows, especially Windows 8, has issues with the drivers.

Get the Google USB Driver from here. Alternatively, if you have the Android SDK installed, you can install the driver from the SDK manager. Follow the instructions to install the driver.

Step 2. 

Go here to check to see if the new Factory Image version for your device is available. If so, make sure that you select the correct link for your specific Nexus device. It will download as an archive (.tgz file). Using 7zip or other software, open the archive, as well as the zip file inside the archive to find the folder that you need to extract. Extract that folder and proceed to the next step.

Step 3.

Download adb.exe and fastboot.exe. I have put them in a zip file that you can download here for Windows or download here for Mac. I will keep them updated as new versions come out. If you would rather get them from somewhere else, they can be found online or you can get them from the Android SDK if you have that installed.

Step 4.

Put the adb and fastboot files in the same folder as your Factory Image files. Your folder contents should look similar to this:

factory_image_folder

Step 5 (optional).

If you would like to update your device and keep all your existing data, you can do that. If you are using Windows, open the flash-all.bat in a text editor such as Notepad or Notepad++.

All you need to do is remove the “-w” from the file and then save it.

In Notepad (included with Windows), this is what it will look like after you scroll over a bit:

notepad_factory_image_edit

In Notepad++, a third party tool that makes text editing with various programming languages much easier, you will see this:

notepadplusplus_factory_image_edit

The command fastboot -w update image…… is what you need to edit.

Again, just delete the “-w” and save. That “-w” command is what tells your device to wipe the data partition and install the update fresh. Without it you will keep all of your data and your phone will look just like you left it (unless the Android version added visual changes, of course).

Step 6.

Make sure that you edited the correct file for your operating system if you decided to remove the “-w” to prevent wiping your phones data.

Finally, you are ready to initiate the update. Reboot your device into fastboot mode by shutting it off and then holding the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time. After a few seconds you will see a screen with an Android laying on it’s back and some other information. From there, all you need to do is double click the flash-all.bat file if you are on Windows, or the flash-all.sh file if you are using a Mac.

Done! Let it do its thing and when it finally reboots you will be running the official latest Android version directly from Google.

Reminders:

Running the update this way, just as with most over-the-air updates, will cause you to lose root access if that is something that you have done. Regaining root access is simple on a Nexus device and you can get it back following the same steps that you used to enable it before.

If you have any questions or issues, leave a comment below and I will try to help you out.

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