How to install Android 12 and 12L on Google Pixel and other Android devices

How to install Android 12 and 12L on Google Pixel and other Android devices

It’s that time of year again! Android 12, i.e. the next major release of Android is now available via stable channel. Google has also started the beta testing of Android 12L. For lucky owners of the Google Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, or Pixel 6 Pro, you’ll be among the first users to see what new OS update has to offer.

If you have any of the aforementioned Pixel smartphones running and older stable build and wondering how you can install Android 12 or 12L, just scroll down as we have a tutorial ready for you. Keep in mind that Google will be providing an incremental OTA for existing beta users to move to the stable release, but they can also opt for a manual flashing. You will need a PC/Mac with ADB and Fastboot installed to successfully execute the installation process, once you have downloaded the relevant Android 12 release packages.

Alongside supported Google Pixel devices, Android 12/12L is also made available in the form of a GSI that can be flashed on a much wider range of devices. OEMs have joined in on the party as well, and you can flash Beta 1 on the following phones:

Warning: The updates are intended for developers only, so don’t install them on your daily-driver. These builds are early releases and contain bugs and other system instabilities. Even if the flashing process doesn’t necessarily wipe your device, it is highly recommended that you back up your data before proceeding. Users are advised to exercise caution.

The three methods to install the update are:


Method 1: Sideload Android 12/12L via Recovery and ADB

To install the stable build, you need to sideload the appropriate OTA package for your device from Recovery through ADB. This method will also work for Google Pixel devices with a locked bootloader.

  1. Download the update .zip file on your computer from here. For convenience, you can rename this file to a simpler name and place the file in the directory where ADB is located on your computer.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 7 times, (optionally) enter your pattern, PIN or password to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  4. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  5. On your computer, run the command:
    adb reboot recovery
  6. Your phone should now be in Recovery mode.
  7. On your phone, select the option “Apply Update from ADB”
  8. On your computer, run the command:
    adb devices

    This should return a device serial with the “sideload” next to its name, indicating that your device is connected to the computer in sideload mode.

  9. On your computer, run the command:
    adb sideload "filename".zip

    Where “filename” is to be replaced with the name of the file downloaded in Step 1

  10. The update should install on your phone. Once the installation is complete, choose “Reboot system now” on your phone to reboot into Android 12.

Method 2: Flashing full Factory Image via Fastboot

If you have an unlocked bootloader on a Google Pixel device, you need to flash the full factory image of the Android 12 or 12L via Fastboot. Usually, this is done through a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file that is included in the downloaded file, but its default configuration also wipes the device completely. You can, however, retain your data by deleting the “-w” wipe attribute from the command within the script.

  1. Download the factory image .zip file on your computer from here.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Extract the .zip file, and copy and paste the resultant files onto your ADB and fastboot folder on your computer for convenience.
  4. Optional: The resultant files would contain a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file. Using a text editor, open the flash-all.sh if you’re on macOS/Linux or the flash-all.bat script file if you’re on Windows. Find and remove/delete the -w flag in the fastboot update command. This will skip the data wipe for your phone. To avoid compatibility issues, a data wipe is recommended though.
  5. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 7 times, (optionally) enter your pattern, PIN or password to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  6. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  7. On your computer, run:
    adb reboot bootloader

    This will reboot your phone into Fastboot mode.

  8. On your Mac/Linux PC, run:
    flash-all

    This command executes the flash-all.sh script file, which will then install the necessary bootloader, baseband firmware, and operating system. If you are on Windows, you can simply double click the flash-all.bat file.

  9. Once the script finishes, your device will reboot into the new OS.

Method 3: Install Android 12/12L GSI

Even if you don’t own a compatible Pixel smartphone, you can still install Google’s official GSI binaries to test Android 12 or 12L, provided your device is compatible with Project Treble. You also need an unlocked bootloader. The last thing that we need to say is that flashing a GSI will require you to factory reset your device, so be sure you’re prepared to lose app data before you proceed with this! We recommend you make an off-device backup (such as on your PC or an SD Card) in case anything goes wrong.

  1. Download links for the official Android 12/12L Beta GSIs can be found here. Google has yet to publish GSIs based on the stable release. You should download the appropriate version based on your device’s architecture. To see which architecture your device has, run the following command:
    adb shell getprop ro.product.cpu.abi
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Extract the .zip file, and copy and paste the resultant files (system.img and vbmeta.img) onto your ADB and fastboot folder on your computer for convenience.
  4. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 7 times, (optionally) enter your pattern, PIN or password to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  5. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  6. On your computer, run:
    adb reboot bootloader

    This will reboot your phone into Fastboot mode.

  7. As mentioned earlier, the bootloader of the target device must be unlocked beforehand.
  8. Next, we need to disable Android Verified Boot (AVB). To do that, run the following command:
    fastboot flash vbmeta vbmeta.img
  9. Optional but recommended: Enter the following to wipe the system partition:
    fastboot erase system
  10. Flash the Android 12/12L GSI:
    fastboot flash system system.img
  11. Allow the image to flash, it could take a few minutes. Once that’s done, wipe the userdata partition:
    fastboot -w
  12. Finally, reboot your device:
    fastboot reboot
  13. Hopefully, your device should boot into the new build of Android.

Be sure to follow our Android 12 and Android 12L tags for all the latest news on the new Android version!

About author

Skanda Hazarika
Skanda Hazarika

DIY enthusiast (i.e. salvager of old PC parts). An avid user of Android since the Eclair days, Skanda also likes to follow the recent development trends in the world of single-board computing.