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How to easily install the Android 11 developer preview

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How to easily install the Android 11 developer preview

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

You can try out the Android 11 developer preview software right now if you have a Pixel 2 or later, but it’s understandable if the idea of flashing your device to install the OS is intimidating. It can be a tricky process, and the steps differ slightly depending on what phone you have and what kind of computer you’re going to use to download the software. But now that process has been streamlined by Google.

Google recently released the Android Flash Tool, a web application that handles most of the steps of flashing for you. There are a few steps that you’ll need to do yourself before the new software can be installed, which we’ll walk you through below, but Google’s tool basically eliminates most of the hassle and complexity that makes it easy to mess up.

There are a few important notes to make up here at the top. First, once you flash your phone with the developer preview, your device will get all future developer preview and beta updates over the air. In other words, you won’t need to flash your phone again when new builds of Android 11 are released. Just head to your system settings and fetch an update.

The second note is just your standard disclaimer that you do this at your own risk. This is unfinished software, and installing it could lead to malfunctions with your device or to software that you usually use. And depending on settings that you adjust in the Android Flash Tool, you might have to wipe all of the data from your phone. So, proceed with caution.

 Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verg

Is my phone compatible with Android 11?

The Android 11 developer preview is compatible with the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3A, Pixel 3A XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL. It’s possible that Google will broaden the list of devices supported by Android 11 in the upcoming beta, but for now, you’ll need one of those phones to get the software.

What browser do I need to use to flash my phone?

Google says that you can use any browser that supports the WebUSB API, which is supported by Chrome as well as Microsoft Edge version 79 and later. The Android Flash Tool works with all the major operating systems, including Linux, macOS, ChromeOS, and Windows 10, though browser compatibility may vary depending on your OS.

Step 1: Activate these three settings on your Android phone

  • Enable the Developer Options menu in your phone. First, open the Settings app. For phones running Android 8 (Oreo), click System. Otherwise, if your phone has Android 7 (Nougat) or later, scroll down to About Phone, then find Build Number. Tap Build Number seven times to enable Developer Options.
  • Turn on USB debugging (this lets your phone and computer communicate via USB) within the Developer Options menu. To do this, head to Settings > System > Advanced > Developer Options. You’ll find USB debugging with just a little scrolling down.
  • Enable OEM unlocking. This option is also part of the Developer Options menu, further up the page than where you found USB debugging. If that option isn’t available for you to enable, that might be because it’s already enabled.
 Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Step 2: Connect your phone to your computer and get started

  • If you use Windows 10, you’ll need to install this driver first for your phone to be recognized.
  • Connect your phone to your computer with a USB cable. Then head over to this page at the Android Developers portal and select the URL listed next to the device you’re using within the “Use Android Flash Tool” section.
  • On the next page, click on “Get Started.” The Android Flash Tool will ask for permission to access ADB keys in a pop-up window, which is necessary to install software on your phone. You’ll need to tap “OK” to proceed with this process.
Android Flash Tool for Android 11
You’ll need to hit OK to proceed with the installation.
  • Click “Add new device” at the bottom of the page. Your device should appear in a pop-up window on your computer, so go ahead and click it.
Android Flash tool for Android 11
Once you’ve followed all of the steps above, you can hit “Add to device.”
  • Once you do that, you should now see a request on your phone that says “Allow USB debugging?” You’ll also see a long string of numbers and letters that should match up with what your PC shows if you click the gear icon on the Android Flash Tool page. On your phone, check the box next to “Always allow from this computer,” then tap Allow.
  • After that, your device should show up on the Android Flash Tool as being connected. Click on the box with the name of your device to proceed.
Android flash tool
Once your device shows up as being connected, click into it.
  • You’ll want to pay attention to what appears in the “Selected build” section of the Flash Tool (see below). Before you hit the blue “Install” button at the bottom of the page, I recommend tapping the pencil icon next to “Selected build” and checking the “Lock Bootloader” box. This will lock the bootloader after this process is complete, leaving you with a more secure device than if it remained unlocked.
Android flash tool
Select the “Lock Bootloader” option, which will lock your bootloader after the software installation is complete.
  • The next window basically tells you to stop interacting with your phone during the rest of this process unless asked to do so, and to not unplug your device. If you’re in a position to proceed, go ahead.
Android flash tool
Make sure your data is backed up before you proceed.
  • One more prompt before getting started: a license agreement. You need to agree to the terms of the Android Software Development Kit License Agreement, which you can find here.
  • After you hit “I accept,” your phone will reboot into its bootloader screen. If nothing happens for a few seconds, don’t worry. You may also see a window pop up on your computer that says “Reselect your device.” In that case, leave your phone alone and select “Reselect device” on the computer. According to Google, your phone might be renamed “Android,” though it might just be identified with the model name (e.g. Pixel 3).
  • If you haven’t flashed software before, Google will probably need to unlock your bootloader to proceed with the installation. Keep in mind that doing this will trigger a factory reset on your phone. If you haven’t backed up your data, you’ll lose everything. Once you agree, you’ll need to allow the bootloader to unlock on your phone. To do this, use the volume keys to navigate to the option that says “Unlock the bootloader,” then hit the power button once to confirm.
  • After that, the Android Flash Tool will begin to download and install the software. You can continue to watch along, but don’t touch your phone at this point, even though it will restart several times. Just keep an eye on the progress using the Android Flash Tool page on your computer.
Android flash tool
At this point, you can just sit and wait for the Android Flash Tool to wrap things up.

Once you’re all done, the phone will reboot one last time, and over on your PC you’ll be met with a celebratory screen. You’re all done! And thankfully, you won’t have to go through this process again for the next Android 11 update — easy as this was.

Android flash tool
You’re all done!

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