As long as you follow these steps outlined below, you can gain systemless root access to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL so you can still accept OTA updates.
Traditionally, the only way to gain root access to an Android device was to modify the /system partition. As soon as this was done though, you could no longer accept any official OTA update from the OEM since it did a check to see if that partition had been modified. This check is done because things could break if the partition isn’t exactly as it should be. However, some new root techniques have come out recently that does everything in a systemless manner.
This means you can have root access to a device like the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL without ever touching the /system partition. The results allow you to accept official OTA updates even though you have root access, but it still requires that you haven’t modified the /system partition with another application. See, a lot of root modifications/apps work because they modify the /system partition so if you’re using one of those then you still won’t be able to accept that OTA update.
However, if you’re careful to not use any root applications or mods that modify the /system partition, then this guide show you how to gain systemless root access on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
Pixel 2 Systemless Root
- Download v14.5 or later of Magisk (stable – beta)
- Move or copy the Magisk ZIP file on the Pixel 2
- Follow steps 1 through 12 of the install TWRP tutorial
- Tap the Keep Read Only button when you boot into TWRP
- Tap the Install button
- Browse to and tap on the Magisk ZIP file
- Swipe the white arrows to the right
- Wait for Magisk to be installed
- Tap the Reboot System button to reboot back into Android
- Let the application install the TWRP app (optional)
This step by step tutorial is a detailed explanation of a topic I covered on my Pixel 2 Tips and Tricks article. I recommend you read through that if you're curious about learning the ins and outs of the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL.
If you have been following along lately then some of this should be very familiar to you. We’re combining parts of the tutorial I did on installing TWRP (while leaving some parts out) with parts of the tutorial I did on how to root with Magisk. Magisk itself is a systemless root method but if you have TWRP permanently installed (which some people prefer to do), then that doesn’t matter as you’ve already modified the partitions to the point where you can’t accept an OTA update.
To prevent this, we need to only temporarily boot into TWRP and to not fully install it. This means that we need to tap the Keep Read Only button when we first boot into it, and we need to make sure that we do not install the TWRP ZIP file that I spoke about in the previous TWRP tutorial. As long as we avoid these things, then TWRP is not fully installed and when we boot into Recovery Mode next time it will actually just be the stock recovery mode that Google uses for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
In order for Magisk to install on Google’s new Pixel phones though, we need to have version 14.5 or later. In a few weeks the stable branch will likely catch up to the beta and it will be on 14.5 (or later). So when you follow this guide I would recommend you grab the stable Magisk ZIP file if it’s caught up. If not, then use the beta link as it is what I used in the embedded video above. For me, the beta has been great but it is a beta and that means it may not be stable for long.
There really isn’t much more too this guide. Just make sure you only temporarily boot into TWRP (aka don’t flash the TWRP ZIP file) and then just flash the Magisk ZIP file after telling TWRP you want to keep the system partition as read only. Once Magisk is installed, you can tap the Reboot System button to go back into Android. You may see the prompt for installing the TWRP 3rd-party application before it reboots though. It’s up to you as to whether or not you want to install it.
I don’t care to have it installed, but it can be useful in some cases. Once you’re back into Android, check the App Drawer for the Magisk Manager and then you can open it up to make sure it installed properly (look for green check marks).