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Pixel: How to Unlock the Bootloader

You can follow these steps outlined below to unlock the bootloader of both the Google Pixel, as well as the Google Pixel XL.

Note – This unlock process is for devices that ship with a bootloader that can be freely unlocked. If you bought a Pixel or Pixel XL from a carrier like Verizon or EE who has chosen to not allow this, then check out the tutorial for unlocking the Verizon and EE Pixel Bootloader.

A locked bootloader is done for your own protection. If smartphones didn’t ship with a locked bootloader, then the company/person who sold it to you could install some malicious software onto the phone or tablet. This software could steal your personal data like photos, videos and even usernames and passwords for important websites like banks and retailers who store your credit card information.

Thankfully though, some devices ship with a locked bootloader, but can easily be unlocked with a simple Fastboot command.

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If you purchased your Pixel or Pixel XL directly from the Google Store, then you have a smartphone with a bootloader that can be easily unlocked. This is where I purchased mine from, so today I’m going to walk you through the process for how to unlock the bootloader. It should be known that some carriers also sell versions of the Pixel and Pixel XL with an unlocked bootloader.

Note – Unlocking the bootloader of your smartphone will wipe all of your data from the phone. It will be as if you just pulled it out of the box and you will need to activate Android again.

Pixel Unlock Bootloader

  1. Download and install the Minimal ADB & Fastboot tools
  2. Then download and install Google’s Android USB drivers
  3. Go ahead and reboot the PC after the drivers have been installed
  4. Enable Developer Mode on the Pixel
  5. Enable OEM Unlocking on the Pixel
  6. Enable USB Debugging Mode on the Pixel
  7. Double click on the Minimal ADB & Fastboot shortcut
  8. Type the following into the Command Prompt. . .
  9. adb devices
  10. . . .then press Enter on the keyboard
  11. When the ADB service/daemon has been started, connect the Pixel to the PC with a USB cable
  12. Grant USB Debugging access to the Pixel from PC
  13. Unplug the USB cable from the Pixel
  14. Boot the Pixel into Fastboot Mode
  15. Plug the USB cable back into the Pixel
  16. Type the following command into the command prompt. . .
  17. fastboot flashing unlock
  18. . . .then press Enter on the keyboard
  19. Press the Volume Up button on the Pixel to highlight the ‘Yes’ option
  20. Press the Power button to confirm you want to unlock the bootloader
  21. Wait for 5-15 seconds while the Pixel bootloader is unlocked
  22. Press the Power button to select the ‘Start’ option when you’re taken back into Fastboot Mode

Explanation

If you have ever unlocked the bootloader of a Nexus smartphone or tablet then you’ll likely feel right at home with the Pixel and Pixel XL that was purchased from the Google Store. You’ll need to do some things like setting up ADB & Fastboot tools, installing USB drivers, starting up the ADB service, enabling OEM Unlocking and granting USB Debugging access from the PC. This is all standard and if you get confused then be sure to watch the embedded video above.

With all of that done, you can then boot the Pixel or Pixel XL into Fastboot Mode. If you’re unclear on how this is done, then click or tap the link in step 14 above and I follow those steps as I have described previously. Once you are in Fastboot Mode, go ahead and connect the USB cable back to the smartphone and turn your attention back to the Command Prompt.

Pixel Unlock Bootloader Confirmation
You’ll be asked to confirm whether or not you want to unlock the Pixel bootloader.

You’ll want to type in the command fastboot flashing unlock into the command prompt exactly as described in the guide above. This will then give you a prompt on the Pixel and Pixel XL that describes what is going to happen to the phone. You’re told that unlocking the bootloader will wipe the data from your device and it will ask you if you want to proceed or not. Pressing the Volume Up button and then pressing the Power button when the Yes option is highlighted will start the unlock process.

It will seem as if the Pixel or Pixel XL is frozen, but it’s just doing its thing. Wait for 5-15 seconds (it might be longer) and you should eventually be taken back to the Fastboot Mode menu. If you look at the very bottom line, it should say the device is unlocked now. Since the Start option is automatically highlighted, you can simply press the Power button to select it and then the device will reboot.

This will go through the typical boot animation sequence and then you’ll be taken to the standard Android activation screen. So all you have to do from here is set everything back up and you’ll be good to go.

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12 thoughts on “Pixel: How to Unlock the Bootloader”

    1. Right before the step by step guide it says “Note – Unlocking the bootloader of your smartphone will wipe all of your data from the phone. It will be as if you just pulled it out of the box and you will need to activate Android again.”

      I’m sorry if you missed that part. I even bold the ‘Note’ word so that it’s easier to spot if someone is just skimming through the article

  1. So if I currently have service with Project Fi would I have to remove the SIM card before beginning this step-by-step process for unlocking the bootloader of my Google Pixel (I bought the Google Pixel from the Google Store along with the Project Fi service)?

    1. Naa, you don’t have to mess with the SIM card at all. This process will work whether you leave it in or not. This will wipe your data, but when you set the phone back up and activate Android, your cell service will work as it should.

      1. After I type adb devices, it says

        “daemon not running. Starting on port 5037”
        “Daemon started successfully”

        and then I connect my pixel to my laptop with a USB cable, but i cannot grant debugging access as I do not get the message

  2. Worked beautifully… migrated all SMS and Phone logs using SMS Backup and Restore to Dropbox prior to implementing your instructions. Clear and accurate. Thank you!

  3. judith cassetty

    My new Pixel XL will not allow for voice dialing, which I enjoyed for years with my earlier Pixel XL. All of the other functions seem fine, but My car tells me that I have no service when I try to voice dial a number. Same number, geographic area, car, and same Project Fi. I spent two hours with my laptop, and cell, with a “consultant” four nights ago. At the conclusion of these attempts, with no evidence at all that I could discern, she said that I needed a new SIM card!!!! What, I said? I just got a new phone!! Why would it need a new SIM CARD!!!! Is this a page out of Apple’s built-in obsolescence playbook??!
    But I got it, installed it this a.m., and have spent another half day trying to get the damned voice dualing to work. “No service”????

    1. I’m sorry to hear that Judith. I’ve gotten the “no service” thing a few times with SMS messages when I enable Airplane Mode (so that it uses wifi for SMS phone calls) at home. For some reason, the service needs a connection to a tower (but not always since toggling airplane mode tends to fix it for a few weeks)

      Were you able to resolve this voice dialing issue yet? Are you trying to do this with Google Assistant? (the ok, google hotword feature)

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