This guide explains how to easily install the new Android 8.1 Oreo developer preview on Nexus and Pixel devices. Google announced Android O in August, and this is the first big update for those enjoying Oreo. And while Android 8.1 won’t officially arrive until December, you can try it early with our help.
There are two ways to try Android 8.1 early, manually flashing the update files or joining Google’s beta program. However, we recommend using the beta program. Eligible devices include the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5x, Nexus 6P, Pixel C tablet, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The Nexus Player is not on the list at this time.
Google states this is the first big maintenance release (MR) for Oreo, loaded with new features, bug fixes and other changes. This is the only update to Android 8.0 Oreo in the last three months. You can flash the factory images right now using this link and our steps below, or join the Android beta program and wait for an over the air update notification.
While we don’t know exactly what’s new yet, not to mention things will change when it arrives in December, there is a lot we expect to see. Bug fixes for WiFi, Bluetooth, and the fingerprint scanner. Google’s announcement mentions changes to fingerprints, APIs, safe browsing framework, Auto-fill improvements, changes to notifications and better RAM management on low-end devices. To name a few.
That all said, here’s how to try the Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Review right now. Before we begin, it’s worth noting that the new Pixel 2 (smaller mode, not the XL) is running into installation problems. Whether that’s an OTA update or manually flashing the files per our instructions below. Google removed the 8.1 release for the 5-inch Pixel 2. Stay tuned for more details. If you have any other supported device, here’s how to try it today.
How to Install the Android 8.1 Beta
- Open your browser and go to Android.com/beta
- Sign into your Google Account
- Read the beta program rules and scroll down to Eligible Devices
- Find the device you want to use and click the green Enroll Device button
- Agree to all terms and tap Join Beta
You will receive a confirmation that you’ve enrolled in the beta, hit OK. Now just wait for the Android 8.1 Oreo beta update files to arrive and start downloading. We aren’t seeing any updates yet, but they should begin within the next 24-48 hours, or earlier. Users can also head into Settings > About Phone > and tap Check for updates and try to force the download.
Once you see the update, pull down the notification bar and select download. Your phone will download Android O, reboot and install the software, then restart. Now that you have it, here’s what’s new.
If you don’t want to wait for the beta program and over-the-air updates, you can manually flash the software.
How to Install ADB on Windows, Mac, Ubuntu & ChromeOS
Before you can flash the Android 8.1 Oreo beta to the Nexus 5x, Pixel XL or others you will need to install ADB and Fastboot to your computer. This is a program that runs on your PC/Mac to connect to your Android device through a USB cable and flash Android software to a device.
Installing ADB and Fastboot is one of the most annoying parts of installing Android factory images, but several tools make it dead simple these days. Alternatively, Google has an entire guide on ADB and flashing the files.
How to Install ADB on Windows
Those running Windows can download a 15 second adb installer to simplify the process and get up and running in a few minutes.
Download the ADB installer for Windows. Find the file, right-click on it and choose Run as Administrator. When prompted you need to give the app access to run as an administrator. After the app launches type a Y and enter to select yes to Install ADB & Fastboot, to install ADB/Fastboot systemwide and to install Drivers. When a new window pops up follow the steps to install the drivers.
After this, you are now ready to install Android O on supported devices.
How to Install ADB on Mac, Linux & ChromeOS
Nexus Tools makes it easy to install ADB on a Mac, Linux or even ChromeOS. Simply open Terminal on the computer and paste in the code from xda. Open a terminal by going to search, and just type Terminal to open it. Then copy/paste that code to get started.
This will install ADB and Fastboot on Mac, Linux and Chrome OS without the need to do anything else. It’s extremely easy and avoids all the ADB package mess that typically takes much longer to complete.
After the script finishes type ADB or Fastboot to start running either process. This is how you start flashing files or system images provided by Google. Remember to head into settings > developer options and enable USB Debugging first. Not to mention newer devices need to enable “OEM Unlock” in developer options so you can unlock the bootloader and flash the latest software.
Manually Install Android 8.1 Preview
The first thing you need to do is download the Android 8.1 Oreo System Image for your device. These aren’t in the typical location as this software was just released. You’ll have to agree to the terms to continue, then click the links below to download the files for each device. Take notice of the “caution” notes.
As usual, only select devices are included in this list right now. Those being the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel and Pixel XL, Pixel 2 devices, and the Pixel C Tablet. The older Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 are no longer supported and will not receive Android 8.0 Oreo. Click the links below to download 8.1 Oreo today.
- Nexus 5X Android 8.1 Beta
- Pixel 2 Android 8.1 Beta (Temporarily put on hold)
- Pixel 2 XL Android 8.1 Beta
- Nexus 6P Android 8.1 Beta
- Google Pixel Android 8.1 Beta (For the Pixel and Pixel XL, choose the right file based on carrier)
- Pixel XL Android 8.1 Beta (other carriers link)
- Pixel C Tablet Android 8.1 Beta
Next, you will need to unzip these files to a folder you can access. We unzipped it to our MAC desktop. After you have the Android Oreo system image unzipped you need to find it. Then type cmd into the address bar on Windows, or open a terminal and direct it to this new folder on Mac, Linux or Chrome OS. Reminder, if you’re on a MAC you need to make sure terminal is running inside the folder you just unzipped. Right-click, open Terminal at Folder.
If your Nexus/Pixel is not bootloader unlocked you should do that first. We could not install the Android 8.1 beta on a locked device. This will wipe it out completely and erase all user data, settings, pictures, etc. Repeat, this will erase everything! If you don’t want to do this, follow the instructions above for the beta program, or flash the OTA update files. Even with the latest release available, enrolling in the beta will send the most recent update from Google.
Open a Terminal in the adb folder and type the command below then hit enter.
adb reboot bootloader
In Fastboot type:
fastboot oem unlock
Then hit enter. Follow the on-screen instructions and choose to erase the device. Wait a minute or so for it to unlock. This removes everything on your device.
Nexus 6P or Pixel users will need to use “fastboot devices” and then “fastboot flashing unlock” to unlock the bootloader. Then proceed to reboot and follow our steps.
Flash the Image
Next, open the folder containing the unzipped Android 8.1 System Image file you just downloaded from above. Type cmd in the address bar. Type the multiple commands posted below and hit enter. Or copy and paste to avoid mistakes. On a Mac you can open Terminal in the folder by enabling terminal shortcuts in settings. This is key for Mac users. Head to System Preferences and select Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Find “New Terminal at Folder” in the settings and click the box. Now when you’re in Finder, just right-click a folder and you’re shown the option to open Terminal. Or just do it from the desktop where you unzipped the Factory image as shown below.
Once in the terminal simply copy and paste the commands below to install Android O to your Nexus or Pixel phone. First is for Windows, then Mac.
This will flash all the needed files. If you are on a Mac or other computer you will need to type;
This will push all the files and update your device to the official release of Android 8.1 Oreo. The files will start sending and installing and your device may reboot. The logo boot screen may stay for a long time. Do not unplug the device. This may last 10 minutes or longer the first time. When Android prompts you to complete setup you can unplug your Nexus or Pixel. It took less than two minutes for us.
It’s worth noting that some users may experience a “missing system.img” error and the installation will fail. This is because the way you’re trying to flash the update. Instructions on how to get around this are right here. Essentially users will need to unzip the update.zip folder and move all the images to the original folder we mentioned above. Then manually flash them one by one, vs the flash-all command we’re using here. Only do this if you run into issues with missing images. It takes a few more steps but works all the same. It flashed just fine on my Pixel XL using a Mac.
When the process finishes you can enter your information or Gmail account and start using Android O right now.
If you don’t want to delete your entire device, don’t manually install Android O per our instructions above. Instead, wait for the Android Beta Program OTA (over-the-air) update to hit your device. Once it does, accept and download the update and follow the instructions.
Again, those who choose to wait for the OTA update do not need to wipe out their device. It installs right over Android 8.0 and keeps all user data. Additionally, the 8.1 beta might cause problems. If you’re not ready to handle them, wait for the official stable release in December. That said, give one of these methods a try and enjoy a better and faster Android experience. Drop a comment below if you have any questions, problems, or concerns.