How to install Android 13 on your Pixel phone

Android 13 is here for most Pixel devices, and Jack Wallen has the skinny how to install it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

Android 13 has landed a bit early for Pixel devices and brings some important updates to the platform, especially by way of polish to some of the new bits found in Android 12. This is one of the big benefits of having a Pixel smartphone as your daily driver -- you get the latest and greatest release of Android before everyone else. In fact, for Samsung devices, the upgrade might not arrive until next year. So for those who like to always have the latest release of a mobile OS, a Pixel is the way to go.

To find out what new features will be added with the new release, make sure to check out "Android 13 is officially here, if you have the right kind of phone."

The one thing to keep in mind is that Android 13 is only supported by the following Pixel devices: 

  • Pixel 4/XL
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a 5G
  • Pixel 5
  • Pixel 5a
  • Pixel 6/Pro
  • Pixel 6a

Another thing to consider is that the update will have a staggered rollout, so not everyone will receive it at the same time. There is also a way to install it for those who can't wait for the over-the-air (OTA) update, but more on that in a minute.

Also: The 4 best Google phones

So, how do you install Android 13 on your Pixel device? Let me show you.

OTA update

This is the upgrade route I would recommend everyone take. I's far easier to accomplish, and it's simply more reliable. In fact, the only reason to not go this route is if you just can't wait a few days for the update to hit your phone. 

Installing Android 13 via the OTA method is actually quite simple:

1. Open Settings

Open the Settings app from either the Notification Shade (using the gear icon) or the App Drawer.

2. Open System Update

Scroll to the bottom of the Settings window and tap System. From that window (Figure 1), tap "System update."

The Android 12 Settings menu showing System update.

Figure 1: The System update entry in the Android 12 Settings app.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you don't see an update available, tap "Check for update" (Figure 2).

Check for Update button in Android 12.

Figure 2: Checking for an update on my Pixel 6 Pro running Android 12.

Image: Jack Wallen

If, after choosing to check for an update, you still don't see the update for Android 13 ready, you'll have to check back later until the OTA update is available for your phone. Or, you could move on to the more challenging option.

Sideload update

Just to be clear, I do not recommend you attempt this update, as it's riskier and you could even brick your device. For this, you'll need to download the OTA file from the Google developers server (make sure to choose the file for your specific device) and install the adb tool, which is included in the Android SDK Platform-Tools.

Once you have the OTA file download and the SDK Platform-Tools installed, you're ready to sideload. Here's how.

1. Boot into recovery mode

Restart your phone. As soon as it shuts down, press the Power button and the Volume Down button at the same time until you see the Bootloader page. Using the volume buttons, scroll down to the Recovery Mode entry and select it by pressing the Power button.

2. Locate ADB Sideload

From within Recovery Mode, navigate to Apply Update from ADB.

3. Connect your device to your computer

Connect your Android device to the computer running the SDK Platform-Tools. Open a terminal window so you can run the necessary commands.

4. Run the necessary commands

From within that directory, issue the command "adb devices" and, if prompted, accept the permissions on your phone and make sure to click the option to remember the computer. You shouldn't see any errors at this point and your device will be listed.

Next, issue the sideload command:

adb sideload

If you're on Windows, you must first change into the ADB Tools directory to run the command. On either Linux or MacOS, do the same thing (changing into the ADB Tools folder), only to run the command on those OSes, the command would be:

./adb sideload

When prompted, type the file name of the downloaded OTA file and hit Enter. 

5. Reboot your device

Once the OTA file installation completes, you'll find yourself back in recovery mode, where you'll need to press the Power button and then select the Reboot Now option. When the reboot completes, you should find yourself on Android 13.

Congratulations, your Pixel device is now running the latest version of Android. Once again, though, instead of doing this, I would highly recommend you go the OTA route, as the sideload method is not only complicated but prone to problems you don't want to have to deal with (like bricking your device).

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