Google recently showcased the highly-anticipated Android 6.0 Marshmallow alongside the new Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, new Chromecasts and the Pixel C, a rival to Apple’s iPad Pro. At the event, the company announced that the Android M update would be rolling out to the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus 7 and Nexus Player this week. It should become available to Nexus owners through an OTA update, but for those of you that can’t wait, there’s another way to install it, and here is where we show you how.
Be warned that manually installing Android M is not for novice users, and it’s quite possible to brick your device if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s important to back up any data installed on your phone or tablet before you begin since this will be lost in the process – see How to back up Android.
Below we explain how we installed Android M on our Nexus 6; follow our advice at your own risk – PC Advisor takes no responsibility for damaged devices. For those without Nexus devices wondering when they’ll be able to update to Google’s latest Android update, take a look at this: When will my phone get Android M?
How to get Android M now
Step 1. On a Windows PC install Minimal ADB and Fastboot. You can download it from this XDA-Developers thread. WonderHowTo has created a script to simplify the installation of ADB & Fastboot on a Mac, which can be downloaded from here. Once downloaded, extract the Zip and place the Android folder on your Mac desktop before opening a new Terminal window and entering the following:
The script will take a little while to run and you may have to enter your Mac account password, but once complete you’ll be able to run ADB and Fastboot commands from a terminal window. The rest of the process should be the same, but we can’t confirm as we performed the update from a Windows PC.
Step 2. Download the appropriate Android M installer for your device, which you’ll find on the Android Developer’s site. The Android M files are only compatible with the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus 7 and Nexus Player only, so do not try to install it on a different device like the Nexus 10 or Nexus 4.
Note: If you previously flashed a device to an Android M Developer Preview image, that device will not automatically get the update to the final Android 6.0 build by an over the air (OTA) update.
Step 3. You’ll need to extract the contents of the downloaded Android M file to a new folder on your desktop. We used the free 7-Zip utility to achieve this. From the folder on your desktop copy the extracted files into C:\Program Files (x86)\Minimal ADB and Fastboot. (Some users have needed to rename the .tgz file extension as .tar in order to complete this step.)
Step 4. On your Nexus phone or tablet open Settings, About phone/tablet and tap on Build Number seven times. This will unlock a hidden Developer Options menu within Settings. Open Developer Options and enable USB debugging and OEM Unlock.
Step 5. Plug your Nexus device into your Windows PC via USB and download the Google USB Driver. Extract the contents of the Zip file to a safe place, then click on Start, Devices and Printers, right-click on your phone or tablet and choose Properties. Open the Hardware tab, then choose the top entry under Device Functions and click on Properties. Update the driver, pointing Windows to the Google USB driver you’ve just downloaded. A prompt will appear on your device’s screen to ‘Allow USB debugging’; tick the box to ‘Always allow from this computer’, then press Ok.
Step 6. Now you’re ready to flash Android M on to your device. If you’re sure it’s been backed up properly (you will lose everything otherwise), launch Minimal ADB and Fastboot. Typeadb reboot-bootloader and hit Enter. This will boot your device into Fastboot mode (which can also be achieved by switching it off and then simultaneously holding down the power, volume up and volume down buttons).
Step 7. Scan the information on the device screen for LOCK STATE. If this reports that the phone or tablet is unlocked move on to step 8; if it is locked, in ADB type fastboot oem unlock and hit Enter. Use the volume button on your phone or tablet to select Yes, then use the Power button to confirm your choice.
Step 8. Technically, flashing Android M should now be a case of typing flash-all and hitting Enter. When you then reboot the phone you’ll be greeted with Android M.
Except this didn’t work on our Nexus 6, and we received an error message that the update package was missing system.img before it aborted the process. If you get the same error messge, move on to step 9; if you don’t, enjoy Android M.
Step 9. In order to make Minimal ADB and Fastboot see those files, we had to go back to the files we extracted from our Android M installer in step 3. Within those files is another Zip file, and it’s in here that you’ll find the missing system.img file. Extract this Zip file, then copy its contents into C:\Program Files (x86)\Minimal ADB and Fastboot.
Step 10. Rather than using the flash-all command you’ll need to manually install each file. In Minimal ADB and Fastboot we entered the following commands to successfully get our Nexus 6 running Android M:
fastboot flash bootloader bootloader-shamu-moto-apq8084-71.11.img [this is for the Nexus 6 – the filename here will differ for the Nexus 5, 9 and Player]
fastboot flash radio radio-shamu-D4.01-9625-05.16+FSG-9625-02.94.img [again this is for the Nexus 6 – the filename here will differ for the Nexus 5, 9 and Player]
fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
fastboot flash boot boot.img
fastboot flash system system.img
fastboot flash cache cache.img
fastboot erase userdata
fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
The device should then restart running Android M.
You can also see the handy YouTube video below for a visual guide.
How to uninstall Android M: Revert to Android Lollipop on Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9 and Nexus Player
To uninstall Android M and revert to your previous operating system, simply download the appropriate system image from this page and repeat the instructions above. Note that you’ll first need to clear out the files from Minimal ADB and Fastboot that you added earlier.