You might have slapped the stable Android 13 or even a previous Beta update on your Google Pixel and are missing out on a few things or not having the best experience. Luckily, so long as you’re not using the Pixel 6/6 Pro or 6a you can downgrade your Android 13 build back to a stable version of Android 12 if you encounter any major problems or just don’t like the current incarnation.
We have a really simple guide on how to install the Android 13 on your Pixel that you should go and check out if you haven’t already. Although the jump from Android 12 to 13 is fairly innocuous you might want to know how to downgrade from this build if you simply don’t like it or encounter problems you hadn’t foreseen ahead of time.
This process has barely changed since the Google Pixel series launched back in 2016, so it might be familiar to long-time users and Android fans, but it’s not necessarily as widely known by those new to the mobile platform – hence this walkthrough. That said, thanks to the Android Flash Tool, it’s easier than ever to flash factory images on Pixel hardware.
Before we start it’s important to note that you’re going to need to do a few things and there are some limitations here that you should be aware of before you can revert back to a stable Android 12 build.
Firstly, the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a CANNOT be downgraded after sideloading or installing the Android 13 stable build. This OTA update contains a bootloader update that increments the anti-roll back version. This effectively means that you should proceed with caution, as there is no way to go back to Android 12 once you have updated a Pixel 6 series handset to the stable build. If you are still running the Android 13 Beta, then you can follow this guide. This likely will not be a problem for most users but you should be aware that Android 12 to Android 13 is a one-time trip. Therefore, this guide is aimed directly at the Pixel 4/4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, and Pixel 5a.
Secondly, be sure to back up all of your data before even attempting this. You WILL lose your device data, as this method requires a FULL device wipe, and it will be wiped several times during this process. We have also added Android Flash Tool instructions for those wanting to use the Chrome browser-based flashing tool.
Note: This guide is also tailored for Windows users, meaning that the process may vary for those using MacOS or Linux.
Quick method: Unenroll from the Beta
Should you still be running the public preview, just head to the dedicated Android 13 Beta page and unenroll your chosen device from these user-facing preview builds. Find your phone and tap the “Opt out” button, this will be send an OTA update that will wipe all data on the device and install the latest stable public version of Android — which will be Android 12.1/12L. If you chose this method we always suggest backing up all important data and files first.
Video — How to downgrade from Android 13 on Google Pixel
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Navigate this guide
- Video — How to downgrade from Android 13 on Google Pixel
- 1. Download and install Android SDK Platform-Tools package
- 2. Enable USB debugging and OEM unlocking
- 3. Download the Factory Image for your device
- 4. Boot into device bootloader
- 5. Unlock the bootloader
- 6a. Enter the flash command
- 6b. Access the Android Flash Tool
- 7. Relock the bootloader (optional)
- 8. Reboot your phone
1. Download and install Android SDK Platform-Tools package
You’ll need to use ADB or Android Debug Bridge to downgrade your current Android 12 build to an older version. We recommend installing the unzipped platform-tools package on your desktop for quick access when running commands. You can download the latest platform-tools zip file from here.
Alternatively, Nexus Tools from Corbin Davenport offers a very simple way to ensure that you have the very latest version of Platform-Tools on your Windows, Mac or Linux machine at all times. Nexus Tools has been written in Dart, so it can run on Linux, macOS, Windows, Windows Subsystem for Linux, and Chrome OS. Once Nexus Tools is finished, you can run
fastboot, and other commands with zero problems or issues.
2. Enable USB debugging and OEM unlocking
Firstly, ensure that you have Developer Options enabled on your Pixel. You can do that by heading to your device Settings > About phone, now tap “Build number” until a message confirms that you have Developer options enabled.
Now you need to head to Settings > System > Advanced > Developer options (you may need to expand a hidden menu for this). Before we are ready to continue, you will need to scroll down and enable “OEM unlocking” as this is integral for further steps. Now scroll slightly further down to the “Debugging” section and tap the “Allow USB debugging” option.
3. Download the Factory Image for your device
This is necessary for the Android 13 downgrade process. You’ll need to download the correct Factory Image for your device. This is essentially just a blank slate for your smartphone or snapshot of that particular Android build at that time. You can grab it from Google’s Factory Image OTA hosting site, which contains all Factory Images for Pixel devices.
You will need to add this file and unzip its contents to the platform-tools folder for access later on.
Note: Do not extract into an internal sub-folder, just extract all files into the main platform-tool folder.
4. Boot into device bootloader
This can be done in a couple of ways. The simplest way is to connect your device to your Windows PC and open the platform-tools folder and typing “cmd” into your file manager address bar. This will open a Command Prompt window in the right place. Now enter the following command to start the adb daemon:
adb reboot bootloader
Your Pixel device will now load into the bootloader, which is where we’ll need to be to send some commands.
Alternatively, you can press and hold the Power button and volume down key until you see the Android figure lying down. Now you will need to press and hold the power button and volume up button briefly before releasing the volume up key. Using the up and down volume buttons, you can scroll to select “enter fastboot.”
5. Unlock the bootloader
Unlocking the bootloader is necessary for the flashing process, as, unfortunately, you can’t flash a Factory Image and downgrade your Android version using the slightly simpler ADB sideloading method. This is a pretty simple process, though. When using your command-line interface, enter the following command:
fastboot flashing unlock
You will get a slightly daunting message on your display warning you that unlocking the bootloader may cause device instability. Using the physical volume keys, choose the “Unlock the bootloader” option and confirm your selection by pressing the power button. Restart your Pixel, as this process will wipe your smartphone.
We will also need to skip the device startup process to re-enable USB Debugging in preparation for the next step. Once you have done so, ensure your Pixel is connected to your PC, and you’ll need to enter the bootloader on your device with the following command again:
adb reboot bootloader
6a. Enter the flash command
With all of your Factory Image files extracted into the platform-tools folder and accessible. You can now run the following command (with your open Command Prompt/PowerShell window):
Your Pixel will now begin the process of downgrading Android 13 Beta 2 back to Android 12, which can and will take a few minutes. Leave the Command Prompt window open and when the process has finished, you will see a completion message.
6b. Access the Android Flash Tool
A slightly easier method to downgrade your device is to use Google’s handy Android Flash Tool. This effectively mimics the command line process but does so in a much more friendly Chrome browser window. Provided you have followed the previous steps the process is simple.
Connect your Pixel to your computer via USB-C cable and head to the dedicated firmware page for your specific device. You can find the direct links for all eligible devices below:
- Pixel 5
- Pixel 5a with 5G
- Pixel 6 (when downgrading from Android 13 Beta only)
- Pixel 6 Pro (when downgrading from Android 13 Beta only)
Find the right build or the build that you desire for your specific handset and click the “Flash” link which is found alongside the build “Version.” Doing this will now launch the Android Flash Tool page and the firmware you have chosen will automatically be loaded ready to be installed on your device.
Tapping the “Get Started” button will initiate a pop-up that you will need to accept to allow ADB access. This also means that your Pixel will be able to communicate with your computer and the downgrade process from Android 13 Beta 3 (Beta 1 or 2 , Preview 1 or 2) back to Android 12 (or another available software build) can commence.
A new page will appear explaining the steps (which we have detailed above). From here click the “Add a new device” button and provided your smartphone is connected and in the prerequisite Recovery mode, it should be recognized. Select your Pixel and double-check the software build if the one that you want to install. Also from here, you can relock the bootloader without needing to use command line too — saving time as part of this process. If you’re happy click “Install” and then “I accept” when the License Agreement dialog box appears.
This installation process should now take a few minutes to install but ensure that your device is securely connected and does not disconnect during this process. You’ll be greeted with a new page that confirms “Software successfully updated” while your Pixel should now boot into the software that you have selected.
7. Relock the bootloader (optional)
This is an optional step but is needed if you want to get future OTA updates. Otherwise, you’ll see a pop-up splash screen with a warning each time you reboot your device. For those using the Android Flash Tool, there is a neat toggle that will take care of this for you (as noted above). If you have done this already, you can skip this step entirely.
You will need to go through the device setup process again, which you can skip wholesale. From here, go back and re-enable USB debugging from step No 2 — your bootloader is unlocked so OEM unlocking should be grayed out.
Plug your device back into your Windows PC and open your platform-tools folder and reopen a Command Prompt window using the “cmd.” Enter the following command to quickly load into your device bootloader:
adb reboot bootloader
Now we can re-lock the bootloader by entering the following:
fastboot flashing lock
On your Pixel, using the volume keys, scroll to the “lock the bootloader” option and tap the power button to accept. When confirmed “locked” will appear on screen within the bootloader menu. Note: This process will wipe your device a further time once you reboot your Pixel.
8. Reboot your phone
You can now disconnect your device and reboot as you have successfully downgraded from the Android 13 Developer Preview, Beta, or stable release back to Android 12. It should now load into the device setup process, allowing you to sign up and enjoy your stable Android build.
We’ll reiterate that this method will only work if you do wish to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12 on devices including the Pixel 5/5a and Pixel 4/4a. We cannot stress enough that the Pixel 6 and 6a series will be stuck on Android 13 if you do upgrade. However, we do not recommend doing so, as this brings about various device security risks and further potential issues. That said, if you do choose to downgrade from one Android version to another, then you do so at your own risk. On older builds, the Pixel 4 will also lose access to Face Unlocking should you go back from Android 11 to Android 10.
Dylan Roussel and Kyle Bradshaw contributed to this guide.
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