Installing for the first time with (optional) verified boot

The following instructions are specific to Pixel phones using either the Vanilla or GrapheneOS flavors. For LineageOS, please refer to upstream device-specific documentation on how to install LineageOS builds on your device.

It is assumed that you have successfully built your factory image and signed it with your own keys, either by using the factoryImg Nix output or by running releaseScript. Make sure that you know the location of the image and the AVB signing key. The instructions in this document were tested on the Google Pixel 4a (sunfish). Other Pixel phones are similar, but please refer to this upstream documentation.

  1. Before you can begin you have to boot the stock OS, go to "Settings / About phone" and tap the "Build number" field 7 times to enable the "Developer options" menu. Next go to “Settings / System / Advanced / Developer options” and enable “OEM unlocking”. This option is greyed out until you connect your device to Google at least once. This is part of Google's so called Factory Reset Protection (FRP) for anti-theft protection. You do not need to insert a SIM or log into a Google Account to make the “OEM unlocking” option available, but connecting to the internet is required.

  2. First reboot into the bootloader. You can either do that physically by turning off your phone and then holding both the POWER and the VOLUME DOWN button to turn it back on, or your can connect the phone to your computer with USB Debugging turned on and issue

    $ adb reboot bootloader
  3. Connect your phone to your computer and run

    $ fastboot devices
    09071JEC217048  device
  4. Unlock the bootloader by running

    $ fastboot flashing unlock

    Select the option to unlock the device and confirm. This step effectively performs a factory reset, and will remove all user data from the device.

  5. Flash your custom AVB signing key using

    $ fastboot erase avb_custom_key
    $ fastboot flash avb_custom_key ./avb_pkmd.bin
    $ fastboot reboot bootloader
  6. Unzip the factory image built by robotnix. Double check that you're flashing to the correct device. To flash the image run

    $ ./

    The factory image produced by robotnix includes the bootloader and radio firmware in addition to the android image. If you are certain the bootloader and radio are already up to date, you can instead build the standard img robotnix output, and flash the image with

    $ fastboot -w --skip-reboot update

    This will erase the userdata partition (-w) and prevent the automatic reboot after flashing (--skip-reboot).

    After flashing with the script or with fastboot update, return to the bootloader with

    $ fastboot reboot bootloader
  7. At this point you want to relock the bootloader to enable enforcement of the verified boot chain.

    $ fastboot flashing lock

    This step has to be confirmed on the device.

  8. After rebooting you will be greeted with a yellow exclamation mark and a message like

    Your device is loading a different operating system.

    Visit this link on another device:

    ID: BA135E0F

    This is expected because Android Verified Boot is designed to warn the user when not booting the stock OS, see In fact, the ID on the last line are the first eight characters of the fingerprint of your AVB key.

  9. Finally you can disable OEM unlocking and afterwards even the developer options again if you do not actively use them. Note that if you later lose the ability to re-enable OEM unlocking, for example by pushing a bad update that you cannot rollback, and you cannot push another working update because you also lost your signing keys, you might not even be able to recover your device by flashing a stock image, effectively bricking the device.

If you are unable to enroll a custom AVB key on your device, you could theoretically skip steps 4, 6 and 8. This is highly discouraged as it leaves your device in the vulnerable UNLOCKED state instead of being LOCKED with a custom root of trust..

Updating by sideloading OTA files

Preferably, you can update your Vanilla/GrapheneOS flavor device using true "over-the-air" mechanism provided by the apps.updater module with a server hosting the OTA files, as shown here. If this is not available, it is still possible to update by sideloading the OTA file.

It is recommended to update using the OTA file instead of using fastboot update with a new img. OTA files can also contain updates to the modem / bootloader that are not included in the img output. fastboot update also cannot be used with a re-locked bootloader without wiping userdata.

To install OTA updates you have to put the device in sideload-mode.

  1. First reboot into the bootloader. You can either do that physically by turning off your phone and then holding both the POWER and the VOLUME DOWN button to turn it back on, or your can connect the phone to your computer with USB Debugging turned on and issue

    $ adb reboot recovery

    If you used the physical method, at the bootloader prompt use the VOLUME keys to select “Recovery Mode” and confirm with the POWER button.

  2. Now the recovery mode should have started and you should see a dead robot with a read exclamation mark on top. If you see “No command” on the screen, press and hold POWER. While holding POWER, press VOLUME UP and release both.

  3. At the recovery menu use the VOLUME keys to select “Apply update from ADB” and use POWER to confirm.

  4. Connect your phone to your computer and run

    $ adb devices
    List of devices attached
    09071JEC217048  sideload

    The output should show that the device is in sideload mode.

  5. Now you can proceed to sideload the new update.

    $ adb sideload

    The sideload might terminate at 94% with “adb: failed to read command: Success”. This is not an error even though it is not obvious, see also here.

  6. Once finished and the device doesn't automatically reboot just select reboot from the menu and confirm.