How to Root Your Google Pixel or Pixel XL

There were some new hurdles to clear, but legendary root developer Chainfire has finally created a root method for Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL flagships. The utility, called CF-Root, involves sending one Fastboot command that makes all of the necessary root tweaks to Android's file system, so it's about as easy as it gets.

You'll have to unlock your bootloader to get this one going, so that rules out Verizon-branded Pixel devices unless you hurry up and run this hack before the loophole is closed. However, Pixels purchased from the Google Store or any other retailer can now be rooted, so Google's best hardware and software combo just got a even better.

What You'll Need

Before You Begin

Root is known to block OTA updates, and this will likely be the case with the Pixel and Pixel XL. We're still not sure how this will work with the Pixel's dual-system partitions for seamless updates, but you should proceed under the assumption that your device will no longer receive automatic OTA updates.

Secondly, this process will trip SafetyNet on your device. This is a security feature in newer Android versions that lets apps know when the user is rooted, among other things. Ultimately, this means that apps like Android Pay and Pokémon GO will likely fail to run after rooting.

Finally, Step 2 below involves unlocking your device's bootloader. If you haven't already done this, you should be aware that the process of unlocking your bootloader will trigger a factory reset. So before you begin, make sure to back up all important data.

Step 1: Install ADB & Fastboot on Your Computer

To begin, you'll need to install ADB and Fastboot on your computer so that you can send the commands that will root your device. Honestly, this is probably the hardest part of the whole procedure, so we've covered it with a separate guide—but don't let that scare you off, because it's really just a matter of installing one program. For best results, I'd recommend using the steps outlined in Method 1 at the following link.

Step 2: Unlock Your Bootloader

Next up, you'll need to unlock your device's bootloader if you haven't done so already. This is the part that will wipe your device, so make sure you have any important data backed up before you proceed. Aside from that, just follow the steps at the link below, then boot back into Android and run through initial setup when you're done.

Step 3: Download the CF-Root File for Your Device

Now it's time to download the actual file that will root your device, which needs to be saved on your computer. There are two different files here—one for the Pixel, and one for the Pixel XL. These are not cross-compatible, so make sure to download the right file for your particular device.

Once you've got the file downloaded, go ahead and extract the contents of the ZIP. From here, take note of the boot-to-root.img file, as this is what you'll be using to root your device.

Step 4: Move the File to Your Platform-Tools Folder

Next up, copy the extracted boot-to-root.img file, then paste it in the platform-tools folder inside of your ADB and Fastboot installation directory. For Windows users, this folder can be found at C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk.

For Mac and Linux users, it depends on where you saved the ADB and Fastboot files when you installed the utility in the first place, so search your computer for the platform-tools folder if you don't remember.

Pasting the boot-to-root.img file into the platform-tools folder on Windows.

Step 5: Put Your Phone into Bootloader Mode

In order to run the commands that will root your device, your phone will need to be in Bootloader Mode. So next, power your Pixel completely off. When the screen goes black, press and hold the volume down and power buttons simultaneously. Within a few seconds, you should be greeted by Android's Bootloader menu, which looks like this:

Bootloader Mode on the Pixel XL. Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

When you see this screen, plug your Pixel into your computer using the USB data cable that came with the device. Aside from that, leave the phone alone, as it's time to do some work on the computer side of things.

Step 6: Root Your Device

If you're using a Windows PC, hold down the shift button on your keyboard, then right-click any empty space inside of the platform-tools folder and choose "Open command window here." If you're using a Mac or a Linux machine, open Terminal, then change directories to the platform-tools folder.

Before we get into this next part, you should note that I'll be listing the commands for Windows users. Mac users will have to add a period and a slash (./) to the front of all commands shown here, and Linux users will have to add a slash (/) to the beginning (example: ./fastboot devices for Mac, or /fastboot devices for Linux).

So from the command prompt, enter the following command to verify that everything's connected properly:

  • fastboot devices

If that returns a series of letters and numbers followed by the word "fastboot," then your device is connected properly and you're good to go. Otherwise, refer back to Step 1 to check your ADB and Fastboot installation, and ensure that your Pixel is in Bootloader Mode as shown in Step 5.

Next, it's time to actually root your device, so type in the following command, then press enter.

  • fastboot boot boot-to-root.img

Within a couple of seconds, you should see a message in the terminal window informing you that the process is finished. When this happens, it's safe to disconnect the USB data cable. Your phone will reboot at least two times while the automated root process runs, and when it's done, you'll automatically be booted back into Android.

Step 7: Verify Root

When you get back up, your device should be fully rooted. To verify this, download an app called Root Checker from developer joeykrim. From there, simply run the app, then tap "Verify root" and press "Grant" on the Superuser access request. If everything went off without a hitch, you should see a message saying "Congratulations! Root access is properly installed on this device!"

Step 8: Enable Automatic Battery Saver

Before you run off to install your favorite root apps, you should know there's a small bug affecting rooted Pixel devices. When the battery level hits 15%, you'll see a message saying "Unfortunately, System UI has stopped." You can make this message go away by charging your phone above 15%, but there's a better workaround.

To avoid this bug entirely, all you have to do is set Android's Battery Saver Mode to kick in automatically at 15%. To do that, head to the Battery menu in Settings, then tap the "Battery saver" option at the top of the screen. From here, leave the toggle switch disabled, then tap the "Turn on automatically" entry and set it to "at 15% battery."

At this point, your device should be rooted, and you'll be all set to have some fun with some of the best mods Android has to offer. If you're looking for a place to start, we suggest the following article. which covers some of the best root apps for Android.

Cover photo and screenshots by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

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