It’s been a few weeks since Google unveiled the mid-range Pixel 6a, bringing several notable upgrades over previous Pixel-A series phones. Apart from the availability of the Android 13 beta, the factory images and kernel sources of the Pixel 6a have also been released, which are just the right ingredients for modding enthusiasts to start tinkering with the device.
We’re starting to see more and more people getting their hands on the Google Pixel 6a, so for those of you looking for help rooting your device, here’s a simple step-by-step guide for you. This guide will walk you through how to unlock the Pixel 6a bootloader and gain root access to the phone using Magisk. TWRP, the most popular custom recovery around, will take some time to port to the latest Pixels, so the current rooting method is a little more involved than you might be used to.
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How to Root Google Pixel 6a
Before we get into how to root your Pixel 6a, you’re going to want to do a few things. First, you’ll want to back up all of your phone’s data. It’s because Rooting requires erasing all data on your phone, which includes not only installed apps, but also all files saved on internal storage.
You also want to make sure you have around 5GB of storage available on your PC, as you will need to download the factory image for your phone. Once you’re done, you can delete these files to free up space. Still, it’s a good idea to keep the last saved factory image in case you run into trouble in your post-root adventure and need to restore stock.
It is important to note these steps may not work on US carrier models of the Google Pixel 6a. Verizon, for example, likes to prevent the bootloader from being unlocked altogether, making it impossible to root your phone. Sometimes, however, people find unofficial workarounds, and we’ll let you know if they’re found.
Step 1 – Get the original Pixel 6a boot image
Before we can root, we need to get our hands on the original boot image that matches the current software version of the phone. We will patch this boot image with Magisk.
To get the boot image, you need to extract it from the Pixel 6a factory image, a file that contains all the images of your phone needed to perform a full restore. To make sure you are downloading the correct factory image, you need to check the software version your phone is currently using. To check it out, go to Settings > About the phone. Below, look for the Build number section. Find the corresponding build number on the factory image download page and download this file.
Download Android 12 for Google Pixel phones || Download Android 13 for Google Pixel phones
Next, extract the factory image ZIP file. Locate image-bluejay-[version].zip (yes, there is a ZIP within a ZIP) and extract the boot.img file from it. This is the stock boot image, which you need to transfer to your phone storage.
Step 2 – Fix the Stock Boot Image Using Magisk
With the boot image file on your phone, you will then need to download and install the latest Magisk app. In fact, you can patch it on a different Android device than the Pixel 6a, but you also need to install the Magisk app on the secondary device.
In the Magisk app, you will need to click on the Install button on the highest card. Picking out Select and patch a file below Method, and select the stock boot image. This will open the Android file picker. Go ahead and find the boot.img you transferred from your PC and select it. The Magisk app will patch the image to the phone’s download folder. You need to upload this patched file (must be named “magisk_patched_[random_strings].img”) on your PC, because next we will unlock the bootloader which will erase all data as we warned before.
Notably, if you scour the XDA forums for the Pixel 6a, you might be lucky enough to find a pre-patched boot image. This may save you from having to go through steps 1 and 2, but make sure any Magisk-patched boot image you download matches your software version, or you’ll face several anomalies after flashing. That’s why we always recommend that you grab the official firmware and patch the original boot image yourself.
Step 3 – Enable OEM Unlock and Unlock Bootloader
To flash third-party software on the Pixel 6a, we need to unlock the bootloader. To do this, go to Settings > About the phone > Build number and press this entry 7 times to activate Developer Options. After enabling it, go back to the main settings page and tap Systemthen go to Developer Options. From there, switch the OEM Unlock option. Keep in mind that you need to enter your password/pattern/PIN to validate certain actions.
After enabling OEM unlocking, turn off your phone. Press and hold Volume Down and Power button to turn your phone back on and boot into the bootloader menu. Assuming the latest ADB and Fastboot binaries are already installed, you can also use the following command to reboot into bootloader mode directly from Android.
adb reboot bootloader
Make sure to keep your phone plugged into your PC/Mac/Chromebook. Then, in a terminal window, type:
fastboot flashing unlock
You will see a screen telling you that you are about to start the bootloader unlock process. Use volume button to navigate and power button to accept. Again, this will erase all data on your phone, so make sure you have backed up your data before proceeding..
Step 4 – Magisk Flash Patched Boot Image
With your Pixel 6a bootloader unlocked and your boot image patched, you’re just one step away from rooting.
As soon as the bootloader unlocking process is completed, the phone will reboot after a few minutes. Skip the setup wizard at this point and power off the phone. Now you want to reboot into the bootloader by holding down the volume and power buttons again. Once there, connect the phone to your PC/Mac/Chromebook and run the following command:
fastboot flash boot path/to/magisk_patched.img
As soon as you hit enter, the patched boot image will be flashed to your phone. Then reboot using
fastboot reboot and the Magisk app should appear on your home screen and/or app drawer. If not (for example, you can only see a stub icon), just install the Magisk APK manually. That’s all it takes to root your Pixel 6a.
Remember that you will have to repeat steps 1, 2 and 4 each time you update your phone, because the boot image changes with each update.
If you’re looking for things to do with your newly rooted Pixel 6a, check out our curated list of the best root apps. Once your device is up and running with Magisk, you can also try out some of the best Magisk modules to seamlessly apply complex mods without touching the underlying system.