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How To: Install TWRP Recovery on Your Pixel 3a

TWRP is a name many are familiar with since it allows your Android device to install any custom file of your choosing. You can create a NANDroid backup to keep your data safe or even use Magisk to achieve full root access. In fact, TWRP is often seen as the gateway to modding your system for creating a unique user experience.

Having the power of TWRP over the stock recovery means you can have a lot more control over your phone’s software. It’s something all power users should be aware of when dealing with root-related system mods. Installing TWRP will override your stock recovery, but the benefits to using a custom recovery are so far beyond ordinary that it’s well worth it in the long run.


  • Windows, Mac, or Linux computer
  • USB data cable

Step 1: Unlock Your Bootloader

Before you can get started installing unofficial image files to your system, such as TWRP, your bootloader needs to be unlocked. You’ll find that to be the case for all Android phones when you start diving into the rooting and modding scene for the first time. It’s required to make any modifications to the system, so if you need to, hit up the link below to get that taken care of.

Step 2: Download Unofficial TWRP Image

Once the bootloader is unlocked, the next thing you need to do is the download the TWRP image for your specific Pixel 3a model. Work is still being done for TWRP on the Pixel 3a so, for now, you’ll be using these unofficial images from XDA developer ZVNexus.

Download the TWRP image file from above for either your Pixel 3a or 3a XL, then rename it to “twrp” (or “twrp.img” if your computer is set to show file extensions) to make things easier during the install process.

You should take note that TWRP support for Android Q is not available right now, so if you plan on using TWRP on your Pixel 3a, you’ll need to be running Android 9 Pie. We should expect official support for Android Q sometime in August 2019, so be on the lookout for an update here.

Step 3: Boot into Fastboot Mode

Now you’ve got the base image file required to boot your Pixel 3a into TWRP, but your phone isn’t ready to accept the Fastboot command needed to get the ball rolling. Before you can get started with that, you’ll need to put your phone into Fastboot Mode so that it can receive commands from your computer.

To do this, long-press the power button to bring up the power menu, then tap the “Power off” option to shut your phone completely off. Once it’s powered down, hold the power button and the volume down button at the same time until the Fastboot Mode screen pops up. Now, connect your phone to your computer with a USB cable, then leave it just like this for the next steps.

Step 4: Install ADB & Fastboot on Your Computer

Now it’s time to get the framework installed on your computer that allows you to push that TWRP image file to your phone. You’ll need Google’s SDK Platform-Tools standalone package, which gives you the required ADB and Fastboot commands. Everything is included in one neat and tidy folder, so that keeps things dead simple — no confusing drivers to install:

Step 5: Open a Command Window in Platform-Tools

Now, your phone and computer are both ready to accept any Fastboot commands required for installing your own custom files, such as the TWRP image. Your phone should still be sitting on the Fastboot Menu main screen at this time, which means you’ll now need to open a command window in the platform-tools folder on your computer. Hit up the link below to get that set up, then you’re almost done here.

Step 6: Boot TWRP

Finally, it’s time to take that TWRP image file (twrp.img) you downloaded earlier and transfer it over to the platform-tools folder on your computer. Once the file is located within your platform-tools folder, you’ll then get to execute a quick Fastboot command that allows you to boot into TWRP.

With a command window opened up within the platform-tools folder, type the following command, then press enter.

fastboot boot twrp.img

Note: Mac and Linux users will most likely have to add a period and a slash before entering any of the commands listed here (e.g., ./fastboot boot twrp.img).

Once you hit the enter key, your phone will immediately respond by temporarily booting into the TWRP main menu. From here, you can dive into the process of installing other mod files onto your system, such as Magisk or any custom kernels you might want to try. You’ll need to do this method every single time for now until more progress has been made on TWRP for the Pixel 3a.

Final Note

In the case of A/B partition devices, such as the Pixel 3a, you would typically boot TWRP temporarily, then install a permanent version after that. However, at this time with the Pixel 3a, you’ll be unable to permanently install it on your phone. This means you need to connect your computer and phone every single time to boot TWRP whenever you need it for the time being.

TWRP progress on the Pixel 3a is still ongoing, so I’ll be updating the guide here when it’s possible to permanently install TWRP onto the system partition. The good news is that you still have full access to all features, which is fantastic, but you just don’t have the benefit of flashing files on the go right now. Not really anything to fret about, though!

Cover image and screenshots by Stephen Perkins/Gadget Hacks

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