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How to Force an Android Device to Find a System Update

android-system-update

Whenever Google releases a new version of Android for its Nexus devices, it doesn’t roll out to everyone at once. It may take several days before your device receives the update, but you don’t have to wait.

Note that this only works if an OTA (over-the-air) update is actually available – for example, if you’ve got a Nexus 4 running Android 4.2.1 and you haven’t yet received a notification to update to Android 4.2.2. This won’t help if you’re using an Android device that isn’t receiving updates.

UPDATE: While this trick worked fine for a few Android versions, it no longer appears to work reliably. Worse yet, it sometimes causes problems that can only be fixed by removing your Google account from the device and re-adding it. We no longer recommend doing this.

Receiving Updates Normally

Android regularly checks for new system updates for your specific device. When a new version is released, you should receive a notification within a few days. This notification appears like any other notification in the notification tray – tap it to install the new version.

android-system-update-downloaded

However, you won’t necessarily see this notification immediately, even though you may have read about a new update being rolled our to your device.

You can have Android check for a new version by opening the Settings screen. Scroll down and tap About phone or About tablet at the bottom of the list.

android-about-phone

Tap System updates and you’ll see when Android last checked for an update. To check for an update immediately, tap Check now.

android-check-for-update

Ideally, this will find the new system update and prompt you to restart and install it. However, this won’t always work.

In the case of our Nexus 4, it’s been 3 days since Android 4.2.2 was released and Android still isn’t finding the new version.

android-is-up-to-date

Force Android to Find the Update

If we waited a few more days, Android would eventually locate the new version and prompt us to update. Google does a gradual roll-out of updates, and it’s clear that our device isn’t at the front of the list.

However, there is a trick we can use to bump ourselves to the front of the list and force Android to find the update.

First, open the Settings screen and tap Apps. Swipe to the left to access the All section, then scroll down, locate the Google Services Framework application, and tap it.

android-apps-google-services-framework

Tap Force stop, and then tap Clear data.

force-android-to-find-update

Go back into the System Update screen. Android will say that it last checked for updates in 1969. (This specific time is the Unix epoch, when Unix time started. Unix systems store their times as seconds since 00:00:00 UTC on January 1, 1970.)

android-last-checked-for-update-in-1969

Tap the Check Now button and Android should find the update. You can now tap the Restart & install button to install it immediately.

android-4.2.2-system-update


There has been some controversy over whether this trick actually works. We have used this trick on our Nexus 7 multiple times, and we used it to update our Nexus 4 to the latest version while writing this article.

It may not work for non-Nexus devices receiving OTA updates directly from carriers – we haven’t tried that, although some people have reported success.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/20/13

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