Google has another fix for the second major storage bug Pixel phones have seen in the last four months. Last week, reports surfaced that some Pixel owners were being locked out of their phone’s local storage, creating a nearly useless phone with all sorts of issues. Many blamed the January 2024 Google Play system update for the issue, and yesterday, Google confirmed that hypothesis. Google posted an official solution to the issue on the Pixel Community Forums, but there’s no user-friendly solution here. Google’s automatic update system broke people’s devices, but the fix is completely manual, requiring users to download the developer tools, install drivers, change settings, plug in their phones, and delete certain files via a command-line interface.
The good news is that, if you’ve left your phone sitting around in a nearly useless state for the last week or two, following the directions means you won’t actually lose any data. Having a week or two of downtime is not acceptable to a lot of people, though, and several users replied to the thread saying they had already wiped their device to get their phone working again and had to deal with the resulting data loss (despite many attempts and promises, Android does not have a comprehensive backup system that works).
The bad news is that I don’t think many normal users will be able to follow Google’s directions. First, you’ll need to perform the secret action to enable Android’s Developer Options (you tap on the build number seven times). Then, you have to download Google’s “SDK Platform-Tools” zip file, which is meant for app developers. After that, plug in your phone, switch to the correct “File transfer” connection mode, open a terminal, navigate to the platform-tools folder, and run both “./adb uninstall com.google.android.media.swcodec” and “./adb uninstall com.google.android.media.” Then reboot the phone and hope that works.
I skipped a few steps (please read Google’s instructions if you’re trying this), but that’s the basic gist of it. The tool Google is having people use is “ADB,” or the “Android Debug Bridge.” This is meant to give developers command-line access to their phones, which allows them to quickly push new app builds to the device, get a readout of system logs, and turn on special developer flags for various testing.
Google’s instructions will only work if everything goes smoothly, and as someone with hundreds of hours in ADB from testing various Android versions, I will guess that it will probably not go smoothly. On Windows, the ADB drivers often don’t install automatically. Instead, you’ll get “unknown device” or some other incorrect device detection, and you won’t be able to run any commands. You usually have to use the “let me pick from drivers on my computer” option, browse through your file system, and manually “select” (more like “guess”) the driver you need while clicking through various warnings. You can already see at least one user with driver issues in the thread, with Windows telling them, “Your device has malfunctioned,” when really it just needs a driver.