How to Install Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

01
of 06

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) & Fastboot: A Quick Intro

Software Developer Using Transparent Computer Screen At Office
Razvan Chisu / EyeEm / Getty Images

Google releases two tools called Android Debug Bridge (ADB) and fastboot, both of which are available in a package called Platform Tools. They are command line tools that let you customize and control your Android phone by sending commands to it through your computer.

As long as debugging mode is enabled on your phone, you can send ADB commands while the phone is working regularly or even when it's in recovery mode. Plus, the device doesn't even need to be rooted, so you don't have to worry about following those steps first.

These ADB commands can be used to modify your Android without having to actually touch the device, but there's much more that's possible. With ADB, you can do simple things like install system updates or even deal with things that are normally restricted, like tweaking settings you didn't even know existed, or gaining access to system folders that are normally locked down.

Here are some examples of ADB commands:

  • adb devices shows which ADB supported devices are connected to your computer
  • adb reboot restarts your phone
  • adb backup creates a full backup of your phone and saves it to your computer
  • adb sideload loads ROMs and other ZIP files from your computer onto your Android
  • adb pull copies files from the phone to your computer
  • adb shell allows commands to be run in a terminal on the Android device
  • adb reboot -bootloader starts your phone in bootloader mode so that you can run fastboot commands.

Fastboot is useful if you need to change your Android phone's firmware or other file system details while it's in bootloader mode, like installing a new boot image. It's commonly used to install a custom recovery should the phone stop booting normally.

02
of 06

How to Download ADB and Fastboot

Screenshot showing the download page for SDK Platform-Tools
Download Platform Tools.

Both of these utilities are available through Android.com:

  1. Visit the SDK Platform-Tools download page to find the latest version of ADB and fastboot.

    Note: They're also included in the full Android SDK but it's unnecessary to download all of that just for these two tools that you can get them through Platform Tools.
  2. Choose the download link that corresponds with your operating system.

    In other words, if you have Windows, choose the SDK Platform-Tools for Windows one, or the Mac download for macOS, etc.
  3. After reading through the terms and conditions, click the box next to I have read and agree with the above terms and conditions.
  4. Click DOWNLOAD SDK PLATFORM-TOOLS FOR [operating system].
  5. Save the file somewhere memorable because you'll be using it again shortly. The folder where you normally save files is fine as long as you know how to get back there.​

Note: Since ADB downloads in a ZIP archive, you'll be extracting it before using it, which you can choose a location for in the next step. This means that the location in Step 5 isn't necessarily the permanent location of the program.

03
of 06

Open the Platform Tools ZIP File

Screenshot showing how to extract ADB to a new folder in Windows 8
Extract the Platform Tools ZIP File (Windows 8).

Go to whatever folder it is that you saved Platform Tools too, and extract the contents of the ZIP file.

Your operating system has built-in tools that can do this for you, but some other options include opening the ZIP file with a free file extraction utility.

Windows

  1. Right-click platform-tools-latest-windows.zip and choose the extract option. It's called Extract All... in some versions of Windows.
  2. When asked where to save the file, like you see in the image above, pick a folder that's appropriate for ADB to stay, not somewhere temporary like a downloads folder or somewhere that's easily cluttered like the desktop.

    I've chosen the root of my C: drive, in a folder called ADB.
  3. Put a check in the box next to Show extracted files when complete.
  4. Click Extract to save the files there.
  5. The folder you chose in Step 2 should open and show the platform-tools folder that was extracted from the ZIP file you downloaded earlier.

7-Zip and PeaZip are some third-party programs that can open ZIP files in Windows.

macOS

  1. Double-click platform-tools-latest-darwin.zip to immediately have the contents extracted to the same folder you're in.
  2. A new folder should appear called platform-tools.
  3. You're welcome to move this folder anywhere you like or you can keep it where it's at.

If you'd rather, you can instead use The Unarchiver or Keka to open the ZIP file.

Linux

Linux users can use the following Terminal command, replacing destination_folder with whatever folder you want the platform-tool folder to end up in. 

unzip platform-tools-latest-linux.zip -d destination_folder

The best way to do this is to open Terminal at the folder where the ZIP file resides. If that's not the case, you need to modify the platform-tools-latest-linux.zip path to include the full path to the ZIP file.

If the unzip utility isn't installed, run this command:

sudo apt-get install unzip

Like with Windows, you can use 7-Zip or PeaZip in Linux instead if you'd rather not use these Terminal commands or they're not working for you.

04
of 06

Copy the Folder Path to "platform-tools" Folder Path

Screenshot showing how to copy the path to the platform tools folder
Copy the "platform-tools" Folder Path (Windows 8).

Before you start using ADB, you want to make sure that it's easily accessible from the command line. This requires the path to the platform-tools folder from the previous slide to be setup as an environment variable.

The easiest way to do this is to first copy the path to the folder:

Windows

  1. Open the folder where you extracted the platform-tools folder.
  2. Open the platform-tools folder so that you can see the folders and files inside it.
  3. At the top of the window, click in an empty space next to the path.

    You can alternatively hit Alt+D to quickly move the current focus to the navigation bar and automatically highlight the folder path.
  4. When the path to the open folder is highlighted, right-click and copy it, or hit Ctrl+C.

macOS

  1. Select the platform-tools folder you extracted.
  2. Hit Command+i to open the Get Info window for that folder.
  3. Click and drag to select the path next to "Where" so that it's highlighted.
  4. Hit Command+C to copy the folder path.

Linux

  1. Open the platform-tools folder so that you can see the other folders and files inside it.
  2. Hit Ctrl+L to move the focus to the navigation bar. The path should instantly become highlighted.
  3. Copy the path with the Ctrl+C keyboard shortcut.

Note: Your version of any of these operating systems might be different enough that the steps are not exactly as you see them here, but they should work with most editions of each OS.

05
of 06

Edit the PATH System Variable

Screenshot showing how to edit the PATH system variable
Edit the PATH System Variable (Windows 8).

Here's how to open the Edit System Variable screen in Windows so that the path you copied can be setup as a PATH system variable:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Search for and open the System applet.
  3. Choose Advanced system settings from the left side.
  4. In the System Properties window, click or tap Environment Variables... at the bottom of the Advanced tab.
  5. Locate the bottom area labeled System variables, and find the variable named Path.
  6. Click Edit....
  7. Right-click in the Variable value: text box and paste the path to the platform-tools folder.

    If there are other paths already in the text box, go to the very far right side (hit End on your keyboard to quickly get there) and put a semicolon at the very end. Without any spaces, right-click and paste your folder path there. See the image above for reference.
  8. Click OK a few times until you get out of System Properties.

Follow these steps to edit the PATH file in macOS or Linux:

  1. Open Terminal through Spotlight or Applications/Utilities.
  2. Enter this command to open your Bash profile in your default text editor:
    touch ~/.bash_profile; open ~/.bash_profile
  3. Move the cursor to the very end of the file and enter the following, replacing folder with the path to the platform-tools folder:
    export PATH=”$HOME/folder/bin:$PATH”
  4. Save the file and exit the text editor.
  5. Enter the following Terminal command to run your Bash profile:
    source ~/.bash_profile
06
of 06

Test to Make Sure You Can Reach ADB

Screenshot showing how to run the adb command in Command Prompt
Enter adb in Command Prompt (Windows).

Now that the system variable is properly configured, you should check that you can actually run commands against the program.

  1. Open Command Prompt or Terminal.

    Tip: See How to Open a Terminal Console Window in Ubuntu if that's what you're using.
  2. Enter adb.
  3. If the result of the command is text similar to this:
    Android Debug Bridge version 1.0.39
    Revision 3db08f2c6889-android
    Installed as C:\ADB\platform-tools\adb.exe
    then you're ready to start using Android Debug Bridge from the command line!