Using ADB and fastboot

What is adb?

The Android Debug Bridge (adb) is a development tool that facilitates communication between an Android device and a personal computer. This communication is most often done over a USB cable, but Wi-Fi connections are also supported.

adb is like a “Swiss-army knife” of Android development. It provides numerous functions that are described in detail by the command adb --help. Some of the more commonly used commands are listed in the “popular adb commands” section below.

Installing adb and fastboot

Google hosts zips including only adb and fastboot. You can set these up for use with the instructions below.

On Windows

  1. Download the Windows zip from Google.
  2. Extract it somewhere - for example, %USERPROFILE%\adb-fastboot
  3. On Windows 7/8:
    • From the desktop, right-click My Computer and select Properties
    • In the System Properties window, click on the Advanced tab
    • In the Advanced section, click the Environment Variables button
    • In the Environment Variables window, highlight the Path variable in the Systems Variable section and click the Edit button
    • Append ;%USERPROFILE%\adb-fastboot\platform-tools to the end of the existing Path definition (the semi-colon separates each path entry)
  4. On Windows 10 or newer:
    • Open the Start menu, and type “advanced system settings”
    • Select “View advanced system settings”
    • Click on the Advanced tab
    • Open the “Environment Variables” window
    • Select the Path variable under “System Variables” and click the “Edit” button
    • Click the “New” button
    • Insert %USERPROFILE%\adb-fastboot\platform-tools in the text field
  5. Download the USB drivers and follow the instructions there.

On macOS

  1. Install Homebrew
  2. Add /opt/homebrew/bin to PATH by following “Next steps” listed at the end of installation output.
  3. Install android-platform-tools by running the following command: brew install --cask android-platform-tools.

On Linux

  1. Download the Linux zip from Google.
  2. Extract it somewhere - for example, ~/adb-fastboot.
  3. Add the following to ~/.profile:
    if [ -d "$HOME/adb-fastboot/platform-tools" ] ; then
     export PATH="$HOME/adb-fastboot/platform-tools:$PATH"
  4. Log out and back in.
  5. You may also need to set up udev rules: see this repository for more info.

Setting up adb

To use adb with your device, you’ll need to enable developer options and USB debugging:

  1. Open Settings, and select “About”.
  2. Tap on “Build number” seven times.
  3. Go back, and select “Developer options”.
  4. Scroll down, and check the “Android debugging” or “USB debugging” entry under “Debugging”.
  5. Plug your device into your computer.
  6. On the computer, open up a terminal/command prompt and type adb devices.
  7. A dialog should show on your device, asking you to allow usb debugging. Check “always allow”, and choose “OK”.
    If the dialog is not appearing or the list of devices is empty, check if you installed adb properly.
    • On Windows: Make sure your device manager does show your phone and doesn’t show a yellow triangle next to it!

Congratulations! adb is now ready to use with your device.

Setting up fastboot

Using fastboot (if your device supports it) should simply involve rebooting to fastboot mode. While in fastboot mode, you can type fastboot devices to verify that your device is being detected.