How to Install Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

What to Know

  • Download ADB and Fastboot. Open the Platform Tools ZIP file. Copy the folder path to platform-tools.
  • Edit the PATH system variable. Test to make sure you can reach ADB.
  • ADB commands can be used to modify your Android without having to actually touch the device.

This article explains how to install Android Debug Bridge (ADB), as well as examples of some commands. The information included here should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

01
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Download ADB and Fastboot

download page for SDK Platform-Tools

Google released two tools called 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.

Both of these utilities are available through Android.com. Visit the SDK Platform Tools download page to find the latest version of ADB and fastboot.

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.

  1. Choose the download link that corresponds with your operating system.
    If you have Windows, choose Download SDK Platform-Tools for Windows, or pick the Mac one for macOS, etc.
  2. After reading through the terms and conditions, select the agreement box next to I have read and agree with the above terms and conditions.
  3. Select Download Android SDK Platform-Tools for [operating system].
  4. 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.​
02
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Open the Platform Tools ZIP File

Extract Compressed Zipped Folders prompt in Windows 11

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

Your operating system has built-in tools that can do this for you, but another option is to open it with a file extraction utility.

Windows

  1. Right-click the ZIP file and choose the extract option, 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.
    We've chosen the root of the C: drive, in a folder called ADB.
  3. Put a check in the box next to Show extracted files when complete.
  4. Select Extract to save the files there.
  5. The folder you chose in Step 1 should open and show the platform-tools folder that was extracted from the ZIP file you downloaded earlier.

macOS

  1. Open the ZIP file 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.

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

You can use 7-Zip or PeaZip instead if you'd rather not use these Terminal commands or they're not working for you.

03
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Copy the Folder Path to platform-tools

folder path copy option in Windows 11 file explorer

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 folder from the previous step to be set up 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 folder so that you can see the contents inside it.
  3. At the top of the window, select an empty space next to the path. You can alternatively use the Alt+D keyboard shortcut o 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 use Ctrl+C.

macOS

  1. Select the folder you extracted.
  2. Use 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. Use Command+C to copy the path.

Linux

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

Your version 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.

04
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Edit the PATH System Variable

Edit environment variable prompt in Windows 11
Edit the PATH System Variable (Windows 11).

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.
  4. In the System Properties window, choose Environment Variables at the bottom of the Advanced tab.
  5. Locate the bottom area labeled System variables, and find the variable named Path.
  6. Select Edit.
  7. Choose New (Windows 11) and paste the path you copied earlier. For older versions of Windows, right-click in the Variable value text box and paste the path. If there are other paths already in the box, go to the very far right side and put a semicolon at the end. Without any spaces, right-click and paste your folder path there.
  8. Select 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, and enter this command to open your Bash profile in your default text editor: touch ~/.bash_profile; open ~/.bash_profile.
  2. Move the cursor to the very end of the file and enter the following, replacing the folder with the path you copied: export PATH=”$HOME/folder/bin:$PATH”.
  3. Save the file and exit the text editor.
  4. Enter the following Terminal command to run your Bash profile: source ~/.bash_profile.
05
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Test to Make Sure You Can Reach ADB

adb command in Command Prompt

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

Open Command Prompt or Terminal, and execute the adb command.

If the result of the command is text similar to this:

Android Debug Bridge version 1.0.41 
Version 31.0.3-7562133
Installed as C:\ADB\platform-tools\adb.exe

...then you're ready to start using Android Debug Bridge from the command line!

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.

Examples of ADB Commands

ADB commands can be used to modify your Android without having to actually touch the device, but there's much more that's possible. 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.

  • 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.
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