17 Ways to Use Minimal ADB and Fastboot

Get more control over your Android

Android connected to a computer.

If you've never heard of Minimal ADB and Fastboot, it's a simple yet powerful tool that lets you type commands to control your USB connected Android phone.

Some things regular Android users may want to do with their Android may seem too complicated. Even something as simple as transferring files to or from your phone requires more steps than it should.

With Minimal ADB and Fastboot, you can do things like transfer files, find the serial number, or even take a full backup of your phone with just a single, simple command.

Setting Up Minimal ADB and Fastboot

Minimal ADB and Fastboot is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Here's a guide on how to set up Minimal ABD on your system.

Once Minimal ADB and Fastboot is installed, you just need to enable USB debugging on your phone. There are just a few simple steps to do this.

  1. Enable Developer mode by going into Settings, tap About Device (or About Phone), and keep tapping on Build number until the you see an alert that Developer Mode is enabled.

  2. Once again, go into Settings. You should now see a Developer options icon. Tap on this, scroll down to USB debugging, and enable it.

    Screenshot of enabling USB debugging on Android.
  3. Exit settings. These changes allow the Minimal ADB and Fastboot utility to connect to and control your phone.

Now you're ready to get started issuing commands to your phone.

Just plug your Android phone into the computer with a USB cord, and then launch Minimal ADB and Fastboot. You'll see a command window pop up.

To check that Minimal ADB and Fastboot can communicate with your phone, just issue the command: adb devices.

Screenshot of the adb devices command.

Under List of devices attached, you'll see a random code next to the word device.

This means that the Minimal ADB and Fastboot utility can see your phone, and you're ready to start issuing useful commands.

Transfer Files to and From Your Phone

There are many ways to move files and data between an Android phone and other devices. However, most of those methods require multiple steps, or complicated connections.

With Minimal ADB and Fastboot, once you've set up your computer and phone once to allow ADB commands, you'll never need to set it up again.

Transferring files is as easy as typing one simple command, and the files are transferred.

  1. Open Minimal ADB and Fastboot, and make sure it can see your device by typing the adb devices command.

  2. The command to move files from your computer to your phone is adb push. To move files from your phone to your computer the command is adb pull.

    If you know the path where your file is (like an image), you can type the full command include the source and the destination, like this:

    adb pull /sdcard/dcim/camera/20181224_131245.jpg c:/temp/pictures/

    You'll see a status showing a successfully pulled file.

    Screenshot of successful adb pull command.
  3. You can find the transferred file in the second directory you've specified.

You can move files from your computer to your phone with one simple command in the same way. Just reverse the source and destination directories.

For example, to place a picture from your computer onto your phone, just type adb push c:\temp\pictures\mypicture.jpg /sdcard/dcim/pictures.

This will create a copy of the file on your phone, in the /sdcard/dcim/pictures directory.

Navigate Through Folders on Your Phone

If you don't know the path of the file on your Android device, you can use special commands called adb shell commands to find the file.

There are several shell commands that can be very useful to navigate through the folders on your phone.

  • ls: Lists the contents of a directory.
  • cd: Changes the directory.
  • rm: Remove files or directories.
  • mkdir: Create a new directory.
  • cp: Copy files or directories.
  • mv: Move or rename files.

With the adb shell command, you can combine these commands by separating them with a semicolon.

For example, to navigate to a directory on your phone to find photos:

  1. Type adb shell ls to see all of the directories on your phone.

    Screenshot of adb shell ls command.
  2. Type adb shell cd sdcard; ls to navigate into the sdcard directory and view all of the files there. Each command separated with a semicolon is performed in sequence.

    Screenshot of using adb shell cd and ls commands.
  3. Continue adding on to the command to navigate deeper into subdirectories until you find the files you're looking for. For example, typing adb shell cd sdcard; cd dcim; cd camera; ls will show you all of the photos you've taken with your camera.

    Screenshot of typing an adb shell command string.
  4. Once you find the files you want, you can issue the adb pull command described in the last section to transfer those files to your computer.

Remotely Install or Uninstall Android Apps

The most common way people install apps to their Android is to search through the Google Play store and install apps from there.

The Google Store automatically transfers the installation file (known as an APK file) to your phone, and launches it. All of this happens automatically and behind the scenes.

However, there are lots of sites where you can download apps not available on Google Play. These let you download the APK file to your computer. You can then install the APK remotely on your phone using a simple abd install command.

Here's how it works:

  1. Enable the installation of unknown apps on your phone. On Android Nougat you'll find this under Settings, tap Security, and enable Unknown Sources. On Android Oreo, you'll find this under Settings, tap Apps and Notifications, and select Install Unknown Apps.

  2. Download the APK file from the website where you've found the app. One popular website for finding apps off the Google Play store is APK Mirror. Save the file somewhere on your computer where you'll remember.

  3. Finally, with your phone connected to your computer, launch Minimal ABD and Fastboot. In the command prompt, type the command adb install <NameOfApp>.apk.

    Screenshot of running abd install command on Android.

    Replace <NameOfApp> with the path and name of the APK file. In the example above, the APK file is stored in c:\temp and the file is protonmail.apk.

  4. This command automatically transfers the APK file onto the Android device, and then runs the installer. Once the installer is done, you'll see the app show up in the list of apps installed on your phone.

  5. You can also uninstall apps using the adb uninstall command. But before you can do this, you need to know the full package name of the app that's installed on your phone.

    Review all packages installed on your phone by typing adb shell pm list packages.

    Screenshot of running the adb shell pm list packages command.

    Search through this list to find the name of the app you want to install.

  6. Uninstall the app by typing adb uninstall <full package name>.

    A Screenshot of running the adb uninstall command on Android.

    Replace <full package name> with the full name of the app package you found in the list.

  7. After running the command, you'll see the word "success". The app will disappear from the app list on your Android phone.

Take a Full Backup of Your Phone

Have you ever had your Android phone die, and you've lost everything on it?

For people who use their phone all the time for photos and work, such a scenario can feel like a real disaster. Avoid it by using ADB Minimal and Fastboot to save a full backup to your computer.

The process is easier than you may think.

The adb backup command has list of parameters that you may never need to use, since just typing the adb backup command will work find with default parameters.

These parameters include:

  • -f <file>: Set the location where you want to store the backup on your computer.
  • -apk|-noapk: Specify whether or not to back up every APK file for the apps you have installed.
  • -shared|-noshared: Also back up shared storage (like an SD card).
  • -all: Back up every app instead of just individual ones.
  • -system|nosystem: Specify whether or not to also back up system applications.
  • <packages...>: Identify individual app packages to back up.

The simplest way to take a back up is just to use the -apk, -all, and -f parameters.

The command to do this is:

adb backup -apk -all -f C:\temp\phone_backup\Samsung_Backup.ab

This will trigger a prompt where you'll confirm the full backup, and encrypt it if you wish.

Screenshot of phone confirmation for full backup.

Once you confirm, the full backup will start.

It may take a few minutes for the full backup to complete.

Screenshot of the abd backup command on an Android phone.

When it does, you can find the full backup file in the path you've specified.

If your phone ever dies and you lose everything on it, once the phone is repaired you can perform a full recovery by typing the command:

adb restore <path and name of file>.ab

This will upload your full backup back to your phone and restore everything back to normal again. If you've chosen to back up the APK files, even all of the original apps will reinstall.

Get Information About Your Phone

Whenever you contact customer support for the manufacturer of your phone, or any tech support line, sometimes they'll need to know details about your phone that aren't always easy to find.

With Minimal ADB and Fastboot, you can retrieve all sorts of information about your phone.

  • adb shell ip -f inet addr show wlan0: Provides the current IP address of your phone on the network.
  • adb shell getprop ro.boot.serialno: Shows you the serial number of your phone.
  • adb shell getprop ro.build.version.release: Displays the version of the Android OS installed on your phone.
  • adb shell netstat: Shows all of the current network connections currently active from your phone.

The adb shell getprop command gives you access to a huge variety of details about your phone in addition to the serial number and OS release. To see the entire collection, just type adb shell getprop and you'll see a list of all details, including the current value.

Screenshot of the adb shell getprop command on Android.

Typing a single command from your computer to pull this information from your phone is much easier than digging through the Settings menu to try and find them.

Using Minimal ADB and Fastboot

It isn't often that Android phone users who aren't developers would have a need for a command-line app. However Minimal ABD and Fastboot is very different.

It provides a great deal of control and access to your phone that most novice Android users find difficult otherwise. The ease of setup and the simple commands make it a powerful tool for any Android user.