If you’re only here to figure out what the acronym ADB stands for, you’re in luck. ADB stands for Android Debugging Bridge, which is a helpful tool that allows your Android device to perform a series of useful functions. I’m sure that sounded vague, so let’s go into more detail.
What is ADB?
Android Debugging Bridge, or ADB, is what’s commonly referred to as a command line tool. Don’t worry, you won’t need to remember all of this for a test, and this knowledge isn’t required to use ADB’s full potential.
All you really need to know is that ADB is another way you can communicate between a PC or Mac and an Android device. Some actions you can perform with this new communication include:
- Issue a number of commands for debugging, shell creations, port forwarding, and viewing general information about your Android device.
- Copying and pushing files from connected devices.
- Installing applications from one connected device to another.
- Gain more control over your device as a developer.
If any of these appeals to you, or you were already on board from the beginning, let’s take a look at what you need to build a bridge to new possibilities.
What do I need to use ADB?
There are four to five things you need to take proper advantage of ABD, and you may already have most of these.
- An Android enabled device.
- A PC, Mac, or Linux enabled computer.
- A USB cable or a working Wi-Fi connection.
- Android SDK tools installed on your computer.
- An additional application if your device is not rooted.
You will need to download the Android SDK tools and have them installed on your computer if you don’t already. You will see the Android developer website with two options for download on display.
You can download either just the stand-alone SDK tools or the complete Android SDK studio bundle. Either will provide the tools that you need to use ADB properly, but the bundle has useful, additional tools that any Android developer will want.
Now that you have everything you need let’s set up ADB and show off a few things you can do with it. We’ll go through everything you need to do on both devices before you can bridge connections first, and then we’ll dive into commands.
Download and Install Android SDK Tools
If you already have SDK tools installed on your computer, you can skip right to step two. If you haven’t, you’ve probably downloaded one of the two files above. In case you haven’t, here’s a link to the studio bundle and a link to the standalone SDK tools.
The file sizes for each are fairly large, with the recommended bundle being around 1GB, and the recommended standalone coming in around 150MB.
After agreeing to the terms and finishing the download, install the exe you were provided. From this point on these instructions will act as if you have downloaded just the standalone tools, however, instructions for the studio bundle will be very similar regardless. If you would like specific bundle instructions, please view them here.
Once finished, the Android SDK manager should be open, which is what you’ll need. More than just a few packages that want installation should appear, but navigate to the bottom of the window and hit Deselect All.
Next, you’ll want to select Android SDK Tools, Android SDK platform tools, and Google USB Driver. After you’ve selected all three, press Install packages. You’ll then be presented with a window that will ask you to accept a license. Accept the license and then install to complete the installation.
Additionally, you can view a video on how to install SDK tools.
Enable USB Debugging
For most, this may already be enabled, but if it isn’t, you’ll want this turned on. If you don’t know where USB debugging is located, it should be under Developer Options in your Settings.
If your Developer Options are not enabled, you’ll need to navigate through your Settings to About phone. After this, tap your Build number seven times to become a developer and gain access to Developer Options so you can enable USB debugging.
Connect your device to your computer either via USB cable or Wi-Fi
For this next step, you’ll need either a USB cable or Wi-Fi connection that both your computer and the device can be connected to at the same time. The USB cable is the easier of the two to use, but for some ADB functions, you will need to be using a rooted Android device for this method.
The reason for this is that some ADB commands require permissions that Android devices aren’t able to perform unless rooted. If you haven’t rooted your device already, this may be the last push you need.
Otherwise, to bypass the need for a rooted device, you can connect over Wi-Fi along with the use of an additional application.
The application is called ADB Wireless, and will allow you to make full use of ADB without needing a rooted device. There are instructions on the app page on how to use it, and to do so you’ll need to make use of the command prompt.
No matter the method used, make sure your device is booted into Android and connected to your computer before continuing to the next step.
Running the command prompt from platform tools, or from start
This step is specifically for PC, so it may not work the same way on Mac or Linux. For setup on a Mac, the video below explains the process for ADB as well as Fastboot:
After you have everything set up properly, you’ll need to enter the command prompt to start using ADB. You can do this from the platform-tools folder you had installed earlier, or already have on your PC.
The platform tools folder can be found by going to Program Files > Android > Android SDK > platform tools. Once in the correct folder, hold down shift, right click an empty space, and then select open command window here. The folder can also be found by searching your C: drive for the folder platform tools.
Alternatively, you can just hit Start, then search for cmd to find the command prompt. Once in the command prompt, you can access ADB functions when an ADB enabled device is connected to your computer.
Now type “ADB devices” into the command prompt, and hit enter. If everything went right, you should see your device listed in the attached devices. If no device is displayed, repeat the steps above until you can see your device listed. From there you can start using ADB commands.
Well now that it’s set up, what can I do with it?
You can now run ADB commands to your device to perform actions such as:
- Backing up an SD card.
- Copying data from your device or you computer.
- Installing applications that were on your computer that are compatible with Android.
- Port forwarding.
- In-depth debugging.
- And more
You can view the link above for ADB command lists, tips, and general help that may be required with general ADB use, or even ADB use for development. You can view an additional ADB commands list here.
For those not interested in Android development, backing up a SD card, and other data shifting commands would most likely be the most useful. Because of this, those that are new to ADB should stick to File Manager type commands, like the ones in the link above.
The easiest way to setup and take advantage of ADB is with a rooted device, considering the ways around that requirement can be a little confusing to set up. However, the setup for these commands may not be worth it to the average Android user who won’t be diving into any of the more complex development uses.
If you plan to develop with Android, setup of the Android Debugging Bridge is essential, but for a casual user, it will save you the extra fuss to just stay clear.
Have any ADB or command line tips you’re just itching to get off your chest?
I’d love to hear about them in the comments below, and while you’re there you could even tell us your favorite uses for ADB!