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How to install ADB and Fastboot

If you want to root your Android device, install a custom ROM or do other advanced things on your phone, it is essential that know the answer to the question 'What is ADB'? and 'How to install ADB and Fastboot'. Well, that is exactly what we have tried to answer in this guide. Hopefully, this article will guide you on getting the most out of your Android smartphone.

What is ADB?

ADB is shot for Android Debug Bridge. In simple terms, it is nothing but a communication tool between your smartphone and PC. For those with slight technical knowledge, think of it as a client and server communicating with the other. It is accessed via the command prompt on Windows and is used to send commands to  Android from a PC. ADB is very helpful to the Android community and tinkerers for rooting, flashing new ROMs or simply troubleshooting smartphones.

What is fastboot?

Fastboot is a diagnostic tool used to modify the Android file system using a computer. It is used after the smartphone is started in bootloader mode. The commands are basic, and include, for example, to ‘flash’ (install) a boot image or a bootloader.

nexus 5 fastboot locked

You can start in recovery mode from the ADB commands / © NextPit

What are drivers?

A driver is a small program that allows an operating system – Windows in this case – to recognize a device and interact with or use it. Each deveice has its own driver, hard drive, mouse, etc. For our smartphones, the system itself uses a driver, the ADB mode and fastboot mode also because the interface is not the same. To summarize, Windows needs a driver for the smartphone, for fastboot and ADB. They are common for all smartphones.

Install ADB drivers on Windows

If you are planning to do anything with ADB, it is recommended that you are using Window 10. In our test with a Windows 10 system, we didn’t have to install any additional drivers and could access the ADB interface with any Android smartphone, immediately. On Windows 7 and earlier OS versions, connecting your smartphone and PC via ADB might be a bit more complex.

On Windows 7, if the appropriate ADB driver is missing, your smartphone and PC will not be able to communicate. Thankfully, the ADB Driver Installer offers a universal solution to the problem. Make your way to this site and click on ADB Driver Installer (9 MB). Open the zip file and start the .EXE file contained therein. Confirm the warning regarding user access controls when it appears.

windows adb tools overview

ADB on Windows 7 is not a lot of fun / © NextPit

Enable USB debugging

The second this you need to do is to enable USB debugging on your smartphone. To do this:

Make your way to Settings, then tap on About phone and press seven times in quick succession on Build number. Go back to the main Settings menu, and you will now see an option for Developer options above About phone. Here, activate USB debugging.

nexus 6 activate android debugging

Tap on Build number seven times, enter Developer options, and enabled USB debugging / © NextPit

Now click again on Refresh in the ADB Driver Installer, and your device should appear. If it still doesn’t work, you need to change the USB connection mode. Many smartphones are set to use the USB cable only for charging by default. This is intentional, so your files are invisible to the user of the connected computer.

Pull down the notification from the top of the screen of the smartphone while it is connected to your computer. From here, press on the USB connection type. Then select either MTP or PTP. (We found success with both options).

lg g4 usb mode

Tap on USB options and select one of the transfer protocols / © NextPit

Now, when you click on Refresh, you should see your device in the list of ADB Driver Installers. Click on the line displaying your device, and then click Install. This should install the appropriate ADB drivers for your smartphone.

If you have problems, you need to open the Device Manager, delete existing entries with your smartphone and repeat the installation.

Install ADB Tools on Windows

Now we want to make use of the ADB drivers. To ensure everything is as recent as possible, first, head to this website and download Platform Tools.

install sdk tools

How to install and update ADB Tools correctly / © NextPit

Unpack the files to a folder and press the shift button and right-click on your mouse, then click on the “Open PowerShell window here” then a command prompt will open. And that’s it. 

Once again, check if USB Debugging is on and turn it on if it isn’t already.

usb debugging allow device

You must authorize USB debugging every time you connect to a new computer / © NextPit

Once you have enabled USB debugging on your device and allowed it from the computer, your device should appear in the device list within the command window.

Install ADB on Mac or Linux

The Unix-based systems of Mac OS and Linux make things much easier. Firstly, they eliminate the hassle of drivers. Secondly, the ADB tools keep themselves up to date thanks to simple package management systems. Mac users install the package manager Homebrew and then run brew install android platform-tools. Linux users need to look in the package system for android-platform-tools and install it. Subsequently, the ADB tools should be defined globally, so you are able to use the following ADB commands in the command line.

ADB commands

adb backup -f FullBackup.ab -apk -all: The idea here is that you make a full backup of your app data. In practice, the results are unreliable. Not all apps allow for an ADB backup, meaning you might need to find an alternative method.

How to backup Android

adb devices: With this command you will receive an overview of all devices connected to the computer device with ADB support. Here you can see the device identifier and the status. If the word Unauthorized appears, it means you need to allow the computer permission to communicate with your smartphone.


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