If you've ever rooted your Android phone, you've almost certainly encountered ADB and Fastboot. These utilities are an important part of the rooting toolkit, yet they can be difficult to understand—let alone master.
So if you're wondering what exactly ADB and Fastboot are, need help setting them up, or would like some ideas for what you can do with them, read on.
What Are ADB and Fastboot?
ADB and Fastboot are utilities that unlock access to the Android system while your phone is connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. The computer and cable are integral to this—there's no app version, and while you can use ADB wirelessly, it's much more complicated to set up.
You normally use ADB when Android is running. It enables you to access system folders, or tweak hidden settings, which are otherwise off-limits to users. You can copy system files to and from the device using ADB, and there's also a sideload function that can be used to install system updates.
Fastboot works when Android is not running and the device is booted into "Fastboot mode" instead. It enables you to access all your device's partitions—not just the Android system, but also the data partition, the boot partition, and so on.
On Android, Fastboot is a diagnostic tool. It's essential if you need to unbrick your phone, and is most commonly used to install a custom recovery.MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY
Both are part of the Android software development kit's Platform Tools collection.
Both tools run through the Command Prompt on Windows, or Terminal on Mac and Linux. This means they aren't especially user-friendly, even though they are quite easy to get the hang of.
How to Set Up ADB and Fastboot
First, you need to set up your phone to use the tools. If you haven't already, enable the Developer Options by going to Settings > About phone and tapping on Build number seven times.
Then, in Settings > Developer options, check the box next to USB debugging and walk through the dialog box that follows.
Download ADB and Fastboot from the Android Developer website. When you unzip the download, the contents will be collected together into a folder called platform-tools. There are several other items in the folder, but you can ignore these.
If you're on Windows, you will also need to download drivers for your device. There's a list of links for most popular manufacturers on the Android developer website. Drivers aren't needed on Mac or Linux.
Using the Command Prompt or Terminal
Open the Command Prompt or Terminal app. You will need to navigate to the platform-tools folder in order to use ADB and fastboot.
Do this using the cd command: enter cd [path to platform-tools]. An easier way is to type cd[space] then drag the platform-tools folder into the Command Prompt window—it will autofill the path for you.
Easier still, on Windows you can hold shift while right-clicking the platform-tools folder, then select Open Command Prompt Here.
Related: 15 Command Prompt Commands You Must Know
The Difference Between Windows and Mac/Linux
There's one small but essential difference between using Windows and Mac or Linux. On the latter two, every ADB and Fastboot command must be preceded by a dot-slash.
So where you type adb on Windows, you must type ./adb on Mac and Linux. And fastboot on Windows needs to be ./fastboot on Mac and Linux.
For the sake of simplicity, we'll stick with the Windows commands going forward.
How to Use ADB
Boot your phone into Android, then connect it to your desktop computer with a USB cable. On your computer, launch the Command Prompt and change the directory to point to the platform-tools folder.
Type adb devices and hit Enter. You should now see a list of attached devices, with a serial number. This shows that it is working.
That's all there is to it: type adb followed by the command you wish to execute. For another simple example, enter adb reboot to restart your phone.
How to Use Fastboot
Fastboot works the same way as ADB, except you need to boot your phone into Fastboot mode instead of Android. You normally do this by holding a combination of the power and volume keys when turning on the phone.
Alternatively, use ADB and type adb reboot bootloader.
After that it's the same. Enter fastboot devices to check that your phone is being recognized. Enter fastboot reboot to relaunch Android.
Things You Can Do With ADB and Fastboot
Now that you know how to use ADB and Fastboot, what can you do with them? Here are a few tools to try:
Why You Should Learn ADB and Fastboot
Obviously, the commands above are for basic guidance only. They may not all work on all devices. You should only use them if you understand what they will do and how to undo any changes that they make.
ADB and Fastboot are essential parts of the Android rooting and modding game. Learning how to use them is important and will help you make use of more advanced mods.
As we mentioned, to use ADB and Fastboot you need to enable the Developer Options first. Once you've done that, a number of other useful settings become available to you.The 15 Best Android Developer Options Worth Tweaking Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorAndy Betts(215 Articles Published)
Andy is a freelance writer and junior editor for Android at MUO. He's been writing about consumer tech since the early 2000s for a wide range of publications, and has a passion for all things mobile.MoreFrom Andy Betts
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