How To Install ADB On macOS

Among the main features of Android, we find the different customization and diversification modes, which even end users can access without too many complications. There are several procedures to customize your Android device, among the more complicated ones we find modding while the simplest are applicable through the installation of classic apps.

If you want to keep it simple, you can customize your device by installing special apps and services, which are not available on the Play Store but can be started or installed via the Android Debug Bridge, which you may know by the name of  ADB commands.

In this guide, we will first see what the ADB commands mean, what they are for, and then how to install them on your PC with macOS to customize your Android smartphone or tablet.

Before continuing, we would like to point out that we have also created a similar guide for  Windows and  Linux.


  • What are ADB commands
  • What are the ADB commands for
  • Preliminary operations
  • How to install ADB commands on macOS
  • More useful ADB commands

What are ADB commands

As we have seen in the specific guide for Windows PC, let’s see what Android Debug Bridge (ADB) means. We are talking about commands that allow interaction between PCs and Android devices, based on the client-server architecture. This architecture conceptually includes three components:

  • The client that corresponds to the PC, which can be Windows, Mac or Linux, which sends commands to the Android device connected via USB cable or wirelessly.
  • The daemon which is the component that physically executes the commands on the Android device connected to the macOS PC.
  • The server that manages all communications between the two devices. The server is a process running in the background on the PC.

The ADB commands to work must necessarily be started on the PC, with the installation of the relative drivers, these are made available by Google in an official way and differ in their versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

What are the ADB commands for

The execution of ADB commands from your macOS PC to your Android smartphone or tablet is essential to experiment with Android features that are not active in the stock version of the operating system, or to install apps that are not available on the official Google store, the Play Store.

Through the ADB commands it is also possible to install ROMs or actual operating systems. A striking example of an application in this context is the installation of OTA updates on Pixel smartphones. Or the installation of the factory image, the global system image associated with each Android device.

These alternatives can be particularly useful when the Android smartphone or tablet cannot be updated according to the canonical automatic modes.

Preliminary operations

Before going to see how to install ADB commands on your macOS PC it is good to carry out some preliminary operations on your Android device, so that it is ready to receive and execute ADB commands.

The procedure we are about to see is as true for smartphones as it is for  Android tablets.

  1. Launch  Settings on the Android device.
  2. Tap  Device Information generally at the bottom of the list.
  3. Then tap on the Build number option  7 times to enable  Developer Options.
  4. Returning to the main Settings screen you should see a new  Developer Options menu to access.
  5. Enable the  USB Debugging Mode option within  Developer Options.

How to install ADB commands on macOS

  1. Download the Android SDK Platform Tools ZIP file for macOS.
  2. Extract the ZIP to an easily accessible location (such as the desktop).
  3. Open Terminal.
  4. Navigate to the folder where ADB was extracted
  5. Connect the Android device to the Mac with a compatible USB cable. Change the USB connection mode to ” file transfer (MTP) ” mode. This isn’t always required for all devices, but it’s best to leave it in this mode so you don’t run into any problems.
  6. Once the Terminal is in the same folder where the ADB tools are located, run the following command to start the ADB daemon: ./adb devices
  7. On the Android device, you should see the ” Allow USB Debugging ” prompt. Allow the connection.
  8. As you can see from the final screenshot below you should see the words ” authorized ” confirming that everything went well in the connection.
macos terminal ADB devices
macOS terminal ADB devices

More useful ADB commands

Let’s now see which ADB commands are most useful for managing your Android smartphone or tablet.

These are the same useful commands we have seen for help on Windows.

The following list gathers the command extensions to check the apps installed on the connected device:

  • -f  for the base APK path for each app, along with the package name
  • -a  makes sure that all known non-APEX packages are returned
  • -d  causes the command to return only disabled packages
  • -e  allows the command to return only enabled packages
  • -s  to have the command return system packages only
  • -3  causes the command to return only third-party packages
  • -i  includes the installation package name for each package
  • -U  includes the User ID of each package
  • -u  includes uninstalled packages
  • -show-versioncode  includes the version code for each package
  • -apex-only  returns APEX packages only
  • -uid  <UID> shows only packets with the specified UID
  • -user  <USER_ID> displays only packages that belong to the specified user ID

The new list instead shows the commands useful to proceed with the installation of apps on the connected device:

  • -r  allows ADB to install on an app, but on Android Pie and later, you don’t need to specify this option
  • -i  allows you to specify the name of an installation package
  • -t  allows the installation of an APK with android: testOnly = “true” in the manifest
  • -d  allows you to downgrade the specified APK to an already installed app, but only works if both versions of the app can be debugged
  • -g  for Android Marshmallow and later versions automatically grants all runtime permissions to the installed app

These commands instead include extensions to disable system apps on the connected device:

  • pm disable <package> – To re-enable, pm enable <package>
  • pm disable-user –user 0 <package> – To re-enable, pm enable <package>
  • pm hide <package> – To re-enable, pm unhide <package>
  • pm suspend <package> – To re-enable, pm unsuspend <package>
  • pm uninstall -k –user 0 <package> – To re-enable, pm install-existing <package>

Read more about How to update macOS

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Abram left his e-business studies to devote himself to his entrepreneurial projects. In 2017, he created the company Inbound Media and wrote articles about high-tech products for his Chromebookeur site. In 2019, Chromebookeur was renamed Macbound and became a general purchasing advice site. Today, Abram manages the development and growth of Macbound, surrounded by a young and talented team.

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