How To Install ADB On Windows

One of the main peculiarities of Android is the high degree of customization and diversification, which is often granted to end users. This can happen at a low level, or through the apps that we find officially on the Play Store, such as launchers, or at a higher level with changes that can even reach the operating system.

Precisely in the latter context, we find the Android Debug Bridge, which you may know by the name of ADB commands. If you are a keen Android user you will have heard of them at least once.

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

Before continuing, we point out that we have created a similar guide also for macOS and Linux.

Index

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

What are ADB commands

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is based on the client-server architecture.

There are three components that make up this structure:

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

To work, the ADB service must be started on the PC, then the daemon must start, which will then communicate on which TCP port the communication is set. As long as communication is not interrupted, the daemon will remain “listening”, that is, waiting for commands to be transmitted to the connected Android device.

It is important to mention that the same ADB protocol is available to perform the same operations even for those who have a macOS or Linux PC. The guides to using them can be found right below:

What are the ADB commands for

Running ADB commands from your PC to your Android device can be useful for experimenting with Android features that are not active in the stock version of the operating system, or they can be useful for installing apps or services not officially available on the Play Store.

Another useful aspect of ADB commands is being able to install ROMs on the Android device. These can be official ROMs, i.e. the official versions of the Android operating systems for your device, or unofficial, such as the well-known custom ROMs that come from third-party developers.

This last alternative can be particularly useful when you need to soft reset your device because maybe there are software problems that prevent it from being used.

Preliminary operations

Before going to see how to install ADB commands on your 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 Windows

The following steps will clarify how to install ADB on Windows.

The procedure shown was performed on Windows 11 but can be applied safely on Windows 10 and Windows 8. The differences are minimal in terms of the graphical interface.

  1. Download the Android SDK Platform Tools ZIP file for Windows.
  2. Extract the contents of this ZIP file to an easily accessible folder on your Windows PC.
  3. Open the folder where the contents of this ZIP file were extracted.
  4. Then open a command window from the same directory. This can be done by holding Shift and right-clicking inside the folder, then click on the ” Open command window here ” option. (Some Windows 10 users may see ” PowerShell ” instead of “command window”).
  5. Connect the smartphone or tablet to the PC with a USB cable. Change the USB mode to “file transfer (MTP)” mode. Some OEMs may or may not require it, but it is best to leave it in this mode for general compatibility.
  6. In the command prompt window, enter the following command to start the ADB daemon: ADB devices
    • Some PCs may require a higher level of command, for security reasons. In this case, it will be sufficient to send the command: ./adb devices
  7. On the smartphone screen, you should see a prompt to allow or deny access to USB debugging. Grant this access to USB debugging.
  8. As you can see from the final screenshot below you should see the words ” authorized ” confirming that everything went well in the connection.
Allow usb debugging
Allow usb debugging

More useful ADB commands

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

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-version code  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>

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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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