You have probably come across ADB and Fastboot if you have ever rooted an Android device. Although they are a crucial component of the rooting toolset, these utilities can be challenging to grasp, let alone master.

So read on if you’re interested in learning more about ADB and Fastboot, need assistance setting them up, or want to know what you can do with them.

What are ADB and Fastboot?

While your phone is linked to a desktop computer via a USB cable, the tools ADB and Fastboot enable access to the Android operating system. There is no app for this, and while you may use ADB wirelessly, the setup is considerably more difficult, therefore the computer and cord are essential.

ADB is typically used when Android is active. It gives you access to system folders or lets you change hidden settings that are otherwise inaccessible to users. ADB can be used to copy system files to and from the device. System updates can also be installed via the sideload capability.

When Android is not active and the device is booted into “Fastboot mode,” Fastboot functions. It gives you access to every partition on your device, including the data partition, boot partition, and others in addition to the Android operating system.

Fastboot is a diagnostic tool for Android. It is frequently used to install a custom recovery and is necessary if you need to unbrick your phone.

Both are included in the Platform Tools collection of the Android software development kit.

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

Use the cd command to accomplish this: type cd [path to platform-tools]. The path will automatically fill in for you if you type cd[space] and then drag the platform-tools folder into the Command Prompt window.

Even simpler, on Windows you may pick Open Command Prompt Here by right-clicking the platform-tools folder while holding the shift key down.

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

Launch Android on your phone, then use a USB cord to connect it to your desktop computer. Open the Command Prompt on your PC and modify the directory to point to the platform-tools folder.

Hit Enter after entering adb devices. The list of attached devices should now be visible, along with their serial numbers. This indicates that it is effective.

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:

  • adb pull [path to file] [path to folder] This copies a file stored anywhere on your phone, and saves it to a specified folder on your computer.
  • adb push [path to file] [path to folder] The opposite of pull; send a file from your desktop to your phone.
  • adb install [path to file] Installs an APK app on your phone. This is of most use to app developers.
  • adb uninstall [package name] Uninstalls an app. You need to enter the full package name—usually something along the lines of com.devname.appname—instead of the common app name.
  • adb shell wm density [dpi] Changes the pixel density of your display. A lower number fits more content onto the screen, while a higher number will fit less. For example, older devices like the OnePlus 3 have a native DPI of 480. Setting it to 400 makes text, icons, and everything else smaller.
  • adb sideload [path to update.zip] Sideloads an update.zip firmware update. This one runs via the custom recovery on your phone. Useful if you can’t wait for an update to get pushed to your device.
  • fastboot oem unlock OR fastboot flashing unlock Which command you should use depends on which version of Android you’re running. From Android 6 onwards you also need to enable OEM unlocking in Developer Options. Unlocking the bootloader this way wipes your phone completely.
  • fastboot flash recovery [filename.img] Installs a custom recovery, such as TWRP, on your device. For ease of use, we suggest changing the recovery filename to something easy—twrp.img, for instance—and moving it into the platform-tools folder.
  • fastboot -w Completely wipes your phone in preparation for flashing a custom ROM.
  • fastboot update [path to rom.zip] Flashes a custom ROM. A useful option if you haven’t rooted your phone.

Why you should learn ADB and Fastboot

Obviously, the aforementioned instructions are simply meant to provide general direction. On some gadgets, they might not all function. Only use them if you are aware of what they will do and how to reverse any modifications they could cause.

The Android rooting and modding process depends heavily on ADB and Fastboot. It’s crucial to learn how to use them because doing so will enable you to employ more sophisticated tweaks.

As previously indicated, you must first enable the Developer Options in order to use ADB and Fastboot. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have access to a number of other handy settings.

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