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Android Debug Bridge

Android Debug Bridge (adb) is a versatile command line tool that lets you communicate with an emulator instance or connected Android-powered device. It is a client-server program that includes three components:

  • A client, which runs on your development machine. You can invoke a client from a shell by issuing an adb command. Other Android tools such as the ADT plugin and DDMS also create adb clients.
  • A server, which runs as a background process on your development machine. The server manages communication between the client and the adb daemon running on an emulator or device.
  • A daemon, which runs as a background process on each emulator or device instance.

You can find the adb tool in <sdk>/platform-tools/.

When you start an adb client, the client first checks whether there is an adb server process already running. If there isn't, it starts the server process. When the server starts, it binds to local TCP port 5037 and listens for commands sent from adb clients—all adb clients use port 5037 to communicate with the adb server.

The server then sets up connections to all running emulator/device instances. It locates emulator/device instances by scanning odd-numbered ports in the range 5555 to 5585, the range used by emulators/devices. Where the server finds an adb daemon, it sets up a connection to that port. Note that each emulator/device instance acquires a pair of sequential ports — an even-numbered port for console connections and an odd-numbered port for adb connections. For example:

Emulator 1, console: 5554
Emulator 1, adb: 5555
Emulator 2, console: 5556
Emulator 2, adb: 5557
and so on...

As shown, the emulator instance connected to adb on port 5555 is the same as the instance whose console listens on port 5554.

Once the server has set up connections to all emulator instances, you can use adb commands to access those instances. Because the server manages connections to emulator/device instances and handles commands from multiple adb clients, you can control any emulator/device instance from any client (or from a script).

Note: When you connect a device running Android 4.2.2 or higher to your computer, the system shows a dialog asking whether to accept an RSA key that allows debugging through this computer. This security mechanism protects user devices because it ensures that USB debugging and other adb commands cannot be executed unless you're able to unlock the device and acknowledge the dialog. This requires that you have adb version 1.0.31 (available with SDK Platform-tools r16.0.1 and higher) in order to debug on a device running Android 4.2.2 or higher.


You can issue adb commands from a command line on your development machine or from a script. The usage is:

adb [-d|-e|-s <serialNumber>] <command>

If there's only one emulator running or only one device connected, the adb command is sent to that device by default. If multiple emulators are running and/or multiple devices are attached, you need to use the -d, -e, or -s option to specify the target device to which the command should be directed.


The table below lists all of the supported adb commands and explains their meaning and usage.

Table 1. Available adb commands

Category Command Description Comments
Target Device -d Direct an adb command to the only attached USB device. Returns an error if more than one USB device is attached.
-e Direct an adb command to the only running emulator instance. Returns an error if more than one emulator instance is running.
-s <serialNumber> Direct an adb command a specific emulator/device instance, referred to by its adb-assigned serial number (such as "emulator-5556"). See Directing Commands to a Specific Emulator/Device Instance.
General devices Prints a list of all attached emulator/device instances. See Querying for Emulator/Device Instances for more information.
help Prints a list of supported adb commands.  
version Prints the adb version number.  
Debug logcat [option] [filter-specs] Prints log data to the screen.  
bugreport Prints dumpsys, dumpstate, and logcat data to the screen, for the purposes of bug reporting.  
jdwp Prints a list of available JDWP processes on a given device. You can use the forward jdwp:<pid> port-forwarding specification to connect to a specific JDWP process. For example:
adb forward tcp:8000 jdwp:472
jdb -attach localhost:8000

Data install <path-to-apk> Pushes an Android application (specified as a full path to an .apk file) to an emulator/device.  
pull <remote> <local> Copies a specified file from an emulator/device instance to your development computer.  
push <local> <remote> Copies a specified file from your development computer to an emulator/device instance.  
Ports and Networking forward <local> <remote> Forwards socket connections from a specified local port to a specified remote port on the emulator/device instance. Port specifications can use these schemes:
  • tcp:<portnum>
  • local:<UNIX domain socket name>
  • dev:<character device name>
  • jdwp:<pid>
ppp <tty> [parm]... Run PPP over USB.
  • <tty> — the tty for PPP stream. For example dev:/dev/omap_csmi_ttyl.
  • [parm]... — zero or more PPP/PPPD options, such as defaultroute, local, notty, etc.

Note that you should not automatically start a PPP connection.

Scripting get-serialno Prints the adb instance serial number string. See Querying for Emulator/Device Instances for more information.
get-state Prints the adb state of an emulator/device instance.
wait-for-device Blocks execution until the device is online — that is, until the instance state is device. You can prepend this command to other adb commands, in which case adb will wait until the emulator/device instance is connected before issuing the other commands. Here's an example:
adb wait-for-device shell getprop
Note that this command does not cause adb to wait until the entire system is fully booted. For that reason, you should not prepend it to other commands that require a fully booted system. As an example, the install requires the Android package manager, which is available only after the system is fully booted. A command such as
adb wait-for-device install <app>.apk
would issue the install command as soon as the emulator or device instance connected to the adb server, but before the Android system was fully booted, so it would result in an error.
Server start-server Checks whether the adb server process is running and starts it, if not.  
kill-server Terminates the adb server process.  
Shell shell Starts a remote shell in the target emulator/device instance. See Issuing Shell Commands for more information.
shell [shellCommand] Issues a shell command in the target emulator/device instance and then exits the remote shell.

Querying for Emulator/Device Instances

Before issuing adb commands, it is helpful to know what emulator/device instances are connected to the adb server. You can generate a list of attached emulators/devices using the devices command:

adb devices

In response, adb prints this status information for each instance:

  • Serial number — A string created by adb to uniquely identify an emulator/device instance by its console port number. The format of the serial number is <type>-<consolePort>. Here's an example serial number: emulator-5554
  • State — The connection state of the instance may be one of the following:
    • offline — the instance is not connected to adb or is not responding.
    • device — the instance is now connected to the adb server. Note that this state does not imply that the Android system is fully booted and operational, since the instance connects to adb while the system is still booting. However, after boot-up, this is the normal operational state of an emulator/device instance.
    • no device — there is no emulator/device connected.

The output for each instance is formatted like this:

[serialNumber] [state]

Here's an example showing the devices command and its output:

adb devices
List of devices attached
emulator-5554  device
emulator-5556  device
emulator-5558  device

Directing Commands to a Specific Emulator/Device Instance

If multiple emulator/device instances are running, you must specify a target instance when issuing adb commands. To do so, use the -s option in the commands. The usage for the -s option is:

adb -s <serialNumber> <command> 

As shown, you specify the target instance for a command using its adb-assigned serial number. You can use the devices command to obtain the serial numbers of running emulator/device instances. For example:

adb -s emulator-5556 install helloWorld.apk

Note that, if you issue a command without specifying a target emulator/device instance while multiple devices are available, adb generates an error.

If you have multiple devices available (hardware or emulated), but only one is an emulator, simply use the -e option to send commands to the emulator. Likewise if there's multiple devices but only one hardware device attached, use the -d option to send commands to the hardware device.

Installing an Application

You can use adb to copy an application from your development computer and install it on an emulator/device instance. To do so, use the install command. With the command, you must specify the path to the .apk file that you want to install:

adb install <path_to_apk>

For more information about how to create an .apk file that you can install on an emulator/device instance, see Building and Running

Note that, if you are using the Eclipse IDE and have the ADT plugin installed, you do not need to use adb (or aapt) directly to install your application on the emulator/device. Instead, the ADT plugin handles the packaging and installation of the application for you.

Forwarding Ports

You can use the forward command to set up arbitrary port forwarding — forwarding of requests on a specific host port to a different port on an emulator/device instance. Here's how you would set up forwarding of host port 6100 to emulator/device port 7100:

adb forward tcp:6100 tcp:7100

You can also use adb to set up forwarding to named abstract UNIX domain sockets, as illustrated here:

adb forward tcp:6100 local:logd 

Copying Files to or from an Emulator/Device Instance

You can use the adb commands pull and push to copy files to and from an emulator/device instance. Unlike the install command, which only copies an APK file to a specific location, the pull and push commands let you copy arbitrary directories and files to any location in an emulator/device instance.

To copy a file or directory (and its sub-directories) from the emulator or device, use

adb pull <remote> <local>

To copy a file or directory (and its sub-directories) to the emulator or device, use

adb push <local> <remote>

In the commands, <local> and <remote> refer to the paths to the target files/directory on your development machine (local) and on the emulator/device instance (remote). For example:

adb push foo.txt /sdcard/foo.txt

Issuing Shell Commands

Adb provides a Unix shell that you can use to run a variety of commands on an emulator or connected device. The command binaries are stored in the file system of the emulator or device, at /system/bin/...

Two of the most common command tools are activity manager (am) and package manager (pm).

You can use the shell command to issue commands, with or without entering the adb remote shell on the emulator/device. To issue a single command without entering a remote shell, use the shell command like this:

adb [-d|-e|-s <serialNumber>] shell <shell_command>

Or enter a remote shell on an emulator/device like this:

adb [-d|-e|-s <serialNumber>] shell

When you are ready to exit the remote shell, press CTRL+D or type exit.

Using activity manager (am)

Within an adb shell, you can issue commands with the activity manager (am) tool to perform various system actions, such as start an activity, force-stop a process, broadcast an intent, modify the device screen properties, and more. While in a shell, the syntax is:

am <command>

You can also issue an activity manager command directly from adb without entering a remote shell. For example:

adb shell am start -a android.intent.action.VIEW

Table 2. Available activity manager commands

Command Description
start [options] <INTENT> Start an Activity specified by <INTENT>.

See the Specification for <INTENT> arguments.

Options are:

  • -D: Enable debugging.
  • -W: Wait for launch to complete.
  • --start-profiler <FILE>: Start profiler and send results to <FILE>.
  • -P <FILE>: Like --start-profiler, but profiling stops when the app goes idle.
  • -R: Repeat the activity launch <COUNT> times. Prior to each repeat, the top activity will be finished.
  • -S: Force stop the target app before starting the activity.
  • --opengl-trace: Enable tracing of OpenGL functions.
  • --user <USER_ID> | current: Specify which user to run as; if not specified, then run as the current user.
startservice [options] <INTENT> Start the Service specified by <INTENT>.

See the Specification for <INTENT> arguments.

Options are:

  • --user <USER_ID> | current: Specify which user to run as; if not specified, then run as the current user.
force-stop <PACKAGE> Force stop everything associated with <PACKAGE> (the app's package name).
kill [options] <PACKAGE> Kill all processes associated with <PACKAGE> (the app's package name). This command kills only processes that are safe to kill and that will not impact the user experience.

Options are:

  • --user <USER_ID> | all | current: Specify user whose processes to kill; all users if not specified.
kill-all Kill all background processes.
broadcast [options] <INTENT> Issue a broadcast intent.

See the Specification for <INTENT> arguments.

Options are:

  • [--user <USER_ID> | all | current]: Specify which user to send to; if not specified then send to all users.
instrument [options] <COMPONENT> Start monitoring with an Instrumentation instance. Typically the target <COMPONENT> is the form <TEST_PACKAGE>/<RUNNER_CLASS>.

Options are:

  • -r: Print raw results (otherwise decode <REPORT_KEY_STREAMRESULT>). Use with [-e perf true] to generate raw output for performance measurements.
  • -e <NAME> <VALUE>: Set argument <NAME> to <VALUE>. For test runners a common form is -e <testrunner_flag> <value>[,<value>...].
  • -p <FILE>: Write profiling data to <FILE>.
  • -w: Wait for instrumentation to finish before returning. Required for test runners.
  • --no-window-animation: Turn off window animations while running.
  • --user <USER_ID> | current: Specify which user instrumentation runs in; current user if not specified.
profile start <PROCESS> <FILE> Start profiler on <PROCESS>, write results to <FILE>.
profile stop <PROCESS> Stop profiler on <PROCESS>.
dumpheap [options] <PROCESS> <FILE> Dump the heap of <PROCESS>, write to <FILE>.

Options are:

  • --user [<USER_ID>|current]: When supplying a process name, specify user of process to dump; uses current user if not specified.
  • -n: Dump native heap instead of managed heap.
set-debug-app [options] <PACKAGE> Set application <PACKAGE> to debug.

Options are:

  • -w: Wait for debugger when application starts.
  • --persistent: Retain this value.
clear-debug-app Clear the package previous set for debugging with set-debug-app.
monitor [options] Start monitoring for crashes or ANRs.

Options are:

  • --gdb: Start gdbserv on the given port at crash/ANR.
screen-compat [on|off] <PACKAGE> Control screen compatibility mode of <PACKAGE>.

display-size [reset|<WxH>] Override emulator/device display size. This command is helpful for testing your app across different screen sizes by mimicking a small screen resolution using a device with a large screen, and vice versa.

am display-size 1280x800

display-density <dpi> Override emulator/device display density. This command is helpful for testing your app across different screen densities on high-density screen environment using a low density screen, and vice versa.

am display-density 480

to-uri <INTENT> Print the given intent specification as a URI.

See the Specification for <INTENT> arguments.

to-intent-uri <INTENT> Print the given intent specification as an intent: URI.

See the Specification for <INTENT> arguments.

Using package manager (pm)

Within an adb shell, you can issue commands with the package manager (pm) tool to perform actions and queries on application packages installed on the device. While in a shell, the syntax is:

pm <command>

You can also issue a package manager command directly from adb without entering a remote shell. For example:

adb shell pm uninstall com.example.MyApp

Table 3. Available package manager commands.

Command Description
list packages [options] <FILTER> Prints all packages, optionally only those whose package name contains the text in <FILTER>.


  • -f: See their associated file.
  • -d: Filter to only show disabled packages.
  • -e: Filter to only show enabled packages.
  • -s: Filter to only show system packages.
  • -3: Filter to only show third party packages.
  • -i: See the installer for the packages.
  • -u: Also include uninstalled packages.
  • --user <USER_ID>: The user space to query.
list permission-groups Prints all known permission groups.
list permissions [options] <GROUP> Prints all known permissions, optionally only those in <GROUP>.


  • -g: Organize by group.
  • -f: Print all information.
  • -s: Short summary.
  • -d: Only list dangerous permissions.
  • -u: List only the permissions users will see.
list instrumentation List all test packages.


  • -f: List the APK file for the test package.
  • <TARGET_PACKAGE>: List test packages for only this app.
list features Prints all features of the system.
list libraries Prints all the libraries supported by the current device.
list users Prints all users on the system.
path <PACKAGE> Print the path to the APK of the given <PACKAGE>.
install [options] <PATH> Installs a package (specified by <PATH>) to the system.


  • -l: Install the package with forward lock.
  • -r: Reinstall an exisiting app, keeping its data.
  • -t: Allow test APKs to be installed.
  • -i <INSTALLER_PACKAGE_NAME>: Specify the installer package name.
  • -s: Install package on the shared mass storage (such as sdcard).
  • -f: Install package on the internal system memory.
  • -d: Allow version code downgrade.
uninstall [options] <PACKAGE> Removes a package from the system.


  • -k: Keep the data and cache directories around after package removal.
clear <PACKAGE> Deletes all data associated with a package.
enable <PACKAGE_OR_COMPONENT> Enable the given package or component (written as "package/class").
disable <PACKAGE_OR_COMPONENT> Disable the given package or component (written as "package/class").
disable-user [options] <PACKAGE_OR_COMPONENT>


  • --user <USER_ID>: The user to disable.
grant <PACKAGE_PERMISSION> Grant permissions to applications. Only optional permissions the application has declared can be granted.
revoke <PACKAGE_PERMISSION> Revoke permissions to applications. Only optional permissions the application has declared can be revoked.
set-install-location <LOCATION> Changes the default install location. Location values:
  • 0: Auto—Let system decide the best location.
  • 1: Internal—install on internal device storage.
  • 2: External—install on external media.

Note: This is only intended for debugging; using this can cause applications to break and other undesireable behavior.

get-install-location Returns the current install location. Return values:
  • 0 [auto]: Lets system decide the best location
  • 1 [internal]: Installs on internal device storage
  • 2 [external]: Installs on external media
set-permission-enforced <PERMISSION> [true|false] Specifies whether the given permission should be enforced.
trim-caches <DESIRED_FREE_SPACE> Trim cache files to reach the given free space.
create-user <USER_NAME> Create a new user with the given <USER_NAME>, printing the new user identifier of the user.
remove-user <USER_ID> Remove the user with the given <USER_IDENTIFIER>, deleting all data associated with that user
get-max-users Prints the maximum number of users supported by the device.

Examining sqlite3 databases from a remote shell

From an adb remote shell, you can use the sqlite3 command-line program to manage SQLite databases created by Android applications. The sqlite3 tool includes many useful commands, such as .dump to print out the contents of a table and .schema to print the SQL CREATE statement for an existing table. The tool also gives you the ability to execute SQLite commands on the fly.

To use sqlite3, enter a remote shell on the emulator instance, as described above, then invoke the tool using the sqlite3 command. Optionally, when invoking sqlite3 you can specify the full path to the database you want to explore. Emulator/device instances store SQLite3 databases in the folder /data/data/<package_name>/databases/.

Here's an example:

adb -s emulator-5554 shell
# sqlite3 /data/data/
SQLite version 3.3.12
Enter ".help" for instructions
.... enter commands, then quit...
sqlite> .exit 

Once you've invoked sqlite3, you can issue sqlite3 commands in the shell. To exit and return to the adb remote shell, use exit or CTRL+D.

UI/Application Exerciser Monkey

The Monkey is a program that runs on your emulator or device and generates pseudo-random streams of user events such as clicks, touches, or gestures, as well as a number of system-level events. You can use the Monkey to stress-test applications that you are developing, in a random yet repeatable manner.

The simplest way to use the monkey is with the following command, which launches your application and sends 500 pseudo-random events to it.

adb shell monkey -v -p 500

For more information about command options for Monkey, see the complete UI/Application Exerciser Monkey documentation page.

Other shell commands

For a list of all the available shell programs, use the following command:

adb shell ls /system/bin

Help is available for most of the commands.

Table 4 lists some of the more common adb shell commands.

Table 4. Some other adb shell commands

Shell Command Description Comments
dumpsys Dumps system data to the screen. The Dalvik Debug Monitor Server (DDMS) tool offers integrated debug environment that you may find easier to use.
dumpstate Dumps state to a file.
logcat [option]... [filter-spec]... Enables system and app logging and prints output to the screen.
dmesg Prints kernel debugging messages to the screen.
start Starts (restarts) an emulator/device instance.  
stop Stops execution of an emulator/device instance.  

Enabling logcat logging

The Android logging system provides a mechanism for collecting and viewing system debug output. Logs from various applications and portions of the system are collected in a series of circular buffers, which then can be viewed and filtered by the logcat command.

You can use the logcat command to view and follow the contents of the system's log buffers. The general usage is:

[adb] logcat [option] ... [filter-spec] ...

You can use the logcat command from your development computer or from a remote adb shell in an emulator/device instance. To view log output in your development computer, you use

adb logcat

and from a remote adb shell you use


See Reading and Writing Logs for complete information about logcat commend options and filter specifications.

Stopping the adb server

In some cases, you might need to terminate the adb server process and then restart it. For example, if adb does not respond to a command, you can terminate the server and restart it and that may resolve the problem.

To stop the adb server, use the kill-server command. You can then restart the server by issuing any other adb command.