How to install Android apps via ADB

Sideloading apps from your computer to your Android device is often a time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re willing to put in a little more effort and use ADB, you can quickly install apps on any Android device.

ADB is a remarkable tool that can do many feats including sideloading apps remotely. In this article, we will show you how to install ADB and use it to install apps on your Android device to make the process as efficient as possible.

Installing APK files with ADB

Android Debug Bridge or ADB is a command line tool that can communicate between your computer and your Android device. ADB allows you to run commands on your Android device directly from your computer, giving you complete control over your device.

The classic way to sideload apps on Android is to move the APK file to your Android device and install it manually. This method is easy enough if the APK is already on your phone. But if you want to sideload an APK from your computer, you need to connect your device to your computer and move the APK file first.

However, with ADB, you don’t need to move the files to your Android device. All you have to do is connect to your device and point ADB at the file you want to install. Connecting ADB to your device via wireless debugging is even smoother. This allows you to load apps from your computer without touching your Android phone.

Sideloading apps with ADB is a huge time saver, especially when it comes to stationary devices like an Android TV box. Moving files from your computer to a USB stick is a hassle when you have to walk from your room to the TV every time. No longer! ADB has your back.

1. Install ADB on your computer

First things first, you need to install ADB on your computer. ADB is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. We’re using a Windows device.

There are two ways to install ADB. The first method is to download ADB and extract it on your computer. The second and preferred method is to install using a command line installer such as Scoop for Windows or Homebrew for Mac.

Installing ADB from a command line installer allows you to use it in any directory on your computer. After installing Scoop, you can install ADB on Windows by running the following command:

scoop install adb

This command will automatically download and install ADB. Scoop will let you know if you are missing any of the dependencies. When prompted to install it, enter Y and press Enter on your keyboard to allow it.

That’s it! ADB is ready to use. If you use other platforms, you have to enter different commands. The command for Linux would be:

sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb

For Homebrew on Mac:

brew install android-platform-tools

2. Locate the APK file

Now it’s time to find the file you want to install on your Android device. Whether you downloaded it or are a developer and want to try your app, it’s a good idea to organize all your APK files in a dedicated folder.

APK files organized in one folder

Save your APK files in a folder of your choice. Give the files short and concise names to reduce inaccuracies when entering the file name in ADB.

3. Start Terminal

You can use a terminal like Command Prompt to operate ADB. To keep things as efficient as possible, it’s best to start Command Prompt in the same directory as your APK files. Here’s how you can do that on Windows:

  1. Open the folder in File Explorer.
  2. Press on your keyboard Alt + D. This will highlight the address bar.
  3. Type in the address bar cmd and then press Enter.

Command prompt started in a specific directory

This will open an instance of Command Prompt in that directory, so you don’t have to refer to the location of each file.

4. Connect to your Android device with ADB

You must enable USB debugging to connect to your Android device. With USB debugging enabled, your device will automatically connect to ADB when you connect it to your computer with a USB cable. If you see a prompt on your Android device, accept it to give your computer the necessary permissions.

To ensure you are connected, run the following command in Command Prompt:

adb devices

This command lists the connected devices. Your Android device’s serial number should appear in the list.

Connected devices in ADB

Connect wirelessly

If you would like to connect wirelessly, go to your Android device developer options and enable Wireless debugging and Wireless ADB debugging.

Then go back to settingsgo to Via phoneand tap status. Scroll down and make a note of your device’s Local IP.

When everything is ready, it’s time to connect your Android device wirelessly. Make sure the two devices have the same connection (e.g. your home WiFi). Open Command Prompt, replace the IP in the following command with your device’s IP, and then run it.

adb connect

Once you run this command, a command prompt will appear on your Android device. Allow it to give debugging privileges to your computer. Now run the following command to display a list of connected devices. Your device’s IP address should be listed.

adb devices

ADB shows connected devices

4. Install the APK with ADB

Finally, it’s time to install the APK file on your Android device. This final step is dead easy – provided you have Command Prompt open in the same directory as your APK files and are connected to your Android device.

A simple command is required to install APK files with ADB:

adb install file.apk

Substitute File.apk Enter the name of your file in the above command and run it in Command Prompt. the apk Expansion is necessary, so don’t skip it!

ADB should respond with Performing a streamed installation. This may take a while depending on the app and device. Once the installation is complete, ADB will return success.

Installing an APK with ADB

Tada! Your APK has now been successfully loaded onto your Android device and you didn’t even have to move the files. You had to accept some prompts on your Android device to grant some permissions since this was the first time, but from now on all you have to do is connect and install. As simple as that!

ADB makes sideloading apps easy

Sideloading is a popular activity that allows you to install whatever you want on your Android devices and bypass Google Play restrictions. If you’re a developer, you might want to push your app across different Android devices before releasing it. But do you have to move a fresh copy to the device every time you fix a bug?

Not with ADB! This command line tool allows you to control your Android device from your computer. ADB can do many things including installing APK files without moving them. Now that you’re comfortable with both ADB and wireless debugging, it’s time to ditch the sticks and cables and start sideloading apps with ease.

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