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What is USB Debugging in Android? And How to Enable it

Android has a lot of nifty hidden options and one of them is ‘USB Debugging’. It is required to be turned on in order to establish a successful connection between your PC and your Android device over ADB (Android Debug Bridge). This comprehensive guide will show you how to enable USB Debugging on any Android device, irrespective of the device manufacturer (OEM).
Page Contents [hide]
  • 1 What is USB Debugging in Android?
  • 2 How to Enable USB Debugging on Android?
    • 2.1 Step 1: Enable Developer Options in Android Device Settings
    • 2.2 Step 2: Enable USB Debugging on Android
  • 3 Some Commonly Used ADB Commands

What is USB Debugging in Android?

USB Debugging‘ is a developer option in Android that is used to establish a successful ADB connection between a PC and an Android device. It is generally hidden within the Android device’s settings menu and is disabled by default.
So, the question is, why would you need to enable USB Debugging on your Android device? A straight answer to that is: ADB won’t be able to recognize your phone if USB Debugging is disabled. Once enabled, it allows you to execute ADB commands to perform several actions, like debugging an app, capturing a bug report to provide feedback to developers (logcat), force-reboot your Android device into recovery mode/fastboot mode, etc.
Here on our blog, we cover several tutorials for which you will need to enable the USB Debugging option on your Android device first. The process is short and it feels redundant to mention the steps every time in every tutorial where it is required. And thus, we thought of creating a separate tutorial which will not only help you turn ON USB Debugging on your phone, but will also allow you to learn about what it actually is and when you might need it.
An Important Clarification First!
I and so, many users have seen a lot of online resources claiming that USB Debugging must be enabled in order to flash firmware (Stock or custom ROMs) and custom recoveries on Android devices. I say NO! Why? Read ahead.
USB Debugging is only required to establish a successful ADB connection between your PC and your Android device, while it is booted into the system (OS). Outside that, be it in recovery mode or fastboot/bootloader mode, USB Debugging doesn’t serve any purpose. Even if you’re trying to sideload OTA updates using ADB then there’s no need for USB Debugging to be enabled.
So the next time someone mentions or claims that USB Debugging is required to flash a factory image or stock firmware via Odin, then you’ll know that’s incorrect and you wouldn’t wander off in the wrong direction.
If you still don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

How to Enable USB Debugging on Android?

Like I mentioned earlier, USB Debugging resides inside the ‘Developer options’ menu in the Android device settings. This menu is hidden on all Android devices by default to prevent accidental access. So, we have split the instructions into two steps. The first step will guide to enable Developer Options and then finally enable the USB Debugging option within it.
This guide supports any device, irrespective of the OEM, running the following Android OS versions:
  • Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0)
  • Jelly Bean (4.1, 4.2, 4.3)
  • KitKat (4.4)
  • Lollipop (5.0, 5.1)
  • Marshmallow (6.0)
  • Nougat (7.0, 7.1)
  • Oreo (8.0, 8.1)
  • Pie (9.0)
  • Android 10

Step 1: Enable Developer Options in Android Device Settings

  1. Go to the ‘Settings‘ menu on your Android device.
  2. Scroll through the settings and tap on ‘About phone‘.
  3. Find the ‘Build number‘ section in the ‘About phone’ menu.
  4. Now, continuously tap on the build number section for five (5) times to enable Developer Options.
  5. Enter the lock screen PIN, Password, or Pattern when prompted.
  6. You should now see a confirmation message like ‘You’re now a developer!‘, ‘Developer mode has been enabled.‘ or a similar message on the phone’s screen.
Note: In case of certain OEM devices, the Build Number section would be nested in another sub-menu. For example: In the case of Samsung Galaxy devices, you will find the ‘Build number’ section in Settings > About phone > Software information.

Step 2: Enable USB Debugging on Android

  1. Go to the ‘Settings‘ menu on your Android device.
  2. Select ‘System‘ and tap on ‘Advanced‘ (Only on Android 8.0 and above).
  3. Now tap on ‘Developer options‘.
  4. Scroll down to the ‘Debugging‘ section.
  5. Turn ON the ‘USB debugging‘ toggle.
  6. You should now see a confirmation prompt on the screen.
  7. Finally, tap on ‘OK‘ to confirm and enable USB Debugging on your Android device.
Note: In the case of Samsung Galaxy or certain other OEM devices, you will simply need to go to Settings > Developer options.
This is it! With the option now enabled, you can now go ahead, connect your phone to the PC and use the desired ADB commands.

Some Commonly Used ADB Commands

Before you head off, you can check the below list of some of the most common ADB commands that you might need and use from time-to-time.
COMMANDDESCRIPTIONEXAMPLE
adb devicesList all the devices currently communicating with the PC over ADB.N/A
adb versionCheck the ADB version currently installed and being used on the PC.
Also check the location where the ADB.exe binary is installed.
N/A
adb kill-serverKill the adb server process.
Helps resolve adb connection issues.
N/A
adb sideloadSideload an OTA update package to the device.adb sideload ota-update.zip
adb rebootRemotely reboot the device.N/A
adb reboot-bootloaderRemotely reboot the device directly into Bootloader/Fastboot ModeN/A
adb reboot-recoveryRemotely reboot the device into Android recovery mode.N/A
adb shell screencapTake a screenshot of the current device display.adb shell screencap /sdcard/screenshot.png
adb installPush an app package to the device and install it.adb install com.google.android.apps.photos.apk
adb uninstallUninstall an app package from the device and clear its data and cache.adb uninstall com.google.android.apps.photos.apk
adb pushPush/Transfer a file or a folder from the PC to a specific directory on the device's storageadb push c:\test.apk /sdcard
adb pullPull/Transfer a file or folder from the device back to the PC.adb pull /sdcard/test.apk c:\
adb bugreportTake a bugreport of the device and transfer it to a specified directory on the PC.adb bugreport c:\mybugreports
adb logcat -v long > logcat-filename.txtTake the log data and print it on the screen.adb logcat -v long > logcat.txt
adb helpDisplay the complete list of ADB commands available for use.N/A
More from our Android 101 (Basics) Series:
  • Backup Android Device Completely (Root & No-root)
  • Enable OEM Unlocking on Android [OEM Unlock]
  • How to Unlock Bootloader using Fastboot on Android (Detailed Guide)
  • Install Android SDK Platform-tools on Windows, Linux, and macOS
So, this was our tutorial on how to enable USB Debugging on any Android device. If you have questions, you can simply leave a comment below.

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