Most of us will never need to install the Android SDK. The reason why is right in the name — Software Development Kit. It’s built for people writing Android apps who need tools to work with Android from a computer.
But those tools can also be handy for folks wanting to do some more advanced stuff. Stuff like manually updating software or rooting their phone. Fastboot and ADB are vital if you’re into “hacking” at the Android software. And Google provides it free for everyone.
Download the SDK direct from Google by clicking here. Scroll down a bit and find the section marked “Get just the command line tools” and save it somewhere easy to get to, like your desktop. We’ll be extracting it to a better location in the next step.
The file you downloaded is compressed. You’ll need to be familiar with compressed files — and how to extract them — to go any further. If you’re not, stop here and spend the time to learn about them. Extract your compressed file into the root of your C: drive.
Rename the extracted folder to “Android”. This will make the rest of this guide, and your time with the SDK, much easier.
Installing the tools
Extract the file you downloaded above into a folder named Android on the root of your C drive (Windows) or into your Home folder (Mac, Linux). You might notice a few things are missing if you’ve ever downloaded the command line tools before as the tools and platform-tools folders are missing. That’s OK, we’re about to get them using the included SDK manager.
Open the bin folder in the extracted download and find the sdkmanager executable file. It may look like a terminal or shell command but it will open a GUI as long as you have Java installed correctly.
In the SDK manager you’ll choose to install Android SDK Tools and Android SDK Platform-Tools. If you’re using Windows you’ll also want to install the Google USB Driver, and if you plan on building AOSP from source you may want to install the Android SDK Build-Tools.
Choose the correct files and proceed through the process (it will show you a license agreement you should read) and both tools folders will be installed. But you’re not quite finished!
The tools will be installed into the application data folder. On Windows it’s in Windows\users\YourUserName\AppData\Local\Android and on a Mac or Linux it’s in .Android (notice the dot!) in your home folder. Create a symbolic link (information for Windows users here) for both tools folders in the Android folder you created earlier. This will help get them into your PATH and make life a lot easier.
Setting your PATH
Unless you’re still using an older version of Windows, you no longer can set the PATH in the autoexec.bat file or autoexec.nt file. You’ll need to update the system Environment Variable settings instead. Here’s how it’s done on a Windows 10 machine:
- Hit the Start key on your Keyboard.
- Start typing the words Environment Variables.
- As you type, you’ll see the choice to Edit the system environment variables. Choose it.
- In the Environment Variables window, select the PATH line item in the User variables for (your user name) section, then click the Edit button.
Add the full path to the Android SDK tools and Android SDK platform-tools folders in the edit box, separated by a semi-colon. It should look something like this:
For older versions of Windows, refer to the documentation that came with your computer for assistance on setting the PATH. And, again: If you’ve installed your SDK somewhere other than \Android, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
You should now have a working set of Android command line tools and be able to do things like flash the latest factory images or manually update your phone with a zip file. And because you did it yourself, you have what you need to fix it when things go wrong.