What Is USB Debugging Mode On Android? [MakeUseOf Explains]

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usb debuggingIf you use an Android phone and you’ve searched forums for solutions to problems, you’ve probably heard the term “USB Debugging” every once in a while. You may even have seen it while looking through your phone’s settings. It sounds like a high-tech option, but it really isn’t; it’s quite simple and useful.

One beauty of Android is that it has a lot of built-in features, many of which are advanced. If you want to supercharge your phone with mods and whatnot, you can; if you want to use it just as it was out of the box, you can ignore the advanced stuff. USB Debugging is a feature that all users can benefit from, though, so you should know what it does and when to use it.

What Is USB Debugging Mode?

USB Debugging Mode is a mode that can be enabled in Android after connecting the device directly to a computer with a USB cable. The primary function of this mode is to facilitate a connection between an Android device and a computer with Android SDK (software development kit). As the name might suggest, Android SDK is a software suite that’s designed to aid in the development of Android apps.

Ever wondered how a programmer creates apps on the Android? They definitely don’t code them straight on the phone device! That would be nightmarish at best. Instead, they utilize the environment of the Android SDK to code apps on a computer, use USB Debugging Mode to transfer those apps to a device for testing.

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usb debugging

But, again, here’s the takeaway: USB Debugging Mode establishes a direct connection between an Android device and a computer and readies it for deeper-level actions. That’s the important part.

In some versions of Android, the USB Debugging Mode feature may be called Developer Mode. With such a name, it can be easy (and reasonable) to think that you’ll never need to deal with this aspect of Android if you never plan on developing anything. That’s not exactly true.

Why Is USB Debugging Mode Important?

USB Debugging grants you a level of access to your device. This level of access is important when you need system-level clearance, such as when coding a new app. However, there are a few non-development-related benefits from this new level of access that can give you much more freedom of control over your device.

For example, with Android SDK, you gain direct access to your phone through your computer and that allows you to do things you normally couldn’t, like snag instant screenshots of your device or run terminal commands with ADB. These terminal commands can help you restore a bricked phone–a useful tool for any adventurous Android owner. Without it, you’d have to get a replacement phone.

android usb debugging

USB Debugging is also necessary if you ever want to root your Android device. Before an app like One-Click Root can dig into your system and deliver the exploit that roots the device, USB Debugging is necessary to allow that function in the first place.

Yes, the original intention for USB Debugging Mode was only meant for developers who needed to copy data between their computers and Android devices, to install apps on the phone without notifications, and to read log data off the phone. But even if you aren’t a developer, you’ll probably run into a few apps that require USB Debugging Mode to function properly, so this mode does affect you and you should know about it.

What You Need to Know About USB Debugging Mode

By this point, you may have noticed that USB Debugging isn’t used all too frequently. You’re right. This feature of Android isn’t something that you take advantage of on a daily basis unless you’re coding an app. However, when it does come in handy, it really saves you a lot of time, effort, and even money.

usb debugging

Therefore, it’s best to keep USB Debugging Mode disabled and only enable it when you really need it. When running an app, for example, it’ll let you know if it needs you to enable the mode before it can do anything. When that happens, you can enable it, let the app do its thing, then disable it again. Few apps will require your phone to constantly be in debugging mode.

Lastly, starting with Android 4.2, access to the USB Debugging Mode option has been hidden by default. I’m not entirely sure why the development team thought that move was necessary, but fortunately it’s not too much of a pain to get it visible again. Read How to Enable USB Debugging on Android 4.2 if you need to know how.


Just know that USB Debugging is not a super-high-tech feature that you need to be afraid of. Think of it as yet another tool that gives you full control over your device. This kind of power does invite abuse, though, so keep it disabled at all times and only enable it when you know you need it and you’ll be fine.

If you have any questions about USB Debugging, please ask in the comments. I’ll try my best to answer them.

Image Credit: USB In Phone Via Shutterstock

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24 Comments - Write a Comment



I’ve been thinking about trying to edit some code on my phone for awhile. Could I, for example, change the character limit for memos using dev mode?

Joel Lee

Sorry, that’s a little beyond my expertise. You could try asking in MUO Answers as they have some experts over there. :)


Ishan Gunawardana

How can i upgrade my android 2.1 update1 into 2.2.??

Joel Lee

You could try asking in MUO Answers as they have some experts over there. :)



>USB Debugging is also necessary if you ever want to root your Android device

Well, the new Exynos 4 exploit doesn’t need adb.


Joseph Lerro

I thought this was used to kill bugs that had crawled deep into the phones USB port!


android underground

Time for a bit of doomsday preaching. Ready? Here we go.
Keep in mind that usb debug mode lets anyone who hooks your phone to a computer bypass your pin/password/pattern lock, so switch it off before you leave your house or office. With USB debugging enabled the door to your phone is wide open, no matter if your phone is rooted or not.
USB debug mode is not the only backdoor to your accounts and data. Custom recovery consoles like the famous ClockworkMod Recovery are another way in for the bad guys: http://androidunderground.blogspot.com/2012/08/your-private-data-on-your-android-phone_22.html?m=1 . Modern versions of CWM let you lock it down with a PIN-like key combo. Use it.
A copy of your phone deserves the same protection as your phone itself. If you store Nandroid backups on your SD card you should encrypt them. Better yet, send them to the cloud or store them on another memory card away from your phone and out of reach. Else anyone can pop out your microSD card, copy your backups, put your card back in your phone, and restore the copied backups with your accounts, messages, mails, passwords, etcetera on another device and have a party with your data.


Igor Rizvi?

Cool stuff



Thanks for the explanation =)


Jean-Michel A

woow thank you got it can it work on froyo



Hi Joel,

What a beautiful explanation of ‘debugging’. Further I would like to ask, is a conversion software is same as a driver for that particular android phone?

An article says that for downloading a Google play app from PC to your android, you should first run a conversion software. What’s that exactly?

Joel Lee

Hey Chetan. I’ve never transferred an app from my PC to my Android, but even so, I’ve never heard of “conversion softwares” or anything like that. As far as I know, Google Play apps come in APK format which is what Android uses for installation. If you download an APK to your PC, you shouldn’t need to convert it when you take it to your Android.

If you still have trouble, you may find some great help over at MUO Answers!



I have a rooted phone.When i open chainfire 3d it does not open,but when i marked usb debugging then only its get start why is it so



Hello, I am having some problem with some of my phone’s Android stock apps (google+ messenger, Talk etc.). I can’t be online there with my google account, but the emails or other things that requires google sign in perfectly works. Some other apps also have problems in logging in. Can USB DEBUGGING fix this type of problem?
I bought this Sony Xperia E Dual with Android ICS from a non-warranty market.

Joel Lee

Hey Adnan. I haven’t had your problem before so I can’t be of too much help, but I don’t think USB Debugging will aid you in any way. Sorry!



what sdk program would you recommend, and is it one that I can obtain somewhere other than the google apps store (I really detest google and its violations of people’s privacy!)?



I found out about this feature entirely by chance while looking for a different function altogether.

I would like to say that if there are any linux users out there having file transfer problems, try turning debugging mode on, it seems to have fixed my issues- great to know what it’s supposed to be used for, but I thought I should share that .



Please i have 2 question.am i to download the USB SDK on my computer before i can debugg?2.can u give me the steps on how to debugg android phone?



it it possible to open a password protected secure gallery with developer options?



could someone plz clarify it?



I never transferred my photos from my Samsung 4S Galaxy yet and I am getting told to do the debugging first…then have syndroid installed … and I am worried I will do something incorrect and loose all my pictures. Can anyone walk me through this…I am very nervous.



Can i enable/disable usb debugging mode through any code (like any flag is set or something) or something ????



Thanks for this really great tip.


Stephanie Ryden

If someone used debugging mode on my android device to copy it, what else could they do and how do I restore my privacy?

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