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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.

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.

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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 6 Ways To Take Screenshots On Android 6 Ways To Take Screenshots On Android No matter which Android device you have, you can take a screenshot without rooting your device. But rooting your device offers you some neat tricks -- even if you're using Android 4.0. You can take... Read More 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 How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick Read More . 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

  1. lee rendle
    October 4, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Why can't the debugging option be left enabled all the time? I am trying to transfer a audio file from a MP3 digital recorder over to my J3 Android phone? The recorder has no Bluetooth or WIFI option.Is it possible to use 2 USB cables to connect both,i mean the mini USB cable that comes with a phone,is it possible to connect both with a female USB adapter in between? Using a P.C is definitely the only option? Please can you contact me via email too..please?

  2. Peter E
    September 27, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hi,I have a samsung galaxy tab pro 10.1,in settings,why are there only certain apps to select,under select debugging app,could you tell me, what does an app do when you select usb debugging for the app,also can hackers take advantage of usb debugging while its turned on when you are conected to the internet.

  3. Haseeb Aslam
    September 19, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    if we once on the usb debugging mod on and the cell popup an error in staring that the software is corrupt. then the USB debugging mod remain on??

  4. Denis
    September 5, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I have a lenovo vibe c which I have successfully rooted. The problem is that I cannot use titanium backup because once I enable USB debugging, I can't do anything because the phone keeps returning to the home screen. I have to factory reset for the phone to work again. Please advise.

  5. Denis
    September 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I have a lenovo vibe c which I have successfully rooted. The problem is that I cannot use titanium back up because once I enable USB debugging mode, I can't do anything because the phone keeps returning to the home screen. I have to factory reset for the phone to work again.

    September 4, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I want to tethering on my LG G2 vs980.
    Am using root browser to do the renaming and I get "operation failed"
    Could it be due to my not enabling the debugging?

  7. Naing Linn Htun
    August 17, 2016 at 4:12 am

    how to enable usb debugging mode on locked phone

  8. Benjamin Irwin
    August 14, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Does debugging help an android tablet that isn't working properly? Mine hasn't been working right for like a month. A lot of times when it comes on all the way it freezes right away or sometimes it doesn't freeze right away but does eventually. I would like to know how to fix it without losing anything on it. I have pictures and journal entries for my college internship.


  9. Chari Yuvi
    July 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    What exactly is USB debugging and normal debugging?

    • Chari Yuvi
      July 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      How are they different from each other

      • ChrisBrown
        October 6, 2016 at 10:40 am

        I don't know.

  10. hiravra koley
    July 7, 2016 at 9:31 am

    my phone just got hard boot ....and i forgot to eneble debugging ...will i face any problem in flashing stock rom via. sp tool

  11. hezar
    May 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

    what if im unable to access my phone to enable that feature is there away to enable it using the pc

  12. abrahalei teweldemedhin
    May 27, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    does it work in android 4.1.2 version ?

  13. han pat
    May 1, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    somebody please let me know how to backup moto g2

  14. Raufur Rahman
    March 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I Can not connect Symphony H 58 on android studio.
    I am turn on USB debugging option and Allow mock locations.

  15. Pk
    March 25, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Nothing special is written about the mode. Same thing is repeated again and again.

  16. Greg
    March 10, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Is there any way I can power an endoscope from a galaxys4 mini?

  17. Lia
    February 16, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I shut down my phone and I couldn't turn it on. When I manage to turn it on and plugged in the USB to my laptop, I got this USB debugging mode turn on. I was wondering what was it. When I read it your article, I think I can understand a little bit or I think I understand. I want to know if I switch off the USB debugging mode, will there be like a side effect to the phone or it will stay normal as it suppose to be?

  18. Cyrus
    January 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    When do I use debugging on a app should I use it when I have a problem gaining access to a Siri

    • Axeoasis
      February 15, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      You're joking, right?

  19. Iva
    December 1, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Hey, is that possible to allow USB debugging when the phone is off? (and ofc can´t be turned on :)) I need to see the device for booting via ADB...but I can see only S1Fastboot which is not doing any good with any of drivers installed for it...:/

  20. Johnsy
    November 30, 2015 at 6:58 am

    any file transfer will happen while doing debugging with out our permission.

  21. frank paschal
    November 24, 2015 at 4:09 am

    please guys i need your help
    after enable usb debbugging then i turn it off but from that time
    my android phone cant be detected by my pc for data exchange
    and gives me the error usb device not recognized all drivers are well installed
    please anyone to help me from here

  22. Dallas Knight
    November 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I figured out how to turn usb debugging on but it doen't show up on the phone notifications bar an the app I use it not turning it on (easy tether ) so of course it's not working. What have I done wrong? Thanks.

    • peterjimes
      November 15, 2015 at 10:55 am

      That was easy. The best part is you only have to do the tap-build-number-seven-times once. After you do it once, USB debugging has been unlocked and you can enable or disable at your leisure. Please restart after done these steps.

      Open up your device’s “Settings”. This can be done by pressing the Menu button while on your home screen and tapping “System settings”

      Now scroll to the bottom and tap “About phone” or “About tablet”.
      At the “About” screen, scroll to the bottom and tap on “Build number” seven times.
      Make sure you tap seven times. If you see a “Not need, you are already a developer!” message pop up, then you know you have done it correctly.

      Done! By tapping on “Build number” seven times, you have unlocked USB debugging mode on Android 4.2 and higher. You can now enable/disable it whenever you desire by going to “Settings” -> “Developer Options” -> “Debugging” ->” USB debugging”.

      You can read this article, it gives the detailed steps:

    • Harley Strain
      December 24, 2015 at 6:06 am

      I have the exact same problem. My phone was shipped to me through ebay and the person before me has a rom called JDX 3.0.1 and I can't get rid of it because even though the setting for USB debugging is on, it won't actually work. There's no notification or anything. I tried this on more than on computer too, even a mac.

  23. Jay Ray
    May 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    i like this informations.

  24. Anonymous
    May 2, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Sometimes when i download a file(images,videos etc), it states "no thumb nail" or "can't play this video" why ??? pls somebody give me a reason.

  25. Peter Kasanda
    April 27, 2015 at 2:22 am

    I have an Android Tablet version...4.0.4 & model number...(SoftwinerEvb). The problem I have with it is that it's got bluetooth only in WIDGETS and not in settings nor in applications. Thus, it doesn't come on as it has no on nor off settings. How can I make it work?
    Secondly, it has no sim card port. Is there any method I can use to have access to the internet other than using WIFI?

  26. ben
    February 25, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Without usb debugging mode enabled, I can still transfer files from my computer to my android device and vice versa. What is the difference then between enabling it or disabling it? I am afraid I am not grasping something...

    • Gypsy Chick
      April 15, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Yes, me too. I have never felt the need for this feature, having successfully accessed everything on my phone through the laptop and installing loads of apps.

  27. nins
    January 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    I noticed that my phone automaticaly download apps not from playstore and it happens everytime i connect to a wifi

  28. nins
    January 31, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    My samsung s4 vietnam clone always set to usb debbuging mode and even i turn it off it comes again

  29. Stephanie Ryden
    January 12, 2015 at 8:17 am

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

  30. Alica
    January 11, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Thanks for this really great tip.

  31. Mukul
    January 5, 2015 at 11:54 am

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

  32. S
    December 17, 2014 at 3:42 am

    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.

    • john timothy
      May 9, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      by now i hope youve found answers to your concerns. whomever told you that you NEED debugging to transfer files from your phone to your pc or an other phone is mistaken. as the author of this post said - debugging is used to gain access to your system. its a safety feature, so to speak, to ensure that youre doing something intentionally, not accidentally. in the past you may have needed a usb cable to connect devices to transfer data, however, today it can be done wirelessly. tho, with the threat of privacy invasion its good practise to do things old school. when you connect your phone to a pc, the pc instantly recognizes your phone, you click on the phone icon in the window, and from there you can pretty much do as you please without losing files. at most you may only displace / relocate them by accidentally clicking on the wrong destination folder. theres a reason phones are smart and computers are savvy, because they are designed to be extensions of human thinking. if you are ever uncertain about a choice youre making, push the cancel button, you shouldnt lose any data. youre os is continually updated to patch bugs from that version so future errors can be avoided. a general rule of thumb, backup your files to a flash drive or portable drive, do not rely on google, microsoft, or apple. not that they arent trustworthy, its just better to keep the things you want to save in your possession instead of an others. you might experiment with cloud storage if you havent already. an other tip - whenever you transfer files, copy them to their destination instead of moving them there. that way you wont / shouldnt lose them if something goes wrong. good luck.

  33. sunny
    December 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    could someone plz clarify it?

  34. sunny
    December 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm

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

  35. muda
    July 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Please i have 2 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?

  36. Thor
    June 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    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 .

  37. russell
    June 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    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!)?

  38. Adnan
    April 11, 2013 at 12:46 am

    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
      April 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

      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!

  39. Madhur
    April 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    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

  40. Chetan
    March 28, 2013 at 4:15 am

    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
      March 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      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!

    • omg
      March 19, 2015 at 11:22 am

      MUO Answers!

  41. Jean-Michel A
    March 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    woow thank you got it can it work on froyo

  42. Bakr
    January 13, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for the explanation =)

  43. Igor Rizvi?
    January 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Cool stuff

  44. android underground
    January 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    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: . 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.

  45. Joseph Lerro
    January 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

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

  46. N
    January 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

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

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

  47. Ishan Gunawardana
    January 12, 2013 at 3:54 am

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

    • Joel Lee
      January 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm

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

  48. Tony
    January 12, 2013 at 1:24 am

    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
      January 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm

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

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