Sometimes Android USB devices won’t connect to a Windows system. For attempts at connecting via the Android Debug Bridge (ADB), bad Android USB drivers that load in place of the right ones often cause the issue — and users can’t uninstall these drivers using conventional means. Removing the offending drivers and installing “universal” ADB drivers should fix this problem.
If you can’t connect an Android device to your computer — and you’ve already enabled “USB Debugging” (what’s USB debugging?) — then this is the method for you. When turned on, USB debugging allows users direct access to the file system of an Android device from a PC. Without debugging enabled, users can only interact with their phone’s media storage, such as the SD card.
Here’s a short tutorial on ADB:
Note: You must enable ADB on your Android device for this tutorial to work. Here’s a video on how to do that:
Fixing the problem takes about five minutes and three basic steps:
- Connect your Android device via USB and remove the ADB drivers. Then disconnect your device.
- Run a USB driver eliminating utility and kill all your superfluous Android drivers;
- Install Koush’s Universal ADB Driver.
Step One: Connect Device
First, connect your Android device via USB to your computer. This step allows your device to display in Window’s Device Manager. Fire up Windows Device Manager next. I usually type “device manager” into the Search utility.
Second, open Device Manager and remove your currently displayed Android ADB driver. Simply right click on the ADB driver to bring up the context menu – select Uninstall.
Make sure to check the box for Remove Driver.
Now you can disconnect your Android device from your PC.
Note: This prevents the same incompatible driver from loading upon reconnecting the Android device. This step is technically not required, but it will show you the driver causing the issue, in case it somehow reloads itself.
Step Two: Kill Bad Drivers
First, unzip Nirsoft’s USB Devices View utility (USBDeview). Next, locate the unzipped folder and run the utility (no install required). Nirsoft’s utility displays the total number of installed USB drivers on your computer.
Take a look at the colored status indicator on the far-left of the USBDeview window. Green indicates that the device functions properly. Pink means the device can unplug and works properly (although it may not actually work properly). Red indicates a disabled USB device. Gray (circled, below) means the device is installed, but not connected.
Second, remove all gray items with the words “Google”, “Linux”, “ADB”, or “Android” in the title. I always remove every item that’s not green, but be warned: Your experiences may differ. You may end up needing to reinstall devices by removing them here.
Note: The Nirsoft utility may show up as malware in a virus scan. It most assuredly is not.
Step Three: Install Universal Driver
Koush’s Universal ADB Driver (see link above) works for every Android device, no matter how exotic. You will need to perform a manual installation in order for Koush’s driver to work.
First, download the Universal ADB Driver then run the executable package, which installs the driver.
Second, plug your Android device into your PC via USB. The correct ADB drivers should load. You can check by going to Device Manager in Windows.
Third, if the install process fails, you can manually update drivers. After connecting your device, go into Device Manager, locate the ADB/USB drivers, and right-click on them. In the context menu, choose “Update Driver”. Keep in mind two things: First, sometimes you need to check the notifications tray on your device for additional steps. Second, sometimes Android devices show up in strange places inside of Device Manager. You may need to check every single device class (such as “Android Phone” or “Samsung”) in device manager.
You’ll receive two options — choose “Manually Install Driver”. Next, choose “Browse my computer for driver software” and choose “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.”
Then choose “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.” You will see a list of drivers. Choose one of these. If it fails, repeat the process and locate another driver that works.
It looks like this:
If you cannot get any driver to work, you will need to force installation. Instead of choosing “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer” in the previous step, you will choose “Browse for driver software on your computer” and manually find the directory where you installed Koush’s drivers.
The location on your hard drive looks something like this:
C:\Program Files (x86)\ClockworkMod\Universal Adb Drivers\
Windows will then install the drivers. From now on, whenever you connect the Android device with debugging enabled, Koush’s drivers will load in place of the ones that failed to work.
This method of purging bad Android USB drivers and installing Koush’s drivers works for every Android device I’ve tried it on. It’s ridiculous that Google never released a universal ADB driver for Android devices, despite the issues that many users continue to experience. While some wireless solutions exist, such as AirDroid, I’ve found this method more reliable.
And for a more powerful Android device, check out these Android ADB apps to get cool features without root.
While you’re at it, learn how to keep all your drivers up to date, not just the ones related to Android!