Everything you need to get started with the Android SDK, and everything you need to know about installing it.

Installing the Android SDK is far easier than it used to be, thanks to a new package from Google. One download gives you most everything you need to communicate with your phone via the USB port, using tools like adb and fastboot.

If you plan to use the SDK to build Android apps or just see how they are made (a great decision) you'll probably want to download Android Studio instead. It's even easier to install (Java is self-contained and there is no PATH to set up) and you'll find full directions at the Android Studio website.

If you're just using the SDK and have no need fro the tools to develop for Android, follow along and we'll get you set up.

This post was last updated in October 2016.

Getting started with the Android SDK

SDk downloads

I told you this was pretty easy, and that there was just one file to download. Here it is. Download the SDK direct from Google by clicking here. Scroll down a bit and find the section marked "SDK Tools Only" 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 following location:

  • Windows: The root of your C: drive
  • OS X: Your home folder
  • Linux: Your home folder

Rename the extracted folder to "Android". This will make the rest of this guide, and your time with the SDK, much easier.



You'll need a working version of Java to run the SDK components. For most things you'll be doing with the SDK both Open Java and Sun Java from Oracle (yes, that Oracle) will work.

On a Mac, it's pretty easy because you'll already have it installed unless you uninstalled it. If you did, install it again — you should know how.

On Windows, head to the Oracle website and download the correct version (32- or 64-bit) for your computer. Again, if this gives you any trouble stop what you're doing and learn a bit more about your computer. If you can't install Java, maybe you're not yet ready to use the Android SDK.

On a Linux computer, you'll also need to install Java. You can find x86 and x64 binaries for Sun Java from Oracle at their website. OpenJDK also works for most things you'll need to do with the SDK.(OpenJDK is now bundled with Android Studio which includes the SDK as well as a development environment) and you'll find complete instructions to get it installed at the OpenJDK website. If you need more assistance or want to use a package manager to install Sun Java, you'll need to refer to the documentation for your particular distro.

Linux users will also have to make sure they have some 32-bit libraries installed if they are running a 64-bit version of the operating system. If you're using Ubuntu or another Debian variant, install ncurses5 and stdc++6 through your terminal:

sudo apt-get install lib32ncurses5 lib32stdc++6

Packages for other distros, like Slackware or Fedora, should be available as well. See the documentation for your particular distro.

Setting your PATH

Windows 8 PATH

The PATH variable in your computer's operating system tells it where to look when you want to run a command from a terminal or the command line. For example, to run the adb command you either need to type and provide the complete path — ie the folder adb is actually in, inside the SDK folder — or have the location set in the PATH variable itself. It's a bit confusing, but the good news is that doing it is easier than explaining it.

For these directions to work as written, you will have to have extracted and renamed the SDK download folder as mentioned above, and to the correct location for this tutorial.

On Windows

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 8 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 Systems Variables 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 can set your PATH variable on a machine running OS X in your bash profile. Doing so is easy, and is all done in one file.

In your Home folder is a file named .bash_profile. Open it with any text editor. Never touch the .bashrc or .bash_profile files you might find in the /etc directory!

You may see a blank file, or it may be full of other information. All we need to do is add a couple lines to the top of the file:

export PATH="$HOME/Android/tools:$PATH"
export PATH="$HOME/Android/platform-tools:$PATH"

(Did we mention that if your SDK is in another location, you'll need to adjust things accordingly? Good.)

Save the file, and reboot your computer so the new PATH is sourced properly.

On Linux

Setting the PATH on a Linux computer is almost the same as on a Mac, you just edit a different file.

Using your favorite text editor, open the ~/.bashrc file. It will probably exist and have multiple entries. If you get an error that the file does not exist, simply create a new file and save it as ~/.bashrc when finished.

You'll want to add the following two lines to the END of the .bashrc file:

export PATH="$HOME/Android/tools:$PATH"
export PATH="$HOME/Android/platform-tools:$PATH"

Save the file, and close the terminal window. Open a new instance of the terminal and type this command:

  source ~/.bashrc

Your session will not reference the changes you made and the SDK will be in your PATH.

Wrapping it up

Using adb

If you made it this far, you have successfully installed the Android SDK and can now use tools like adb and fastboot. Pat yourself on the back and have a frosty beverage. We're going to talk a lot more about how to use these tools in future articles, as well as making sure your phone is ready to go and connected.

If you can't wait to learn about drivers, and development tools, head into the Android Central forums to talk to some gurus and get a jump start.

Your Android is your oyster, and you'll need no sword to open it.