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How to Remote View and Control Your Android Phone

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If you’ve ever wished you could see your Android phone’s screen on your desktop or remote control it using your mouse and keyboard we’ll show you how in this simple guide to gaining remote access to your Android device.

Why would you want to gain access? When you’re done with this tutorial you’ll be able to view your phone’s screen on your computer monitor which is great for: putting your Android notifications right along side other notification boxes on your monitor, using it like an on-monitor caller ID, and taking screenshots and screencasts. Also if your phone is rooted (and it should be! rooting unlocks so many great features) you’ll gain the ability to use your computer’s keyboard and mouse to control your Android phone. Remote keyboard/mouse control is great for inputting data on the tiny screen without needing to peck at the on-screen keyboard.

Convinced? Great! Let’s get started.

What You’ll Needwhatyouneedandroid

For this trick you’ll need a few things, all of them free (sans your not-free-as-in-beer Android device). Gather up the following items:

Configuring the Android SDK

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For this tutorial we’ll be using a Windows 7 machine but since there is an SDK pack for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and the secret sauce in our tutorial is a Java app, you should have no problem following along regardless of your OS.

The first thing we need to do is configure the Android SDK. There is a Windows installer, we recommend skipping it. There is no need to install the SDK pack and all the extra stuff it wants you to install unless you’re planning on doing Android development (and if you are, you likely already having it installed anyway).

Download the archive and extract the android-sdk-windows folder. Open the folder. Click on the SDK Manager.exe. We have to do a little updating as the new versions of the SDK pack don’t come with some of the auxiliary apps we need. When you run the SDK Manager several windows will open rapidly and look like this:

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Take a moment to uncheck everything but the top entry, Android SDK Platform-Tools. We need the tools but we don’t need any of the other SDK development packs (failing to uncheck them means you’ll have to sit through a lengthy download and waste disk space with development images you won’t need). Once the download is complete you can close the SDK Manager.

Checking the Connection Between Your PC and Android Device

At this point you’ll want to connect your Android device via the USB sync cable. Double check your android-sdk-windows directory and make sure you see a folder labeled platform-tools (if you do not, run the SDK manager again and double check that the Android SDK Platform-tools downloaded properly).

Open the directory, inside should be an application named adb.exe. Open a command prompt and drag and drop adb.exe onto it. Type devices as a command switch after the adb.exe, as seen in the screen shot below:

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One of two things will happen: one, you’ll get a list of attached devices (as seen above) or two, adb will search for and connect any Android devices it finds. 99% of the errors you’ll run into when linking your device to your computer can be resolved by simply running adb.exe devices when the device is properly connected.

Linking Your PC  and Android Device via AndroidScreencast

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Grab that copy of androidscreencast.jnlp you saved earlier and copy it to your android-sdk-windows folder. It doesn’t have to be in the same directory but you might as well keep things tidy. Double click on the file and you’ll see a Java loading screen like the one in the screenshot above. The first run usually takes longer than usual so be patient, also if you run into any errors go back and double check that adb.exe devices actually shows your Android device on the device list. Once it is done loading you should see your Android’s screen:

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At this point non-rooted phones can see the screen, snap a screenshot using third party tools (there is, sadly, no built in screenshot tool) or can record video of the screen using the built-in screencasting tools. If you have a rooted device not only can you see the screen but you can also interact with it both by clicking directly on the screen and by clicking the function buttons along the bottom of the viewer (home, menu, back, and so on). Both rooted and non-rooted users can use the basic file browser to but for most purposes it is fairly limited and doesn’t add any value to the whole remote view/control mission.

Anytime you want to remotely view or control your device in the future, simply tether it with the USB cable and run androidscreencast.jnlp.


Have an Android hack to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments. Want to know how to do something on your Android phone? We want to hear about that too.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/2/11

Comments (76)

  1. JC

    Is there something like that, for the ipod touch or iphone?

  2. Heiko

    No way of doing it via Wi-FI?

  3. tom

    Just tried this out on the mac, can’t seem to do the control thing even though my phone is rooted…

  4. Richard

    Out of interest, would it not be easier to install a VNC Server onto your phone and then use VNC on your computer to connect via WiFI?

  5. cynflux

    This would be more useful over Wifi.

  6. zaiger

    Nice. It definitely works. Thanks!

  7. zaiger

    VNC for Android is $30, and this is free, so no VNC would not be easier Richard.

    And this won’t work over wifi because your phone needs to be in debugging mode to connect to adb shell.

  8. belkira

    This can be done over WiFi, if rooted. You need to install adbWireless on your android. Then just follow the directions above. It is super slow though.

  9. brad

    is it suppose to be in USB debugging or something else? I run the adb.exe and the device doesn’t show up….help!

  10. brad

    never mind….got it….that was fun but come on google…give us a screenshot function or app…my 2 year old knows how to do it on his iPad

  11. Zack

    @Brad Your 2 year old has an iPad? Wow that’s lucky.

  12. Robert

    Easiest way is over wifi. I do it all the time. With my Captivate I use droid VNC server. It’s free in the market. And on my pc I use tightVNC. Start droid VNC server, it’ll give you an ip address on your phone with a port number. Start tightVNC on your pc and put in that ip address and port and bingo you have remote control of your android device over wifi.

  13. Robert

    @zaiger. VNC works just fine over wifi. And I find it to be faster then screencast.

  14. ColdEmbrace

    My screen shows upside down :(
    Running 2.2 Japanese Jellyfish ROM
    on San Francisco/ZTE Blade if thats any help

  15. Ryan

    Can you control via Mac if the phone is rooted?

  16. Robert

    @Ryan You can try using droid VNC Server on your phone and Chicken of the VNC for mac.
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/cotvnc/

  17. Robert

    @ColdEmbrace I haven’t use screencast for a while but I think if you right click you should be able to change the orientation.

  18. Andy

    What is that calendar widget? I’ve been looking for something like that for months.

  19. ColdEmbrace

    @Robert you are right but only from portait to landscape its still upside down

  20. cmcollins

    What would be the reason my phone won’t show up as a device?

  21. Robert

    @ColdEmbrace How about if you rotate your actual phone? Just a thought..

  22. Robert

    @Andy If I’m not mistaken I believe that is one of Motorola’s Blur widgets.

  23. Robert

    @cmcollins Do you have USB debugging on? And do not mount your sd cards. I know some devices have an automount.

  24. cmcollins

    @ Robert, thanks…that was it. I did have USB debugging on before, but unmounting the sd card did the trick.

  25. ColdEmbrace

    @Robert it works except for when certain apps lock screen rotation so it doesnt work

  26. andy

    Install HTC Sync from HTC’s website for HTC phones

    You’ll find it in the Support section, e.g. at http://www.htc.com/uk/supportdownloa…act=sd&cat=all.

    This is HTC’s software to sync various stuff from your phone to your PC, such as email, bookmarks etc. However, even if you don’t need that stuff, HTC Sync has a bunch of USB drivers for your phone, and that’s what we *do* need.

  27. Nathaniel507

    @Brad: Froyo (Android 2.2) has a print screen function. On the SGS you just hold the back key and then press the home key.

  28. Brittyful

    @Andy That’s what the stock calendar widget looks like on my g2. I don’t know of anything on the market that looks like it, sorry :-/

  29. scullytr

    What if there are no devices listed when I run ‘adb.exe devices’?

    I did have RSD and some Motorola drivers installed from when I rooted my phone, and have since uninstalled. Could those be conflicting with the process?

    Thanks!

  30. ariauser

    I got the explorer work and I can view the phone screen. However I was not able control the phone on my computer. Is there any way to turn on the control mode? I tried in both windows and ubuntu and neither works

  31. Josh

    I should be able to email this article off this page in more ways than just a facebook like or a tweet.

  32. ColdEmbrace

    @scullytr i found my orange san francisco/ zte blade had the wrong drivers so wouldnt show up, as soon as i put the correct drivers in all was good

  33. Nick

    (Ubuntu)
    Everytime i run abd in terminal, it comes back with “????????? No permissions”

  34. unclefrancis

    this is wicked cool. Not sure how much use I’ll get out of it but its fun. Fully functional dialing, browsing, txt, etc. remote from my laptop. thanks for sharing.

  35. Alex

    Hey, some reason i set my htc desire using my charger cable ( as this is the way to connect it to the computer ) and that devices abd.exe thing doesn’t find my device nor does it come up when i open the java file.

  36. JGirard8

    Hey,
    Does anyone know if this is possible on a rooted nook color? I’m going to try it in a few minutes and
    I’ll let you guys know how it works… If anyone has done it before, please let me know

  37. Grom84

    Thank you for guild,very simple and useful.
    Works like a charm on my WinXP and my Samsung Spica

    Second method:
    Download droid VNC server -from market *free or donate ver.
    Donaload ReaVNC for Windows

    u can control ur phone via WiFi and 3G network * server on the phone gives u internet link for connection*

  38. miles

    i couldn’t do this .. i had usb debugging and sd card unmounted and no devices were listed .. i tried removing my sd card completely and no results.Running windows 7 with an lg optimus v (rooted) . Any ideas?

  39. acil

    it doesn’t remote our android phone.
    Just screenshoot our phone/

  40. Tiago

    Settings-> Applications-> Development-> Debugging USB), Select this if it is not detected!

  41. cynflux

    I followed this guide on a desktop PC with 64-bit Windows Vista OS and ran into some issues.
    AndroidScreencast screen was painfully slow and did not respond to clicking directly on the screen or by clicking the function buttons along the bottom of the viewer (home, menu, back, and so on).
    The only functions that worked were right-click, which changed the screen orientation, and Explore, the basic file browser. My phone is a rooted HTC Hero with Android OS 2.1. HTC Sync software has already been installed.

    Please advise on how I can gain the full functionality described in this article. Any kind of help would be appreciated.

  42. Russ

    Doesn’t work with the HTC Thunderbolt. Nothing listed under devices
    .

  43. Charbel

    Is there a way to manage the device over the internet? like the Motorolla one?

  44. jcnet

    Is there an AP for this yet.

  45. alorian

    Unfortunately I’m not seeing any devices. I tried this with two phones, a G2 and a Moto Cliq. Suggestions?

  46. graeme

    Works great. Thanks. Now what do do with it?

  47. EP

    Is it a requirement for the device to be rooted to have the ability to control it from a PC?

  48. Randall

    java.lang.RuntimeException: java.lang.RuntimeException: java.lang.RuntimeException: SyncService is null, ADB crashed ?
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.injector.Injector.uploadAgent(Injector.java:52)
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.injector.Injector.init(Injector.java:162)
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.injector.Injector.access$0(Injector.java:155)
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.injector.Injector$1.run(Injector.java:26)
    Caused by: java.lang.RuntimeException: java.lang.RuntimeException: SyncService is null, ADB crashed ?
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.AndroidDevice.pushFile(AndroidDevice.java:51)
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.injector.Injector.uploadAgent(Injector.java:49)
    … 3 more
    Caused by: java.lang.RuntimeException: SyncService is null, ADB crashed ?
    at net.srcz.android.screencast.api.AndroidDevice.pushFile(AndroidDevice.java:43)
    … 4 more

    What now?

  49. Pay

    Its Not Coming Up Under Devices For Me Either. I Turned Off USB Debugging And Unmounted My SD…No Go..I Got A Evo 4g

  50. KV Rajan

    Hi..
    I’m using a Samsung Galaxy 5 – GTI-5500 phone with CyanogenMod 7 [2.3] ROM. I could connect and the phone is recognized and control buttons work.
    But my screen is not showing correctly. I see only colorful horizontal lines across the window. And it changes when I change the phone screen.

    What could be the reason, I do not see a meaningful screen of the phone on the PC ?

  51. premier69

    thanks so much dude, it’s working flawlessly! And since my PC has a multi touchscreen monitor I don’t need to use the mouse for cumbersome interaction =)

  52. poglad

    Where did Zaiger go? Funny how these people rudely shoot questioners down in flames, and then silently melt away when they’ve been proven wrong…

  53. fdsafds

    This is pointless and laggy, If your phone has an micro HDMI port, invest the 5 bucks on ebay to buy a micro HDMI to HDMI and plug it into your tv. Don’t recommend this.

  54. Victoria Wegner

    The capabilities of remote control software such as <a href="http://www.proxynetworks.com/products/remote-control-software.html"> http://www.proxynetworks.com/</a> are constantly expanding. The ability to control your desktop from your phone is revolutionary. Similarly, the ability to control your phone from your desktop is extends the software’s versatility.

  55. Aggedor

    Shame this wouldn’t work with my Motorola XPRT. USB debugging is off, SD card unmounted but device still can’t be found. Too bad as USB is all I really have and being able to at least see my phone screen larger would have helped.

  56. CCCMikey

    Does not work with Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ GT-P1000

    Crashes with a Java Exception.

  57. lee

    need abit of help where you say Open a command prompt and drag and drop adb.exe onto it. it wont let me do this and if i run it it just runs then closes any help would be appreciated.

  58. lee

    Ok sorted that one out but my screen is broke and cant see anything on it to sync it with the comp i.e. set it to sync with comp any ideas?

  59. Jann

    @ColdEmbrace, were you able to solve the UPSIDE DOWN screen orientation of ZTE Blade? Im having the same problem. Hope you can share. Thanks.

  60. kandino

    i dropped my phone and the display is not working anymore, i thought that maybe looking for a software over the internet that would let me see what i cant on my phone would be handy, i installed the installer and the java application but my phone doesn’t show up when i run the command prompt and if the reason is because of the debugging mode then i am lost because i cant see anything to launch that option (actually i can do nothing on it, well i can turn it off and on…that’s it!!xD)…is there a software that does that for me through the computer????…………and for the ones who can’t find a use to this masterful piece of software here’s one ;) LOL.
    I hope somebody has any suggestion i need to do this so bad :(

  61. KHayden

    Thank you!!! Works like a charm OS X Lion + SGS2 :)

  62. john

    I’m kinda blocked where you have to check the connection. I see a folder named platform tools, but where am I supposed to find adb.exe? and also which directory are you talking about and how do I find it?
    Thanks!

  63. Chris

    Great! Thanks a lot!!
    screen simulation, how to make the copy between the PC and phone’s screen?

  64. jcache

    @ColdEmbrace i got the same upside down problem. how did you know you got the wrong driver and where did you get the right one? thanks!

  65. Talio

    Device not showing??
    I had this problem. Solution for me was to go to device manager on my PC. My Ideos X5 had an exclamation mark next to it indicating it wasn’t correctly set up. Downloaded the usb drivers for my phone, updated them and problem solved.

  66. djo

    @andy HTC calendar widget

  67. Pactrick

    i am using a samsung galaxy s2 . not rooted . there was nothing under the list of the devices at the command prompt. Any advice ?

  68. Hassan Gary

    @Heiko
    u can by droid VNC Server app in market (needs root) [A LOT EASIER AND BETTER]

  69. zulu99

    can you try DroidMote Sever / Client for remote control your android device

  70. Brent

    This was exactly what I was looking for to give a demo. Thanks

  71. Jill

    I had downloaded this 2 weeks ago and it worked great. I went to use it yesterday and it no longer worked. I saw there was an update so i reinstalled it..and it still doesnt work. The problem is that my Android device isn’t popping up when I search for devices..even though it IS plugged in and I can access it.

  72. Joe Hoe

    Just FYI – Put the phone in Debugging mode in Settings -> Applications -> Development – otherwise it will not show as attached device.

  73. Jill

    Thank you Joe! I am not sure how, but that got unchecked at one time and that is why it did not work! Easy enough- we use this for our android tablet- it is great!

  74. Imran

    There is one critical step incase your device is not connected using command “adb.exe devices”

    Motorola Xoom: Download and install latest device drivers http://www.motorola.com/Support/US-EN/Support-Homepage/Software_and_Drivers/USB-and-PC-Charging-Drivers

  75. trin

    got it to work but its very slow?…is that how its supposed to be. is there anyway to make it faster….or basically…functional…

  76. Jill

    I had it working a few times, but now it will no longer work. I get an “Application Error: Unable to launch the application.” OR it does not pick up that the device is connected..even though I have made sure the USB debugging has been checked. I don’t understand why it works sometimes and other times it doesn’t…if I haven’t changed anything?

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