Android offers multiple ways to transfer apps and data between phones. The usual way of transferring apps from your old device to a new one is by using the Tap & Go feature.

In addition to Tap & Go, Android also allows you to copy apps and data using ADB. If you just want to copy one specific APK, ADB can be used to grab a copy of APK or create a backup file with the APK and related data.

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There are 2 methods that I want to show in this post. Using the first method you only copy the APK file, but this method should work most of the time.
The second method allows to copy also app data, but the particular app has to support this.

Disclaimer: I don't support copying of paid apps or violating app licenses! Always check the license and conditions of the APK you're trying to copy to make sure you comply.

Grab APK and Install It to Another Device

This method allows you to install one specific APK file that you've grabbed from another phone. To copy the APK file do the following:

  1. Get APK file path from package name
    adb shell pm path eu.sisik.devowner

    The pm command executed above should print something like this


    You should substitute your package name in the previous command. I used the package name from my example app from the post about device owner - eu.sisik.devowner.

If you're not sure how to get the package name of the app you want to copy, you can use my Power APK app for this. The main screen will display a list of installed apps and package names. You can search the app on the list by its name. Alternatively, you can start the app you want to copy. Once it's foreground, you can get the package name with adb shell dumpsys window windows | grep "mCurrentFocus". I described this method in one of my posts.

Note: Sometimes the app is split into multiple APK files. This usually happens when using the Instant Run feature of Android Studio. These files are usually highly customized for the device they were deployed to and are additionally running a bit differently than apps installed from regular APKs, so the method I'm describing here won't work for this kind of APK files.

  1. Pull the APK file from Android device to your PC

    adb pull /path/to/apk

    This will pull the APK file to current directory. You should use the path to APK obtained in the previous step

  2. Install APK to target Android device

    adb install -r pulled.apk

    This will push the APK to the target device and execute the pm install -r command on the device. The -r option means that the app should be reinstalled in case it already exists on the target device. However, app's data won't get erased with this option.

Use ADB Backup to Copy APK

This method has the advantage that you can also copy app's data together with the APK. The disadvantage is that not all apps can be copied this way. Only apps that set the allowBackup flag to true in their AndroidManifest.xml can be copied. Luckily, the apps that target Android 6 and higher have this value set to true by default, so even if the developer did not set this flag explicitly to true, it should still be possible to perform a backup.

To check if a particular app supports backup do the following

adb shell pm dump | grep ALLOW_BACKUP

This gave me the following output for my DevOwner app


The flags show that it should be possible to perform a backup for this specific app.

You should execute the following command to create a backup

adb backup -apk -f app.backup

A dialog box asking for password and confirmation should appear on your Android device. Type in your password and tap on "BACK UP MY DATA". This will backup the APK file and app data for your specified package into app.backup file. In some cases this might not work reliably. Therefore you might need to add quotes to arguments or experiment with different ADB versions.

To copy the APK and data from the generated backup file to your target Android device, use the restore command

adb restore app.backup

Copy APK with Bugjaeger

If you don't want to install ADB on your PC, you can do the same stuff as described before using the Bugjaeger app. The device that contains the original APK file should have Bugjaeger installed. To copy the app do the following

  1. Connect the devices with USB OTG cable and confirm the authorization dialogs (similar to what you do when you're using regular ADB)
  2. Switch to the Packages tab
  3. Tap on the add button [Add package]
  4. Pick "Select from installed Apps" option and tap on OK Select app
  5. Select the apps that you want to copy from the list and tap on INSTALL App list

Pulling APK Files From Android Device With Bugjaeger

In case you are only interested in getting the actual APK files from the device, you can do this simply with the Bugjaeger app.

  1. Switch to the Packages section
  2. Find the package you're interested in and click on the download icon

If you're not sure how to get the package name of the app you're interested in, check out my Power Apk which can extract various information from installed APK files. Power Apk is also able to pull the APK file from the device.

Use Backup & Restore with Bugjaeger

You can also perform ADB backup and restore with the Bugjaeger app.

To create a backup with Bugjaeger do the following

  1. Connect the devices with USB OTG cable and confirm the authorization dialogs (similar to what you do when you're using regular ADB)
  2. Switch to the Backup tab
  3. Tap on the backup button at the bottom right of the screen Backup but
  4. Type a name for your backup
  5. Tick the checkbox next to Include .apk files
  6. Select the app package from the list and tab on BACKUP

Once you've provided a password and confirmed, there should be a new entry in the Backup section of Bugjaeger. You can now restore the backup by tapping on the restore button restore but

Note: Not all apps will allow you to create a backup. This is influenced by the allowBackup flag defined in AndroidManifest.xml.

Examining Android Backup Files and Extracting Their Content

Bugjaeger app allows you to examine the content of ADB backup files. Once you've successfully created a backup as described in previous section, you can tap on the created backup item in Backup section, and the app will show you the content of the backup file. You can also import ADB backups made before with ADB by tapping on the Import button

Import button

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