How to remove Android Apps through ADB

Posted on May 12 2010 - 5:28pm by Flux

ADB is a toolkit provided by Google to access your Android device from your desktop.  Before reading the steps below, we assume you know how to install a non-market application through ADB (if not, please see: How to Install Non-Market .Apk Application on an Android Phone).

The few reasons you may want to remove the apk via ADB are the following:

  • Removing the application via Manage Applications appears to not work perhaps because the developer packaged the application poorly.
  • Convenience: if you are already at the adb shell and have run into an installation problem because the application already exists.
  • Geekness: you wanna be just too cool.

The sequence of command lines will walk you through how to remove an app using ADB.  We also warn that the following steps can harm your phone.  Do not remove APKs flippantly.

  1. Connect your phone to the computer and successfully log into the adb shell.  (refer to the adb setup)
  2. su (Login as root)
  3. mount -o remount,rw -t rfs /dev/stl5 /system (the ‘rw’ allows you to modify the system directory.)
  4. rm -r /system/app/[AppName].apk (or apps)
  5. … You may repeat #4 for other apps.
  6. mount -o remount,ro -t rfs /dev/stl5 /system (Set system to read only, ‘ro’, to prevent malicious activity.)

If you need to look up the AppName:

  1. cd /system/app
  2. ls *.apk (This will provide you with a list of APKs)

If you need to backup your app:

  1. cat [AppName].apk > /sdcard/[AppName].apk (This will backup the APK specified to your SD Card. Do this if you are unsure if it is safe to remove.)

15 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. emre April 9, 2015 at 4:45 am -

    You will probably get “su: not found”

  2. dragons world hack August 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm -

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  3. jTPDwg8 December 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm -

    just some tips:

    step 3: you can also write mount -o remount,rw /system (the mount process will find the device automatically)
    step 4: rm /system/app/[AppName].apk (the -r is for recursive, without this parameter you can’t delete accidently direcotrys)
    step 6: you can also write mount -o remount,ro /system

  4. andoid apk December 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm -

    It really is definitely a excellent plus valuable piece of information and facts. I will be grateful which you simply embraced this useful details with us. Be sure to stop us up to date like that. We appreciate you expressing.

  5. igor January 5, 2013 at 10:11 am -

    damn! ive just typed rm -r /system/app/ and accidentally hit enter!! it startet to show crash messages on the screen and now im rebooting the tablet to see whats going to be.


  6. thomas April 22, 2012 at 3:47 am -

    i tried to delete an app but it didn’t work: the error message is:
    “can’t remove ‘/system/app/[name of app].apk’ : Read-only file system

    but i did all the steps successfully… any suggestion how to make it work?

  7. Ced June 27, 2011 at 3:59 am -

    There is apps on the Market to do that for you if your phone is rooted! System Tuner is one of them. It doesn’t do backup yet, but description says it’s coming!

  8. Bill February 18, 2011 at 8:35 am -

    Excellent work, Flux. I have been searching and trying adb shell commands all morning that never were able to allow removal of the Phone.apk application from my tablet. This app was the biggest battery hog on my device (Cell standby), which does not even have a phone on it! Now thanks to your post, I was able to remove it and everything works exactly like it is supposed to. Like pharmacy tech said, it does take some time to write this in a simple, concise, yet teachable way and Flux nailed it perfectly.

    Thanks again!

  9. P.Schmitz September 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm -

    Dear Adrian,

    Yes to remove carrier or region specific apps you need to root the device, thanks for the question!

  10. Adrian September 14, 2010 at 6:27 pm -

    Is it required a rooted device to remove system/internal/built-in apps ?

  11. Gilesknap September 5, 2010 at 3:33 am -

    Thanks for very useful tip, much quicker than previous approaches I was using.

    By this is no. 4 hit on google for the search “android adb modify /system” 🙂


  12. flux May 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm -

    Thanks! It takes time to write that all out in a teachable way. Try linking us through some of your favorite forums or something. Is there any other types of information you wish for us to endeavor?

  13. pharmacy tech May 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm -

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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