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Screen Captures With Your Android Device, Without Root

This is a quick post on how to get a screen capture from your Android G2 (or Desire Z in Canada) smartphone. The process (as of the time of writing) is not so easy to get around for phones that are non-rooted – but if you would like to avoid rooting your phone, here’s how to get that screen capture. You are, unfortunately going to need a computer and a USB cable – what I’ll describe here is the process for doing this on Windows 7 32 bit, but it should still work on 64 bit.

Update #1 – Much of the information covered here is for any Android device covered in the SDK you download. I have tested this process with a number of devices and found only the Kobo Vox to go unrecognized so far.

Also of note: the newest version (4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich) introduces a method of screen capture native to the Operating System. Obtaining a screen capture in ICS involves holding down the POWER and DOWN VOLUME keys at the same time. Once the capture is taken, you’ll hear a sound and see an animation.

1. Download the software 
You need the current version of the  Java Development Kit, or JDK (Get it here – As of today, download “Java SE 6 Update 23”) and the Android SDK (Get it here – as of today, download “installer_r08-windows.exe”). Install the JDK first, then run the Android SDK to get the SDK – after this installation you’ll see the SDK Manager.

The SDK Manager

2. Install all the required software
Using the SDK Manager to an easy-to-remember location. I Chose c:\android. The most importing things you will need installed are:
– Android  SDK Tools
– Google USB Driver Package (sometimes called USB Driver)

Take note of the following folder locations:
SDK Tools: c:\android-sdk-windows\tools
Google USB Driver: c:\android-sdk-windows\google-usb_driver
ADB: c:\android-sdk-windows\platform-tools

3. Edit the ADB INF File
Find your c:\android-sdk-windows\google-usb_driver\android_winusb.inf file and open it up in a text editor (such as notepad++) and add the following lines to the [Google.NTx86] and [Google.NTamd64] sections:

;T-Mobile G2
%SingleAdbInterface%        = USB_Install, USBVID_0BB4&PID_0C91
%CompositeAdbInterface%     = USB_Install, USBVID_0BB4&PID_0C91&MI_01

A look at the INF file with lines added (near bottom)

I found the above information here.

4. Enable “USB Debugging”
On your phone, go into Settings -> Applications -> Development -> USB Debugging  – and turn this setting ON. This is important for your computer to recognize the phone as more than just a USB storage location. Until this is enabled, you won’t get any driver installation prompts.

5. Install the driver
Now, plug in your phone and use Windows’ Plug and Play detection to install the driver for your ADB device. The location of the driver will be c:\android-sdk-windows\google-usb_driver. Install this and make sure that you can see the following in your Device Manager:

6. Copy the ADB files before running ddms.bat
When you run the ddms.bat utility without copying the files, you’ll get this error:

Failed to get the adb version: Cannot run program “adb”: java.io.IOException: error=2, No such file or directory

To fix this, copy all of the files in c:\android-sdk-windows\platform-tools to the c:\android-sdk-windows\tools folder. If they already exist, don’t overwrite what’s there.

7. Run ddms.bat
You’ll find this batch file located here: c:\Android\android-sdk-windows\tool\sddms.bat – and running it should automatically pickup you’re device and screenshots are possible from the Device -> Screen Capture menu selection.

The DDMS window

There you have it. Once you’ve done all that, you can take as many screen captures as you need from your phone. Keep in mind that you’ll always have to come back an plug the phone into your computer – but this way you’ll also not need to root the phone. This is the best way to do this until Google add a screen capture feature to Android.