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Various methods to disassemble dex files

This how-to documents various methods and tools in disassembling DEX files for the Android OS. An example "Hello Android" APK file developed from the Android SDK example is used to demonstrate the various tools. The various tools and methods are listed below in the subsections.


The HelloAndroid.apk package was decompressed using a standard zip-utility. The output from the zip utility produced the following files:

$unzip HelloAndroid.apk
Archive:  HelloAndroid.apk
  inflating: res/layout/main.xml
  inflating: AndroidManifest.xml
 extracting: resources.arsc
 extracting: res/drawable-hdpi/icon.png
 extracting: res/drawable-ldpi/icon.png
 extracting: res/drawable-mdpi/icon.png
  inflating: classes.dex

The file of importance in analyzing the various methods of disassembly is 'classes.dex'. The various tools listed below will use this file.


A disassembler (available at to turn the DEX format into an "assembly-like format". The format uses Jasmin like syntax and various Dalvik opcodes. The command used to disassemble the classes.dex file is:

$ java -jar ddx1.11.jar -d HelloAndroidOoutput classes.dex
Processing com/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid
Processing com/example/helloandroid/R$attr
Processing com/example/helloandroid/R$drawable
Processing com/example/helloandroid/R$layout
Processing com/example/helloandroid/R$string
Processing com/example/helloandroid/R

The command produced several files, but the important file is located at com/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid. The disassembly listing for that file is below.

$ cat com/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid.ddx
.class public com/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid
.super android/app/Activity

.method public <init>()V
.limit registers 1
; this: v0 (Lcom/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid;)
.line 7
        invoke-direct   {v0},android/app/Activity/<init>        ; <init>()V
.end method

.method public onCreate(Landroid/os/Bundle;)V
.limit registers 4
; this: v2 (Lcom/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid;)
; parameter[0] : v3 (Landroid/os/Bundle;)
.line 11
        invoke-super    {v2,v3},android/app/Activity/onCreate   ; onCreate(Landroid/os/Bundle;)V
.line 12
        new-instance    v0,android/widget/TextView
        invoke-direct   {v0,v2},android/widget/TextView/<init>  ; <init>(Landroid/content/Context;)V
.line 13
        const-string    v1,"Hello, Android"
        invoke-virtual  {v0,v1},android/widget/TextView/setText ; setText(Ljava/lang/CharSequence;)V
.line 14
        invoke-virtual  {v2,v0},com/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid/setContentView    ; setContentView(Landroid/view/View;)V
.line 15
.end method


The baksmali disassembler (available at disassembles the DEX file into a format loosely based on the Jasmin's/dedexer's syntax. The command used in this analysis to generate the disassembly is:

$ java -jar baksmali-1.2.4.jar classes.dex

The command outputs several files and produces the /out/com/example/helloandroid directory structure, but the main file to investigate is HelloAndroid.smali. HelloAndroid.smali displays the Jasmin syntax and partial Dalvik opcodes as:

.class public Lcom/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid;
.super Landroid/app/Activity;
.source ""

# direct methods
.method public constructor <init>()V
    .registers 1

    .line 7
    invoke-direct {p0}, Landroid/app/Activity;-><init>()V

.end method

# virtual methods
.method public onCreate(Landroid/os/Bundle;)V
    .registers 4
    .parameter "savedInstanceState"

    .line 11
    invoke-super {p0, p1}, Landroid/app/Activity;->onCreate(Landroid/os/Bundle;)V

    .line 12
    new-instance v0, Landroid/widget/TextView;

    invoke-direct {v0, p0}, Landroid/widget/TextView;-><init>(Landroid/content/Context;)V

    .line 13
    .local v0, tv:Landroid/widget/TextView;
    const-string v1, "Hello, Android"

    invoke-virtual {v0, v1}, Landroid/widget/TextView;->setText(Ljava/lang/CharSequence;)V

    .line 14
    invoke-virtual {p0, v0}, Lcom/example/helloandroid/HelloAndroid;->setContentView(Landroid/view/View;)V

    .line 15
.end method


An easier method for disassembling DEX files is to reproduce the Java files. The procedure for performing this task is to take the Dalvik opcodes to the Java byte codes (JAR file). The next step is to take a Java decompiler, which will produce several java files. The two tools used in the section are dex2jar (available at and a java decompiler of choice. The steps performed to complete this transformation are:

  1. $ ./dex2jar.bat classes.dex

  2. Load the produced JAR file from dex2jar into the java decompiler.

The main class produced from the decompilation process using dex2jar is listed below.

package com.example.helloandroid;

import android.os.Bundle;
import android.widget.TextView;

public class HelloAndroid extends Activity
  public void onCreate(Bundle paramBundle)
    TextView localTextView = new TextView(this);
    localTextView.setText("Hello, Android");