Adsorption desalination is prescribed as a promising and eco-friendly solution for mitigating water scarcity, owing to its utilization of low-grade thermal waste and zero liquid brine discharge. The keystones that regulate the performance of the adsorption desalination system (ADS) include nature of adsorbents, system design, and operating conditions. The present study aims to provide a state of the art review on the keystones of ADS. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) hold remarkable adsorption capacity and tunable structure. However, hydrothermal instability, high cost, and complex synthesizing procedures are the potential challenges that need to be addressed. The technological advancements in ADS have been classified into: (i) Conventional Approach, (ii) Heat and Mass Recovery Approaches, (iii) Hybridization Approaches, (iv) and Adsorbent Substituting Approach. The study provides critical insight and compares the performance of each approach based on specific daily water production (SDWP), specific cooling power (SCP), and coefficient of performance (COP). The conventional ADS produce SDWP of 4.7 m3/ton/d, however producing zero and/or minimal SCP while using payable energy of 1.50 kWh/m3. In heat/mass recovery approaches, pressure equalization-valve delay schemes and master–slave configuration provide ∼ 5 % additional water adsorption/desorption on/from silica-gel and reduce ∼ 50 % thermal heating load, respectively. Evaporator-condenser amalgamation emphasizes the evaporator temperature of 30–42 °C leading towards ∼ 69 % higher SDWP with zero SCP. Dual stage, multi evaporators/condensers scheme is found supportive in cogenerating feature of ADS thereby improvising COP to ∼ 0.87. In hybridization approach, ejector integrated ADS produces SDWP of 80 m3/ton and COP of 2.22 using payable energy of 0.92 kWh/m3, however, needs experimental validation. In the adsorbent substituting approach, CPO-27(Ni), Emim-Ac/Syloid 72FP, and composite adsorbent manifest the SDWP to higher levels. The operating conditions are sensitive and need to optimize depending on the configuration of ADS. Possible future research directions may include efficient designing/ sizing of evaporators/ condensers, minimizing the heat and mass transfer resistances in adsorber/desorber reactor, optimize the thickness of the adsorbent layer in heat exchangers, and investigating wide range of adsorbent classes that can be driven with very low regeneration temperature.