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Manage all files on a storage device

The majority of apps that require shared storage access can follow the best practices for sharing media files and sharing non-media files. However, some apps have a core use case that requires broad access of files on a device, but cannot do so efficiently using the privacy-friendly storage best practices. Android provides a special app access called All files access for these situations.

For example, an anti-virus app's primary use case might require regular scanning of many files across different directories. If this scanning requires repeated user interactions to select directories using the system file picker, it may provide a poor user experience. Other use cases—such as file manager apps, backup and restore apps, and document management apps—may require similar considerations.

Request All files access

An app can request All files access from the user by doing the following:

  1. Declare the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission in the manifest.
  2. Use the ACTION_MANAGE_ALL_FILES_ACCESS_PERMISSION intent action to direct users to a system settings page where they can enable the following option for your app: Allow access to manage all files.

To determine whether your app has been granted the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, call Environment.isExternalStorageManager().

Operations that MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE allows

The MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission grants the following:

  • Read and write access to all files within shared storage.

  • Access to the contents of the MediaStore.Files table.

  • Access to the root directory of both the USB on-the-go (OTG) drive and the SD card.

  • Write access to all internal storage directories⁠, except for /Android/data/, /sdcard/Android, and most subdirectories of /sdcard/Android. This write access includes direct file path access.

    Apps that are granted this permission still cannot access the app-specific directories that belong to other apps because these directories appear as subdirectories of Android/data/ on a storage volume.

When an app has the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, it can access these additional files and directories using either the MediaStore API or direct file paths. When you use the Storage Access Framework, however, you can only access a file or directory if you could do so without having the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.

Enable MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE for testing

To explore how the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission affects your app, you can enable the permission for testing purposes. To do so, run the following command on the machine that's connected to your test device:

adb shell appops set --uid PACKAGE_NAME MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE allow

Google Play notice

This section provides a notice for developers who publish apps on Google Play.

To limit broad access to shared storage, the Google Play store has updated its policy to evaluate apps that target Android 11 (API level 30) or higher and request All files access through the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.

You should request the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission only when your app cannot effectively make use of the more privacy-friendly APIs, such as Storage Access Framework or the Media Store API. Additionally, the app's usage of the permission must fall within permitted uses, and must be directly tied to the core functionality of the app. If your app includes a use case that's similar to the following examples, it's likely to be allowed to request the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission:

  • File managers
  • Backup and restore
  • Anti-virus apps
  • Document management apps

Due to COVID-19 related considerations, apps that target Android 11 (API level 30) or higher and need the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission cannot be uploaded to Google Play until early 2021. This includes new apps as well as updates to existing apps. To learn more, read the updated policy from the Policy Help Center.

For now, if you think the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission is needed for your app, it's recommended that you don't update your target SDK to Android 11 at this time. If you target Android 10, consider using the requestLegacyExternalStorage flag.