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 to files on a device, but can't access them 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 provides a poor user experience. Other use cases—such as file manager apps, backup and restore apps, and document management apps—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 permitted by MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE

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 /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 can't 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 can do so without having the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.

Invoke another app's storage management activity

On Android 12 (API level 31) and higher, apps that have both the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission and the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission—such as file management apps—can use the getManageSpaceActivityIntent() to send users to another app's custom space management activity.

The getManageSpaceActivityIntent() method takes in a package name and a request code, and it returns one of the following:

  • A PendingIntent, if the app with the specified package name has defined a custom "manage space" activity. The file management app that called the getManageSpaceActivityIntent() method can then invoke the returned intent to send users to the custom activity.
  • null, if the app with the specified package name doesn't define a "manage space" activity.


To explore how the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission affects your app, you can enable the permission for testing. 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. This policy is in effect as of May 2021.

When your app targets Android 11 or higher and it declares the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, Android Studio shows the lint warning that appears in figure 1. This warning reminds you that the Google Play store has a policy that limits usage of the permission.

Figure 1. Lint warning in Android Studio that reminds developers about the Google Play policy regarding the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.

Request the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission only when your app can't effectively make use of the more privacy-friendly APIs, such as the Storage Access Framework or the Media Store API. Your 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 similar to any of the following, it's likely that it can request the MANAGE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission:

  • File managers
  • Backup and restore apps
  • Anti-virus apps
  • Document management apps
  • On-device file search
  • Disk and file encryption
  • Device-to-device data migration