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android – mkdir() works while inside internal flash storage, but not SD card?

Posted by: admin April 23, 2020 Leave a comment


I am currently building a file management app that allows the user to browse the file system of their device. The user starts off in the root directory / of their device, but can browse to any location they want such as the internal flash storage or SD card.

One of the critical requirements of this app is to allow the user to create new folders anywhere. A feature like this would be immensely useful for the app. However, the File#mkdir() method does not work at all in the SD card directory.

I added the appropriate permissions to the manifest file. I also wrote a test to see which directories (all of which exist on my Lollipop 5.0 device) allow the creation of a new folder. From my observations, File#mkdir() only works when inside the internal flash storage directory.

Note: please don’t confuse Environment#getExternalStorageDirectory() with the SD card location, as explained by this article. Also on Lollipop 5.0, I believe /storage/emulated/0/ and /storage/sdcard0/ refer to the internal flash storage while /storage/emulated/1/ and /storage/sdcard1/ refer to the SD card (which is at least true for the device I am testing with).

How can I create new files and folders in areas outside the external storage path on non-rooted Android devices?


<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE" />
<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE" />


public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity {

    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

        final String NEW_FOLDER_NAME = "TestFolder";
        testPath(new File(Environment.getExternalStorageDirectory(), NEW_FOLDER_NAME));
        testPath(new File("/storage/emulated/0/", NEW_FOLDER_NAME));
        testPath(new File("/storage/emulated/1/", NEW_FOLDER_NAME));
        testPath(new File("/storage/sdcard0/Download/", NEW_FOLDER_NAME));
        testPath(new File("/storage/sdcard1/Pictures/", NEW_FOLDER_NAME));

    private void testPath(File path) {
        String TAG = "Debug.MainActivity.java";
        String FOLDER_CREATION_SUCCESS = " mkdir() success: ";

        boolean success = path.mkdir();
        Log.d(TAG, path.getAbsolutePath() + FOLDER_CREATION_SUCCESS + success);


/storage/emulated/0/TestFolder mkdir() success: true
/storage/emulated/0/TestFolder mkdir() success: true
/storage/emulated/1/TestFolder mkdir() success: false
/storage/sdcard0/Download/TestFolder mkdir() success: true
/storage/sdcard1/Pictures/TestFolder mkdir() success: false
How to&Answers:

First, you should note that file.mkdir() and file.mkdirs() returns false if the directory already existed. If you want to know whether the directory exists on return, either use (file.mkdir() || file.isDirectory()) or simply ignore the return value and call file.isDirectory() (see the documentation).

That said, your real problem is that you need permission to create the directory on removable storage on Android 5.0+. Working with removable SD cards on Android is horrendous.

On Android 4.4 (KitKat), Google restricted access to SD cards (see here, here, and here). See this StackOverflow answer which leads to this XDA post if you need to create a directory on a removable SD card on Android 4.4 (KitKat).

On Android 5.0 (Lollipop), Google introduced new SD card access APIs. For sample usage please refer to this stackoverflow answer.

Basically, you need to use DocumentFile#createDirectory(String displayName) to create your directory. You will need to ask the user to grant permissions to your app before creating this directory.

NOTE: This is for removable storage. Using File#mkdirs() will work on internal storage (which is often confused with external storage on Android) if you have the permission android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE.

I will post some example code below:

Check if you need to ask for permission:

File sdcard = ... // the removable SD card
List<UriPermission> permissions = context.getContentResolver().getPersistedUriPermissions();
DocumentFile documentFile = null;
boolean needPermissions = true;

for (UriPermission permission : permissions) {
  if (permission.isWritePermission()) {
    documentFile = DocumentFile.fromTreeUri(context, permission.getUri());
    if (documentFile != null) {
      if (documentFile.lastModified() == sdcard.lastModified()) {
        needPermissions = false;

Next (if needPermissions is true), you can display a dialog to explain to the user that they need to select the “SD Card” to give your app permissions to create files/directories and then start the following activity:

if (needPermissions) {
  // show a dialog explaining that you need permission to create the directory
  // here, we will just launch to chooser (what you need to do after showing the dialog)
  startActivityForResult(new Intent(Intent.ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE), STORAGE_REQUEST_CODE);
} else {
  // we already have permission to write to the removable SD card
  // use DocumentFile#createDirectory

You will now need to check the resultCode and requestCode in onActivityResult:

@Override protected void onActivityResult(int requestCode, int resultCode, Intent data) {
  if (requestCode == STORAGE_REQUEST_CODE && resultCode == RESULT_OK) {
    File sdcard = ... // get the removable SD card

    boolean needPermissions = true;
    DocumentFile documentFile = DocumentFile.fromTreeUri(MainActivity.this, data.getData());
    if (documentFile != null) {
      if (documentFile.lastModified() == sdcard.lastModified()) {
        needPermissions = false;

    if (needPermissions) {
      // The user didn't select the "SD Card".
      // You should try the process over again or do something else.
    } else {
      // remember this permission grant so we don't need to ask again.
      // Now we can work with DocumentFile and create our directory
      DocumentFile doc = DocumentFile.fromTreeUri(this, data.getData());
      // do stuff...
  super.onActivityResult(requestCode, resultCode, data);

That should give you a good start on working with DocumentFile and removable SD cards on Android 5.0+. It can be a PITA.

Also, there is no public API to get the path to a removable SD card (if one even exists). You should not rely on hardcoding "/storage/sdcard1"! There are quite a few posts about it on StackOverflow. Many of the solutions use the environment variable SECONDARY_STORAGE. Below is two methods you can use to find removable storage devices:

public static List<File> getRemovabeStorages(Context context) throws Exception {
  List<File> storages = new ArrayList<>();

  Method getService = Class.forName("android.os.ServiceManager")
      .getDeclaredMethod("getService", String.class);
  if (!getService.isAccessible()) getService.setAccessible(true);
  IBinder service = (IBinder) getService.invoke(null, "mount");

  Method asInterface = Class.forName("android.os.storage.IMountService$Stub")
      .getDeclaredMethod("asInterface", IBinder.class);
  if (!asInterface.isAccessible()) asInterface.setAccessible(true);
  Object mountService = asInterface.invoke(null, service);

  Object[] storageVolumes;
    String packageName = context.getPackageName();
    int uid = context.getPackageManager().getPackageInfo(packageName, 0).applicationInfo.uid;
    Method getVolumeList = mountService.getClass().getDeclaredMethod(
        "getVolumeList", int.class, String.class, int.class);
    if (!getVolumeList.isAccessible()) getVolumeList.setAccessible(true);
    storageVolumes = (Object[]) getVolumeList.invoke(mountService, uid, packageName, 0);
  } else {
    Method getVolumeList = mountService.getClass().getDeclaredMethod("getVolumeList");
    if (!getVolumeList.isAccessible()) getVolumeList.setAccessible(true);
    storageVolumes = (Object[]) getVolumeList.invoke(mountService, (Object[]) null);

  for (Object storageVolume : storageVolumes) {
    Class<?> cls = storageVolume.getClass();
    Method isRemovable = cls.getDeclaredMethod("isRemovable");
    if (!isRemovable.isAccessible()) isRemovable.setAccessible(true);
    if ((boolean) isRemovable.invoke(storageVolume, (Object[]) null)) {
      Method getState = cls.getDeclaredMethod("getState");
      if (!getState.isAccessible()) getState.setAccessible(true);
      String state = (String) getState.invoke(storageVolume, (Object[]) null);
      if (state.equals("mounted")) {
        Method getPath = cls.getDeclaredMethod("getPath");
        if (!getPath.isAccessible()) getPath.setAccessible(true);
        String path = (String) getPath.invoke(storageVolume, (Object[]) null);
        storages.add(new File(path));

  return storages;

public static File getRemovabeStorageDir(Context context) {
  try {
    List<File> storages = getRemovabeStorages(context);
    if (!storages.isEmpty()) {
      return storages.get(0);
  } catch (Exception ignored) {
  final String SECONDARY_STORAGE = System.getenv("SECONDARY_STORAGE");
  if (SECONDARY_STORAGE != null) {
    return new File(SECONDARY_STORAGE.split(":")[0]);
  return null;


path.mkdir() fails also when the directory already exists.
You can add a check first:

if (!path.exists()) {
   boolean success = path.mkdir();
   Log.d(TAG, path.getAbsolutePath() + FOLDER_CREATION_SUCCESS + success);
} else {
   Log.d(TAG, path.getAbsolutePath() + "already exists");


on Kitkat google restricted access to external sdcard so u wont be able to write to external Storage on Kitkat.

In Lollipop google made a new FrameWork to write data to external storage u have to use the new DocumentFile

class which is backward compatible .

Basically u can request the permission at onstart of app to the root directory of the app and then u can create directory


Try with this. It works fine for me.

final String NEW_FOLDER_NAME = "TestFolder";

String extStore = System.getenv("EXTERNAL_STORAGE");
File f_exts = new File(extStore, NEW_FOLDER_NAME);

String secStore = System.getenv("SECONDARY_STORAGE");
File f_secs = new File(secStore, NEW_FOLDER_NAME);



and change boolean value in testPath function as follows

boolean success;
if(path.exists()) {
    // already created
    success = true;
} else {
    success = path.mkdir();

If folder already exists, path.mkdir() method return false.

and done.!!!

reference from this question.