ES File Explorer returns some SD card support to your KitKat device (root required)

by: Jonathan FeistApril 19, 2014

ES File Explorer SD Card

In a recent update to the Android operating system, Google made some changes to how external SD cards can be handled by apps within the system. The result, basically, is that applications have been stripped of their former ability and permissions to read and write files on an sd card. With file explorer apps being some of the hardest hit by this change, ES File Explorer has decided to fight back, having launched an update to their app that brings back full SD card read/write access, at least for those that have their phone rooted.

ES File Explorer is a wonderful application, it offers solid file management tools and an ever expanding list of extra features that you may not have expected out of a file explorer. For file management, you can expect much of the same functionality as you would find on any other operating system. Create folders, move/copy/paste your files between folders, rename files and folders, it can even zip and unzip (RAR) compressed folders. This same functionality extends well beyond your local device, as you can access your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage locations using the same tools. The tabbed interface will also let you get into FTP servers, SMB/Windows shares and Bluetooth shares alike.

ES File Explorer Functions

The folks behind ES File Explorer have thought about almost any method of file storage and access that you may need, as such, extra features to the app include a download manager, a built-in web browser, the ability to not only access FTP servers, but to turn your device into an FTP server itself to share specified folders, and more. ES File Explorer can even start up its own wifi hotspot for other devices to connect with. In the end, there is little that you cannot do with ES File Explorer when it comes to accessing your files, and once you’ve got them, the app even has built-in photo gallery and media players to put your files to use.

Google’s decision to remove external SD card support has been met with some hostility. Users are not happy about this decision, especially those that have invested hundreds of dollars on buying SD cards and applications which have been incapacitated by this change. ES File Explorer had a history of bypassing the default Android constructs by offering root capabilities, including access to system files. This same spirit is evident in their recent update, version 3.1.2 brings the root-only ability to once again read and write files to an external SD card. Check for the update on your device, or hit the Google Play Store to download a fresh copy.

ES File Explorer Media Player

The update to ES File Explorer will not bring back the required permissions to all of your affected apps. It is still great to see a big player at least create a workaround to an otherwise annoying security upgrade. We hope that Google finds a way to securely return this functionality in the future, or at least to introduce a new level of app permissions to let us users decide if we trust apps with all of our precious files saved on our external SD cards.

Have you been affected by the KitKat external SD card limitation? What is your number one app that you can no longer use as you used to? Are you more willing to root your devices, or find a cloud storage solution for your files? So many questions, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

  • I downloaded the update this morning on my Galaxy Note 3 and i can write to the SD Card (My Music collection) using ES Explorer, and my Note 3 isn’t rooted

    • guest maybe

      yep me too on my note 3,can do wrote thing on my sd card now,before o was thinkin my sd card broke
      i almost purchased new one,thx google

    • Benjamin Pavel

      This thing only affects phones with Kitkat so if you’re still rocking 4.3 you will not be affected by that :)

      • I think by now, every Note 3 owner is rocking the Kitkat upgrade like i am. So i can say that this Kitkat SD workaround works even if you are not rooted and running Kitkat on your Note 3

  • Paul Allen

    Could AA please do an in-depth article (if you haven’t already done so) giving more examples of how this new SD card restriction might affect users? For example, does this restriction also apply to the stock file manager app? Almost everything on my microSD was put there via computer (music and videos), and honestly, I wouldn’t mind having the option to prevent apps from modifying/deleting at least some of the contents of the card, but I can also see how this might be a problem for more advanced users. If Google really is doing this for security reasons, couldn’t they get around this problem by forcing developers to allow us to move their apps to SD? I’ve read a lot of speculation that this is just a ploy by Google to get us using the cloud but I can see how it might also help Android OEMs sell their more expensive 64, 128 GB devices as well as wireless carriers looking to sell more data.

    • Guest123
    • ArtK

      Basically all apps that need to browse sdcard root will possibly broken on KitKat. The most severe is file manager.
      Others can be solved simply by putting files into their own designated folder. For ex. poweramp, video player, emulators.

    • asdakkkkkeeeed

      A good way to look at it is similar to apple’s app oriented world. Want to browse pdf files? Open you pdf app. Want to browse music? It’s in the music app. File managers are obviously hit at their foundation. But the biggest impact is your content is only visible to the app that owns it. For example two pdf viewers would not have the same pdfs! You would have to download the pdf twice in each app. You would have to download your music twice in each app if you use two music players.. That’s my understanding. Basically going from file system to app oriented. Anyways im not affected at all since i rooted and my rom turned off this security feature entirely. You mostly won’t notice it since you probably use one app per file type. Some people use multiple apps for things like music or whatever

      • ChicagoBob

        How about a Office app you open a downloaded doc and want to save it back to your DOCS folder you made on the SD drive? Now?? you cant even save it back to the downloads folder.

  • suprafly

    My GS5 was already rooted on day 1 with 64gb micro sd card. Had to use “root browser” app in order to copy files, create, delete to sd card. Wasn’t until i receive the ES File explorer last night with updates, that I was now able too write, and copy files to my SD card. Looking to get 128 sd card soon..

  • The-Sailor-Man

    One of the reasons ppl to buy Samsung devices, is that their high-end devices bypass this Android limitation. They always support, “move to SD” out of the box

    • vladashram

      Yet the Samsung Galaxy S 5 did not allow apps to write to external SD cards outside of their designated folders because it runs Kitkat. All current Kitkat devices that have an SD card slot support “move to SD card” because when it does it it simply moves the app folder over.

  • Skya

    Google could simply solve this by adding ‘Shared Folder’ in sdcard.
    – App can access both their own folder and shared folder.
    – User can store file in shared folder and make it accessible from any apps.
    – File manager can’t access other apps’ folder, but can manage files in shared folder. It’s better than nothing.

    We can get a balance between security and user freedom.

    • Jonathan Feist

      Shared folders is a great option. I still think the answer would be to educate the user and add extra permissions to that apps. It should be my choice, with fair warning, that I am giving an app full control of my files, if it goes wrong, well, they warned me.

      I am more afraid of an app that can take over the screen than I am of an app writing to my SD card, but I can still install apps that take over the screen. (Link Bubble rocks, by the way.)

      • Michael Samsara

        So much “confusion” and irritation could be so easily solved – and eliminated completely before it even became a blip on anyone’s radar – if Google simply clearly delineated their intentions and purpose(s) as well as respected the fact that if you or I – as adults – choose to buy a device; choose to install an app and knowingly give it permissions to do things on our device that we wish to do – we, as big boys and girls, do not need “big brother Google” looking over our shoulders to protect us from ourselves. (So they don’t get bad PR when the idiots among us do as idiots do – get themselves in trouble.)

        There is no way Google or any over arching entity – be it Humongous Corporation or a government – of any type can protect those who refuse to use their heads from themselves – people who are smarter and evil will – not may – will find away around all the fixed fortification impediments designed to stand in their ways.

        • Jonathan Feist

          Very well thought and presented perspective Michael. Responding in short, what if Google were to expend the roles of enabling Developer Options on a device? Specifically, should a user not turn on Dev options, they would be assumed a novice user requiring the ‘protections’ that we are seeing implemented. Then, users that turn on Dev options would be subject to more ‘risks.’ The opt-in action of enabling Dev options puts users into the continued growth stream (beta, if you will) that does not allow Google to become complacent, while the rest of the users go about their blissfully ignorant mobile experience, benefiting from the growth enabled by the few.

          Perhaps Developer Options is not the appropriate opt-in tool here – I simply wonder if a multi-tier user experience, one of which lets our apps access our external SD cards, is a good way to go?

          • Michael Samsara

            Great minds obviously think alike Jonathan! (Or is it as my late mother-in-law – who was British used to say – “…small minds seldom differ.” LOL)

            After I wrote that I got to thinking – If they are concerned about people getting hurt (and I do believe that was/is the motivation) put in about two or three steps that require deliberate steps that force you to be aware of what we are doing – make whatever dire threats to our manhood they need to make us aware that we are about to venture into potentially dangerous territory and now that we have been forewarned they are not responsible if bogey man gets us.

            We are living in a world – at least in the Western parts of it – where supposedly well intentioned governments and businesses have taken it upon themselves to try to bleed out of existence all threats to our existences by making life fool proof. Cannot be done. There are not limits to the ways a fool can think of to screw up. But, what you do end up doing is adding layer upon layer upon layer of complications and “safeguards” that make it harder and harder for those who are careful, who are intelligent enough to recognize that they – not the state or the company selling me a device – are responsible for using their God given intelligence to use same – to operate freely and creatively.

            Thus the term – “Nanny State” where – from cradle to grave society attempts to insulate us through its beneficent, tender ministrations from the harsh reality of that frightening experience called actually living your own life – and tries to get us to substitute the pale reflection of going through the motions of living that falls under the heading of “doing what everyone else is doing”.

  • Leonardo Rojas

    When I updated my Xperia ZL to the latest 4.3 build (.101) I could no longer install apps outside the Play Store. It turned out impossible to install apps I had downloaded from APK Mania (many months ago) and from my backups stored in my SD (from 4.2 when my ZL was rooted). The “Install” button was greyed out and there was no way to install/use those apps. I had paid for most of them and were versions I liked more than their latest (like NFS 1.0.46). It was such a nuisance!!! And the ZL is not rootable anymore without unlocking the bootloader which was not possible for my unit.

    Now this not very smart and kind of abusive restriction for SD card read and write. I think I’ll stay on 4.3 indefinitely!

    My ZL was stolen. I’m switching to LG. The G2 is better in several aspects and uses better personalization options, not like silly Themes from Sony and fixed look & feel appeareance.
    A pitty the -LTE- G2 doesn’t have SD card suppot, but seems like it’s not needed anymore.

  • Leonardo Rojas

    What is your number one app that you can no longer use as you used to?
    Regarding my latest update (4.2 to 4.3) experience, it’s Need for Speed Most Wanted version 1.0.46 that I could no longer use/install. The latest one (1.0.50) is horrible!! High graphics totally disabled and EA won’t tune it and gives a piggy tail about it!

    Are you more willing to root your devices?
    Absolutelly, yes. The G2 I’ll purchase next have to have unlockable bootloader, just in case.

    Or find a cloud storage solution for your files?
    Not really. Not paid, at least.
    I tried to test Mediafire, Mega and Dropbox to upload my collection of Mangas and save me some storage space. In the end I found I had used 680MB of internal storage only from the cache the Dropbox and Gallery app had created for the pages I read, and 1.2GB in total -.-
    I know all that can be cleared, but the system will create the cache again in no time. And what If I want to read again, I have to spend Data again.
    So, not really convenient, the cloud. It’s more useful for online backups for me.

    Cache folders should go in the external storage and stupid Sony should add filters for the Gallery app so not every picture show up there.

    • Jonathan Feist

      Aww, that sucks Leonardo, NFSMW is a great game, but only, as you say, with high graphics turned on. It looks like rooting is the overall best way to keep using an SD card, but in the end, I am just going to focus on phones with large internal storage. This is going to cost us all money one way or another.

  • A Human

    Thanks for pointing this out I was considering upgrading my s4 to kitkat but I won’t bother anymore

  • anon

    shouldn’t forced people to root to be able to use such features.

  • Matt Dowdy

    If you’re rooted then surely you would just use SD fix app from the play store
    that restores access to the external SD card for all apps on KitKat.

    • kozjegyzo

      Yeah, exactly! You don’t need ES File explorer, just use any app you are used to… I’m not rooting my S5 yet though, until there is no way of safely unrooting without it being noticed, I’m not risking my warranty.

      • l0lh4xl0l

        Towelroot doesn’t trip Samsung’s Knox warranty, even if you are rooted.

        • kozjegyzo

          Thanks, that’s awesome info. Too bad I only noticed your comment after the OTA update to my S5 yesterday. Now Towelroot is useless for the time being. Waiting for them to update, then I’ll root the hell out of it, and putting some worthy custom ROM, instead of touchwiz and all that Samsung crap (ok not all is crap, but most of it is)

  • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

    I have had quite the opposite experience that I have posted here:

    I use the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S4, official KitKat, NOT rooted or messed-with. I use ES File Explorer to read, write, delete files at will AFTER it was updated. I also use MapFactor, Navfree, and OSMAnd+ navigation apps and they all have a built-in option to store maps on the external SD Card. These, too, had to be updated to allow storage on the SD card, with MapFactor having just released an update 2 days ago to allow us to move maps to SD card. There are other apps that have done a similar thing.

    Also read this:

  • kozjegyzo

    Too bad you need to root for this. If you do however, you don’t need to use ES, you can just get the SD Fix app from the play store and blam! you have your access back.
    ES however does give you a little without rooting. I was able to create folders on the SD card, but nothing else. Moving or creating files did not work.

  • whip

    I just underwent surgery and have been taking some photos. I don’t want this to be displayed in gallery app and was using the. Nomedia file to prevent the folder from getting scanned. Was using Es file explorer for this but after the kitkat update I can’t create the file nor move the images toa folder.this just pisses me off as I don’t want to root my phone to enable this.

  • Chuck

    Es Explorer works without root!!! I accidentally hit the update button when my annoying Verizon version of Note 3 popped up. fyi…u cant get rid of update notification on verison phones… they force you to update. I didn’t have root before and no root after update. Running on Kitkat with Es Explorer, I can delete files, folders, copy files and folders anywhere on the external SD card and internal sdcard. My Beyond Podcast app can’t delete its own files on the external card… but Es Explore removed it just fine. I thought it must have been a fluke and rebooted. I checked the deleted files and folders where still gone as it should be. So Es Explore found a great work around!!! And it doesn’t need root!!!!!!! Well at least in the Samsung Note 3 on Verizon kitkat version. Hope it works for everyone else too.

  • ChicagoBob

    Yes I am very upset by this. Its the way I use my phone every day. I download a movie at night and play at lunch.
    I upload music to my NAS so I can play it at home. I download music from my NAS. etc etc. All without hooking up one cable.
    I can NOT root my phone without breaking the warranty. The S5 came with Kit Kat installed. There is no where for me to go except to return the phone. I am DEEPLY disappointed in Google and how dumb I was for supporting them.

  • Ice Blerk

    I’ve recently moved from a Samsung S3 to an HTC One (M8). Both are great devices, the S3’s functionality meant I didn’t need to replace my laptop when it began to fail. So when I moved to the HTC and found access to my SD card was restricted to the point of being virtually non-existant I was furious. Kit kat’s lack of SD card support has completely hamstrung the power of my smartphone.
    Apparently the only hope I have is to “root” my phone, which will invalidate my warranty. And why should I do that?
    It’s a joke.

  • gregge

    Wasn’t Google’s motto at one time “Don’t be evil”? Now why are they doing like Apple and Microsoft and taking away features that many people use and depend on?

  • Thomas wang

    hanks share this article.sometiomes i use tomi file manager,I think it have beautiful ui and clear category,such as music,photo,video,document,the download address is :

  • Hugh Jass

    I used to happily store photos and videos I shot in the internal memory on my old GS2. That is, until one day it suddenly died (flash memory chip gone kaputt, a common occurrence on Samsung phones I gathered afterwards), and I lost a year’s worth of precious memory.
    So when I went to get my next phone, I made a point of storing all my photos and videos on the external SD card so that even if the phone breaks, I can simply remove the SD card and be reunited with my treasured memories. I find the stock Samsung photo viewer to be lethargic and tedious so I use third party viewers to view, edit and rearrange my photos and videos into folders. Somehow Google now wishes to deprive me of these pleasures.
    If we wanted a Nazi Big Brother OS hindering everything we do on our phone iOS style, we would simply have gone out and bought iPhones. It is exactly the fact that we do not like the way iOS works that we are using Android devices. My first proper smartphone was briefly an iPhone 4, when it made me do things as mind-numbingly stupid as emailing a file to myself as the only way of sharing between apps and downloading the same file over and over again into different apps in order to edit it. Oh! The humanity of it all! The kind of thoughtless waste of bandwidth Apple instills is just criminal.
    This is not the first iOStisation implemented into Android by Google, perhaps trying to fish users from the iPhone camp with limited success, but what it is doing is definitely driving away the very users who made Android and wishes to stay with it. It will also drive everyone to root their devices, creating more security problems than it solved. By trying to mimick iOS, Google is committing suicide. When are you going to wake up, Google?
    I have been a proud owner of 10 Android phones up to this point in time, but I am saying my next phone won’t be a device running Android.

  • BuffyDawn Summers

    I’ve bought a Tab 4 a month ago, which came with a useless 8gb card. Only today I noticed the sdcard bug. A clown nose would be a better acessory. Therefore, I’ve already “restricted the permissions” for my two other android devices to update to KitKat and I am now looking for options in the competition. By the way, does WP allow us to use our sdcard as we see fit?
    Google is transforming an once open source OS into a proprietary one. They are not listening to the consummers of the hardware powered by their OS. They are taking features of their phone that made us jump into the Android bandwagon. They are gearing up to be Apple. It seems they did not learn anything from Microsoft and their Nokia’s.
    That said it was exactly the environment that Google is now pursuing that made Android in the first place. So, let’s hope that another SO comes along to keep the freedom to use our phone as we know it.

  • Chris Singale

    Mine is Xperia Z2, not rooted, and File Commander is able to fully access my external sd card

  • Jim1937

    Google and Android are beginning to act like Microsoft and decide what is best for little me instead of letting this grey head decide what I want. They are starting to suck!

  • geoff

    I cannot save/write my PDF files from within Adobe Reader to the external SD card, after upgrading to Android 4.4.2 on my Samsung Galaxy 10.1 2014 edition. I can only open and read PDF files from the external SD card. Similarly for text editor apps, etc. The Galaxy “My Files” still works as usual, which can copy or move files between internal and external SD cards.

  • Ray890


  • P

    In fairly new to Android, but can see what Google is up to. I won’t be buying any device running KitKat, so when my current needs replacing it’s goodbye Android. Hoping Windows 10 will allow some functionality.

  • Casey Smith

    How do I play movies saved on my ext. SD card? the same file that plays when stored on internal storage says it cannot be played once I move it to the SD card. even ES Media Player returns the same error

  • Brandon Echerd

    I can no longer store my music on my ext. SD!? I use ES to move files to my SD and now I can’t download them straight to it or move them there! I also can’t obtain root on my current device because of carrier limitations and low dev support. This is stupid!

  • hans

    Bad thing from googl

  • disqus_skqiI5Ox8K

    I’m going to use apple after this funny upgrade,android is much more useless than ever. And here u are.This big F is for you, google!

  • In Galaxy Tab S 8.4 WiFi model (Android 4.4.2), i only can copy/paste/move files to my external SD when i use the default file manager provider by Samsung, and works great!.

  • Louie Andrew Capulso

    well, this is bullshit.. WTF GOOGLE? WHY SO EVIL?