Android File System Explained

Android is a mobile operating system with many similarities to other popular computing platforms, such as Windows and macOS. However, while it may look and feel similar to other operating systems, some key differences exist. One of these differences is in how Android stores files on your device. In this post, we will cover the basics of how Android manages its storage and how you can access things like internal memory, external storage devices like SD cards and USB drives, and data files on these devices.

A Beginner Guide to Android File Systems and Directory Structure

Android file systems are based on Linux and Unix. The Android file system is organized into directories, which can contain files and subdirectories.

The Android operating system’s boot partition contains the necessary boot code that starts up your device when you turn it on or restart it after a crash. It contains different files, including the kernel image, ramdisk image, and zygote process (which allows apps to run).

The data partition contains all your data, such as photos, videos, music files, and other media content stored on your device’s internal memory (or RAM). Android’s core software does not use this partition; instead, it’s reserved for user app data storage only.

Android uses its own “ext4” format for storing these partitions (and similar ones made by other manufacturers) instead of FAT32 due to better performance characteristics such as faster file indexing speeds along with better security features built-in like encryption capabilities where only authorized users can access those files stored within this part of their devices’ hard drives if need be!

The recovery partition is a small partition on your device that’s used to boot into a special Android system recovery mode. This allows you to perform advanced troubleshooting tasks, such as flashing custom ROMs and performing backups of your current operating system, which are often necessary when something goes wrong with your phone or tablet.


This is a guide to the Android file system and directory structure. It’s designed for beginners who are new to Android and want to understand how it works or for people who want more control over their devices.

The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of storage on your phone: internal and external.

Internal storage is like the hard drive in your computer; it’s where all of your apps, photos, videos, and other data will be stored if you don’t have an external memory card installed in your device. External memory cards allow you to add extra space without having to buy a new phone or tablet every year or so; they’re typically microSD cards that fit into an adapter (or “adapter”), so they can be used with devices that weren’t designed with them in mind (like laptops).

Directory Structure

  • Root Directory: This is the topmost directory of your Android device. Users cannot modify or delete it, only by the system itself.
  • System Directory: This is where you’ll find all your core operating system files and folders, such as application APKs, executable binaries, and libraries (libs). This folder can be modified by users but only through specialized tools that allow you to modify read-only files and directories.
  • Data Directory: This directory contains user data like photos, music, videos, and configuration settings for installed apps. When deleting anything from this folder, make sure it’s not essential!
  • Cache Directory: The cache stores temporary copies of files or data downloaded from another source (the internet). You can clear this at any time without affecting other parts of your device’s file structure, so go ahead and do so when space gets tight if necessary but keep an eye on what you’re clearing as it may contain important information about installed applications that need to remain intact for them to function correctly on reboot after deletion or removal from storage location where they live during normal operation modes such as normal running states versus shutdown states caused by rebooting a phone after installing new software updates which require reactivation before being able to use again usually once they’ve been updated successfully applied correctly configured across devices.

Internal Storage

In Android, the internal storage directory stores all of your apps, music, photos, and documents. When you connect your device to a computer or transfer files between devices using a USB cable, these files are transferred from internal storage to external storage.

By default, most of an Android device’s capacity is used for internal memory, with only a small amount reserved for system applications like Android OS and Google Play Store. If you need more space to install apps or store media on your smartphone or tablet, you can swap out some of this reserved space for additional external memory if there is one available (some devices don’t come with MicroSD card slots).

How do I view my device’s current internal storage capacity?

The easiest way to check how much space remains on your phone or tablet’s hard drive is by going into Settings > Storage & USB > Internal Storage. Here you’ll see how much room there is left before reaching capacity and any helpful suggestions Google has provided, such as “Purchases may take up more than 5GB.”

External Storage

External storage stores music, photos, apps, and other files.

Most Android devices use a microSD card as their external storage. This can be mounted as a drive on your computer and formatted in either FAT32 or exFAT file systems. You can format your SD card as FAT32 if you transfer files between your Android device and other devices (e.g., laptop) since this format works better with Windows than the exFAT format. However, if you have one Android device and intend to only transfer files from it sometimes, formatting the SD card as exFAT will give it a higher capacity (upwards of 128GB).

An important thing to note about external storage on all Android devices is that multiple devices cannot use it at once—for example, if you’re using an older phone with an SD card slot but also want access its music library through streaming services like Spotify or Google Play Music on another device like your tablet or smartwatch then make sure to move any files you want off before putting them back into use!

Data Storage on SD Card

An SD card is a removable storage device that can store data and apps. They are usually faster than internal storage but are also more expensive. You can use an SD card to store music, photos, videos, and other files you want to keep separate from the rest of your phone’s system.

For your Android phone or tablet to accept data from an SD card, it must first be formatted for Android devices. The two most common file systems for SD cards are FAT32 and exFAT. Using either one will allow you to move files between other devices like computers or laptops without problems.


Android file systems are essential for managing your data. They help you organize the apps and files on your device and transfer them to other devices. Android has two main types of storage: internal storage and external storage. Internal storage stores apps and data you regularly use, while external storage stores files you don’t often use, like photos or videos.

The size of your device limits internal storage; however, external storage can be expanded with an SD card—the amount of space will vary based on the type of card (microSD cards have a maximum capacity limit). The directory structure organizes all of these different kinds of files so that they can be easily accessed and managed by users like yourself!

It’s essential to understand how to manage your files on mobile.

The Android file system is different from what you’re used to. You might be surprised by some of the things you learn about it, but there are plenty of reasons why knowing if you want to get more out of your device is essential.

Android is a powerful mobile operating system that you should know how to use to its fullest potential. It can do so much more than just run apps or play games; it can be used for creating documents, storing your data, and even backing up essential files from other devices with ease. This guide has covered all of these topics in detail, so you will be able to understand what goes where on your device when working with different types of files, such as pictures or music tracks.

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