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Have you someday tried to locate the file path of some image in your Files and found the file path stating something like this: ‘/storage/emulated/0/DCIM/Camera/IMG_202020430_197267.jpg’?
Now, you understand every aspect of the file path from the DCIM to the Camera to the image name, but what does the ‘/storage/emulated/0′ stand for? It must occur to you as perplexing because when you try to track the so-called ’emulated’ folder to the File Explorer, there is none in the file directory.
So, you must be wondering what exactly is ‘/storage/emulated/0′, and since there is no specific folder in the file directory under ’emulated’, how do you access it? This is what we’ll discuss in detail in this post.
What is /storage/emulated/0/ or emulated storage?
Android supports a variety of storage device types, the major ones being portable storage and emulated storage. While portable storage can be provided by media such as a USB or SD card, emulated storage is added to an Android device by allowing the exposure of the internal storage through an emulation layer.
Emulated storage indicates the file location of one item against its symlink on the device/ external storage. A symlink or a symbolic link is a file that is used as a reference to another file or directory known as the ‘target’. The symlink is a file that is directly interpreted by the OS as the path to the ‘target’.
For instance, if you’re looking at an image’s file path in the DCIM folder, you’ll see the file path stated as ‘/storage/emulated/0/DCIM/Camera’, which is just a symlink to the regular DCIM/Camera folder (or target, in this case).
Here is another example: If you’re browsing through the items in the Downloads/Music directory in the file folder, upon viewing the file path of a certain item, you’ll see something like /storage/emulated/0/Downloads/Music/xyz.mp3. Although you’ve not opened any ‘/storage/emulated/0/’ folder, you’re only browsing through the regular Downloads/Music; the file path you’re looking at is the symlink to the directory, also known as the emulated storage to the actual directory or target, i.e., Downloads/Music.
To conclude, /storage/emulated/0/ or emulated storage of any directory is nothing but the reference to the same directory.
Why does ‘/storage/emulated/0/’ or emulation exist anyway?
Whether you could see it or not, depending on the Android device you’re using, emulation exists on all files in the File Folder. The only difference lies in the symlink that is visible on some devices and on others not.
So why does emulation exist? Providing an abstraction layer or emulation on the original file system allows the restriction of unauthorized access of third-party applications and systems to the private media of the user and other data lying on physical storages such as SD cards. This translates to the fact that emulation renders your actual file system only traversable and not readable or writable by third-party apps/processes depending on the permissions.
In simple words, ‘/storage/emulated/0/’ or emulation is one approach of Android to improve the security and privacy of user data.
What is /storage/emulated/1/?
Emulation can exist in both internal and external storage; therefore, in order to distinguish between the two, Android may use 0 and 1 to depict the file directory of the item, whether it lies in the internal storage or the external storage such as an SD card.
For example, DCIM is a folder that can exist in both the device’s memory as well as external storage. Now, if DCIM in both the storages (internal and external) has emulation, it will show/storage/emulated/0/DCIM for all the items lying in the DCIM folder of the internal storage, and /storage/emulated/1/DCIM for all the items that are stored in the DCIM folder of the external storage. 1 is simply the reference to the external storage existing on the Android device.
How can I access /storage/emulated/0/ on an Android device?
Plug in your device and run adb shell, which will get you a command shell on your device. You don’t have permission to read /storage/emulated/, but since you know it’s in subdirectory 0, just go cd /storage/emulated/0, and you will be able to look around and interact as expected.
The easiest way to access /storage/emulated/0/ on an Android device is to download a third-party File Explorer such as ES File Explorer. However, let us tell you beforehand, you can only look around the folder, and that’s pretty much it. If you open the homepage of the ES File Explorer and tap on ‘Local’, you’ll see a folder named ’emulated’. However, if you tap on the folder, you will see a message ‘Empty Folder’.
On the other hand, if you tap on Internal Storage in ES, you will ultimately be redirected to a directory that contains all the folders in the Internal Storage. If you look at the path on top, you’ll see “/ >storage> emulated> 0”. If you try tapping onto ’emulated’ on the path, you’ll again see ’empty folder’.
This simply means that /storage/emulated/0/ is a root directory, and you can not really access it. Accessing a file folder on either Internal or External Storage is the same as accessing /storage/emulated/0/ it; however, if you specifically wish to access it, there’s another way you can do it.
Plug in your device to your desktop and run adb shell; since Android does not permit reading /storage/emulated/0/, you can go to its subdirectory. Since you are in your command shell (by running adb shell), you can go to cd/storage/emulated/0 and be able to look around.
What if /storage/emulated/0/XYZ says it’s missing or unreadable when a third-party app tries to read it?
Suppose you have an app that looks into a specific file or folder to search for an item of one category such as videos or music; it may look into the /storage/emulated/0/XYZ (XYZ being any sub-directory) for the same. For example, if you have Poweramp to look for music in /storage/emulated/0/Downloads folder, and if you have no music in the same folder, it will show /storage/emulated/0/Downloads as missing or unreadable.
Your app may look into this sub-directory for music for two reasons: firstly, it has been set to a default music repository in your settings, or Poweramp previously found music in the directory, which is now wiped. Now, in order to solve this, all you have to do is put some music in /storage/emulated/0/Downloads folder so Poweramp can look play for this directory, or go to Settings>Poweramp>Library>Downloads and untick Downloads as a directory where the application will look for music.
Can I delete the emulated folder in Android?
Emulated folders are just the same as your original folders, where you store all your data, including apps, data, downloads, music, and pictures. Since the actual ’emulated’ directory is only traversable and not changeable or writable, you can only delete your original folders to delete the emulated folder on your Android.