SQLiteOpenHelper problem with fully qualified DB path name

The question:

In my app, I use…

myFilesDir = new File(Environment.getExternalStorageDirectory().getAbsolutePath()
                      + "/Android/data/" + packageName + "/files");

This is fine and the resulting path is…


I need a SQLite DB which I want to store on the SD card so I extend SQLiteOpenHelper as follows…

public class myDbHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper {

    public myDbHelper(Context context, String name, CursorFactory factory, int version) {
        // NOTE I prefix the full path of my files directory to 'name'
        super(context, myFilesDir + "/" + name, factory, version);

    public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db) {
        // Create tables and populate with default data...

So far so good – the first time I call getReadableDatabase() or getWriteableDatabase() the empty DB is created on the SD card and onCreate() populates it.

So here’s the problem – the app is in beta testing with maybe 5 or 6 people and, like me, they’re running Android v2.2 and everything works fine. I have one tester, however, running v2.1 and when myDbHelper tries to create the DB on first use, it crashes with the following…

E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): Caused by: java.lang.IllegalArgumentException: File /nand/Android/data/com.mycompany.myApp/files/myApp-DB.db3 contains a path separator
E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): at android.app.ApplicationContext.makeFilename(ApplicationContext.java:1445)
E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): at android.app.ApplicationContext.openOrCreateDatabase(ApplicationContext.java:473)
E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): at android.content.ContextWrapper.openOrCreateDatabase(ContextWrapper.java:193)
E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): at android.database.sqlite.SQLiteOpenHelper.getWritableDatabase(SQLiteOpenHelper.java:98)
E/AndroidRuntime( 3941): at android.database.sqlite.SQLiteOpenHelper.getReadableDatabase(SQLiteOpenHelper.java:158)

The path for the files directory is an odd one (“/nand”) as it’s internal memory although not the phone’s own internal memory – but it is the path returned by getExternalStorageDirectory() for this device.

I can see three possible answers…

  1. Although acceptable on v2.2, specifying a fully qualified path for DB name isn’t recommended and will fail on earlier versions
  2. Fully qualified paths are acceptable for SD card storage but the “/nand” path is being interpreted as ‘internal’ and only relative paths are acceptable in this case
  3. Something else which I’m missing completely

If any or all of the above apply I’d appreciate it if somebody could help with how I should approach this.


The Solutions:

Below are the methods you can try. The first solution is probably the best. Try others if the first one doesn’t work. Senior developers aren’t just copying/pasting – they read the methods carefully & apply them wisely to each case.

Method 1

You can use the SQLiteOpenHelper with a custom path if you provide a custom ContextClass and if you have write access in the target directory.

public class DatabaseHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper {
  private static final int DATABASE_VERSION = 3;

  DatabaseHelper(final Context context, String databaseName)  {
    super(new DatabaseContext(context), databaseName, null, DATABASE_VERSION);

And here is the custom DatabaseContext class that does all the magic:

class DatabaseContext extends ContextWrapper {

  private static final String DEBUG_CONTEXT = "DatabaseContext";

  public DatabaseContext(Context base) {

  public File getDatabasePath(String name)  {
    File sdcard = Environment.getExternalStorageDirectory();    
    String dbfile = sdcard.getAbsolutePath() + File.separator+ "databases" + File.separator + name;
    if (!dbfile.endsWith(".db")) {
      dbfile += ".db" ;

    File result = new File(dbfile);

    if (!result.getParentFile().exists()) {

    if (Log.isLoggable(DEBUG_CONTEXT, Log.WARN)) {
      Log.w(DEBUG_CONTEXT, "getDatabasePath(" + name + ") = " + result.getAbsolutePath());

    return result;

  /* this version is called for android devices >= api-11. thank to @damccull for fixing this. */
  public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode, SQLiteDatabase.CursorFactory factory, DatabaseErrorHandler errorHandler) {
    return openOrCreateDatabase(name,mode, factory);

  /* this version is called for android devices < api-11 */
  public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode, SQLiteDatabase.CursorFactory factory) {
    SQLiteDatabase result = SQLiteDatabase.openOrCreateDatabase(getDatabasePath(name), null);
    // SQLiteDatabase result = super.openOrCreateDatabase(name, mode, factory);
    if (Log.isLoggable(DEBUG_CONTEXT, Log.WARN)) {
      Log.w(DEBUG_CONTEXT, "openOrCreateDatabase(" + name + ",,) = " + result.getPath());
    return result;

Update june 2012:
how does this work (@barry question):

Normal android apps have their local database files relative to the app folder. By using a customer context with overwritten getDatabasePath() the database is now relative to a different directory on the sd card.

Update feb 2015:
After replacing my old android-2.2 device with a new android-4.4 device I found out that my solution didn’t work anymore.
Thanks to @damccull-s answer I was able to fix it. I have updated this answer so this should be a working example again.

Update may 2017:

Statistics: This aproach is used in more than 200 github projects

Method 2

Historically, you have not been able to use paths with SQLiteOpenHelper. It only worked on simple filenames. I had not realized that they relaxed that restriction in Android 2.2.

If you wish to use databases on the SD card, and you wish to support Android 2.1 and earlier, you cannot use SQLiteOpenHelper.


Method 3

k3b’s answer is awesome. It got me working. However, on devices using API level 11 or higher, you may see it stop working. This is because a new version of the openOrCreateDatabase() method was added. It now contains the following signature:

openDatabase(String path, SQLiteDatabase.CursorFactory factory, int flags, DatabaseErrorHandler errorHandler)

This seems to be the method called by default on some devices with this method available.

In order to make this method work on these devices, you need to make the following alterations:

First, edit your existing method so that it simply returns the result of a call to the new method.

public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode,
        CursorFactory factory) {
    return openOrCreateDatabase(name, mode, factory, null);


Second, add the new override with the following code.

public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode, CursorFactory factory, DatabaseErrorHandler errorHandler) {
    SQLiteDatabase result = SQLiteDatabase.openOrCreateDatabase(getDatabasePath(name).getAbsolutePath(),null,errorHandler);

    return result;

This code is very similar to k3b’s code, but note that SQLiteDatabase.openOrCreateDatabase takes a String instead of a File, and I’ve used the version of it that allows for a DatabaseErrorHandler object.

Method 4

user2371653’s answere is very nice.
but I found a issue:

public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode,
        CursorFactory factory) {
    return openOrCreateDatabase(name, mode, factory, null);

this may cause crasd, if install your app at android 2.x

so we can modify it like this

public SQLiteDatabase openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode,
        CursorFactory factory) {
    return super.openOrCreateDatabase(getDatabasePath(name).getAbsolutePath(), mode, factory);

because android 2.x does not has the api

openOrCreateDatabase(String name, int mode, 
CursorFactory factory, DatabaseErrorHandler errorHandler)

Method 5

in my opinion I found a better solution on this side here (SQLite database on SD card) and wanted to inform you. Notice the entry in the constructor.

public class TestDB extends SQLiteOpenHelper {
    private static final String DATABASE_NAME = "usertest.db";
    private static final int DATABASE_VERSION = 1;

    public TestDB (Context context){
        super(context, context.getExternalFilesDir(null).getAbsolutePath() + "/" +  DATABASE_NAME, null, DATABASE_VERSION );

Quote from the user website:
“It will create the database in the app’s folder on the sdcard: /sdcard/Android/data/[your_package_name]/files. In that way the database will be seen as part of the app by android and removed automatically if the user uninstalls the app.”

“I my app I have a large database and it will in most cases not fit on old phones internal memory, e.g. HTC Desire. It runs great on the sdcard, and most apps are “moved to sdcard” themselves anyway so don’t worry about the database not being accessible, because the app won’t be accessible it self.”

All methods was sourced from stackoverflow.com or stackexchange.com, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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