Why would I get permission denied using adb to copy a directory to a subdirectory on my phone, when I could copy to its parent directory and both have the same permission?

I tried this from my PC to my Nexus 5 running 6.0.1 (Oct 5):

adb push Dir /sdcard/Dir/Subdir

It failed with

Permission denied

This has worked before, with no changes I'm aware of.

I launched adb shell and ran

ls -l

to get permissions for /sdcard (storage/emulated/0), /sdcard/Dir and /sdcard/Dir/Subdir:

drwxrwx--x root sdcard_rw

I then:

cd /sdcard/Dir/Subdir
mkdir XYZ


mdkdir: XYZ: Permission Denied


mkdir XYZ

Again, permission denied

I then tried another push

adb push XYZ /sdcard/Dir

This worked and copied all of the files.

Why would it work to /sdcard/Dir and not to /sdcard/Dir/Subdir, when both have the same permissions? Why would permission be denied for root?

  • 1
    Did you create that subdir when browsed into /data/media/0/Dir/? Either way, please provide the output of su -c 'ls -l /data/media/0/Dir/Subdir' and compare the permissions with the rest of the subdirs there.
    – Firelord
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 12:18
  • @Firelord I did not create the subdirectry when browsed there. The entire directory tree (/sdcard/Dir) was created by an adb push. Permissions for Dir are dwrxrwxr-x media_rw media_rw, while Subdir are dwrxrwxr-x root root. When using plain ls -l on storage/emulated/0, I get dwrxrwx--x root sdcard_rw on Dir?
    – foosion
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 13:39
  • 1
    Could you change the permission of /data/media/0/Dir/Subdir to rwxrwxrwx, or alternatively, change the user group from root to media_rw? Make sure to run the operations on the /data/media/0/.. path and no /storage/emulated/..
    – Firelord
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 14:14
  • @Firelord That worked (chmod 777). Thank you. What's the difference between /data/media/0 and /storage/emulated or /sdcard? The each appear to contain the same files?
    – foosion
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 17:32
  • /data/media is the real path in EXT4 filesystem. /storage hosts the FAT style emulated /data/media which you and the apps can read and write into. I do not know the reason behind this emulation.
    – Firelord
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 3:53

2 Answers 2


As it appears in this comment, the file permissions and access control to SubDir differs from what ideally should be.

The problem:

# ls -l on /data/media/0/Dir
dwrxrwxr-x root root

The user group should have been media_rw instead of root.

The solution is to change to appropriate group or make the directory writable by others.

chmod 777 /data/media/0/Dir/SubDir       # making SubDir writable by others
chgrp media_rw /data/media/0/Dir/SubDir  # Alternatively, changing group from root to media_rw

Note: you may need to install Busybox or Toybox to have and use chmod and/or chgrp.


There's a similar problem reported in adb push ... Permission denied where I ended up pushing the file to /sdcard/ and then used adb shell to then copy the file to the sub-directory I needed it to be in.

For completeness:

Let's assume I have an expansion file test.obb file I want to install on a local physical Android device, and my package name of the app is app.example.test.

I pushed the file using adb push e.g. adb push test.obb /sdcard/

adb shell

cd /sdcard/Android/obb/app.example.test/
cp /sdcard/test.obb .
ls -la

I can now see the obb file is in the folder it needs to be in.

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