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I was using adb shell to have a peek at what's going on a Sony Xperia Z phone. I've noticed a few services (e.g. com.sonymobile.socialengine.plugins, com.google.android.youtube, etc.).

I'd like to know more about, like where would such a service live and what files it uses.

So far I've using find or other typical linux commands, but the phone isn't rooted so I'm a bit stuck.

Is there a way to do that ? If so, how ? If not, what are my options ?

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That's a broad topic, and hard to answer in short -- as it involves many aspects. As DevOfZot already pointed out, apps store their "private data" below /data/data/<package_name> -- a place usually only accessible by the app itself and root. But there are some other places as well, where apps e.g. save their cached data, temporary data, downloads, and more.

Some good places to start your investigation include:

As you can see, here at Android Enthusiasts (and on other stacks as well), tags are a good place when looking for general information:

  1. From the navigation bar on top, follow the Tags link. On the page that leads you to, you can filter the pretty long list to find those tags which might be of interest to you.
  2. Move your mouse over the tag-of-interest, and from the popup select "info". This brings you to the wiki of the corresponding tag, which often contains first-aid and other useful information.
  3. From there, use the navigational links to discover most-frequented, highest-rated, and otherwise sorted questions using this tag.
  4. You'll easily find your way from there, using further links -- be it "Amazon-style" links like "Questions tagged this were also tagged that", related questions (automatically selected by our friendly droids -- ahem, robots), or questions manually linked by users.

Enjoy your research! Btw: If you want to dig even deeper, a good book is Andrew Hoog's Android Forensics and Mobile Security. It not only explains file structures and how apps work, but also shows weeknesses, attack vectors, and more -- using good examples and a Linux VM :)

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  • Wow, this is a very comprehensive response, thanks! (+1). – George Profenza May 23 '13 at 10:12
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    Yupp -- my idea was it might serve as index :) Btw: It was set up the very same way it describes: by following the tag links #D – Izzy May 23 '13 at 11:32
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Applications normally store their data in /data/data/com.foo.bar but you won't have access to that via adb on an unrooted device, by design. I don't think there's a way around that without rooting the phone.

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