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One of my biggest gripes with Android is that most devices don’t come with an app that lets you explore the file system. Imagine trying to use Windows without File Explorer or Mac without Finder. It’s a frustrating experience, if you ask me.

That explains why there are so many file explorer apps on the Play Store The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android There are a bunch of file management and file exploring apps out there for Android, but these are the best. Read More , many of which are free and effective. This is basic functionality that all computing devices need to have, including smartphones and tablets. So if you feel like your Android is limited in what it can do 13 Android Tips & Tricks You Probably Didn't Know About 13 Android Tips & Tricks You Probably Didn't Know About Come with us as we dive into the Android operating system and explore some cool hidden features. Read More , it may be the lack of a file explorer.

And as file explorer apps go, there’s one that really sticks out: ES File Explorer (ESFE) with its 4.5 rating across 3.6 million reviews. That’s about as good as it gets on the Play Store, but is it really that good? Let’s take a look.

Download: ES File Explorer (Free with ads, Pro for $2.99)

Interface and Looks

Appearances matter, especially for apps that involve digital organization. If you don’t like how an app looks, feels, or operates, then you’ll be less likely to use it in the long run — and if you aren’t using it, then you may as well uninstall it.

Having tested ESFE for a while now, my verdict is: it’s not bad. Keep in mind that I personally tend to prefer minimalism over eye candy, so that definitely colors my experience with this app, but I’d say that ESFE walks the middle line pretty well.

Its approach to aesthetic design is clean: sharp lines, soft colors, no clashing elements, and just the right amount of whitespace where necessary. But it isn’t a simplistic app. In fact, it can feel a bit bloated at times, which we’ll cover more in the sections below.

There are two more things to note about ESFE. First, it’s more customizable than you might expect. Not only can you change display views and themes, but every feature has its own settings page that you can tweak to your liking. Second, ESFE is fast and responsive — even on my four-year-old phone.

File Management Features

ESFE has all of the basic features you’d expect in a file explorer app, and based on my experience with other apps of this kind, I’d say that ESFE did a great job in terms of usability, intuitiveness, and efficiency. Here are some of the more important features worth pointing out:

  • Real-time file and folder search. As you type into the search box, the results will update with every character you input. Perfect for finding lost files or simply navigating to a file that’s buried under several layers of folders.
  • Cut, copy, paste, rename, delete, or compress both files and folders. If you long-press, you can select multiple files and folders and perform one operation on them all at the same time.
  • Built-in support for file compression and encryption. Out of the box, ESFE can compress and decompress files in 7Z, GZ, and ZIP formats. It can also encrypt and decrypt using AES-256, which is great for protection, and it can unpack RAR files (but can’t create RAR files of its own).
  • Built-in viewers and players for various file types. Want to see what that image looks like? Open it with ES Image Viewer. Or what if you want to preview a movie clip? Check it out with ES Media Player. Other options exist as well, such as ES Note Editor for text files.
  • Favorite files for quick access. By favoriting frequently-accessed files, you can then use the Favorites filter to quickly access those files whenever you need.
  • Remote file management and file transfers. You can browse, manage, and transfer the files on your device through FTP with a computer on the same Wi-Fi network. You can also transfer files to nearby capable devices through Bluetooth.

Root access is NOT necessary to use ESFE, but if your device is rooted, you can enable the Root Explorer feature to browse and edit ALL of the files and folders on your device, including system-level ones. It also allows you to modify file and folder permissions.

Other Notable Features

On top of the basic file management functionality, ESFE offers a handful of other features that you may or may not find useful:

  • Cache cleaner. You can clear all cached data on your device, or you can set it up so that cache clearing automatically happens when you exit out of ESFE.
  • Backup and restore. ESFE can create backups of individual folders or your entire file system. These backups, which are basically just ZIP files, can be password protected or not. Restoration is easy as well.
  • Cloud storage integration. Supports several different services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3, Box.net, and more.
  • Password protection. Though optional, you may want to consider setting up a password to access the ESFE app itself, or at the very least a password to access networked files.
  • File system analyzer. This works similar to Disk Cleanup in Windows: it analyzes your device for files that you can safely delete, including junk download files, obsolete APKs, redundant files, and files that are particularly large. It’s a nifty way to free up a lot of wasted space on your SD card.

You can add extra functionality through a couple of freely available plugins, such as streaming to Chromecast with the ES Chromecast plugin or one-tap task killing with the ES Task Manager plugin (automated task killers are bad but manual task killers are okay Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More ).

Issues and Drawbacks

ESFE has two major drawbacks that may turn you away from using it:

  • First, the app tries to do too much. The most common complaint among Play Store reviews for ESFE has to do with the fact that it feels bloated with unnecessary features. If you want a barebones app that only does file management, you should look elsewhere. I personally think the extra features are easy to ignore and don’t impact performance.
  • Second, the free version is relatively heavy on ads. I didn’t run into any banner ads, which was great, and I never saw any popup ads, which was even better. But you will find ads embedded in various areas, such as the system analyzer results page. I find them tolerable, but your mileage may vary. The annoying status bar notifications can also be disabled in the settings.

Because of these two drawbacks, a lot of people recommend staying away from ES File Explorer. That’s a bit too harsh if you ask me — ESFE offers a lot of power and flexibility for a free app, but if you can find a comparable app without these hindrances, by all means go for it.

The Pro version of ESFE removes ads, allows you to change themes, and ignore NOMEDIA files for just $2.99.

Ultimately, I hesitate to flat-out recommend ESFE because it tends to be hit-or-miss depending on how much tolerance you have for ads. But I do recommend that you give it a try for a few days and see how you like it. You may find that the drawbacks don’t bother you much, in which case ESFE can be an excellent app.

Download: ES File Explorer (Free with ads, Pro for $2.99)

So what do you think? Does ES File Explorer deserve its incredible Play Store rating or is there another app that you prefer to use? What do you like or dislike about it? Share with us in the comments below!

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  1. tim
    July 18, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    for all those hating on this app, i suggest looking up an older version of it. Before it had ads. Download the .apk file, save it to your sd card, install it, uncheck auto update.

  2. Md Milhan
    April 3, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    All I want to know about Es file manager it also gives encryption method to secure files with 128-bit can you tell about this ? Can I upload files or photos after encrypting them using ES explorer ? It is an android app and is it store password which we enter for encryption ??

  3. Ryan
    February 7, 2017 at 6:37 am

    I've used ESFE for years -- since switching from Astro for a reason I no longer remember.
    I decided to purchase the pro version when the ads (to which I have a very low tolerance) started to appear. The lack of ads alone would have been worth twice the price. The darker theme is a nice bonus.
    I often find the SD Analyst feature handy, as well as the built-in media playing and Chromecast streaming capabilities. It's a great app all around.

  4. John Doe
    January 28, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    It seems good but I'm having trouble trying to copy/share my music, picture, video files from my zte avid plus smartphone internal memory to my micro SD card so I can put it in my micro SD adapter and put that in my ps3 to transfer those files.. I'm stuck plz help

  5. Brian
    January 17, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    What others are saying about it being crap, totally hit the nail on the head. I've been really enjoying MUO lately, but this article is unapologetically WRONG. ES file explorer is the WORST. And I was a user of the app for YEARS. It used to be of my install-it-right-away-on-my-new-device apps. But then they started plaguing it with timed ads, full pop ups, additional "features" that only confused and whose functionality were blatant lies. They added a bunch of stuff that no one wanted. You seriously can no longer trust the developer. That rating btw... they're riding on the coat tails of good ratings in years gone by.
    Solid Explorer ABSOLUTELY for the win!

  6. androidbytheface
    January 16, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Some people here are recommending Solid Explorer but they don't say which version.

    There's Solid Explorer 1, now called classic, and not recommended by the developers, and Solid Explorer 2, a try for 14 days before you buy version.

    I don't like neither of them and I just use an older ES File Explorer version, without all the garbage.

    • FlawsAndAll
      May 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      I'm with androidbytheface. ES Was my go to file explorer, along with Xplorer and fx Explorer. I ALWAYS wait to update apps to read the feedback. After hearing Es was sold and all the bloat being added, I am still using it but am older version 3.2.5.1. A glance through XDA reflects many others that feel the same and have not updated past 3.2.X.X. I'm sure the new versions may be good as I like the original dev. who I think stayed on, at first. Now I do not know. But that happens. Make a good product and why shouldn't someone pet to buy? Many devs do this as a side gig and maintaining apps and keeping up with updates to Androids fragmented system eats A Lot of time and effort. Term of selling the app and how it is maintained are between dev and buyer and the end user ultimately decides to keep or kick. Glad the dev was rewarded for a product I heavily use daily, but I refuse to update. Simple and no whining. So rooted or not keep a backup of your favorite version in Titanium Backup or extract the APK for reinstall if needed. To me and my old phone it still does what I need it to do and have another apps for specific features /reasons.

  7. eric
    January 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Been using es too for quite some time and its a good one. Well I can take those ads.

  8. vitavision.com
    January 16, 2017 at 1:27 am

    SolidExplorer for the win! :)
    You have to check it out. I switched from ES cause it's too clumsy now.

  9. Gary
    January 15, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Are you serious! ES File explorer was ruined by all the garbage added to it. It used to be great. Solid explorer is so much better. Dual pane, cloud storage, samba sharing, ftp to and from device, and so on. The UI is clean and theme-able.

    • FlawsAndAll
      May 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      I like X-Plore v. 3.93.5. also dual pane but better implemented than say FX, handles root functions, transmits data via several means, etc. I like the way it also has its own built in players and viewers.
      The best about E-Plore, IMHO, is of configured right, displays info on size and date of files and folders.
      MOST IMPORTANT, it can browse zipped files AND APKs without extracting them. So you can see and read what is inside say an APK, though the text editor is not as good as the version of ES I use, 3.2.5.0,I think. The ES text editor allows you to change the encoding method used on files, usually gibberish or another language without slays having to use a separate app. Not always though.
      Unless you have something that can read APK manifests, less likely to break an app opposed to removing permissions, at least on my old device and OS, ES dos What i need so i use the an old version i keep backed up and wanted to add my 2 cents about X-Plore. X-Plore's dual pane provides the best UX, for my purposes.
      That's just me. Thanks for the article but I'll stick with the older version of ES.

  10. Pravin S
    January 15, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    ES File Explorer was good and light to use. I used it primarily to gain access to system folders. But they ruined the user experience by making it heavy and intrusive ads. Incorporating features that we don't use. They could have added these as plugins.

    But last year, I switched to Solid Explorer. It is worth the price. It does everything I expected on ES File explorer. It brings more value for the money than ES.

  11. Zinc Whiskers
    January 15, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I just paid the $3 for the full version back when all the ad BS started.

    My fave feature is the Chromecast plug-in that I use all the time...so I didn't mind paying.