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How to fix "Screen overlay detected" error

So, you’ve received the “screen overlay detected” message and have no idea what to do. Well, follow this step-by-step guide, and be troubled no longer.

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Error message “Screen overlay detected”: the cause

The problem: Android suddenly warns you that a screen overlay has been detected.

AndroidPIT screen overlay detected 1
The error message in question. / © AndroidPIT

The reason: This message appears when you’re running a floating app, and then start a newly installed one, which requests access rights. Floating apps include the chat heads of Facebook Messenger that can appear floating above other apps.

Affected Smartphones: Users across the internet have reported experiencing this problem on Samsung and Motorola smartphones. It seems likely to affect many manufacturers. AndroidPIT managed to replicate the behavior on a Vodafone and a Samsung smartphone.

Problem apps: We replicated the problem using Drupe, but ES File Explorer, CleanMaster, Lux and Twilight have all been blamed for the problem.

AndroidPIT screen overlay detected 2
Drupe is one of many apps that may be the cause of the error. / © AndroidPIT

The technical background: As a security measure, apps ask for permission to use certain parts of your phone (internal storage, camera, etc.). In theory, a display overlay can interfere with the dialogue requesting permission, so you need to disable the feature to interact with the dialogue.

The solution: a step-by-step fix

Step one: "Screen overlay detected" fix

Find you what apps have permission to draw over the screen. On a non-Samsung smartphone, follow these steps:

  • Open the Settings
  • Tap the magnifying glass at the top right
  • Enter the search term “draw”
  • Tap Draw over other apps
  • Alternative route: Apps> [gear  icon]> Draw over other apps

For Samsung users:

  • Open the Settings
  • Then Applications > Application manager
  • Press on More > Apps that can appear on top
AndroidPIT screen overlay detected 3
How to find the settings for app overlays on a Samsung device. / © AndroidPIT

Step two

You will find yourself in front of a list of apps that have permission to use floating buttons or other screen overlays. Now you need to identify the problem app and temporarily deny it permission to draw over the screen. Here is are some pointers on how to identify the app that’s causing trouble:

  • Do you see an app bubble on your screen? If do, this app is almost certainly the cause. Either you hide the app bubble or disable the app in the list
  • Do you have an app installed that changes the colors on the display or adjusts the brightness?
  • Reportedly, Clean Master can be a trouble maker. If you see Clean Master in the list, disable it
  • If there’s no obvious cause, disable everything
AndroidPIT screen overlay detected 4
The list of apps that are allowed overlay permissions. / © AndroidPIT

Step three

Now you can try launching the app again, and it should request permissions without the “Display overlay detected” error getting in the way.

For Samsung users: We have also received a report that suggests the one-handed keyboard setting could be the root cause. Deactivate it by going to Settings> Advanced features > One-handed operation.

AndroidPIT screen overlay detected 5
Drupe can also be a victim of the screen overlay error, but here it is fixed. / © AndroidPIT

Step four: reactivate screen overlays

In order for the app(s) that you have disabled in step two to work again, you need to re-enable its overlay permissions. If you turned off all apps, it might be worth considering only reactivating those apps that you actually use.

This is a rather inelegant workaround, but it's the best we have until Google makes the necessary changes to prevent app overlays from interfering with permission dialogues.

Has this guide helped? If you are still experiencing the error after following our guide, leave a comment, so we can try and address the problem.

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  • After disabling all apps also, found same issue. Frustrated with this.

  • i do not have most of the 'culprit' apps mentioned here, especially got rid of ES explorer and still get that dam message. I disabled all my apps without any luck. I can't even open a new app even after it was installed because of that message.

  • frustrated for hours and delete the assistive touch app, i am free again.
    samsung c5 pro

  • ...and again, I disabled everything (5 apps at a time) but still got the error. I then uninstalled ES File Explorer and this fixed it.
    Samsung Note 4

  • Thank you So So So much..
    I was frustrated being not able to add/edit my contacts on my brand new S7 due to this stupid "screen overlay" error.
    Problem solved..!!!!!
    ES File Explorer was a culprit. App is good though, I was using since long time on my earlier phones.

    • Thank You X10 for posting ES File Explorer; pooched 5 hours of my time, not to mention downloading OS upgrade 5X. Learned a lot in settings tho Much Appreciated

  • Thank you. On my Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 I disabled everything but still got the error. I then uninstalled ES File Explorer and this fixed it. From all of the comments here this app is clearly a problem.

  • Thanks for the article. Request you to add ES File Explorer as a possible troubling app in the article.

    • Brittany McGhee
      • Admin
      • Staff
      2 weeks ago Link to comment

      We've added it to our list of potential problem apps in the article. Thanks for the comment!

    • I tried everything, finally I decided to go into 'Application Manager' and 'Force Stop' Es File Explorer, than walla. Finally!

    • My reply is too late no doubt but it may help someone. My phone is a Huawei and I tried every option available that I had found on the web - nothing worked. Then I realised that I had a "floating app" on the screen called " floating dock" which is a shortcut for a number of functions. I disabled this by going to settings, smart assistance and selecting floating dock off. My what's app then worked fine - I wasn't able to download any photos with it but now it is ok, after selecting on for storage in whats app.

  • I UNINSTALLED ES FILE EXPLORER, AND IT WORKS. THANKYOU FOR THE COMMENTS.

  • After uninstalling esexplorer file manager works fine. Thanks for all guys who gave this suggestion.

  • I had to uninstall my app that filtered blue light on my tablet, now everything is working again!

  • SOLUTION: this issue was driving me CRAZY. I had to uninstall ES File Explorer as well. You're the BEST.

  • SOLUTION: uninstall ES File Explorer!! Thanks for all the guys that suggested it!!!

  • Uninstalling ES File explorer worked for me... probably won't install it again!

    • Eventually tracked this down to an ES File Explorer 'add in' .. Just disable 'ES swipe' from the main ES File Explorer menu, no need to uninstall it

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