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I recently bought the new Nexus 5x and Google's official USB Type-C to USB A cable. Weirdly, upon plugging my N5X into my computer for the first time, the file system did not come up as expected. What show as folders locally on my device, show up as binary files on Ubuntu 15.10. I've never seen this behaviour before in any Android device via MTP. (Everything worked fine on my old Moto G on Android 5.1.x...)

Screenshot of the issue in Nautilus:

Folders on my Nexus 5X showing as binary files in Nautilus

This is not just an issue with Nautilus though, as listing the files in the terminal also does not properly recognise certain folders.

$ pwd
/run/user/1000/gvfs/mtp:host=%5Busb%3A001%2C014%5D/Internal storage

$ ls -la --group-directories-first
total 29
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Dec 31  1969 .
dr-x------ 1 sec sec    0 Dec 31  1969 ..
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Alarms
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 16:38 Android
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 21:21 com.facebook.orca
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 20:54 DCIM
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 20:41 Download
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 23 13:12 edmodo
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Movies
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Music
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Notifications
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 20:30 owncloud
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 20:45 Pictures
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Podcasts
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Jan 29  1970 Ringtones
drwx------ 1 sec sec    0 Nov 21 21:41 yahoo
-rw------- 1 sec sec 4096 Nov 21 20:40 APG
-rw------- 1 sec sec 4096 Nov 21 20:40 data
-rw------- 1 sec sec 4096 Nov 21 20:40 Kik
-rw------- 1 sec sec   11 Nov 21 20:38 .nds
-rw------- 1 sec sec   63 Nov 21 20:46 pia vpn.txt
-rw------- 1 sec sec 4096 Nov 21 20:40 .secure
-rw------- 1 sec sec 4096 Nov 21 20:40 Snapseed
-rw------- 1 sec sec 8192 Nov 21 20:40 Tumblr

Notice that APG, data, Kik, .secure, Snapseed, and Tumblr all show as -rw------- files when they should be shown as regular directories. Has anyone had a similar problem / solution?

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The issue was fixed by painstakingly recreating the folder structures of my phone's internal storage and moving the files from the old [corrupt?] folders to new directories using my phone's file manager. These new directories showed correctly on desktops.

Nautilus, and any other desktop file manager was not useful for such a task, as these such "broken" folders displayed as regular files via MTP.

Hard problem to explain, still not sure what happened exactly, but I got my data back into real folders.

  • My Nexus5 did this twice. I renamed the folders with problems and they are showing as folders now. – big_bum Mar 9 '16 at 11:29
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This seems to be a cache problem. On your phone go to settings->apps, Look for media storage and external storage and delete their cache and data. These apps may not be visible since they are system apps. In such a case, select show system apps from context menu. Exact name may be differ on different devices.

Then reboot phone and wait a while for their cache to generate again. Cache generation is done on background so it does not show progress. It may take around 5 minutes to be completed.

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