preloading sqlite on android

In developing an Android app, you have the ability to store data in the form of sqlite.  Android already have great support for this, and it is well documented here.  Unfortunately, up to when this is written, there is no built in support for working with preloaded sqlite files.  There is however a way to solve this.  The trick is to store the sqlite files under the assets folder, and then tell Android to generate the coresponding system sqlite files, then overwrite it.

Here's how, create a class that extends SQLiteOpenHelper, but, ignore the required onCreate and onUpdate methods

public class MySQLiteOpenHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper {
  private static final String  DB_NAME    = "databasename.sqlite";
  private static final int     DB_VERSION = 1;

  private final Context            _context;

  private MySQLiteOpenHelper(Context context) {
    super(context, DB_NAME, null, DB_VERSION);
    this._context = context;

  public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db) { }

  public void onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabase db,
                        int            oldVersion,
                        int            newVersion) {  }

By doing so, we can tell Android to generate databasename.sqlite under the system folder by calling getReadableDatabase().  After which we can then overwrite it with the shipped sqlite file. As a best practice, let's make our SQLiteOpenHelper a singleton, by adding the following to the class

  private static String            DB_PATH    = null;
  private static ChapterOpenHelper _instance  = null;

  public static ChapterOpenHelper getInstance(Context context) {
    if (_instance == null) {
      // Let's store the location of the
      // system databases folder.
      // This will translate into
      // /data/data/package_name/databases/
      DB_PATH = context.getFilesDir()
                       .getPath() + "/databases/";

      _instance = new ChapterOpenHelper(context);
      try {
        // this will trigger the database
        // checking and copying when needed
      } catch (IOException e) {

    return _instance;

Having done that, what's left is to write the implementation for the prepareDatabase() method, it going to do two things, first check if the database already existed, then, if not, generate and overwrite it.

  private void prepareDatabase() throws IOException {
    if (checkDatabase()) {
      // do nothing
    } else {
      // Tell Android to create the system database,
      // for us to overwrite

      try {
        // overwrite it!
      } catch (IOException e) {
        throw new Error("Woops! Something wrong!");

  // Check if the system database already exist
  private boolean checkDatabase() {
    SQLiteDatabase db = null;

    try {
      String dbPath = DB_PATH + DB_NAME;
      db = SQLiteDatabase.openDatabase(
          SQLiteDatabase.NO_LOCALIZED_COLLATORS |
    } catch (SQLiteException e) {
      // database does't exist yet.

    if (db != null) {
      // close it if it's exists

    return db != null ? true : false;

  // proceed with the copying
  private void copyDatabase() throws IOException {
    // open the shipped database from your assets folder
    InputStream input = _context.getAssets().open(DB_NAME);

    // path to the system database
    String dbPath = DB_PATH + DB_NAME;

    // Open the system database as the output stream
    OutputStream output = new FileOutputStream(dbPath);

    // transfer bytes from the input to the output
    byte[] buffer = new byte[1024];
    int length;
    while ((length = input.read(buffer)) > 0) {
      output.write(buffer, 0, length);

    // Close the streams

We can then use our shipped database like so

dbHelper = MySQLiteOpenHelper.getInstance(context)

You might have noticed that SQLiteDatabase have an openDatabase method, and it receive a path parameter. Logically, we should be able to use it to open the shipped database file directly from the assets folder. However, such is not the case. As of this writing, the openDatabase method, can not be used to access sqlite file under the assets folder. Hence, we need to trick the system by copying it first. :)


Ignatius Reza
Learn something about everything, and everything about something.