How to Fix the “Screen Overlay Detected” Error on Android

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Starting with Android Marshmallow, there’s a curious error that sometimes shows its face, but it can be hard to decipher what’s causing it. The “screen overlay detected” error won’t allow certain apps to launch, which makes it a real nuisance.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy fix once you know what’s causing the error: a feature found in Marshmallow and beyond that allows apps to “draw” over other apps. For example, Facebook Messenger uses chat heads to stay in the foreground of whatever you’re doing—this is the app using the “Draw over other apps” feature. In other words, it’s a screen overlay. It’s already starting to click, isn’t it?

  1. Open Settings > Apps
  2. Tap the Gear icon on the top right of the Settings page
  3. Scroll down and tap “Special Access”
  4. Tap “Draw over other apps” and toggle apps in the list

Unfortunately, some apps do odd things when an overlay is actively running, especially if the app in question needs to request a new permission. Android absolutely will not allow permissions to be changed when an overlay is running, thus resulting in the “Screen Overlay Detected” error.

So, if you install a new app and launch it for the first time while also having a conversation over a Facebook Chat Head, you’ll get an error as the new app tries to request its permissions. In the example below, I’m using Twilight—a “night mode” app—which uses a screen overlay to do its thing.

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Now, sometimes when this error is generated, it includes an “Open Settings” link that sends you directly into the “Draw over other apps” menu. The rough part is that each app has to be toggled manually—just tap on an app, slide the “Permit Drawing Over Other Apps” toggle, and go back. You could disable every single one, but that could be super time consuming, especially if you have dozens of apps installed that can apply overlays.

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Ideally, you’ll know which app caused the conflict, and you can disable just that one. So think to yourself:

  • What apps have you been using recently? As mentioned above, Facebook Messenger draws on the screen for chat heads, so if a chat head is actively running, it’s most likely your culprit.
  • What passive apps do you use that run in the background? Similarly, apps like CF.lumen and Twilight draw on the screen when enabled, so you’ll need to pause or disable those services to get rid of the screen overlay error.

The list in the screenshot above shows all the apps that have permission to draw on the screen, but if you can figure out which one is actually drawing on the screen when you get that error, you can just disable that one and move on.

Of course, that’s not foolproof—in some instances there may be more than one app drawing on the screen, which can be incredibly frustrating. In that situation, I’d just go ahead and disallow all of them, then re-enable them on an as-needed basis. It’s a pickle, for sure.

Fortunately, in Android Oreo, Google basically made it really easy to figure out what app is causing the issue with a new notification that tells you exactly what is displaying over other apps. You can find more info—as well as how to disable said notification—here.

How to Access the “Draw Over Other Apps” Menu

So, how do you get to the “Draw over other apps” menu without first experiencing the error and getting that quick link? Or, what if there is no quick link? That part’s pretty easy. The biggest issue is that the setting for screen overlays is found in different spots on different manufacturers’ handsets. Here’s the breakdown.

On Stock Android Oreo

If you’re using Android Oreo, the Settings menu has been redesigned so most things are slightly different than other modern versions of Android, including the Draw Over Other Apps feature.

First, pull the notification shade and tap the gear icon to open Settings.

From here, choose the “Apps & Notifications” category, and then tap the “Advanced” button.

 

This reveals additional options, the last of which is the “Special App Access” option. Go ahead and tap that.

A little ways down the menu, you’ll see the “Display Over Other Apps” option. That’s what you’re looking for.

 

On Stock Android Marshmallow or Nougat

On Stock Android, pull the notification shade twice and tap the gear icon.

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From there, head down to “Apps,” and then tap the gear icon in the top right.

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In this menu, scroll down and tap the “Special Access” option. From there, you’ll find the “Draw over other apps” menu. That’s what you’ve been looking for!

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Feel free to toggle things here to your heart’s desire. Just open each item to enable or disable it.

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On Samsung Devices

First, pull down the notification shade and tap the gear icon, and then scroll down the “Applications” option.

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From here, tap the “Application manager” link, then the “More” button in the top-right.

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Next, select the “Apps that can appear on top” option and, boom, you’re there. Samsung also makes it easier by adding the toggle beside the app name, and not in a separate menu. Thanks, Samsung!

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On LG Devices

Again, pull the notification shade down and tap the gear icon, then jump into the “Apps” menu.

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Next, tap the three-dot overflow button, and then select the “Configure apps” option.

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From here, it should work just like stock Android—tap the “Draw over other apps” option and you’ll find yourself where you need to be.

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If you’re not sure what’s causing the “Screen Overlay Detected” error, it can make you want to throw your phone. In fact, I’ve had more friends experience this error (and subsequently ask me about it) than any other error! So, here’s the solution—you’re welcome, friends.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys on the 'net, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, chugging away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching the Bulls while yelling at the TV.