How do I install apps directly to my SD card?

With the limited internal storage on many Android devices, installing apps directly to an SD card can be very beneficial. It frees up the internal storage for other files and helps manage app data efficiently. Luckily, it is possible to install apps to the SD card, but there are some limitations. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about installing apps to your SD card.

What are the benefits of installing apps to the SD card?

Here are some of the key benefits of installing apps to your SD card rather than internal storage:

  • Frees up internal storage space – Apps can consume significant internal storage space on your device. Installing them on the SD card can free up this space for other files.
  • Better storage management – You can manage app data better when apps are installed on the SD card. If you need to remove apps to free up storage, it is easier when they are on the external SD card.
  • Use large apps – Some very large apps may not install if you don’t have enough internal storage space. Putting them on the SD card lets you install them even with limited internal storage.
  • Back up apps – If you store apps on the SD card, you can back them up by removing the card. This makes it easier to restore apps after a factory reset.

As you can see, installing apps to the SD card directly has some great benefits. Now let’s look at how to actually install apps to the card.

How to install apps directly on the SD card

The ability to install apps to the SD card depends on your Android version and device manufacturer. Here are the general steps to install apps to the SD card:

  1. Check if your device supports it – Most newer Android devices support installing apps to the SD card, but some budget models still do not.
  2. Ensure you have an SD card inserted – You need an SD card installed with sufficient storage space for the apps you want to transfer.
  3. Find the setting to change install location – This is usually in the device storage settings but can vary.
  4. Choose your SD card as the preferred install location – This will set your SD card as the default install location.
  5. Install or move apps – Newly installed apps will go to the SD card automatically. You can also move existing apps in your storage settings.

As you can see, the general process is fairly straightforward. However, there are some specific steps you need to follow for different Android versions and devices.

Installing apps on the SD card on Android 10 and higher

Android 10 and higher limit installing apps directly to the SD card for security reasons. However, you still have some options:

  • Use the adoptable storage feature to format your SD card and use it as internal storage.
  • Move apps to the SD card manually using your device settings or apps like AppMgr III.
  • Use an app like FolderMount to link folders on your SD card to data folders for certain apps.

Adoptable storage gives you the most seamless experience but formats your SD card. Manually moving apps or using FolderMount are more complex but let you keep your SD card portable.

Installing apps on the SD card on Android 9 and lower

Older versions of Android make it easier to install apps to the SD card directly. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to your device Settings > Storage
  2. Tap the name of your SD card
  3. Enable the option for “Use as internal storage”
  4. Reboot your device
  5. Once rebooted, your SD card will be treated as internal storage for installing apps

One thing to note is that not all apps can be moved to the SD card. Some apps with widgets, services, or core functions may not allow it.

How to move existing apps to the SD card

In addition to installing new apps to your SD card, you can also move many existing apps that are on your device’s internal storage. Here is how to move apps to the SD card:

  1. Open your device Settings > Apps & notifications
  2. Select the app you want to move
  3. Tap Storage
  4. Select Change > SD card
  5. Wait for the app to be moved to the external storage

The process can vary slightly between Android versions, but generally follows these steps. Again, not all apps can be moved, so you may see “Change” greyed out for some.

How to set the default install location to the SD card

Rather than moving apps after installing them, you can set your SD card as the default install location. Here is how:

  1. Go to your device Settings > Storage
  2. Select your SD card name
  3. Tap the three dots in the top right
  4. Choose Set as default location

After following these steps, any newly installed apps should go directly to your SD card rather than internal storage. This saves you the hassle of having to move each app later.

Should I install all apps to the SD card?

While the SD card can be great for managing apps, you shouldn’t necessarily install everything to external storage. Here are some guidelines:

  • Avoid moving system apps – This can sometimes cause stability issues or app crashes.
  • Keep widely used apps internal – Having frequently used apps on the faster internal storage can improve performance.
  • Install large games/media apps to SD – Large apps consume a lot of storage, so they are ideal to move to external storage.
  • Test performance after moving apps – If you notice lag, crashes or glitches, try moving that app back to internal storage.

As you can see, you’ll get the best experience by choosing wisely which apps make the most sense on the SD card versus internal storage.

Fixing issues with apps on the SD card

While convenient, installing apps to the SD card can sometimes cause issues with app performance or stability. Here are some steps to fix problems with apps on your SD card:

Apps crashing or freezing

If apps are unstable or crash frequently, try:

  • Move app back to internal storage
  • Check for updated device software or app updates
  • Clear app cache and data
  • Reboot device
  • Remove and re-insert SD card

Slow app performance

If apps are lagging, take these steps:

  • Double check SD card speed rating – Use a Class 10 card minimum
  • Move frequently used apps back to internal storage
  • Consider adopting your SD card or formatting it to internal storage
  • Disable power saving/memory cleaner apps that may close background apps

App showing as installed but missing

If you can’t find an app but it shows as installed, try:

  • Reboot your device
  • Re-insert your SD card
  • Check SD card for errors
  • Manually move the app back to internal storage using App Manager

This usually occurs when there is a glitch with the SD card mount. Re-inserting the card or moving the app normally fixes it.

Best practices for using the SD card

To avoid issues and get optimal app performance, follow these tips for using your SD card:

  • Use a high speed card – Aim for UHS-1 Class 10 minimum.
  • Don’t fully fill SD card – Leave 10-20% free space.
  • Use a name brand card – Avoid cheap no-name cards.
  • Test apps after moving them.
  • Disable battery/memory cleaner apps.
  • Keep your device & SD card software updated.

Using reputable SD cards formatted to FAT32 works best in most cases. You can also try exFAT if supported by your device.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does installing apps to the SD card degrade performance?

Installing apps to the SD card can slightly degrade performance compared to internal storage due to the slower read/write speeds. However, using a high speed Class 10 SD card minimizes the difference. Large apps may even load faster from the SD card.

What happens if I remove the SD card with apps installed on it?

The apps themselves will no longer be available and will show as uninstalled. Any associated app data stored on the card will also be inaccessible. You would have to reinsert the SD card to use the apps again.

Is it better to use internal or adoptable storage?

Adoptable storage formats your SD card and integrates it into your internal storage. This gives you a seamless experience but means you can’t easily remove the card later. Using regular internal storage offers more flexibility but requires manually moving apps.

Can I still use the SD card for other files if apps are installed on it?

Yes, installing apps to the SD card does not restrict you from also using it to store photos, videos, music, documents, or any other files.

What happens if I uninstall an app that’s installed on the SD card?

When you uninstall an app, it will delete the app files and any associated app data that is stored on the SD card itself. However, it does not delete any files or app data that may be stored in other locations.


Installing apps to your SD card can help free up valuable internal storage and allow you to manage apps more efficiently. Nearly all Android devices support the ability to install apps to the SD card in some way.

Using adoptable storage or your device settings, you can designate the SD card as a default install location. You can also manually move existing apps. While convenient, be selective about which apps you move as very frequently used or system apps may function better in internal storage.

With the right SD card and proper app management, installing apps to your SD card can be an easy way to free up space and declutter your Android device.

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