Install Android Apps on SD Card by Default & Move Apps to SD

It’s fairly simple and quick to move apps to the SD card of your Android device, so read on!

install android apps to sd card and move apps to sd

We can remember a time when we couldn’t have imagined filling 16GB of internal storage on a mobile device, let alone 32GB! However, that matched a time when we couldn’t have imagined using a smartphone for so many different things, and an increasing amount of us now manage virtually every aspect of our lives on our mobile phones. Many of us now use our portable devices for photography and video capture, apps, emails, personal finance, listening to music, watching videos, and so much more, so that making actual phone calls has actually become a lesser-used aspect.

These days, plenty of low-end budget smartphones come in variants with 16GB or 32GB of flash memory, with some high-end handsets reaching the dizzying heights of 256GB. However, in the case of the lesser storage phones, it’s actually pretty easy to come across the dreaded message telling you that the storage on your phone is almost full. Especially, when considering the amount already consumed by the operating system and preloaded software, to say nothing of the unnecessary bloatware that takes up valuable space on many devices.

The internal memory is, therefore, an increasingly important factor when choosing a new smartphone although using the Cloud is one way of getting around the storage hassle. Another popular method is to purchase a device with a microSD card slot/s. Not every Android smartphone comes with a microSD slot, although many do, so this is something really worth taking into account when buying a new smartphone.

Android apps are automatically installed to the internal storage of your phone by default, but you can move those currently installed apps (or portions of them) to the SD card, enabling you to maximize the storage on your device. Depending on the version of Android your device is running, you can also set the default location to be the SD card, to stop the internal storage becoming too cluttered. Depending on the amount of extra storage you want, such cards are fairly inexpensive for the convenience they offer, and it’s pretty simple and quick to move apps to the SD card.

There are different ways of doing this and we’ll run through them here, although it should be noted first that the best apps to move to an SD card are those that aren’t too demanding. This is because running them from an SD card is likely to be less speedy as running them from the internal storage. The method you choose involves a number of different aspects, such as the type of apps you’re moving, the device you’re using, and the version of Android your device is running. Something worth mentioning from the start is that in the case of some pre-installed apps such as YouTube or Google Chrome, you’ll find the option to move them to an SD card is unavailable. Also, some particular phones move just a portion of an app to the SD card while the rest remains in the internal storage, thus freeing up less space, while some developers don’t allow the moving of their apps to an SD card at all. The steps below may differ very slightly depending on the type of phone and whether it’s running stock Android or a manufacturer’s skin, but generally, the process will be very similar, so let’s check out the options.

Option 1 – Moving apps to the microSD card using the Android application management system

With this method, the SD card is used as an additional portable storage. This means the card can be removed without affecting the device’s functionality, and then inserted into a PC to transfer files if desired. The first thing to do (after inserting a microSD card) is to head from the app drawer on your device to the Settings menu. Tap on Application Manager to get a list of the apps you have installed, and then select the app you wish to move to the SD card.

The next step is to tap Storage and if you see the Change option you’ll know you can move the app. If this does not appear, this means you cannot transfer that app. From Change, you’ll see options for Internal Storage or Transcend SD card. Tap on the latter to move the app to the SD card, or if you want to move an app back to internal storage simply choose this option. That was pretty easy right, but there are other methods available if your device doesn’t support this way.

Option 2 – Using an SD Card as internal storage on devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher.

If your smartphone is running Android Marshmallow or higher you can format a microSD card to act as an integral part of the internal storage (dependent upon device). This is dubbed Flex or Adoptable Storage, and while major players such as LG and Samsung have removed this feature, others such as HTC and Motorola do support it. However, when formatting the microSD card as internal storage you won’t be able to use the card in another device unless it’s reformatted, and current data on the card back up erased. That’s something to bear in mind and you may want to backup the current data on the card to your PC or transfer apps on the SD card back to internal storage before you begin.

Another pointer if you want to do this, is that you should opt for one of the fastest microSD cards to get optimum results. To use this feature, first head to the Settings menu as before and then tap on Storage before selecting your SD card. At the very top corner on the right of the screen you’ll see the button for the overflow menu (three vertical dots) and from there select Storage Settings. Then tap on Format as Internal Storage followed by Erase and Format. At this point, some people using an SD card that’s too slow may see a message of caution that it could negatively affect the performance of the device. For instance, it could lead to slow data transfers or apps stuttering, and therefore we’d recommend using at least a Class 10 or UHS card. If you decide to proceed, tap on Move Now followed by Next to start the transfer, and finally tap Done.

Remember not to remove the SD Card during the formatting process. At this point, the system will then recognize your SD Card as if it was an integral part of the internal storage, and when you head to the Storage section under Settings you’ll see the adopted card and internal storage listed together. Once you’ve done this, every time you install an app on your device, Android will decide where it’s placed depending on the recommendations of the developer. It’s not recommended to then move the apps again, but if you choose to do this you’ll need to head to Settings, followed by Storage and USB. From the Internal or SD card options, tap Apps, choose the app you want to be moved and then tap Change.

Final Thoughts

There is a further option for those who want to move any apps to an SD card, even where developers have disallowed this, but this has to be done with a phone that’s been rooted. Even then, it’s a somewhat long and complicated process and we’d only recommend it if you really know what you’re doing. If you’re already using a rooted phone you’re likely to know where you can find full details of how to do this.

It’s true that growing numbers are now opting to use the Cloud to negate concerns about running out of storage, but using an SD card is still a popular option. By moving apps to an SD card you’ll avoid those unfortunate occasions when the memory is so full that you can’t download even one more app. When this happens we have found ourselves, deleting a whole bunch of apps, videos, and more, and so learning how to install and move apps to SD card on Android really makes sense. At first glance, it might look like it’s not worth the effort to move apps to an SD card or use the SD card as adopted internal storage. The information can look rather daunting if you’ve never attempted this before, but it really isn’t too difficult if you follow the above steps as you go. If you want to maximize the storage of your device and follow one of these methods, do let us know how you got on in the comments section.

About Khaled Shariar

An avid fan of Android, using the OS since very first Google Phone. Back in 2008, he founded to help other Android users to find the right Applications/ Games and solving issues with their phone. Khaled covers various topics related to smartphone and tablet.

36 thoughts on “Install Android Apps on SD Card by Default & Move Apps to SD”

  1. Works perfect! If the device isn’t listed, you need to install Google’s USB drivers. They are also in the SDK Manager!

  2. This worked perfect. Only change I had to make:
    adb shell pm setInstallLocation 2 should be adb shell pm set-install-location 2

    i.e. with ‘-‘ and no caps.

  3. I tried it and got 2[external]. But when i move NFS most wanted to sd card only app moves with 76 mb data… is there anyway to get the rest of data move. I tried manullay but the game show error and start download data again

  4. adb server is out of date. killing…
    * daemon started successfully *
    List of devices attached

    Thats what i get , HELP!!!!!!!!

  5. thank you very mush
    Although it’s appear an error ” unknown command setinstalllocation ” but worked good


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