How to Move Apps to an SD Card for Your Android Devices

Give yourself a little breathing room on your devices

A common problem people encounter, when using an Android smartphone or tablet, is the lack of space or memory for saving images and videos or installing video games and other apps. One of the easiest solutions for this issue, besides deleting content from your device, is to transfer Android apps to an SD card.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What is an SD Card?

SD cards are small plastic cards for storing data. There are three different sizes of SD cards.

  • SD card: The original SD card format which measures 24 x 32 mm in size. This is more commonly used in desktop computers and laptops.
  • MiniSD card: The MiniSD card is smaller than the regular SD card measuring 21 x 30 mm. This format is common in older smartphone and tablet models but was eventually replaced by the even smaller MicroSD card.
  • MicroSD card: The type of SD card usually used in modern smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, and video game consoles such as the Nintendo Switch. MicroSD cards measure 15 x 11 mm in size.

All SD cards are available in a variety of storage sizes and their prices will vary depending on the size, the brand, and the individual store selling them.

A drawing of an SD card.
JakeOlimb / DigitalVision Vectors / Shutterstock

Most MiniSD and MicroSD cards are sold with an adapter that allows them to be used on devices, such as a laptop, that require standard SD card sizes. The Mini or MicroSD cards are placed within these adapters which are then physically inserted into an SD card slot as a regular SD card.

What Does the 'SD' Mean in SD Card?

The SD in the card format name officially stands for Secure Digital (however, many people mistaken it for being an abbreviation for SanDisk, a popular SD card manufacturer).

SD cards have no connection to Nintendo's family of Nintendo DS and 3DS portable video game consoles.

What Sort of SD Card Does My Android Device Use?

Most modern Android tablets and smartphones use the MicroSD card size. All instruction manuals will mention which SD cards are compatible with the associated device, however, so it is worth checking these to make sure which type you'll need before purchasing one.

If you have an older Android tablet or mobile, it may require a MiniSD card.

How to Insert an SD Card Into an Android Device

The majority of modern Android phones and tablets support MicroSD cards. You simply need to locate the card slot which is often concealed. Once you've found the slot, you can insert the card as follows.

Typically, the MicroSD card slot is located along the side of an Android device. It could be hidden by a plastic flap or could have a small hole next to it which will be used to open it.

  1. Open the MicroSD card slot either by lifting the flap or slowly inserting a pin or needle into the small hole.

  2. If a small tray pops out, place your MicroSD card into it and reinsert the tray into your Android device. If your device only has a small slot, you can simply insert the disk directly into it as you would a DVD in a DVD drive.

    With your tablet or phone's screen facing you, make sure the side of the MicroSD card with the label or sticker on it is facing upwards when you insert it.

  3. Replace the cover flap over the slot if you removed it earlier.

How to Format Your Android's SD Card

Before you can use the SD card on your Android smartphone or tablet, you'll need to format it correctly. Depending on your device, there are two methods to do this.

Method 1: Automatic

Setting up an SD card on an Android tablet.
  1. After inserting your SD card, your Android device may give you a notification. From within the notification, tap on Set up.

  2. You will be asked to choose one of two format styles. Tap on Use as portable storage if you're planning to use it to transfer documents, photos, and videos between devices. Tap on Use as internal storage if you want to install apps on it. If you're planning to transfer apps to the SD card, tap on the latter option.

  3. Tap on Next.

  4. Tap on Erase & Format. This will delete everything currently on your card and prepare it for use on your Android device. This process can take several minutes.

  5. Your SD card should now be ready.

Method 2: Manual

If you didn't get a notification, or you accidentally dismissed it by accident, you can still format the disk by doing the following.

  1. Open Settings.

    Setting up an SD card on an Android tablet.
  2. Tap on Storage.

  3. Tap on your SD card's name.

  4. Tap on the three dots in the top-right corner.

    Fomatting an SD card on Android.
  5. Tap on Storage settings.

  6. Tap on Format to delete everything on the disk and use it for transferring files. Tap on Format as internal to prepare the disk for storing Android apps.

  7. Tap on Erase & Format.

  8. You SD card will now have all of its contents deleted and it will be formatted for use by files or apps depending on the option you tapped.

How to Move Apps to an SD Card on Android

To transfer an Android app to the SD card, make sure it's been formatted as internal via the above steps and then do the follow.

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Tap on Apps.

  3. Locate the Android app you want to move to the SD card and tap on its name from the list.

  4. Tap on Storage.

  5. Beneath the text that reads Storage used. Tap on Change.

  6. Tap on your SD card from the list of storage locations. Your selected app will now move to the SD card.

Should I Install Android Apps on an SD Card?

Moving Android apps to an SD card isn't necessary and is primarily done by most people to free up space for other data on their device. If you have enough space on your Android tablet or smartphone and aren't encountering any memory problems, there really is no reason to use an SD card.

Can I Move All Android Apps to an SD Card?

While most Android apps can be transferred to an SD card, some cannot. This restriction is usually placed on the apps by their developers due to them needing to access your Android device's hardware directly. Such apps could also be necessary for your smartphone or tablet to function properly and putting them on an SD card would break your device when the card was removed.

If an Android app is unable to be transferred to an SD card, the option to move it simply won't show up so you don't have to worry about transferring the wrong apps.

What Else Can SD Cards be Used For?

In addition to being used to store Android app installations, SD cards can also be used on Android devices for storing photos, videos, and other files. Placing files on an SD card not only frees up space on your device but it also allows you to easily transfer them to another device in much the same way you would use a USB drive or a burnable CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disk.

Where Can I Buy an SD Card?

SD cards can be purchased in most electronics stores, camera shops, convenience stores, and online retailers such as Amazon, AliExpress, and BestBuy. It's usually worth comparing prices when buying an SD card as the cost can vary greatly depending on the brand and store.