How to install applications on the SD or microSD card

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Today’s leading mid-range and high-end phones have massive amounts of internal storage to help keep us from running out of space for our favorite music, photos, and games. For the vast majority of Android terminal users, internal memory is not a problem. But what about those who have terminals with a certain age? And who have low-end or input devices? Well, for all of them, luckily, there is a solution: use your microSD cards as a supplement to internal storage. In this article we will see what options we have, and how we can implement them. It is worth noting, of course, that not all terminals support all the methods that we are going to talk about.

How to install or move apps to the SD card

To use this method we need to have an Android terminal that has a system version equal to or greater than Android 6.0. Installing applications on the SD card as such cannot be done from the terminal itself; you can make the system do it, but it is a more advanced method that requires the use of ADB commands. To do this we will need to have Minimal ADB & Fastboot Tool installed on our PC.

This tool installs the minimum and necessary to execute ADB commands on our computer, without having to worry about installing additional software (such as Android Studio, for example) to achieve it. We will also need the drivers USB of the terminal on which we are going to work, although generally installing the Universal USB Driver is usually enough.

When we have all this installed, first of all, we will have to go to the route Settings> About phone, do scroll down and find the build number of the terminal:

Android software build numberAndroid software build number

We will have to press repeatedly on the compilation number until the message appears on the screen You are now a developer, or something similar. If now we go to the route Settings> System, we will find a menu called Developer options. We enter it and activate the USB debugging options:

USB debugging enabledUSB debugging enabled

Once this is done and having all the aforementioned installed, we connect the terminal to the PC via USB, open Minimal ADB & Fastbooot Tool and type the following in the Windows command line:

adb devices

If it returns a serial number where the key name of our terminal appears, everything has gone correctly. If nothing happens, we have done something wrong in the previous process.

Once we have all that, we can tell the operating system where we want to install the applications. For this we will use the parameter setInstallLocation, which supports three modifiers:

  • 0 [auto]: Let the mobile decide the best location for an app.
  • 1 [internal]: Install everything on the internal storage space.
  • two [external]: Installs everything on the memory card.

To tell the operating system where we want it to install the applications we will use the following command:

adb shell pm set-install-location 2

If you want to check that, indeed, the external memory card has been set as the location to install applications, use the following command:

adb shell pm get-install-location

Moving applications is another story and not all terminals support it. To do so, go to the route Settings> Apps and notifications and select the application you want to move to the SD card:

App we want to moveApp we want to move

Within the application, click on Storage and cache:

Option to move app not presentOption to move app not present

An option should appear here that would allow you to move the applications between one storage and another. As you can see, the terminal used for our tests does not allow the operation to be carried out, even though we are running Android stock.

Format SD card as internal storage

In case you are not convinced by any of the solutions we gave you above, you can always format the SD card so that it is part of the internal storage. To do this, go to the route Settings> Storage and select your SD card:

Operating system storage settingsOperating system storage settings

Now click on the menu button and Storage settings:

MicroSD card in settingsMicroSD card in settings

Then click Format as internal storage and let your terminal do the rest:

Option to format the SD as internal storageOption to format the SD as internal storage

When the process is complete, your SD card will already be part of your internal storage.

How to move apps to the SD card with third-party apps

There are different solutions to move applications from internal storage to SD card. In this section we will stop to comment on some of them.

AppMgr III, one of the best known

To facilitate the process of moving applications to the memory card, we often recommend AppMgr III for its ease of use and how intuitive it is. As soon as it is installed, it will search the list of installed applications for which ones can be moved to the memory card:

AppMgr III main viewAppMgr III main view

Now click on any of the apps from this list, and then on Move app:

Button to move an app to the SD cardButton to move an app to the SD card

With that it would be enough to transfer an application to the SD card, although this way is not the most efficient. However, it makes it much easier to know which applications can be manipulated to free up internal storage.

Link2SD, a classic that does not go out of style

Link2SD is a benchmark in this field. Allows you to move any application (any) to the SD card, leaving a symbolic link to the app in internal storage. Do you hit it? What is necessary to be root to use it and you have to have a memory card with an ext4 partition.

As soon as we open Link2SD we will find a complete list of all the applications that we can find on our phone. If we click on any of them we will see the following screen, where we will have to click on Link to SD card to create the symbolic link and free up internal memory:

Link2SD symbolic linkLink2SD symbolic link

And voila, as simple as doing that. Depending on your terminal, the process to get superuser privileges will be more or less arduous. This process is unique for each manufacturer, so we cannot, unfortunately, explain each specific case. Suffice it to say for now that extensive documentation for each of them can be found on the Internet.

How to install or move apps to the SD card in older Android versions

If you remember, a little above we told you what you could do to move or install applications on the SD card and what you needed. Well, in the unlikely case that you have a terminal with Android 2.3 or lower, the commands that you would have to type in the ADB terminal are a bit different. To set the location of each installation you will have to use this:

adb shell pm setInstallLocation 2

To verify that it has been fixed correctly, type this other command:

adb shell pm getInstallLocation

If you want to move applications to the SD card, you will have to go looking one by one all those that you have installed on your terminal. Applications like the ones we gave you a few lines ago no longer support such outdated versions of Android. And of course, forget about partitioning the SD card to use it as part of the internal storage. The best advice we can give you if you have such an old terminal is to change it as fast as you can.