How do I use an SD card on my Android?

Using an SD card on an Android device allows you to expand your storage capacity and store more photos, videos, music, and other files. SD cards are portable, removable flash memory cards that work in many different devices. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using an SD card with an Android phone or tablet.

What You’ll Need

  • An Android device that supports SD cards – Most modern Android devices have a slot for an SD card, but some budget models do not.
  • Micro SD card – This is the most common type of SD card used in Android devices. Make sure to get one with enough storage capacity for your needs.
  • SD card reader – This is optional but lets you transfer files between your computer and SD card easily.

How to Insert an SD Card

The SD card slot is usually located on the side or bottom edge of an Android device. It should be covered by a thin plastic flap or tray. Here are the basic steps to insert an SD card:

  1. Locate the SD card slot on your Android device.
  2. Carefully open the protective flap or tray using your fingernail.
  3. Orient the SD card properly – the gold contacts should face down into the device.
  4. Gently slide the Micro SD card into the slot until it clicks into place.
  5. Close the SD card tray or flap.

Be very careful not to force the card. If it doesn’t slide into the slot easily, double check that it is oriented correctly. Forcing the card can damage the card slot.

How to Mount the SD Card

After physically inserting the SD card, you need to mount it so your Android device recognizes it. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android device.
  2. Tap on Storage or Storage & USB.
  3. Look for the SD card listed and tap on it.
  4. Tap Mount.
  5. The card should now be mounted and ready for use.

If you don’t see the option to mount the SD card, try removing it and re-inserting it again. Restarting your Android device can also help if the SD card is not being recognized properly.

How to Format an SD Card

Brand new SD cards usually need to be formatted before you can store files on them. Formatting sets up the filesystem on the card. Here are steps to format an SD card on Android:

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Select your SD card.
  3. Tap Format or Format as internal/portable.
  4. Confirm that you want to format – this will erase all data currently on the card.
  5. Enter a Volume Label if you wish and tap Format.
  6. Wait for the formatting process to complete.

The Volume Label is optional but helps identify the card. Make sure to backup any data you want to keep before formatting an SD card.

Moving Apps to the SD Card

One great use for SD cards is storing apps. This frees up internal storage on your Android device. Not all apps support this feature, but many do. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications.
  2. Tap the app you want to move.
  3. Tap Storage.
  4. Select Change to move the app to the SD card.
  5. Wait for the transfer to complete.

The app needs to support being installed on external storage. Not all apps allow you to change the install location. You may need to reinstall some apps on the SD card.

Transferring Files to the SD Card

Once formatted and mounted, you can use your SD card like another drive on your device. Here are some ways to transfer photos, videos, and other files:

  • File Manager app – Open your Android file manager, browse to files or folders you want to move, touch & hold to select them, tap the Move or Copy icon, then select the SD card as the destination.
  • Gallery app – Open the Gallery app, tap on a photo to open it, tap the menu button in the upper right, choose Move to SD card.
  • USB cable – Plug your Android device into your computer using a USB cable. You’ll see the SD card as an external drive. Drag and drop files to copy them.
  • SD card reader – Remove the SD card and insert it into a card reader attached to your computer. Drag and drop files to the SD card drive.

Moving large files like photos, videos, and downloaded movies is a great way to free up internal storage space on your Android device.

Using the SD Card as Internal Storage

Some Android devices allow you to format your SD card and use it as internal storage. This allows you to move more apps to the card and treat it as an extension of the built-in storage. Here is how to set this up:

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Select your SD card.
  3. Tap Format as internal.
  4. Read the on-screen warnings which explain that formatting erases data.
  5. Tap Format SD card.
  6. Enter a name for the Volume Label.
  7. Tap Erase & Format.

The card will now show up as part of your device’s internal storage. You can move apps and other data to it without limitations. However, internal SD cards are formatted differently and won’t work in other devices without reformatting.

Safely Removing the SD Card

Don’t just pop out the SD card without preparing it for removal. This can corrupt data. Instead, safely eject it first:

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Tap on your SD card name.
  3. Tap the Eject icon.
  4. Wait for the unmount process to finish.
  5. You can now safely remove the SD card.

On some Android devices you may instead see an Eject button next to the SD card name on the Storage screen. Tapping this will eject the card properly.

Tips for Using SD Cards on Android

Here are some additional tips for working with SD cards:

  • Get the fastest SD card you can – look for Class 10 or UHS-1 ratings for good performance.
  • Regularly back up important data from the SD card to your computer.
  • Avoid removing the card when apps are accessing it.
  • If your phone supports SD card encryption, consider enabling it for security.
  • Reformat your SD card every year or so to refresh the filesystem.
  • Don’t store the only copy of any irreplaceable data on the SD card.

Troubleshooting SD Card Issues

If you experience problems with your SD card, here are some things to try:

  • Remove and reinsert the SD card.
  • Inspect the SD card slot for debris or damage.
  • Try formatting the SD card again.
  • Try a different SD card if possible.
  • Check online forums for other users with similar issues.
  • Reset your Android device to factory settings.
  • Contact the device manufacturer for hardware support.

Damaged SD cards or device card readers are the most common issues. Trying different cards and resetting your device can help isolate the cause. But heavily corrupted cards may need to be replaced.


Using an SD card is a simple way to massively expand the available storage on your Android device. Just insert the card, format it, mount it, and start transferring photos, videos, music files, and even apps to it. Remember to manage your content carefully, back up important files, and safely eject the card before removing it. Follow the steps in this guide and your SD card should work seamlessly as extra storage space on your Android phone or tablet.