How do I use SD card instead of internal storage on Android?

Using an SD card instead of internal storage on your Android device is a great way to expand your storage capacity. Many Android devices support the use of SD cards, making it easy to offload files like photos, videos, and music from the limited internal storage onto the removable SD card. Here are some tips on how to best use your SD card as adopted storage on Android.

What is Adoptable Storage?

Adoptable storage, also sometimes called portable storage, is an Android feature introduced in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It allows you to format your SD card and integrate it into the system so that the Android OS treats it like internal storage.

When you adopt an SD card as internal storage on Android, you can:

  • Install apps directly to the SD card
  • Move apps from internal storage to the SD card
  • Have apps store their data like photos, videos, and downloaded files on the SD card

Essentially, adoptable storage allows your SD card to seamlessly integrate with the internal storage so that you don’t have to worry about managing files across multiple locations.

Requirements for Adoptable Storage

To use your SD card as adopted storage, your Android device and SD card must meet certain requirements:

  • Your phone must be running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or higher
  • Your SD card should be blank and formatted to FAT32 or exFAT
  • Your SD card must have a capacity of at least 32GB and a write speed rating of Class 10 or higher

Lower capacity cards that are Class 2, 4, or 6 will not have sufficient performance for adoptable storage. Stick to Class 10 SD cards with a minimum capacity of 32GB.

How to Set Up Adoptable Storage

If your Android phone and SD card meet the requirements listed above, you can follow these steps to set up adoptable storage:

  1. Insert the SD card into your Android phone.
  2. Go to Settings > Storage.
  3. Tap on your SD card name.
  4. Tap “Format as internal” or “Format and use as internal storage.”
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to confirm formatting.

The process will format your SD card and integrate it with your internal storage. This may take some time depending on your SD card’s capacity and speed.

Migrate Data to the SD Card

Once your SD card is set up as adoptable storage, you can start migrating data over to free up internal storage space. Here are some options to move data:

  • Move Photos & Videos – In the Photos app, go to Settings > Storage location and select SD card.
  • Move Music – In the Play Music app, tap the hamburger menu > Settings > Storage location and select SD card.
  • Move Files – Use the Files app to copy files from Internal Storage to the SD card folder.
  • Change Default Storage Location – In Settings go to Apps > Advanced > Default Apps > Storage and select SD card.

For certain apps like cameras, you may need to go into the app’s settings to be able to store new photos/videos on the SD card.

Free Up More Internal Storage

In addition to moving your existing files and changing default storage locations, you can take further steps to free up more space on internal storage:

  • Uninstall unused apps
  • Clear app cache and data
  • Move large game files to the SD card using the app’s settings
  • Delete old text messages, call histories, etc.
  • Store offline maps on SD card instead of internal storage
  • Disable the Downloads app from saving files to internal storage

After moving many apps’ data to the SD card, you may find you have ample free space on internal storage again.

Drawbacks of Adoptable Storage

While using your SD card as adoptable storage has significant advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • Your SD card will be encrypted and tied to your device – it can’t be easily used in other devices after formatting
  • Poor performing SD cards can slow down your device
  • You can’t easily remove the SD card without risking data loss or instability
  • SD cards have a higher risk of corruption compared to internal storage

Adoptable storage is best suited for SD cards you plan to keep in your device at all times. The encryption and integration essentially “marries” the card to the device. If you swap SD cards frequently, portable storage may be a better option.

Using Your SD Card as Portable Storage

If you don’t want to format your SD card as adoptable storage, you can use it as portable storage instead. This keeps the card separate from system storage for easy transfer between devices.

To use your SD card as portable storage:

  1. Insert your SD card into your Android device.
  2. Open the Settings app and tap Storage.
  3. Tap the SD card name.
  4. Tap “Use as portable storage”

This will keep your SD card formatted as portable storage for media and file transfers. You won’t be able to install apps to the SD card in this mode, but you retain the flexibility of using the card in other devices.

Tips for SD Card Storage Performance

To get the best performance from your SD card on Android, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use a Class 10 or UHS-1 SD card rated for high read/write speeds
  • Avoid using really cheap low-speed cards
  • Format the card to exFAT for optimal performance
  • Regularly check your storage for corruption – backup important files
  • Don’t completely fill your SD card to capacity
  • Consider adopting storage for apps/games and portable storage for media files

Higher quality SD cards, even if more expensive, can make a big difference in loading apps, recording video, etc. Try to get a card rated for your desired usage – a budget card good for music may struggle with 4K video recording.

Troubleshooting SD Card Issues

If you experience issues mounting, reading, or writing to your SD card on Android, try the following troubleshooting steps:

  • Safely eject the SD card and reinsert it
  • Inspect the SD card tray and contacts for damage or dirt
  • Make sure the card is inserted correctly in your phone
  • Check for corrosion on the gold contacts of the SD card
  • Try your SD card in another device to isolate the issue
  • Back up your files and reformat the SD card
  • Try a different SD card to see if the issue persists
  • Check online forums for any incompatibility issues

If you continue having SD card issues, the card itself may be defective or damaged. Contact the manufacturer or consider replacing the card if the issue persists.


Using an SD card for extra storage is a great way to free up space on your Android device. You can choose to format your card as adoptable storage to seamlessly integrate it into your system, or portable storage to retain flexibility. Make sure to use a high quality card, regularly back up files, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. With a little setup, you can easily move photos, videos, music, apps, and other data to the SD card and get the most out of your Android device.