Formatting your Android phone to work with an external SD card allows you to greatly expand the available storage space on your device. While most Android phones come with a decent amount of internal storage these days, downloading apps, games, music, photos and videos can quickly eat up that space. Using an SD card in tandem with your phone’s internal storage provides a seamless way to boost capacity.
The process of formatting an SD card for Android is quick and straightforward. Here, we’ll walk through the steps for preparing an SD card for use on an Android smartphone or tablet. We’ll also cover some tips for maintaining your expanded storage and properly removing the SD card when needed.
Can Android Apps be stored on SD Card?
A common question when setting up an SD card for Android is whether or not apps can be stored on the external storage. Unfortunately, Android does not allow you to natively install apps directly to the SD card. Apps must be installed to the internal storage. However, the SD card can store other files associated with apps, such as photos, videos, downloaded documents and more.
Some exceptions to this include:
- Certain apps may give you the option to move some components to the SD card after installation.
- You can use a third-party app that forces apps to the SD card.
- On Android 6.0+ you may be able to adopt external storage as internal storage, which allows full app installation.
So in summary – while apps must install natively to internal storage, you can often move parts of the app to SD card after the fact to save space.
Does Formatting a SD Card Delete Everything?
Yes, formatting your SD card will delete all data that is currently stored on it. This includes photos, videos, documents, music files and any other data that has been saved to the card. Formatting effectively resets the card to a blank, empty state.
This is an important point – you’ll want to make sure to backup or transfer any files you want to keep before formatting an SD card. The formatting process will overwrite your card and make any previous data irrecoverable.
How to Check SD Card Capacity?
It’s useful to check the full capacity and used/free space of your SD card before formatting, as this will determine if you need to backup any files. Here are the steps to check capacity on Android:
- Go to Settings > Storage.
- Scroll down and select your SD card.
- View the total space and available free space.
- You can also tap on the SD card name to see details on usage by apps, photos, etc.
This will give you an overview of the total storage capacity of your card, as well as how much free space remains. If you have a lot of files stored, you may want to transfer them before formatting the card.
How to Format SD Card on Android?
Here are the general steps to format an SD card on Android:
- Insert your SD card into the phone if not already inserted.
- Go to Settings > Storage.
- Tap on your SD card name.
- Tap Format.
- Confirm that you want to format when prompted.
The card will then be formatted and reset to be used as adoptable storage on your Android device. This process may take several minutes depending on the size of your SD card and the speed of your phone. The card will not be usable or visible on your phone until formatting is 100% complete.
Some things to note:
- Double check you are formatting the correct drive so you don’t accidentally erase internal storage.
- Format the card using your phone, not your computer.
- Use caution when formatting as the process is irreversible.
Alternative Format Options
In some cases, the standard Android formatting option may not be available. This is often true with very large capacity cards above 32GB. Some alternate formatting options include:
- Use the SD Card Association’s official SD Memory Card Formatter app on your computer.
- Try a third party Android SD card formatter app.
- Format the card as portable storage instead of internal storage.
How to Set Default Storage Location to SD Card?
Once your SD card is formatted, you can set your phone to save new apps, photos, videos and other data to the card by default instead of filling up your internal storage. Here’s how to set the card as the default storage location:
- Go to Settings > Storage.
- Tap the Menu icon or three dots in the top right.
- Tap Storage Settings.
- Under Default Location, choose your SD card.
Going forward, your phone will attempt to save new files, downloads, media and more directly to the SD card. Of course, as mentioned above, apps themselves cannot be stored externally. But their related files can.
Identify if App Supports SD Card
Not all apps support saving files to the SD card, even when set as the default storage location. If you want to confirm an individual app can be transferred, do the following:
- Go to Settings > Apps.
- Select the app.
- Tap Storage.
- See if there is an option to Change storage location.
If the Change storage location button is greyed out, then the app does not support saving to an SD card. If it is available, you can move it over.
How to Transfer Apps to SD Card?
While apps can’t be fully installed to the SD card, some data from larger apps can be moved over. Here are options for transferring app data:
- If the app supports it, use Change storage location in App Settings.
- Use the native Android App Manager to transfer.
- Install a third party app like AppMgr III to move data.
The ability to transfer app data will depend on developer support and your Android OS version. So results can vary across devices and apps. With most modern devices now including 64GB+ of internal storage, moving core app data may also not be as necessary.
SD Card Keeps Unmounting in Android – Solutions
A common issue faced by some users is the SD card randomly unmounting itself from the phone. This can happen frequently, rendering the card useless. Here are some solutions if you face this issue:
- Adjust the SD card lock switch if there is one.
- Clean the SD card slot with compressed air.
- Check for debris or damage in the card slot.
- Try a new, different SD card.
- Check if the issue persists in Safe Mode.
- Back up data and reformat the SD card.
- Restart your phone into recovery and wipe cache partition.
If none of those steps resolve the unstable mounting, the issue may be a hardware defect that requires service. Contact the device manufacturer in that case.
Storing Media Files on SD Card
One of the best uses for SD cards on Android is storing media files like photos, videos and music. This frees up internal storage for apps and system data. To start saving your media to the card:
- Enable the SD card as default storage in Settings.
- Open your Camera app and change storage location to the SD Card.
- Open your Music app and switch storage to the card.
- Use your file manager to move existing files to the new SD card.
Moving forward, new photos/videos taken and songs added will be downloaded straight to the SD card. You can also transfer any existing media over. Just be mindful of how much free space remains.
SD Card Speed Class for Media Files
If you plan to store a lot of HD video or high resolution photos, be sure to choose an SD card with a fast write speed. Look for cards designated as Class 10, UHS-1 or higher. Slow cards can struggle with media transfer speeds.
How to Safely Remove an SD Card
To avoid data corruption or damaging your card, always unmount your SD card before removing it physically from your phone:
- Go to Storage settings.
- Tap your SD card name.
- Tap the Eject button.
- Wait for the confirmation that it is safe to remove.
- You can now physically take out your card.
Never remove an SD card while files are still being read/written or without ejecting first. Following this safe removal process is vital to avoiding issues.
Using and formatting SD cards on Android is straightforward once you know the steps. The key points to remember are:
- Apps can’t fully install to SD card, but some data can move over.
- Set your card as the default storage location.
- Frequently move media files like photos and videos.
- Make sure to safely eject the card before removing it.
With large capacity SD cards available at low prices, expanding your phone’s storage is inexpensive and convenient. Properly leveraging your SD card can free up valuable internal storage on your Android device for the data that matters most.