How to Download Android Apps to an SD card

Many newer Android phones come with an SD card slot that expands the built-in memory substantially. If the internal storage isn’t enough for your needs, this accessory is an essential aspect of your phone. Even if a smartphone comes with 16GB of internal storage, it is too easy to fill it up with media, apps and files. That’s why I put this guide on how to download Android apps to an SD card together.

How to Download Android Apps to an SD card

Anyone who uses their smartphone to manage their life will know that no matter how much storage you have, you always need more. If you can download apps to your SD card, you circumvent that. You no longer need to perform housekeeping and delete files and apps before downloading something new. You can just download to your card instead. Here’s how.

You will need your Android smartphone, a USB charging cable to connect it and a computer. You may also need a third party app manager or the Android SDK installed onto your computer depending on how you want to proceed.

App Manager page on Google Play Store.

Ways to Move Android Apps to an SD card

If you already have Android apps on your smartphone that you want to move to free up space, you can do that. You can either do it using the phone itself or a third party app manager. There are many apps that manage other apps. Some are free while others are premium. I won’t name names here as they change all the time. Do some research and decide which app manager you like the look of and has been well reviewed.

Using the Phone to Move Apps

  1. Navigate to the Settings menu on your phone.
  2. Open the app you want to move.
  3. Tap the Move to SD Card button if there is one. Not all phones or apps will allow this through the UI so if you don’t see the option, don’t worry.

Using a third-party app manager

  1. Navigate to Google Play Store and select Apps.
  2. Find an app manager you like the look of and install it.
  3. Using the Google Play Store app to manage app installations and save locations is necessary unless you root your phone.

The aptly named App Manager and File Manager are two popular choices that have received quality reviews.

Some third party app managers are free while others are premium, do some research and decide which app manager you like the look of. Different app managers work in slightly different ways but many will list apps as movable or not and give the option to either leave them on your smartphone’s internal storage or move them onto your SD card. Work through your apps and move them around as you see fit.

Using Android Studio and SDK to Install Apps Onto an SD Card

Android Studio homepage.

If you want to install apps directly onto your SD card by default, you can do that too. You will need to install the Android SDK, which is a small program that allows your PC to communicate with the Android operating system. It is safe to download and install from the link provided below.

If you have, or don’t mind using, the Android SDK, you can configure your phone to automatically install apps onto your SD card. Here’s how.

  1. Plug your phone into your PC using the USB charging cable and set it for file transfer.
  2. Download and install the Google Android SDK onto your computer.
  3. On your phone, navigate to Settings>Developer Options.
  4. Next, scroll down and select USB Debugging, depending on your phone and version of Android, the menu may differ but it’s in there somewhere.
  5. On the PC, open the Platform-tools folder and open a CMD window within the folder. (shift+right click open command window here). If you’re on Windows it might be under a folder like this: C:\Users\User1\AppData\Local\Android\Sdk\platform-tools. You can also navigate to the folder via the command prompt.
  6. Type ‘adb devices’ to view all connected devices.
  7. Type ‘adb shell pm set-install-location 2’ to set the install location to external, SD card in this case.
  8. Type ‘adb shell pm get-install-location’ to view the location where apps are installed.
  9. If you see 2 [external] in the CMD window, you’re all set. If you don’t, try again.

This PC process sets your SD card as the default install location for apps going forward. You should now be able to install most apps directly onto the SD card. However, not every app will work correctly using this method. Unfortunately, it is a matter of trial and error to see which do and which do not. If an app errors, manually install it onto internal storage for it to work correctly again.

How do you manage your internal and external memory? Have any neat management tricks you want to share? Tell us below if you do!

One thought on “How to Download Android Apps to an SD card”

Ermagundr says:
When I type adb devices is says adb is not recognized as an internal or external command operable program of batch file

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