Can I move all my internal storage to SD card?

What is Internal Storage?

Internal storage refers to the built-in storage on an Android device that is accessible by the user. It is the storage space where Android OS, preinstalled apps, and user data such as photos, videos, and downloaded apps are stored.

Android divides internal storage into different partitions that serve different purposes:

  • System partition – Used for the Android OS and preinstalled apps
  • Userdata partition – Stores user data and downloaded apps
  • Cache partition – Contains temporary cached data to improve performance

The amount of internal storage available to users varies by device model. Lower-end devices may have as little as 8GB of usable internal storage, while high-end devices can have 128GB or more. Internal storage capacity plays a big role in determining how many apps and files can be stored locally on the device.

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What is an SD Card?

An SD card, or Secure Digital card, is a small flash memory card developed by the SD Association for use in portable devices. SD cards are widely used in many types of devices such as digital cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets to provide removable data storage.

SD cards use flash memory and plug into a slot inside the device. They were first introduced in 1999 and have gone through several revisions and speed upgrades over the years. The common SD card sizes available today include 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Higher capacity SD cards up to 512GB are also available.

Some key features of SD card technology include:

  • Removable storage – Allows transferring data between devices
  • Small size – Fits into compact devices
  • Durable design – Withstands vibration, extreme temperatures, moisture, and shock
  • High capacity storage – Stores lots of data including media files, documents, apps, etc.
  • Fast data transfer speeds – Quickly move files on and off the card

Overall, the SD card’s small footprint is an ideal storage medium for smaller, thinner and more portable electronic devices. The technology continues advancing to provide greater storage capacities in compact sizes.

Benefits of Using SD Card Storage

SD cards offer several key benefits for Android users looking to expand their storage capacity:

More storage capacity – SD cards provide additional storage space for apps, photos, videos, music and other files. This allows you to free up space on your phone’s internal storage.

Portable between devices – SD cards can easily be removed and transferred between different devices. You can access your files across smartphones, tablets, cameras and more. (1)

Inexpensive – SD cards provide a cost-effective way to add substantial storage. Prices have dropped steadily, with high capacities now affordable for most users.

SD cards are a convenient option for expanding the storage capabilities of Android devices. The ability to store more files and transfer data between devices makes them a popular accessory for many users.

Limitations of SD Cards

While SD cards offer expanded storage, they do come with some drawbacks compared to internal storage:

SD cards tend to have slower read and write speeds compared to internal storage. This is especially true for lower-cost cards, but even high-end SD cards max out at around 300 MB/s compared to over 1 GB/s for the latest UFS 3.1 internal storage [1].

SD cards are also physically less secure and more prone to damage than internal storage chips soldered onto a device’s motherboard. They can become corrupted or fail completely, leading to potential data loss.

While SD card support is nearly universal, some older devices may have limitations or compatibility issues. For example, SDXC cards with capacities over 32GB require device support for the exFAT filesystem.

Full disk encryption offered on some smartphones may not extend to external SD cards. This leaves data on SD cards more vulnerable if the card is removed from the device.

What Can Be Moved to SD Card?

There are several types of files that can be moved to an SD card to free up internal storage on an Android device:

Media files like photos, videos, and music can easily be moved. The Photos app has an option to selectively move files to external storage. You can also use a file manager app to manually move these files.

Document files like PDFs, Word docs, spreadsheets, etc. can be moved as well. Again, a file manager app makes it easy to select files and move them.

Some, but not all, apps allow you to move them to external storage. Games and other large apps are good candidates for moving to an SD card if the option is available. The App Info screen will indicate if an app can be moved.

In general, media files and documents are safer to move than apps. With apps, you risk breaking functionality if the card is removed. But photos, videos, music, and docs can be freely moved without issues.

Overall, an SD card is ideal for media collections like photos and videos. Documents can be stored too. And some apps may be movable to free up internal space.

What Cannot Be Moved to SD Card

While many files can be moved, there are some limitations on what can be transferred to external SD card storage on Android devices. This includes:

  • System files – The Android operating system files cannot be moved, as they need to remain on internal storage for the system to function properly.

  • Some apps – Not all apps support moving to external storage, especially pre-installed apps. Games and apps that customize the system may not allow moving.

  • Widgets – Interactive widgets rely on faster internal storage access, so they cannot be transferred.

  • Contacts and messages – For privacy and security reasons, contacts and text messages cannot be moved to external storage.

  • Settings and preferences – Any customized settings and preferences are stored internally and cannot be moved.

Trying to move these types of files to an SD card may result in errors or the files becoming corrupted and unusable. The Android operating system restricts moving essential system files and sensitive data to protect the stability and security of the device.

How to Move Files to SD Card

There are a few different ways to move files from your phone’s internal storage to an SD card on Android devices.

Using Device Settings

On some Android phones like Samsung, you can go to Settings > Device maintenance > Storage to view and manage files. Here you can tap on categories like Images, Videos, Audio, Documents and select items to move to the SD card.

Using a File Manager App

There are many file manager apps on Google Play that make it easy to move files. Apps like SD Card File Manager let you browse internal storage and SD card contents, select multiple files, and move them from one location to the other.

Using ADB Commands

For advanced users, you can use ADB commands to move folders from internal storage to SD card. For example:
adb shell mv /storage/emulated/0/folder /storage/extSdCard/folder
Just replace “folder” with the actual folder name.

So in summary, the built-in device settings, file manager apps, and ADB commands give you different options to move files to SD card on Android.

Moving Apps to SD Card

There are a couple ways to move apps to the SD card on Android devices. The easiest way is to use the app’s settings if the developer has allowed the app to be moved. Open the app’s info page in Settings and look for the “Storage” option. If the app can be moved, you’ll see something like “Change” or “Move to SD card.” Tap that and the app will be transferred to your SD card.

You can also use ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands to move apps over. This works even if the app doesn’t allow moving normally. To do this, connect your Android device to your computer and enable USB debugging. Open a command prompt/terminal window and use the following commands (replace “app_name” with the actual app name):

adb shell pm get-install-location app_name
adb shell pm set-install-location 2
adb shell pm get-install-location app_name

The first command checks the current install location, the second command sets the location to external/SD card, and the third confirms it changed. Now the app will install to the SD card when updated. See this guide for more details.

However, some apps don’t work properly when moved to external storage. They may crash frequently or lose data. Apps with widgets or background services are especially problematic. You’ll have to move them back if issues come up.

Adoptable Storage

Adoptable storage allows you to format your SD card as internal storage, essentially extending your internal storage onto the SD card. This feature was introduced in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. When you enable adoptable storage, the SD card is encrypted and formatted to function like internal storage.

The benefit of adoptable storage is that it provides a seamless experience, with the SD card acting as part of the internal storage for both apps and files. Any apps, photos, videos or other files that are saved will automatically go to the SD card if there is space, instead of filling up your internal storage first.

Essentially, adoptable storage allows your SD card to seamlessly integrate with the internal storage through formatting. This removes the need to manually move files and apps over. However, a downside is that adoptable storage is encrypted to that specific device, so the SD card won’t be readable if you remove it and insert it into another device (1).

Tips for Managing SD Card Storage

Properly managing the data on your SD card is important to keep it running smoothly. Here are some tips:

Back up data regularly – Make sure to back up your SD card data to another location in case the card becomes corrupted or damaged. You can back up to your computer or to cloud storage.

Use a file manager app – A file manager like ES File Explorer makes it easy to view, move, delete, copy, and organize files on your SD card.

Check compatibility – Before buying a new SD card, make sure it is compatible with your device. Refer to your phone’s manual or product details.

Perform maintenance – Periodically scan your SD card for errors and optimize performance. You can use your phone’s built-in maintenance tools or apps like SD Maid for this.

Following these tips will help you get the most out of your SD card storage and avoid common issues.

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