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Home / Tips and Tricks / The Complete Guide to Using a MicroSD Card on Your Android Phone

The Complete Guide to Using a MicroSD Card on Your Android Phone

While streaming and cloud storage have helped, it’s an unwritten rule that you never have enough storage space on your smartphone. Storage capacity has skyrocketed in recent years, with some phone brands offering a whopping 1TB of space for a short time. But with our growing appetite for 8K video and high-resolution images, it’s safe to say phones will have to keep upgrading their storage capacity in the future.

If it does then it can be difficult to keep up with an older or cheaper phone. Fortunately, a microSD card slot can help. Although kind of a dying breed, phones with microSD card slots still exist, and they remain an excellent way to increase your available storage space. Here̵

7;s everything you need to know about using a microSD card on Android.

Do I have a microSD card slot?

Image of a Galaxy S8's MicroSD card slot with a PIN nearby

It’s sad, but the microSD card has become kind of a holdover from the past – meaning your phone isn’t guaranteed to have one, even if it’s the latest or greatest phone from Samsung or Google. Google’s Pixel range has never supported microSD cards (rather leaning on Google’s own Google Drive for extra storage), while even Samsung strayed from microSD card slots on its latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

However, some phones still come with microSD card slots. The best way to know for sure is to consult any documentation you may have received with your phone, or the website of your device manufacturer. Websites like GSMArena may also be able to help.

Portable or internal storage?

Back in the day, you could choose between setting your microSD card as internal storage (meaning your phone treats it like its original storage) or portable storage (meaning it looks more like a USB stick in a computer). Unfortunately, support for setting up a microSD card as internal storage has diminished sharply, and it’s quite rare to find it on a smartphone these days.

This means you’ll likely be forced to use your microSD card as portable storage – which isn’t much of an issue, if we’re honest. You can still put documents, music and other files on it, and it makes it a lot easier to transfer to as all you need to do is remove the microSD card (after properly unmounting it from your phone , such as a responsible person). ) and insert it into your laptop or desktop computer.

So what’s the benefit of using it as internal storage, if you have the option? Well, it means your phone has more storage to play with, and it can use it to store apps, data, and even things like background processes. But then again, it means that there will be problems when you take the card out. If you are using a microSD card as internal storage the phone will format the card that way nothing but it can understand – in other words, you can’t just take the card out and put in a new one because then your phone won’t work properly.

So which one should you choose, if you have the option? Well, if you’re okay with moving your files around yourself and want the ability to remove the card along the line, you should go for portable storage. However, if you want extra storage on your phone but don’t want to deal with file management, internal storage gives your device a bit of storage that the phone will manage itself.

Insert a microSD card

Different phones have had different methods of installing microSD cards over the years, but most manufacturers have decided to install them through the SIM card tray.

To install the microSD card you’ll need a small pin or SIM drawer opener – your phone usually comes with one, so tick your box if you still have it. Just push the pin into the small hole in the drawer and the drawer should pop open. Place the microSD card in the correct position in the tray and slide the tray back into the phone making sure it is right side up. It really is that simple!

Using a microSD card for portable storage

Installing a microSD card as portable storage is easy. For most phones, it is as easy as inserting the microSD card. Your phone will detect it and set it up as portable storage automatically.

However, if you have a phone that can use your card as portable or internal storage, you should set up your card as portable storage. To do this, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Insert the microSD card into your phone. A message will appear stating that a USB drive has been detected. You want to click on it Established button on that notification. You will be presented with two options: use the card as portable storage or as internal storage. Select Use as portable storage

Step 2: A new notification will pop up and if you want to see what files you have on the SD card, press Explore button. Or go to Settings> Storage & USBthen tap the name of the SD card. You will then be taken to Android’s file manager, which allows you to view and move files between your phone and the SD card.

Step 3: If you have an older Android device that doesn’t have a file manager, you can still use third-party apps to juggle your files. A great app for this is Files by Google, which you can download from the Google Play Store.

Transfer files from a computer to a microSD card

After your SD card is formatted as portable storage, you can move files between the SD card and your Android phone’s built-in storage. However, you can also move files directly from your computer to the SD card. Here’s how to do that.


As you might expect, Apple’s macOS and Google’s Android don’t naturally play well. Fortunately, there is an easy way to fix that.

Step 1: First, download Android File Transfer.

Step 2: Once the app is installed on your computer, connect your Android phone to your computer with a USB cable.

Step 3: If you have a Cannot access device storage warning, you need to change some settings quickly. Some newer phones will immediately show a pop-up asking if you want to allow access to phone data. When you understand that, tap Allow

Otherwise, pull down your notification tray on your phone and check what the connection notification says. If it says C.harging via USB, tap the notification and select Transfer files

Step 4: Android File Transfer should then automatically open on your computer and you can drag and drop files to the phone’s internal storage or microSD card by tapping the storage option at the top of the Android File Transfer window.


It’s slightly easier to transfer files to your Android phone and the SD card on that phone with a PC simply because you don’t have to download the Android File Transfer app to transfer files.

Step 1: Connect your device to your computer with the USB cable.

Step 2: Just like the above Mac instructions, make sure your phone is ready to transfer files by checking the notification.

Step 3: Once enabled you can access both the phone’s internal storage and the microSD card storage This PC on your computer.

Using a microSD card as internal storage

Using the microSD card as internal storage is simple, but limited as we discussed above.

Before following the steps below, make sure you have a fast microSD card as not all SD cards are created equal. It may be worth a few extra dollars to buy a fast SD card as it means your storage can be accessed more quickly when you use it. If you are unsure, don’t worry. Android will warn you if your card is too slow and it can lead to performance issues. If that warning does appear, we recommend purchasing a newer, faster SD card. Not only that, but even faster SD cards probably won’t be as fast as the phone’s built-in internal storage, so it’s probably better to buy a phone with more storage if the data transfer speed is your thing ‘ are concerned about.

It is also important to note that this process will erase the contents of your SD card. If you have something you want to keep, you need to move it first.

Here’s how to install the microSD card as internal storage.

Step 1: Insert the SD card, and when the message appears, press Established button.

Step 2: You will then be given a choice between using the SD card as portable storage or internal storage. Select Use as internal storage

Step 3: You can then choose to move photos, files and some apps to the SD card if you wish. If you don’t, the data can be migrated later by going to Settings> Storage & USB, then tap the SD card, press the menu button and select Migrate data

Made the wrong decision?

Don’t worry, if you want to switch your card from portable storage to internal storage or vice versa, you can still do that. Go to Settings> Storage & USB, and you will see the microSD cards you have installed.

Julian Chokkattu / Digital trends

If your microSD card is set up as portable storage and you want to switch to internal storage, select the drive and tap the menu button at the top right of the screen. Then select Settingsand tap Format as internalKeep in mind that this will erase the contents of the SD card, so make sure all your important files have been copied to another location before doing this.

To switch from internal storage to portable storage, follow the same steps but press Format as portable rather than Format as internalThis will also delete all contents from the SD card, which means that some apps may not work properly and you may need to reinstall them for them to work. You may also lose some photos and files during this process, so we recommend that you back up all your files to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive before reformatting.

Best Practices

There are a few other things to keep in mind when using a microSD card with your Android phone. Here are some of them:

Do not move frequently used apps to a microSD card

Moving apps to your microSD card is best to move apps that you don’t use every day. That’s because your microSD card is a bit slower than your Android’s built-in storage, so apps may not open as quickly as they normally would, even though they are stored in RAM after opening.

Never remove the card without ejecting it

If you have formatted your microSD card to be used as internal storage, you will never want to take it out without going through proper processes first, such as formatting it to use as portable storage. Otherwise, apps may not work and you could lose files on your device.

Back up your files

microSD cards generally have higher failure rates than other forms of storage. We recommend that you backup the important files on your card to cloud storage such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

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