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How to Install Android Apps to the SD Card by Default & Move Almost Any App to the SD Card

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Android apps install to the internal storage by default, but you can also set the SD card as your default install location. This trick allows you to move almost any app to the SD card – no root access required.

This tweak requires Android 2.2 or later. To change the default install location, you’ll need to use the ADB, or Android Debug Bridge, utility included with Google’s Android SDK.

 

Enable USB Debugging

First, you’ll need to enable USB debugging on your Android device. Open the Settings screen, tap Applications, and select Development.

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Tap the USB Debugging checkbox to enable it. This will enable debug mode, allowing you to change the settings on your Android device from your computer. You may want to disable debug mode after completing this process.

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Install the Android SDK

You’ll need to download and install Google’s Android SDK on your computer. If you don’t already have Oracle’s Java JDK installed on your computer, you’ll have to download and install it before installing the Android SDK.

After you’ve installed both the JDK and Android SDK, launch the SDK Manager from your Start menu.

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The ADB utility isn’t installed by default. It’s included in the Android SDK Platform-tools package – select this package and click the Install button to download and install it.

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After the process completes, connect your Android device to your computer with its included USB cable. Windows should locate the device and install the appropriate drivers automatically. If it doesn’t, you may have to download and install the appropriate drivers from your Android device’s manufacturer. Do not mount the device after connecting it – just plug it in.

Using ADB

Open a Windows Explorer window and navigate to the android-sdk\platform-tools folder. On Windows, you’ll find this folder at C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools by default. Check C:\Program Files\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows.

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Launch a Command Prompt window in this folder by pressing and holding the Shift button, right-clicking in the folder, and selecting Open command window here.

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Run the adb devices command and you should see your connected Android device.

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Run the following command to set the default install location to your SD card:

adb shell pm setInstallLocation 2

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If you want to revert this change later and install apps to the internal storage by default, run this command:

adb shell pm setInstallLocation 0

0 represents your device’s internal storage, and is the default. 2 represents the external storage, whether it’s an SD card or USB storage.

Moving Apps to SD Card

Apps that refused to leave your system storage can now be moved to the external storage. For instance, below you’ll see screenshots of the Slacker Radio app. Before the change was made, the Move to USB Storage button was grayed out. After the change was made, the button is enabled and the app can be moved.

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To move an app to the SD card, open the Settings screen, tap Applications, and select Manage Applications. Select the app you want to move and tap the Move button on its details screen.

A Warning

Some apps shouldn’t be installed to your SD card and should remain installed on the internal storage. The external storage is unavailable when your Android device is mounted on your computer, so apps that remain running all the time should be left on your internal storage. Widgets, launchers, animated wallpapers, and anything you want to use while your Android’s SD card is mounted on your computer should be left on the internal storage.


For more tips on freeing up space, check out our list of ways to free up space on Android.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 05/23/12

Comments (31)

  1. faridgem

    Hi,fantastic tutorial . I was looking for such kinds of tweak to my Galaxy ace device because after installing few apps my internal storage of phone became full and it never allow me to install anymore apps at all.From now i can use this tricks to change the install location to my SD card and can have fun more… Thanks bro for this nice tips.

  2. D

    I will be always very grateful for this tip. Thanks! When I get home, I will definitely try this.

  3. Mac

    Or use Move2SD Enabler, of course on a rooted device.

  4. ameen

    i tried it before and yea its working , but the internal memory start to get low time by time after every application installs

  5. David

    I get an error device not found

  6. sunnyorlando

    No device listed after running command. Only shows “List Of Devices Attached”. Yet my device is attached and recognized in Windows.

  7. Paul T

    Or just root your device and then let Titanium Backup move them across in a batch. :) far easier!

  8. Joe

    If you don’t find the error this is how you fix it:

    I got the same thing, ran command and only got “List of Devices Attached”. I have an HTC EVO 4G and went out to the HTC site and downloaded/installed HTC Sync. Opened it up and it had another update, updated it and then connected my phone and at that point switched the phone to HTC Sync and back again, never did get HTC Sync working but the Windows prompt came up and started to install more drivers for my phone.

    After all the drivers were done installing I ran “adb devices” and it worked exactly like described above.

    Hope this helps.

  9. Juan

    First the device was not found. Followed Joe’s advice and installed HTC Sync. More drivers were installed. So far so good but I’m getting a “permission denied” after running adb shell….. at the command prompt. The phone is on charge only and the USB Debugging is enabled.
    HELP! !! I need to do this since my EVO 4G has run out of memory.

  10. locknload1

    Didn’t do anything for my Samsung Admire. The whole thing ran but when I go to my apps it changed nothing. I still can’t move some of the downloaded apps.

  11. DeLan

    Very clear instructions, but doesn’t work on my Acer 100 Tablet. The “Move to USB Storage” button never shows up. Any clues?

  12. Juan

    Well, found out the reason for the “permission denied” above. The folder was read only. Changed the attributes to full permissions. Had to login as an administrator (had to add the admin icon to the login screen) to do it, even though it is my PC and I AM the admin. After that, I could move most apps to the sd card but there are still some that won’t allow it. Looks like the new drivers have sped up the internet access (through 3G when not in wi-fi) as well.
    Thanks a lot. Great article.

  13. John M

    Didn’t work on my LG Ally. Phone is not quite continuously but quite frequently “out of memory”. Also have the App2SD app, but it’s of course unable to move any of the pre-loaded stuff – Not much “crapware” but not all of it needed by me either.

  14. khalark

    This did not work on my LG Optimus M+ , I can’t seem to get the proggys past the internal sd memory. I would like to get them on external Sd. any help would be appreciated. thanks

  15. Chris Hoffman

    Installing your device’s drivers on your computer will definitely be necessary to get ADB working.

    Unfortunately, this may not work on some devices — it’s possible some manufacturers may lock this setting down, requiring rooting your device to access it. Android is like that — manufacturers can tweak their systems and lock things down. I’m glad it worked for some of you!

  16. Alex

    3 storage locations
    system storage ~2GB
    usb storage ~11GB
    External card

    Tis tip is for moving apps to external card, i think.
    what abt moving from system storage to usb storage?
    or combine system storage & usb storage to ~13GB?

    Rgs

  17. Suliman

    i did all the steps without any error. After the restart when i try to install a game from google play my phone say that you don’t have sufficient space. i have 2 GB free space in my SD CARD and 10 MB internal space remaining. The game size is 20 mb . It mean that the game is trying to install on phone memory not SD and the method is not working for me .

    Please help me out.
    Android version 2.3.4
    Qmobile A5
    shaheen_suliman@hotmail.com

  18. Chris Hoffman

    @Alex

    Seems to install to the USB storage on my device.

    @Sulliman

    Not sure what to do about that — It’s possible the device manufacturer locked that setting, I suppose…

  19. RDub

    Actually, the way that mine is set up, it seems like the way it’s written is with “-”s between the words SetInstallLocation, so where it looks like Set-Install-Location. Noticed running it the way as was worded in the tutorial, going back up the Run Prompt, you could see how it had errored and what the solution was. Who knows, might have even not been the Poster’s fault, could have been in update 19… Just food for thought. Anyways… Hope this helps some of those that didn’t happen to catch that themselves.

  20. RDub

    BTW, the run prompt is CasE-seNSitIve.

  21. Denise

    This seems to have worked on my LG Optimus V. Thank you!

  22. MC Zata

    I keep getting the Access Denied on the console terminal, please help

  23. additya

    Please help i have a samsung s3 , i am trying to move apps to ext sdcard through the apps2sd software but unable to do it says ext storage not found or card is emulated. What do i do plz help??? My email id additya@live.in

  24. Saurabh Goswami

    Hey,

    The Tutorial Worked. After doing the process stated here i used appstosd App to move the apps to my SD card. I was able to move Facebook Twitter etc apps to SD card however, Apps like Drop Box, Gmail, Maps & Play Store did not show the highlighted ” Move to SD Card” Button ??

    Is there a way they can also be moved ?

  25. ratnakar

    does it works n if yes den will it cause prob n if yes then can it be sort out………..plz hep
    thank you :D

  26. Sunny

    Thanks to you, Chris, who wrote this article, I can now move most of the apps to SD card. However, some remain unmovable, probably needed by Android.

    Mine is Sony Xperia Ray Android v2.3.4.

    Sunny

  27. GDownsJr

    1. On my LG Vortex 660 I had to enable USB Debugging after the pnone was connected. Before this I could not see the device.

    2. The procedure allowed me to move downloaded apps. However, pre-installed apps seem to be locking into my phone storage.

  28. Android2.2

    This tutorial only work for win7, i have tried on xp but there is no “Launch a Command Prompt window in this folder by pressing and holding the Shift button, right-clicking in the folder, and selecting Open command window here.” <–no such thing here. When i click open, it's just show pop up CMD + bla.. blaa.. then closed by it self within a few second only. Any idea?

  29. optimus elite

    >> Android2.2
    http://www.valuewalk.com/2012/05/how-to-install-move-almost-any-android-app-to-the-sd-card/

    tried on lg optimus elite

    but it didn’t change the setting?

    after the adb shell pm setInstallLocation 2 part it said:

    [1] Killed pm setInstallLoc…

    any idea?

  30. Art

    This procedure does not work for Win XP w/ SP3, after installing the Android SDK Platform-tools the Android files under Program Files or any other file simply does not show. Any one please advise

  31. Nicole

    Will doing this to my HTC Explorer allow me to move the Facebook and Twitter applications to my SD card? They are the ones taking up most of the space. And Youtube.

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