How-To Geek

How to Access Files From SD Cards and USB Drives in Modern Windows 8 Apps


Modern Windows 8 Apps such as the Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Photos apps can only display content stored in your libraries. You may want to store media files on an SD card or USB drive, but Windows stops you.

To get around this limitation, you will need to make the SD card or USB drive accessible at a different location in Windows. This will trick both Windows 8 and Windows RT into allowing you to add it to libraries.

Create Folders

You will want separate folders for each type of library on your device. For example, if you want to store music, videos, and photos on your removable device and add them to your libraries, create separate Music, Videos, and Photos folders on the drive.


Give the SD Card or USB Drive a Path

We will need to make the SD card or USB drive accessible at a different location. To do so, we’ll need the Disk Management utility.

Press Windows Key + X or right-click in the bottom left corner of your screen to open the power-user menu, and then click Disk Management.


Locate the removable device you want to use in the Disk Management window, right-click it, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.


Click the Add button to add a new path.


Enter a location the removable drive will be accessible at, such as C:\USB or C:\SD. The location can have any name you like.


Your SD card, flash drive, or external hard drive will now be accessible at the location you specified. It will continue to have its own drive letter, but you can also access it at the new folder location.


Add the Folders to Your Libraries

You can now add the folders to your libraries. Select a library, click the Manage tab at the top of the File Explorer window, and click Manage Library.


Click the Add button and add the appropriate folder to your library. In our example, we will add C:\USB\Videos to our library instead of specifying the E:\Videos folder.


Windows doesn’t notice that the folder is on a removable device and allows you to add it normally. Repeat this process for each library.

Simply add files to the appropriate folder on your SD card or USB drive and they should be accessible in the Xbox Music, Xbox Videos, and Photos apps included with Windows 8 and Windows RT.


You could also do this by creating a junction point instead of using the Disk Management window. However, that would require dealing with the Command Prompt.

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 02/8/13

Comments (11)

  1. SuAlfons

    I have yet to “get” the use of libraries.

    At work (where I use Win7) we have the myjority of data on server shares. They cannot be member of a library.
    Then the data is mostly structured by project (I would then have a library per project, since sorting it out per filetype does not make sense. Why would I not just go to the project home dir via a link).
    Locally, I have simulation models (current work), drafts and offline-references to stuff archived away off the server drives (additionally to company-provided desaster backup, which is available on Servers only).
    Not all our users have admin rights on their machines (there are office class and workstation class machines, don’t ask what and why).
    At home, I have a netbook with Win7. Runs in Ubuntu, mostly ;-). Not much data on it. Main PC is a Mac containing a WinXP virtual machine. (I can’t even print to the Mac’s printer from Win7, but from Linux and XP it works like a charm)

    And then comes Windows8 – keeping the limitations of libraries and forcing you to use it with modern UI apps?

  2. Djblois

    You can use network drives in libraries you just need to enable offline syncing first – so the files can be indexed.

  3. tntring

    If I need a How To Guide in order to access files in Windows 8… MS can stick WIN8 right in their floppy drives… This is known as REGRESSION, or backwards thinking. It’s bad enough that we’re FORCED to use Windows Explorer for SOME file management needs, but it’s a real crock when I have to jump through hoops in order to let an app access files… I predict a 90% chance of LiNuX in my future… MS WIN8 can kiss my @ #goodbye

    But seriously, Thanks for this article. I am going to need is sooner or later. I am an IT professional and have not even begun to work with WIN 8 yet. I don’t really anticipate working with WIN 8, because the corporate world I live in still has a few XP machines to convert to WIN 7! I believe for them WIN8 is going to be another Vista. (or ME for that matter:).. BUT WIN 8, from what I understand has the new file system from MS, and sooner or later I AM going to come face to face with it…


  4. Fyrewerx

    Windows 8 (and Microsoft) is hilarious.

  5. nwidesigns

    the best way to get around this is not to use this trash OS in the first place!

  6. bben

    Every time I think I may want to ‘upgrade’ to Win8 – I find another reason not to. Win8 is just not a desktop OS. It seems to have been designed for tablets. It may work good for tablets, and sort of works on laptops (but not very well from what I have seen) – then somebody at MS decided to ‘port’ it to desktop. Things that work well on a cell phone or tablet – such as touch screen do not translate well to a desktop.

    My desktop has multiple monitors, all beyond easy ‘touch’ distance. I use folders & files instead of libraries so I will be able to actually find specific files when I need them outside of the application that wrote them. (yes, I did try libraries but things kept getting lost) I have a server that works with my several devices as a place to store ‘stuff’ and that stuff is easily retrieved because it is stored in folders and files and not libraries – which don’t work on a server anyway. And I use USB to carry around copies of several important files I need. Win7 does all of these well. And allows but doesn’t force libraries on you. Win 8 fails. Maybe they will make a Win8 for desktops – but I’m not going to hold my breath. I hope MS does better with Win9.

  7. Chris

    Oh dear! Every time a new Windows OS appears outcome all the poor adapters to tell us what a lot of old crock the new OS is. Most of them make difficulties for themselves because of their attitude. The “metro” start screen is really no different from your old desktop menu, only instead of scrolling vertically it scrolls horizontally. Use your middle scroll button. Remember the old Alt+F4 key combo still works to shut down things. When used on the desktop it gives you a menu of choices – shutdown, sleep or restart. I’ve come to the conclusion that most humans are brain lazy and that it’s the learning curve that puts them off a new OS and prompts them to make negative comments about something they have made little effort to understand.

  8. Keith

    Hey idiots (that means the majority of the comments on this article thus far), how about saying something ****ing relevant to the post? Idiots.

    I think it’s a neat and clever way to get Libraries happening on external storage. I plan to use this with an sd card. Thanks HTG.

  9. honk

    Well…. you can add network shares to your libraries, as soon as you use a windows server. Once a share supports index & search, adding it is no problem at all.

  10. SDD

    Do you mind sharing how to set up A micro SD card share to support indexing and search?

  11. David

    I found it harder to teach the concept of “libraries” to new users. All in all I use folders, the way MS is turning Windows into a restrictive environment doesn’t settle well with me. This isn’t W8 hate, W7 had libraries as well and I haven’t touched them either. :)

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