Windows 10’s big November update added the ability to install apps from the Store onto an SD card, a USB drive, or another type of external or internal drive. This will be extremely useful on tablets and other devices with a small amount of storage. Just plug in an SD card and you can install apps to it.
This was possible in the initial version of Windows 8 with a geeky trick, but the feature was removed in Windows 8.1. Now, it’s back in Windows 10. You can also have Windows 10 save offline maps and other files to another drive, too.
Insert an SD Card
First, you’ll need to get an SD card that fits your device. Depending on your device, you may need a larger SD card or a smaller Micro SD card. (Micro SD cards are often sold with adapters that allow them to function as larger SD cards, too.)
If the SD card sticks out of the side of your laptop or tablet when you insert it, you may want to consider a “low-profile” Micro SD card. These are a bit shorter than standard SD cards, and they will sit flush with the edge of tablets and laptops where a standard-size SD card sticks out. This makes it more convenient to leave the SD card inserted for the permanent storage boost.
When buying an SD card, remember that it’s not all about price, either. Storage classes matter. You wouldn’t want to use the slowest class of SD card for an app, as that will just slow down the app unnecessarily.
Install New Apps to the SD Card (or Another Drive)
After you’ve inserted an SD card, USB drive, or another storage device, open the Settings app from your Start menu or Start screen.
Navigate to System > Storage in the Settings app. If you have an SD card inserted, you should see it in the list of drives at the top of the screen.
Scroll down and click or tap the “New apps will save to” option under Save locations. Select your SD card or another drive here and click “Apply”.
Other options on this screen allow you to select the drive where new documents, music, pictures, and videos are stored, too.
Now, go to the Windows Store and install an app like you normally would. Windows will install that app to the SD card, saving space on your internal drive and making it possible to install apps that just wouldn’t fit on the small internal storage included with many less-expensive Windows 10 tablets and laptops.
How to Move Installed Apps to the New Drive
Enable this setting and apps you install in the future will be stored on your SD card. However, apps you already have installed won’t be moved to the SD card.
While it may be possible to move apps to the SD card in a hacky, unsupported way, this method wouldn’t be reliable in the future. Instead, you should do what Microsoft recommends. Simply uninstall the app and it will be removed from your internal storage. Reinstall the app afterwards and Windows 10 will download it to your SD card and store it there.
To uninstall an app, locate it in your Start menu or Start screen and right-click it or long-press it. Select “Uninstall”.
Afterwards, go back to the Windows Store, search for that app, and install it normally. Your Windows 10 system will re-download it and place it on the SD card.
What if You Unplug the Drive?
Remove the SD card, USB drive, or another external drive with apps on it and the apps won’t function. You can click or tap the tile to launch the app, but nothing will happen. Reconnect the storage to the computer and everything will work normally again.
How to Undo This Change
If you want to stop using the external storage location in the future, return to the System > Storage screen in the Settings app and select “This PC” for “New apps installed to”. New apps will then install to your internal storage, as normal. However, apps you’ve installed to the SD card or another external drive won’t be migrated, so you’ll have to use the uninstall-and-reinstall trick if you want to move them.
Traditional desktop programs can be installed the SD card or another drive in the usual way, of course. When installing an application like you normally would, select the SD card, USB drive, or other drive as its installation location in the installation wizard.