How to Move Files, Pictures & Apps to An SD Card

SD cards clear internal storage so your Android device performs better

A close up of two rows of blue and black SD memory cards
Mario Gutiérrez / GettyImages

One common theme with computing devices—PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets—is the way they tend to feel sluggish over time. You’re always going to get peak performance when they’re brand new out of the box, but the accumulated apps, files, photos, and updates end up using system resources, which results in slower operation.

Moving Files From Android Device to SD Card

With proper upkeep and the right hardware, you can maintain optimal performance on your Android smartphone or tablet as long as it supports OS version 4.0 newer and has a microSD card slot.

Those two features allow you to free up storage space. High-quality high-capacity SD cards, ranging from 4GB to 512GB, aren't expensive. Just double-check the maximum capacity of microSD card that your device supports before you buy. Increasing the available storage space can be accomplished by:

  • Moving files to an SD card
  • Moving apps to an SD card
  • Changing the default camera storage to an SD card

While there’s no set rule about how much internal storage space a mobile device should keep free, you can’t go wrong with "more is better." The other benefit of saving files—particularly music, videos, and photos—to external storage is the ability to swap them to another smartphone or tablet. This is useful for those times when you want to upgrade your device efficiently, share data with another device, or transfer files to long-term storage or backup. 

Move Files to an SD Card

Files tend to be a huge culprit when it comes to taking up storage space on Android smartphones and tablets. There are two basic methods of moving files from internal storage to a microSD card on Android: quick & effective and deliberately organized

The Quick & Effective method dumps all of the selected file types into a destination folder.

Note: The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

  1. Open the App Drawer (also known as App Tray) by tapping the Launcher Button to bring up the complete list of apps available on your Android device.
  2. Scroll through the apps and tap to launch the File Manager. This may be called Explorer, Files, File Explorer, My Files, or something similar on your device. If you don’t have one, you can download one from the Google Play store.
  3. Look at what the File Manager presents and tap the icon or folder labeled with the file type you want to move. For example, you could select to move audio, documents, images, or videos.
  4. Tap the Menu icon that is usually located in the upper-right corner to show a drop-down list of actions.
  5. Choose Select All from the drop-down list of actions, or choose Select. You should then see empty check boxes appear to the left of the files and a single empty check box at the top usually labeled Select all or 0 selected.
  6. Tap the check box at the top to Select All.
  7. Tap the Menu icon again to show the drop-down list of actions.
  8. Choose Move.
  1. Navigate the Android device until you find the desired destination folder on the SD card. If it doesn’t currently exist, tap the Create Folder action either by a button at the top or bottom or from the drop-down menu to make and name a destination folder.
  2. Tap the destination folder.
  3. Tap the Move Here action either by a button at the top or bottom or from the drop-down menu. You may also see a Cancel action, just in case you change your mind or want to start over again.

Wait for your device to finish moving the files. Repeat these steps for the other file types, and then you’re done.

The Deliberately Organized method keeps your files and folders grouped as intended. For example,  music tracks for artists and albums are in their familiar locations.

  1. Open the App Drawer by tapping the Launcher Button to bring up the complete list of apps available on your device.
  2. Scroll through the apps and tap to launch the File Manager. This may be called Explorer, Files, File Explorer, My Files, or something similar. If you don’t have one, you can download one from the Google Play store.
  3. Tap the icon or folder for Local Storage. This may be labeled as Device Storage, Internal Memory, or something similar.
  4. Navigate the device until you find the desired files or folders you want to move. Camera images are found in the DCIM folder.
  5. Tap the Menu icon to show a drop-down list of actions.
  6. Choose Select from the drop-down list of actions. You should see empty check boxes to the left of the files and folders as well as a single empty check box at the top, usually labeled Select all or 0 selected. If you don't see the check boxes, tap and hold one of the files or folders to make the check boxes appear.
  7. Tap the  empty check boxes to select the individual files or folders you want to move.
  1. You can tap the check box at the top to Select All.
  2. Tap the Menu icon again to show the drop-down list of actions.
  3. Choose Move from the drop-down list of actions.
  4. Navigate the Android device until you find the desired destination folder on the external SD card. If it doesn’t currently exist, tap the Create Folder action to make and name the destination folder.
  5. Tap the destination folder.
  6. Tap the Move Here action. You may also see a Cancel action in case you change your mind or want to start over again.

Wait for your device to finish moving the files and folders. Repeat these steps until you’ve moved all the desired files and folders from your device’s internal storage to the SD card.

Move Apps to SD Card

Your average mobile app doesn’t require much storage space by itself, but after you download dozens of them, the space requirements add up. Consider that many popular apps require additional space for saved data, which is in addition to the download size. 

Android OS allows you to move apps to and from the SD card. Not every app can be stored externally, mind you; preloaded, critical, and system apps stay put. You can’t accidentally move these. 

  1. Open the App Drawer by tapping the Launcher Button to bring up the complete list of apps available on your device.
  2. Scroll through the apps and tap the Settings icon, which resembles a gear.
  3. Scroll through the list of system settings and tap Application Manager to see an alphabetical list of all the apps on your device. This setting may be called Apps, Applications, or something similar on your device.
  4. Scroll through the list of apps and tap the one you want to move. You are presented with details and actions for the app.
  5. Tap the Move to SD Card button. If the Move to SD Card button is grayed out and does nothing when you press it, the app can’t be moved. If the button is labeled as Move to Device Storage, the app is already on the SD card.
  6. Tap the text labeled Storage for a list of actions including Change. If there is no Change button, the app can’t be moved.
  7. Tap the Change button to see the list storage options: Internal Storage and SD Card.
  8. Tap the SD Card option. Follow any prompts that appear.

    Wait for your device to finish moving the app. Repeat these steps until you’ve moved all the desired apps from your device’s internal storage to the SD card.

    Default Camera Storage

    You probably take a lot of photos on your smartphone, so it would be such a hassle to move photos and video every single time. Solution? Change your camera’s default storage location. Do this once, and all the photos and video you take on your device are saved to the DCIM folder on the SD card. Most—but not all—stock camera apps offer this option. If yours doesn’t, you can download a different camera app such as Open Camera, Camera Zoom FX, or Camera VF-5 from the Google Play store.

    1. Open the App Drawer by tapping the Launcher Button to bring up the complete list of apps available on your device.
    2. Scroll through the apps and tap to launch the Camera.
    3. Tap the Gear Menu icon to access the camera settings. You may have to tap an additional Menu icon to bring up the complete list, depending on your particular camera app.
    4. Tap the option for Storage Location.
    5. Tap the option for Memory Card. It may be called External Storage, SD Card, or something similar, depending on your device.

    Now you can take pictures to your heart’s content, knowing they’re all being saved directly to the SD card.

    Transfer Files to Long-Term Storage

    Eventually, the SD card will fill up and run out of space. To remedy that, you can move files from the SD card to a laptop or desktop using a memory card reader. From there, you can move files to a high-capacity external hard drive and upload to an online storage site like Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive.