How to Change Download and App Locations on Android

Even after all these years of being the most widely used mobile platform in the world, Android still remains a bit patchy when it comes to customizing download locations. Yes, for a few years now you’ve been able to save apps to external storage, but with many of them the bulk of the data remains in your internal storage even after you’ve done that, and only the .apk file moves over to the SD card.

Here we’ll show you how to take more control over where you store the files for your various apps.

Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to try is the simplest option, which is to use Android’s built-in feature to move apps over from your internal storage to your SD card. For smaller apps this should do the trick, but remember that larger apps like games or apps that store additional files like podcasts or recordings will automatically store those files in your internal storage. So even if your podcast app is on your SD card, saving you 50MB or whatever, all those hundreds of MB of podcasts are still clogging up your device.

Still, with that in mind, to move an app from internal to external storage, go to “Settings -> Apps,” tap the app you want to move, then “Storage”, tap “Change” and then select your SD card.

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Once the app’s “moved,” go to the App info screen again, and under “Storage” you’ll be able to see how much of its total size it’s keeping in the External storage. If the number here is significantly smaller than the app’s size in the app list, then you know that your phone hasn’t moved all the data from your app, and you’ll need to find alternative solutions.

Just about all apps that create media files – such as your phone’s built-in camera app, podcast apps and voice recorders – will feature internal options to change the location where you want to save your podcasts, photos, recordings, whatever. That means that “Moving” the app to your SD card won’t really work, and you’ll need to look in the apps individually to set the locations where they store files.

Hint: Most Android devices don’t make the directory of your SD card very clear. In a lot of cases the SD card directory will be something like “storage/0123-4567/,” so if you see that as a save location on your device, go for it! Confusingly, the directory “/sdcard/” is, on my HTC One M8 at least, actually the directory for my internal storage.

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If the above options don’t quite do it for you, and you want to take even more control over your download locations, and you don’t care much for your warranty or your phone’s out of it anyway, you could just root your device which will even allow you to change the install directories of large “un-movable” apps.

Once your device is rooted, check out apps like FolderMount and Link2SD to easily move entire installed apps onto external storage.

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It really is quite frustrating that Android isn’t clearer about its rules when it comes to downloading and installing apps and where exactly they’re kept. The lesson here is not to entirely trust the built-in “Move to SD” option and always double-check to see where exactly the files to your apps are being stored.

Thankfully, apps often contain their own download options internally, letting you save tons of space by moving big audio, video and picture files over to your SD card. But if you want to dig deeper than that, then it makes a strong case for rooting your device (taking into consideration all the risks that entails, of course).

2 comments

  1. I’m surprised there is so little mention about the biggest problem of them all on Android that I, a long time computer user, find intolerable: THE INABILITY TO CHOSE WHERE TO SAVE FILES AND THE DELIBERATE STRIPPING OF USER’S RIGHTS TO MANAGE THEIR OWN DATA.

    I really don’t give much of a hoot where apps install, whether on the internal or SD card, but I am SERIOUSLY AGGRAVATED that Google not only makes it very difficult to SAVE APPS FOR FUTURE USE WHERE I SEE FIT (I don’t appreciate being forced into ‘upgrading’ whenever a developer sees fit and having my right to use a particular version of software taken away), but also and more aggravating, that Android takes so much effort to make sure users DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHERE TO SAVE THEIR DATA, as if users shouldn’t have to know where it is and that it’s best to trust the operating system with it (never mind the fact that more often that not it doesn’t give you access to it willingly).

    It is insidious not only because it DEPRIVES ME OF MY RIGHT TO MANAGE MY OWN DATA, but also because it ESSENTIALLY STRIPS AWAY USER RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS by turning personal content OWNERS into service CONSUMERS at the mercy of giant software corporations’ interests.

    Of course, there are ways around this, but it has become more and more difficult with each ‘upgrade’ and it requires users to take drastic measures, such gaining root access of their devices (under the threat by manufacturers that this may void their warranty, which is illegal under Magnuson–Moss) and the scare mongering of software giants who constantly brainwash users into believing that newer is better (it rarely is, look at how many more ads you are being force fed with each successive ‘upgrade’) and that gaining free access to their system exposes them to severe security risks, a typical tactic of authoritarian rule aimed solely into turning free thinkers into sheeple that is unfit for an advanced society (remember that those who are willing to forgo freedom for temporary safety deserve neither).

    “Proudly composed on Notepad and securely saved as a file on my personal hard drive before posting”

  2. I respectfully request my email address be kept incognito. thankyou. To the comment by Chris C. above. I respect your opinions on Android and Google, you have a lot of valid reasons to believe what all you are saying about the corporations and the advertising. I am happy to finally see others speak up to voice their valid opinions, frustrations, and awareness of the problems that exist with the current directions that mobile networks and their technology supplier corporations have done to the mass population. People are not as stupid as they have been appearing to be for quite awhile now. Brainwashing would not be an exageration in my opinion.
    As a Communications Media Major, and longtime student of various public service industries; the most horrifying sight is watching all ages of people walking down 20 ft. wide walkways with phones in hand and faces glued to them and running into others without even raising their heads, or even apologizing. I am referring to intelligent people. I have been around a few years and never known anyone who’s life was ever that engaging. Not to mention that life on the WorldWideWeb, IS VIRTUAL. Not the real world in our lives we live in on a daily basis. Not even mentioning ‘Social Media.’
    But to the point, my hat’s off to you for speaking your mind in a civilized legitimate way, instead of complaining and bashing as many feel it makes any difference. If you get more to speak up and do something in ways that make a difference, cool.

    As for Android, it is based on Linux, which is “open source” software. I use only open source applications on all my computers and phones now, (Windows lifer convert). Never been happier now I study programming and coding. I owned the first Droid that came out, several since. I watched having 3g. then, watched movies on netflix, hours on end, had many apps on it, which used simultaneously all the time. Now with 4g LTE, limited data, little music is all. Can’t even make one phone call, put it on hold for another without hanging up on the other. Never two apps at the same time without my battery dead by noon, even not using it once in 3-4 hours.
    Google claims Android is not Linux, but that it is open source, as they support that; Nothing can be further from the truth. I now could care less about any smart phone, tablet either. None are ever worth the money. I have had all the so called “flagship” models, global, unlocked, etc.
    I enjoy my older laptops that still have CD burner/players on them, music software on them, anything I want to learn I can now. unlimited internet access and no worries about data limits, my phone being turned on when I get up when I know I turned it off night before. I pay for data for my use, not theirs. thanks for being an aware consumer and speaking the truth. Be a leader not a follower, yourself. Inform yourself about what goes on is the only way to fight the corporate greed and denying consumers their own rights to freedom of choice and privacy, and being overburdened by the massive advertisement that the markets have done too long.
    Right on this, “newer is not better, I have seen more user choice and prefrences in all tech gadgets 6 – 7 yrs ago than are now.
    Don’t buy their products, use opensource as much as you can to support the world that makes the software their do so because of the love for what they do, not for the money they make.

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