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.
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.
Change Download Settings Within the Apps
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.
The Nuclear Option
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.
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).