How to Install Modern Apps on an External Drive in Windows 10

How to Install Modern Apps on an External Drive in Windows 10

When compared to Windows 8, Windows 10 has a lot of improvements in terms of features and usability. Some of those improvements include the ability to side load modern apps, install modern apps in a separate partition or another drive and the ability to move already installed apps. Installing and moving apps to another drive is particularly helpful if you have low disk space in the C drive or if you are using a low capacity hard drive like in notebooks.

Here is how you can install the modern apps on an external drive and even move the already installed apps to the drive or partition of your choice.

Installing modern apps in a separate partition or on an external drive is not hard. To start, insert the external drive and make sure that it is detected in the File Explorer. After that, click on the Notifications icon and then select the option “All Settings.” Alternatively, you can also use the Windows 10 keyboard shortcut “Win + I.”

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Once the Settings panel has been opened, select the option “System.” This is where you can edit most of the System-specific settings.

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In the System window, navigate to the “Storage” panel. Here you will find all the drives in your system and the default install and download locations.

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Just scroll down and select your external drive from the drop-down menu under “New apps will save to.” As you can see, I’m selecting my USB drive as my destination.

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That’s all there is to do. From this point forward whenever you install a new app, it will be installed in the external drive. If Windows cannot find the drive while installing, you will be prompted to choose another location.

What happens if you remove the drive and try to execute the already installed application? Actually, nothing happens. All Windows does is let you know that the app is offline because the external drive is not connected.

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As soon as you connect the drive you can use the app like any other installed app.

Now, if you already have a ton of apps that are consuming all your storage, then you might also want to move them to the external drive. Thankfully, Windows 10 does have a straightforward solution.

To start, open up the Settings window and then navigate to the System panel. Here, select the option “Apps and Features” from the left pane.

Once you are here, find the app you want to move, select it and click on the “Move” button.

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The above action will ask you to choose a drive. Simply select the drive from the drop-down menu and click on the “Move” button to complete the process. In my case I’m again selecting the external USB drive.

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You’ve successfully moved the app. In fact, if you open the external drive you can see the folders related to the Windows apps. Of course, being system folders, you won’t have access to the “WindowsApps” folder unless you change the ownership.

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If you ever want to revert back, simply follow the same procedure, but select your C drive and click on the “Move” button.

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It is that simple. Do comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences about using the above method to install and move apps to an external drive in Windows 10.

16 comments

  1. I’ve only been on Windows 10 when trouble-shooting someone else’s computer. Are these portable apps in the sense that I can plug the external device into another computer and run them? I doubt it because they might be tied down to a specific account and doubly locked via the registry (or other) but I currently have no way to test.

    • No PortableApps are a separate thing. Windows 8 upwards uses a thing known as Apps like Android and iOS. So to answer ur question, You CANNOT put in the external into another computer with these “Modern Apps”, as they won’t be able to be opened as like any other files.

      • That’s what I figured, thanks. The only reason external drive support for apps is even built into Windows is because the built-in internal storage is so obnoxiously small. Sucks to have to invent solutions, continue to add bloat to the OS for problems created by the “solution” makers themselves. Like chasing your own tail. No wonder PC sales continue to decline.

        • Well depending on the device, you can actually move your Windows 10 Apps to your external device BUT as I said you cannot read the Apps files on a different device or open them like regular files.

    • Sheri, have you tried printing the page to a PDF file and saving that file (or printing it directly from the PDF reader), that way, you can inspect the page before you print it, potentially saving you from wasting paper and ink, also, if the web page contains data that you don’t want, like an extra blank page, your chosen PDF reader will allow you to print only the page(s) that you want.

      If the native Windows PDF reader does not cope which it should do, you might try Foxit PDF Reader (free), I often use Foxit to print web pages that I might want to view, or print later and it seems to work every time (so far!).

      Just a thought.

  2. How do you know when an app can be installed on a thumb drive since sometimes the Registry is required and sometimes not?

    • As I understand it this is a space saving technique, not a portability issue, so even if the registry is involved as it will be in most cases, the object of the exercise is to save space on your system drive “C” or whatever by installing the main body of the app elsewhere, on a thumb drive, an external hard drive, an alternative partition on your internal hard drive or wherever.

      I must admit, I have not had cause to try it..

      If you’re after portability, do a search for “portable apps”, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many commonly used apps, or at least their perfectly adequate alternatives, offer portable versions, from anti-virus to browsers, email clients and others.

      Well worth having a look as most portable apps have no registry requirements and so are not vulnerable to registry errors or corruptions and, being “stand alone”, they can be used on other computers.

      • Thanks for your reply, however, not sure what you meant by ‘installing the main body on a thumb drive…etc”; won’t the Registry typically be required if you attempt to run it on a different PC (where the Registry won’t have the proper entries)?

        • OK, for any app there is the main body of code which you install, typically on the “C” drive and invariably with non-portable apps, one or more entries are placed in the registry files, also on the “C” drive.

          You’re absolutely right, in order to run the app, you need both the installed code AND any registry entries, hence if a non-portable app is installed on, say, the “G” drive whether that is a thumb drive, an external hard drive or a partition on an internal hard drive, the app will run because both the app code and the registry entries are present and available to the OS assuming, of course your external drive is plugged in and recognised!

          However, if you transfer the thumb drive or external hard drive (assuming that that is where you have chosen to install the app) to another computer, it will not run because you only have the app code available and not the registry entries.

          As I said, installing an app to a drive of any sort other than the “C” drive is only useful for saving space on the “C” drive, it has no function, as far as I can see, other than that.

          If you want to be able to transfer an app between computers, the only sensible option is to look for a portable version or a portable app that does the same job.

          So unless your “C” drive is running short of space, I can see no real advantage to installing an app anywhere else, however, the ability to do so is available should you wish to use it.

          Clear as mud?

      • According to HOWTOGEEK:
        ‘Unlike standard Windows desktop applications, you can only install Modern-style applications from the Windows Store’

        So why didn’t MS just call it a ‘store app’ ?

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