Many cheap Android phones come with a paltry 4- or 8GB of storage, while even 16GB isn't enough for many users once they start downloading apps, taking high-resolution photos and videos, and sideloading music. Fortunately, the vast majority of Android phones come with a microSD card slot, which lets you bolt on additional storage.
Before you buy a microSD card, check what capacity card your phone will support - while flagship phones tend to be more than happy to accommodate 128GB, many cheap Androids accept only 32GB. To be fair, 32GB will be enough for most people, and you can pick up one of these cards for under a tenner from somewhere like Amazon.
Once you've got the microSD card, it's easy to set things up so that it becomes the default write drive for new apps, photos, video, music and more. You can switch the store location within your camera settings or Google Play Music settings, for example. But what about the stuff already clogging up your phone's internal storage? Here we explain how to move apps, media and more to microSD on an Android phone or Android tablet.
How to move apps to microSD on Android phone or tablet
First, let's clear up something important: not all apps can be moved to microSD. This means phones with just 4- or 8GB of internal storage can still run into problems even with a microSD card inserted if you download and use a lot of apps. Whether or not an app can be moved to microSD is down to the app developer and, sometimes, the phone manufacturer. Also see: How to fix Android's "insufficient storage available" message.
If an app is able to be moved to the microSD card, you'll find the option to do so within the Settings, Apps menu. On the first tab of this screen you'll see all apps downloaded to your phone. Swipe in from the right to see which are stored on your SD card - right now this screen should be blank.
To move an app to microSD return to the Downloaded tab and tap on an app to select it. Here we've selected the AnTuTu Benchmark app, which was not preinstalled on the phone (preinstalled apps often cannot be moved). You'll see an option to 'Move to SD card': tap this. The button will first show 'Moving', then when the action is complete it will switch to 'Move to phone'. You'll now find the app listed under the On SD Card tab.
Sometimes the option to Move to SD card will be greyed out, as is the case with the Amazon Music app that is preinstalled on the EE Harrier Mini we're using here to take screenshots. These apps cannot be moved to microSD.
It's worth pointing out that many free apps are available that offer to automate this process for you. If you're concerned about storage then adding yet another app probably isn't the best idea, but you can always uninstall it once it has done its job. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?
How to move photos, video, music and other files to microSD on Android phone or tablet
The first thing to do is browse to Settings, Storage on your Android phone or tablet, then look for an option to 'Transfer data to SD card'. Not all Android devices have this option, and if yours doesn't you'll need to manually move the files.
The second easiest way to quickly move photos, video, music and other files to microSD is to do so using a PC or Mac. Hook up the phone to your computer via a USB cable, then open a new window to browse its contents. You should be able to see the phone's internal storage and SD card as two separate storage mediums. We're using Android File Transfer on a Mac, which shows the Internal storage and SD card on separate tabs. To move files from Internal storage to SD card simply drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste them between the two. Just don't try to move any Android system files.
Another option if you don't have a PC on which to transfer the files is to do so using a File Manager app. Many Android phones come with such an app preinstalled, but it is not a standard part of Android. This EE Harrier Mini doesn't have one, so we downloaded the free File Manager app from Topnet999.
Tap on the Storage tab at the top of the app to see the various storage available on the phone. Here sdcard0 was our phone's internal storage, while sdcard1 was the microSD card. Let's start with photos.
First open sdcard0 and browse to DCIM, Camera. Here you'll find any shots taken by your camera. Tap the three dots at the bottom right of the screen and choose Multi-select. Tap on each item you want to move to SD; when selected the white text becomes yellow. Now choose Move, browse to the microSD card and choose Move here.
Repeat the process for any music and other files stored on your device.
Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.