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Windows 8.1 devices are all full PCs — yes, even the tablets — and often support SD cards 7 Awesome Uses for an Old SD Card 7 Awesome Uses for an Old SD Card Whether your old SD card is a meager 64 MB or a massive 64 GB, various projects exist for you to make use of these storage cards. Read More . This allows you to easily expand your PC’s storage. Just insert an SD card and you can treat it as a “permanent” part of your device. The SD card will likely be slower than your device’s built-in storage, but it’s a great way to store music, videos, pictures, and other files.

The original release of Windows 8 didn’t have very good support for SD cards. You couldn’t easily access them from Windows 8-style apps without going through some obscure tricks on the desktop. This has changed with the Windows 8.1 upgrade How To Upgrade To Windows 8.1 & How To Downgrade Back To Windows 8 How To Upgrade To Windows 8.1 & How To Downgrade Back To Windows 8 The Windows 8.1 update is free, easy, and gives you access to new and improved features. It is, however, impossible to simply downgrade to Windows 8, unless you plan to before updating. Let us show... Read More , which offers much improved support for SD and micro-SD cards.

Insert an SD Card

To get started, pick up an SD card or micro-SD card. Be sure to get one that your device supports, as some devices may only support smaller micro-SD cards and not the larger SD cards.

After you insert the SD card, it will appear as another drive with its own drive letter. You can use it normally from desktop applications and the File Explorer window. If you’re using Windows 8-style apps, you’ll need to do some more tweaking.

Set Default Save Locations

The new PC settings app allows you to easily set a removable drive as your default save location for pictures, music, and videos. This is the easiest way to set up an SD card as the main location for your media files, but it’s limited. For example, you can’t set it as your default documents folder here.

To do this, press Windows Key + I and click Change PC settings. Select PC & Devices, select Devices, and then scroll down until you see the Default save locations section. Click the Setup button and select the removable drive you want to use as your default save location.

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This creates Music, Pictures, and Videos folders on your SD card. Windows then adds these folders to your Music, Pictures, and Videos libraries and sets them as the default save location. Your default save locations are used both from Windows 8-style apps and when saving a file to a library from a desktop application.

Note that this won’t move any existing music, pictures, or videos to your SD card. You’ll have to do that manually, if you want to — check the next section for more information.

Manage Libraries From the Desktop

Windows 8-style apps use libraries. For example, a music app gets its music from the Music library, while a photo-editing application accesses its images from the Pictures library. To manage where Windows stores such files used by Windows 8-style apps, you’ll have to manage your libraries. Read our overview of the Windows libraries feature Make Windows 7 & 8 Libraries Work For You Make Windows 7 & 8 Libraries Work For You Libraries, found in Windows 7 and 8. are more than a list of suggested folders for saving documents, music, pictures, and video. Customizing your libraries isn’t just tweaking for the sake of tweaking – with... Read More for more information about how they work.

Confusingly, Microsoft has hidden the libraries by default in Windows 8.1, even though they’re required by Windows 8-style apps and now work properly with SD cards. To access libraries, open the File Explorer on the desktop, click the View tab on the ribbon, select Navigation pane, and select Show libraries.

show-libraries-on-windows-8.1

Select a library and you’ll see the folders inside it. If you made an SD Card your default save location earlier, you’ll see a folder on the SD card and a folder on your computer. You can move folders between the computer and the SD card from here using cut and paste.

sd-card-folders-added-to-library

To modify your libraries — for example, perhaps you want to use the SD card as your default save location for documents — right-click a library and select Properties. You’ll be able to add and remove folders from the library, in addition to choosing which folder is your default save location.

Unlike on Windows 8 and previous versions of Windows, you can easily add folders from a removable drive to your libraries without using third-party programs for managing your libraries 2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries 2 Tools and Ways to Manage Your Windows Libraries Microsoft has made some aspects of managing Windows libraries rather difficult -- what if you want to add removable drives or network shares to a library? What if you want to choose a custom icon... Read More .

edit-library-folders

Save Downloads to an SD Card

Your Downloads folder can also be moved to your SD card. To do this, simply right-click the Downloads folder in the File Explorer window and select Properties. Click the Location tab and specify a location on the SD card for the Downloads folder.

Whenever a program downloads something to your downloads folder, it will be stored in the Downloads folder on your SD card instead.

change-location-of-downloasd-folder

Move SkyDrive to an SD Card

In the final version of Windows 8.1, your SkyDrive folder can also be stored on an SD card. SkyDrive uses “smart files” to save space How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 Storing data remotely and syncing them across devices has never been so easy, especially if you're using Windows 8.1. SkyDrive received a significant update, improving its integration with Windows and adding interesting new features. Read More , but it can still use quite a bit of space if you choose to download files for offline use. Move the SkyDrive folder to an SD card and you can free up space on your system drive.

This is as simple as moving your downloads folder. Just right-click the SkyDrive folder in the File Explorer window, select Properties, select the Location tab, and choose a new location for it.

move-skydrive-folder-on-windows-8.1

This entire process demonstrates the evolution of Windows from a desktop operating system to one designed with mobile devices in mind. Windows 8 had poor support for SD cards, requiring tricks to add them to libraries. Windows 8.1 offers improved support for SD cards with an option in the PC settings app, but many other settings still require drilling down to the desktop — even if you’re using a small, 8-inch Windows tablet.

Have you set up Windows 8.1 to work with an SD card? Did you use any other tricks we didn’t mention here? Leave a comment and share them!

Image Credit: Tim Regan via Flickr

  1. ajnix
    October 27, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Can i use an sd card on my laptop where i can store my temp files ( %temp% and TMP )?. I would like to buy an SSD as replacement for my HDD. Or there are some teche things that i need to configure before it works?. any help will do.. Thanks.

    Note: I only have 1 HDD drive slot.

  2. David Opskins
    July 30, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I've increased my Dropbox space to 18 Go on licence-activation (.) com

  3. Anthony S
    May 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    It's also useful to change the properties in the "Folders" section to the new locations on the SD card. It's annoying that Microsoft 8.1 has two locations with identical names, one under Libraries and one under C: drive named "Folders", so just to make sure you don't move things to different folders and end up getting confused, it's a wise idea to change to properties for those as well. Like this, no matter which "Music" folder you save to (in your Libraries or in your Folders), you'll end up sending it to the same place

  4. DanB
    March 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I may be late for this thread but I'd appreciate it if you could help. I definitely have a storage management issue with my Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet running Windows 8.1. I was able to do most of the great changes indicated in this article except for Skydrive. The Location tab will not appear when I right-click the folder icon. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

  5. mks
    January 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    What happens if I remove the SD card to use a temporary SD card and then put the storage SD card back? Will it affect programs line Skydrive abd Google Drive?

  6. Alan
    December 27, 2014 at 12:03 am

    I am using a faster method to use the SD card for storing the user personal files (libraries).
    Open Registry Editor and go to this key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionProfileList
    Replace the value of entry ProfilesDirectory (%SystemDrive%Users) with D:Users (instead of D: use the drive letter for your SD card).
    Now create a new user and login to the tablet with the new credentials. The new user profile, including all its libraries will be created under D:Users on the SD card. This method has the advantage it stores on the SD card all the user profile files, including Internet Browser caches, Microsoft profile related files, etc...
    Make sure you format your SD card as NTFS, so you can store files larger than 4 GB on it.

    • Alan R
      February 2, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      An excellent comment. Does this method resolve the issue with Windows updates you describe also on this blog? Also, can you give me a little more detail on finding the installer folder and creating a hard link.

    • nati
      April 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      i have done the same thing on my vivotab note 8, and it works fine (and i had no issues with windows update).
      we can easly convert the sd card to ntfs using cmd and the "convert" command (for details: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/307881).
      then change the registry key as mentiond, and create a new user whose profile directory
      would be natively created on the sd card.
      personally i recommend to keep the original user, just in case the sd card fails...

  7. Fraser Campbell
    December 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I cant seem to download movies from my HP Stream 11 onto my SD card even though i have followed all your steps. Can you help me?

  8. Fraser Campbell
    December 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Will i be able to do this with a USB flash drive as that is all i have.

  9. Alan
    December 25, 2014 at 8:33 am

    The problem with Windows on tablets with 32 - 64 GB of SSD memory are not the user personal data files, but the WindowsInstaller folder. At the beginning, even after installing all applications you ever intend to use on the tablet, the Installer folder size is under 2 GB. However, all the Windows updates, which are in most cases several times per week, backup the files which they replace in the Windows Installer folder. Thus, this folder grew on my 32 GB Dell Venue 8 Pro from 1.84 GB (after I had all my applications base installed) to 7.77 GB today. Even though I backed up and removed the original 5 GB recovery partition, the Installer folder swallowed it all and all the rest of the available space. All these extra 6 GB are used by back ups of the files replaced by the continuous updates, which are no longer necessary, except in the unlikely and rare event when one of the updates needs to be uninstalled.
    The only solution is to move this Installer folder on a SD card and create a hard link to the new location. That way it will still keep growing, eating your SD card space (purchased by spending your money), but you will stop getting messages about Windows having little space left on C:.
    I wonder what is in Microsoft mind when they treat a tablet with 32-64 GB of total space, the same way as a desktop computer with hundreds or thousands of available GB of hard disc?!!

  10. Capt Ahab
    March 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I have a Dell Venue 11 Pro 4/64 atom with a 64GB SanDisk Ultra MicroSD.

    This did not work with exFat. Format the micros to NTFS and use the 'Default save locations ' in PC settings and boom, 3 new folder/libraries on my microSD card..

    Thanks!

  11. SCrofts
    March 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Would the techniques listed above work for trying to use my SD as my Dropbox folder. I made a big mistake and got the Surface Pro with just the 64GB drive and there was very little space on it.

  12. gm
    January 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    follow up:
    tried Denis' version above;
    ended up with both folders containing content; i.e. - it didn't move content, it copied it.

  13. gm
    January 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    RE: Set Default Save Locations
    doesn't work the way i thot it would:
    makes the folders, but pictures taken with internal camera don't show up on the SD card folders. if i have to drag and drop, whats the point?

  14. Alan
    December 29, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Good info, Chris. One question: how is this different from the method outlined on this site: http://southpawprints.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/surface-pro-windows-8-and-a-micro-sd-card. The procedure outlined by the "southpawprints" webpage pertains to Win8, as it predates 8.1, but it should work on 8.1, too. His method uses Disk Management to make Windows see the removable SD card as a permanent drive and basically expands the total drive space. The 8.1 method you outline seems to increase storage by telling Windows to use the SD space for library data storage.

    What are the advantages or disadvantages to his method vs. your method? They're both equally as easy to do. Again, thanks for a terrific, clear article.

  15. Denis
    December 29, 2013 at 1:44 am

    All of the question can be easily answered. The following does not apply to APPS as I have not worked on that yet. 1) Format the sd card to NTSC 2) make a folder on the sd card for any folders you want to move (I just copied and pasted) 3)right click on any folder (Skydrive, documents, music, photo, video etc) on your C drive and choose properties 4) Click location 5) click move to 6) select the folder on the SD card 7) apply 8) and good to go as everything you want to save will be save on SD

  16. Denis
    December 29, 2013 at 1:41 am

    All of the question can be easily answered. The following does not apply to APPS as I have not worked on that yet.

    1) Format the sd card to NTSC
    2) make a folder on the sd card for any folders you want to move (I just copied and pasted)
    3) click on any folder (Skydrive, documents, music, photo, video etc) on your C drive
    4) Click location
    5) click move to
    6) select the folder on the SD card
    7) apply
    8) and good to go as everything you want to save will be save on SD

  17. ahmdsoppy
    December 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

    How about installing games from window stores to microSD for window 8.1?

    • Steph
      December 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      I would really like an answer to this question too. With SkyDrive, I don't have as much need to change the default location for documents and pics, but I do need extra storage space for Apps and I am very disappointed in Microsoft for not making that easier. Knowing that storage space is limited on mobile devices, and many of them have SD card slots to help address that issue, it seems rather short-sighted of them to not have considered making moving the default Apps location. Especially considering that Windows 8 was supposedly designed with mobile devices in mind. BIG fail, Microsoft.

  18. Scott Drum
    December 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    This doesn't actually work as you outline. I spent over two hours with a Dell tech on my Venue 8 Pro who finally told me this. Selecting Default Save Locations /Set Up simply gives you a message to "connect a Removable Drive and Try Again". Even though the SDXCI card is in place and formatted. He said this is a Windows 8.1 issue that they are going to have to research with Microsoft.

    • Spencer
      December 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      The SDXC card has to be formatted in exFAT.

    • Scott Drum
      December 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      The Dell technician said it should be formatted as NFTS.

    • Eridax700
      April 13, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      I also am running a Dell Venue 8 Pro and am setting up a microSD (64gb) as the SkyDrive sync folder. The Dell will not allow the SkyDrive folder to be moved to a non-NFTS location. I am in process of reformatting in the hopes that this will work.

  19. jenny alleback
    December 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Is there a way to get the camera on the tablet to auto save files to the SD card? I've changed the default save location under PC settings, but new photos and videos are still saving to the camera roll on the device's SSD.

  20. Christian C
    December 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    If my Acer Iconia w700 had an SD card slot it would have saved a lot of messing about with a new mSSD... :(

    Note to self: ensure next tablet PC has SD card slot

  21. Christopher
    December 5, 2013 at 1:47 am

    @KnightlyScribe

    Thanks for the feedback - I've looked at the desktop control panel, but unless I've missed something, the Mail configuration is just for Outlook, not the Windows 8.1 modern ui mail application.

    More generally, I guess what I am looking for is equivalent to the MoveToSD function that a lot of Android apps support. Maybe, It'll be supported in 8.2!

    Chris

  22. Christopher
    November 20, 2013 at 3:54 am

    My Windows 8.1 is installed on an internal 128GB SSD. I've already changed library locations to point at an external HD.

    I can't see much use for using an SD card, however....

    What I'd really like to be able to do is change the default data storage location for Windows 8.1 apps, such as Mail. For instance, I use the Mail app a lot, and it is steadily eating into my SSD.

    Is this possible with Windows 8.1?

    Thanks

    Chris

    • KnightlyScribe
      December 4, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      Yes. Go to the "real" Control Panel, select "Mail" and make the change.

  23. Patrick Cockell
    November 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I can't see why anyone would want to do this. What is the point?

    • Brian D
      November 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      I moved static files such as videos and photos to SD cards a few months ago. My living room PC is mostly consumed by my mp3 collection on the D: drive, and the C: drive, being small, needed some breathing room as it was frequently reporting low storage space.

    • Sander
      November 28, 2013 at 4:56 am

      This is very useful if you have a windows 8 tablet like the surface pro. Having only the essentials on the ssd and then everything else on the SD card is great. Great write up.

    • Kieron Brogan
      December 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      If you have a Surface like I do its really useful to be able to move stuff off the main SSD and onto a memory card. Even with 256 GB my Surface is filling up quickly and the MicroSD is a very very portable way to keep extra data with me on the go and not having to resort to carrying around an external portable HD. Probably not so important to those with laptop and desktops but a great write up for tablet users.

  24. Nathan
    November 19, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I am confused on the part about previous versions requiring 3rd party tools to make other folders libraries because I have done it on Windows 7 without problems using the base system. Otherwise I love the article. It has really good and clear information.

  25. Chris M
    November 19, 2013 at 3:11 am

    I was expecting you to talk about ReadyBoost. Would using a SD card as readyBoost (if 8.1 has that option) make it faster?

    • SignumOne
      November 19, 2013 at 7:45 am

      Same here!

    • Keith
      December 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Only if you find an SD Card faster than the Solid State Drive that your tablet is already using....

      This is really about storage, and in most cases you would be much better off using your SD card to store data than trying to improve performance.

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