How To Increase Storage Space On Windows 8.1 Devices With SD Cards

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Windows 8.1 devices are all full PCs — yes, even the tablets — and often support SD cards. 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, 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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, 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.


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

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Comments (35)
  • Anthony S

    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

  • DanB

    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.

  • mks

    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?

  • Alan

    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

      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

      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:
      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…

  • Fraser Campbell

    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?

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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