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

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.

set sd card as save location on windows 8.1   How To Increase Storage Space On Windows 8.1 Devices With SD Cards

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.

show libraries on windows 8.1   How To Increase Storage Space On Windows 8.1 Devices With SD Cards

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

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.

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

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

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.

move skydrive folder on windows 8.1   How To Increase Storage Space On Windows 8.1 Devices With SD Cards

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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25 Comments -

Chris M

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

Same here!

Nathan

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.

Patrick Cockell

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

Brian D

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

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

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.

Christopher

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

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

Christopher

@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

Christian C

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

jenny alleback

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.

Scott Drum

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

The SDXC card has to be formatted in exFAT.

Scott Drum

The Dell technician said it should be formatted as NFTS.

Eridax700

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.

ahmdsoppy

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

Steph

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.

Denis

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

Denis

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

Alan

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.

gm

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?

gm

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

SCrofts

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.

Capt Ahab

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!