Technology Explained

Make The Most Out Of Your MicroSD Cards

Christian Cawley 13-10-2013

Have you got microSD cards lying around that you’re not really using? Make better use of them with adaptors, tablet storage and more.


How many microSD cards do you have in your drawers, desk tidy or cluttering up shelves? Easily lost, these small storage devices have capacity seemingly beyond their physical dimensions, but there is no reason to leave them scattered aimlessly around your office or desk. Rather, you can make very good use of them.

MicroSD Cards: Sizes And Suitability

MicroSD cards might appear small, but they come in a range of storage capacities and ratings.

You might have a standard capacity card, which would be labelled as SDSC; alternatively, you might have SDHC (high capacity) or even SDXC (extended capacity, up to 2 TB).

In addition, speed class ratings are also printed on the cards and packaging to help you to purchase the right card for your project. You might have a Class 2 card, which will transfer at least 2 MB/s of data; ratings increase based on the minimum transfer speed all the way up to 10 MB/s.

Of course, if your collection of microSD cards is one that has been accidentally created then you’re perhaps not going to have the ideal card for what you’ve got in mind. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, however, unless you’re looking at professional applications such as broadcast quality high definition video.


They’re Quite Small – Use An Adaptor!

One of the most important things to note about microSD cards is in the name – they’re pretty small. Anyone with big sausage like fingers and/or short nails might have difficulty picking one up off a desk without first sliding it off the edge into a cupped hand.

As a result, many ship with SD card adaptors into which the smaller microSD cards can be slipped, effectively turning your microSD into an SD card. This can prove particularly useful as there are many uses for a new or old SD card that you might not be aware of.


For carrying your microSD cards around safely, meanwhile, you should consider one of the useful credit card-sized holders from DiMeCard, capable of storing up to 8 microSD cards. Note that on the flipside of these card holders you can label what is stored on each microSD card.


You’ll find these available for under $10 on Amazon.

Just as there are ways to put old SD cards to good use 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 , so there are lots of things that you can do with your microSD cards.

Increase Smartphone/Tablet Storage

Perhaps the most immediate use you might find for a spare microSD card is to insert it into a suitable smartphone or tablet to extend the device’s available storage.



This is a particularly useful tip if your device shipped with limited onboard storage. Although cloud storage is useful, it isn’t always practical, especially in areas of limited connectivity.

Now, not all smartphones and tablets have a slot for additional storage. Some have hidden slots that are only available by removing the battery cover; others have slots that can only be accessed by partially disassembling the device. This approach isn’t ideal and not for everyone – you should check online for a guide to adding a microSD card to your device if there isn’t an obvious slot – but there is also the advantage of OTG.

If your phone or tablet accepts OTG USB connections then with the help of a suitable adaptor, you can at the very least use your microSD card to swap data between your phone/tablet and another device.

Windows Recovery Disk & Other Boot Options

Another use for a microSD card is to employ it as a Windows recovery disk How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk The days of reinstalling Windows when it acts up are long since gone. All you need to fix Windows 8 is a recovery disk, either on CD/DVD, a USB or an external hard disk drive. Read More to assist with problems booting your computer.


You might even take this approach to the full logical conclusion and use your microSD card as a device to carry a portable operating system How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick Want to install and/or run multiple operating systems from a single bootable USB stick? You can with these tools. Read More from which you can boot your PC securely.


In order to use your microSD card in this way, you’ll need to employ a USB adaptor in order to ensure that your device is detected as your computer boots. A standard USB card reader might not be the optimum way of doing this. Instead, employ a USB stick with a suitable slot for your microSD card.

Attempt a Media Centre Project

There are many ways in which you can build a home media centre out of equipment you already own, or relatively cheap components. One of these is to “softmod” a Nintendo Wii to run homebrew software How to Turn Your Wii Into a Media Center With WiiMC Turn your neglected Wii into a media player. Listen to music and watch videos from your computer on your TV, or browse a bit of the best the web has to offer using your Wiimote.... Read More , something that can be done using a microSD card inserted into an SD card adaptor. Once this is set up, you can install WiiMC and start extending the way in which you use your gaming console.


Similarly, a microSD and SD adaptor combination can be used to install XBMC onto a compact Raspberry Pi computer How To Build a Media Center That Will Play Anything I've been building a media centre recently. Actually, scratch that – I’ve been building two. One is a compact device (my Raspberry Pi) running the RaspBMC distribution of XBMC, while the other is a traditional... Read More , giving you arguably the world’s smallest media centre.

Run Portable Apps From A MicroSD Card

It isn’t just portable operating systems that you can boot from a microSD card. With the help of a USB adaptor – which essentially turns your microSD into a USB stick – you can run portable apps How To Easily Create Your Own Portable Apps Read More on your PC or Windows tablet.

The benefits of this are considerable, particularly if your device has limited storage space. Simply, this enables you to run software without first installing it. If you’re using a netbook or tablet with limited storage, then this is a very useful way of running software without sacrificing potentially vital storage space.

Build Your Own SSD Drive!


If you have storage issues, perhaps the ultimate solution comes in the shape of your collection of microSD cards and an SSD drive designed to accept your mini storage devices.

Available at an affordable $80 it perhaps isn’t the most economical way to get the best use out of your spare cards, but is certainly the most interesting. For the optimum speed, however, it might be wiser to use an actual SSD as this is limited by the constraints of microSD. On the other hand, it remains an option, and has the potential of outlasting a standard SSD.

Conclusion: Tiny, Flexible And User Friendly

Whether you’re swapping data between devices, extending storage on your smartphone or tablet or running a budget media centre, microSD cards are remarkably flexible storage devices.

While they might be easily lost or require an adaptor to get the most out of them, these cards can be put to so many good uses.

Have we missed any? Do you have a novel use for your microSD card that you want to share? Please let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Jacopo Werther

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  1. Hildy J
    October 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Use them for backup. I have two 32GB SDHC cards and a USB reader. My data files fit in 32GB so I copy them to each drive for a redundant backup that takes up about as much space, including the reader, as a Tic-Tac box so it fits fine in my EDC. Plus, I don't have power issues with USB hard drives that like more than the 0.5v USB standard. It wouldn't work if you've got massive amounts of media files stored locally but for many people it should be enough.