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Smartphone Basics

Can’t move an App to SD Card? Know why!

Since the time Android rose to power and an era of smartphones began, users have been dealing with a serious and sometimes annoying issue. Limited internal storage capacity has been a matter of concern for the smartphone users since time immemorial. Many have a SD card slot to expand the storage. SD cards are inexpensive and can be easily moved from one device to another. However, android apps are downloaded by default to the internal storage, which can fill up quickly.

Once it is full, you will start seeing an annoying “low storage” notification and the situation may also slow your phone down. Your best bet is to move your apps from your phone’s internal storage to your SD card. You can move apps to the SD card by going to Settings > Applications Manager, selecting the application, then tapping the “Move to SD card” button.

You all must have tried moving apps to external storage and noticed that Move to SD Card option might be greyed out for some apps. Ever wondered why some apps can be moved to SD card and some can’t? Let us explore the reasons behind this.

System Apps

Apps that come pre-loaded with your phone cannot be moved to the SD card. System apps cannot be moved to SD card due to being ‘protected’ system apps.

App Developer Choice

Developers of Android apps need to explicitly make their apps available to move to the SD card using the “android:installLocation” attribute in the <manifest> element of their app. If they don’t, the option to “Move to SD card” is grayed out. Why would many developers not enable this button?

An app just cannot run from an unmounted SD card. Android OS cannot read the contents of the SD card once it is unmounted as it releases all the permissions and controls over the SD card. Moreover, some apps need to run in the background to work perfectly when you launch them from the app drawer. Therefore important apps like contacts, alarms, Email apps cannot be moved to external storage to prevent any loss of data or functionality in future.

Widget Support

Widget support is another big reason apps may be prevented from running on the SD card. If an app is installed on the SD card, the widgets from that app become unavailable to select. The device must be restarted for the widgets from the app to show up as an option again. To provide you all those beautiful widgets sitting proudly on your home screen, Move to SD Card option is disabled and it appear greyed out.

Widget Support

Android is all about customizing the smartphone to your heart’s content and widgets is one important aspect of this customization. Refer my previous post ‘Mobile Widgets | The unsung Hero’ to understand more about Widgets.

Syncing, Service, or Account Interface

If the app handles background syncing, runs as a service, or utilizes an account, the app will not fully function from an SD card while it is mounted.

Efficient & Effective Apps

App designers want their apps to run efficiently and effectively. It’s more efficient and effective to keep data on the internal memory. Security is the another important factor. If an app needs access to personal information or can update this information it needs to do it via the internal memory. An SD card can be removed – accessed without permission – lost – corrupted.

For the same reason apps like Facebook and WhatsApp are continually connected to your account over the server and keep syncing so that your messages get delivered instantly. Other apps like alarm, dialer, contacts etc. are important services that run in the background even when you are not using them.

Move App to SD Card

Gaming apps are the first to be moved to the SD card. Games typically don’t have to run in the background or handle any important tasks on the device throughout the day. They also typically take up the most space, making them perfect candidates for an SD card install.

Now you know why the “Move to SD card” button is grayed out for many of your Android apps. Still have questions? Comments? Leave one in the comments section below.

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22 thoughts on “Can’t move an App to SD Card? Know why!”

  1. Thank you for the information, but it doesn’t seem to solve the problem of diminishing space on my phones internal storage due to unmovable apps.

  2. If you somehow enable Developer Options for android. You can allow any apps (except system apps) to be moved to SD card without any problems. This will hyjack the app setting of not being able to be moved to external storage will now be able to be moved to external storage.

    1. You don’t know how to enable devolveper options? That’s the first thing I do when I unpack my new phone lol

    2. I can’t figure out how to enable developer options. I saw a post that said it was in my phones settings, but it’s not.

    3. Hi Kai Bannon, i have the same problem with moving Apps to SD card, please, please, please brother help me out, i have enabled developer options but cannot seem to find the solution…..how to do this please i need your help

  3. So basically, I bought a 32 gb card which can’t be used.
    My dad has 5 apps max. and none of them will move. He needs them on the phone. He even has a game of solitaire that won’t move to sd. So basically, He has a sd card that’s useless. Makes. no sense.

    1. Solitaire won’t move because it’s a pre-installed game. Go to developer options and scroll all way to bottom to ”Force Allow Apps On External” and you’re straight no need to stress

  4. I replaced my phone with the exact same phone when the charging port broke. Apps that I downloaded myself that i WAS able to move to the SD card on my old phone cannot be moved on the new one.

  5. Wish I read ur comments before falling for same trick. So annoying, and a waste of money. Have 3 apps on mine and that’s it. Can’t move any to an sd card.

  6. To be able to move all apps onto an SD card go to settings, click about phone, tap build number 7 times, and developer options should be enabled. Go to developer options (which is in the front page of settings), and enable force allow apps on external. Make sure developer options is enabled on the top right.

    1. Im using a samsung galaxy core prime, i have enabled developer options. I dont have an option to enable force allow apps on external? Its driving me nuts i cant eben update my apps due to low storage but have like 23gb free space on external storage.

  7. Hey I tried the above by enabling developer options and force apps to external storage but when I go into the apps there is still no option to transfer, not even greyed out, it simply isn’t there. I have an Xperia. Any help appreciated.

  8. sir, I bought SanDisk 16GB SD card. when SD card inserted in my mobile(samsung j2) then the “move to SD card” button is grayed. please respond to this quickly .

  9. Unfortunately, I find that the largest apps from the biggest developers (Google, Microsoft, Facebook …) are the ones that are not moveable. In some cases, the above ‘rules’ may apply but mostly they do not. When compared with other apps from ‘lesser’ developers, many of these large apps qualify as ‘bloatware’ probably due to the development tools used to build them.

    I would like to see developers making a better effort to reduce the size of their apps without loss of functionality and to make the majority of the code and data moveable to external memory (SD card, USB stick).

  10. I’m using a Vodafone Tab Prime 6 VF-1497 running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. I have installed a 32GB SD card which is mounted and visible in Settings > Storage but is unavailable in apps such as Camera, Google Play Music and Settings > Apps for moving apps.

    Does anyone have an explanation and a solution for this please?

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