Update: There’s also a way to move apps to your SD card without root access — but you’ll need to install the Android SDK on your computer first.
Google Android 2.2 and up allows you to move some application data to an SD card to free up room on your phone’s main disk. But this only works if developers specifically enable the feature when coding their apps, and not all of the data will be copied to your SD card. Some remains on your phone’s disk, which means that the more apps you install the less free space you have.There’s a new tool called Link2SD that makes it easy for Android users with root privileges on their phone to move almost any app to the SD card. More on that in a moment.
First, if you don’t want to root your phone but are simply looking for a quick and easy way to find out which apps on your phone can already be moved to the SD card, I highly recommend a free app called Advanced SD Card Manager. All you have to do is run the app and wait for it to scan your apps. You’ll get a list of apps which you can move by checking the boxes next to their names and selecting “Move to SDCard.”
But if you want to go a bit further and move apps that don’t officially support SD card installation, you have to root your device. If you’re cool with that, there are a few tools that will let you move nearly any app at all to your SD card. There’s a tool called Apps2SD which has been floating around for a while, and which is used in a number of custom ROMS. But Apps2SD has no user interface to speak of and it’s an all-or-nothing tool, giving you the chance to move all your apps to the SD card, but not necessarily all of them.
The reason you may want to move some files, but not others is because your phone can’t run those apps if your SD card isn’t installed. That means you may want to be careful about installing apps that you use all the time, or which need to run quickly when your phone boots.
There’s also a free app called Move2SD Enabler, which lets root users enable “move to SD” support for most apps. Unfortunately you then need to dig into the Android settings and move your files one at a time using this method. Still, this is a reasonably safe way to move apps to the SD card and doesn’t have some of the problems associated with Link2SD, the new app with the prettier user interface.
So how does Link2SD work? This app presents you with a list of apps installed on your phone, letting you know which are already installed on the SD card, and showing any apps you’ve relocated using Link2SD as “linked.” You can sort through the list and tap on any app you want to move, and you can sort apps by name, date installed, or size. It’s a lot faster than using Move2SD Enabled and the Android system tools.
But Link2SD is a bit harder to set up. First, you need to repartition your SD card to include an ext2 partition large enough to store your data. I have an 16GB card, so I set aside 1GB of data during this test, and following the developer’s instructions, I used the free MiniTool Partition Wizard to resize the FAT partition on my card and create a new ext2 partition.
This is kind of risky, so make sure to backup your data before starting. I’m going to pretend I was smart enough to do that and didn’t have to restore anything from a 2-week old backup.
Also, once you use Link2SD, while some of the data for apps installed to the SD cards will be moved, the Android settings menu won’t report that, so it’s kind of hard to see how much space you’ve saved.
The biggest problem though, is that the Android Market may not recognize the symbolic links set up by Link2SD, which means that you may not get automatic notifications for updates for some of the apps you’ve moved.
Overall, Link2SD is a pretty nifty app that offers you a lot of control over where you want to install your apps. But it’s tricky to set up and could cause some problems with your device, making Apps2SD or Move2SD Enabler a safer option for most users.
Link2SD isn’t available from the Android Market, so you’ll have to download it from the xda-developers forum and install it manually. Move2SD Enabler is available as a free download from the Android Market.
I should point out that while these utilities will allow you to move most third party apps to your SD card, system apps such as the Android web browser, keyboard, or even the Facebook app may not be moveable.