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How to use the SD card

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Aina Prat
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How the micro SD card works

The operation of microSD cards (and SD cards) is very simple: once inserted into compatible devices (be they PCs, smartphones, tablets, cameras, etc.) and properly formatted, they are generally used for 'data storage and transfer.


Choosing the microSD that best suits your needs is not difficult, however you have to extricate yourself from features and wordings that may not be immediately understandable. Below I give you an overview of the aspects to consider when choosing a new memory card.


  • Storage space - microSD and SD cards may have different names based on the storage space they have: le microSD / SD standard have a maximum capacity of 2 GB and, to date, they are little used. The microSDHC / SDHC (where HC stands for High Capacity) have storage space ranging from 4 ai 32 GB, While the microSDXC (e S) can generally accommodate dai 64 GB ai 2 TB of data.
  • Minimum write speed - another very important feature of microSD (and SD cards) is the minimum speed with which data is written. This parameter is of fundamental importance, as it allows you to understand which microSD might be best suited to your needs: for example, in case of use for recording or capturing images in rapid sequence, it is necessary to have a memory card. particularly good in terms of writing. Based on this parameter, microSD and SD cards are categorized into classes.
    • Class 2 - the minimum writing speed is 2MB / s (the symbol is a "2" enclosed in a circle).
    • Class 4 - the minimum writing speed is 4MB / s (the symbol is a "4" enclosed in a circle).
    • Class 6 - the minimum writing speed is 6 MB / s (the symbol is a "6" enclosed in a circle).
    • Class 10 - the minimum writing speed is 10 MB / s (the symbol is a "10" enclosed in a circle).
    • UHS Speed ​​Class-I U1 - these are microSDHC / XC optimized for recording continuous streams of data, such as photos or videos in high definition. They have a minimum write speed of 10 MB / s (the symbol is an "I", accompanied by a "1" enclosed by the letter "U").
    • UHS Speed ​​Class-I U3 - they have the same characteristics of the class seen above, but guarantee a minimum writing speed of 30 MB / s (the symbol is an "I", accompanied by a "3" enclosed in the letter "U").
    • UHS Speed ​​Class-II U1 and U3 - very similar to the classes seen above, however, they have a higher data transfer speed on the device. It is between i 156 and 312 MB / s (compared to 50-104 MB / s of microSD UHS Speed ​​Class-I).
    • Video speed class - it is a certification which, on the other hand, indicates the performances guaranteed by the video recording card. At the moment, there are 5 different standards: V6 (6 MB / s constant), V10 (10 MB / s), V30 (30 MB / s), V60 (60 MB / s) and V90 (90 MB / s).

The maximum write speed, however, is not encoded to an exact standard and may differ from card to card.



Finally, another parameter related to the performance of a microSD (or SD card) is the amount of input / output operations per second, or IOPSBased on this, the tabs are classified into A1 (minimum random read speed of 1.500 IOPS and random write of 500 IOPS), e A2 (random read at 4000 IOPS and random write at 2.000 IOPS). The cards optimized specifically for Android devices are those A1 and A2.

To understand these concepts even more fully, I suggest you read my guide on which SD card to buy, in which I have explained the topic in great detail. Also, if you plan to use the memory card in devices like GoPro or DSLRs, you can take a look at the thematic guides I have made about it.

How to use SD card for Android

If it is your intention to take advantage of the SD card on a device Android, then proceed with reading the following paragraphs, in which I will carefully explain all the steps to be taken to install the card in the devices in question, format it and, if necessary, use it to move apps over it.

How to install the SD card in the device

Physical installation of the microSD in Android devices is not difficult at all, although the steps are not the same for all devices. If you have a smartphone equipped with Removable battery, take care of lift the rear cover gently and locate the slot dedicated to the microSD, usually placed near the one dedicated to the SIM card. Typically, both bays reside at the top of the device, or under the battery.


Once this is done, gently insert the microSD into the appropriate slot, following the direction indicated on the small drawing that you should see nearby: if the card should resist, do not insist and try to change its orientation, in order to avoid breaking the device. . When you're done, insert the battery again, reassemble the phone and turn it on.


If, on the other hand, you have a device equipped with non-removable battery, identifies the flap dedicated to the installation of SIM and microSD, characterized by a small side hole. When you have found it, use the hook supplied (or a pointed object, such as an open paper clip or sewing needle) to open it: gently insert the thin part of the hook into the side hole of the housing, until it clicks, then pull the trolley out of the phone case.

Finally, place the microSD on the inside of the trolley, respecting the correct direction of insertion, then insert the trolley back into its slot.

Unfortunately I cannot provide you with more precise instructions, because there are so many models of smartphones and tablets in circulation. If you need additional guidance, however, you can do a Google search using the words insert microSD [device brand and model].

Note: in dual-SIM phones, the slot dedicated to the microSD may coincide with the one dedicated to the microSIM.

How to use the SD card as internal storage

Generally, there are two possibilities for use the SD card as internal memory Android: using the operating system settings and identifying the microSD as an "extension" of the internal memory (in this case, the apps will be partially moved to the SD card), or using a slightly more complex procedure, which involves the complete movement of the apps and it also involves the root of the device.


Both methods have their respective strengths and weaknesses: if you choose to format the SD card as an extension of the internal memory of Android, part of the data and installed apps will be moved automatically, so as not to overload the phone's memory, but you will not be able to freely choose which apps or data to move to the card. Furthermore, it will no longer be possible to use the SD card on different devices. If the microSD is removed, Android may behave unexpectedly.


If, on the other hand, you choose to root the device and dedicate part of the microSD to the apps, you can continue to use the "data" part of the memory card (which, as you will soon discover, will be partitioned) on other devices as well and you will be free to move any data or app to the memory card.

However, as this is not "officially" provided by Android, some apps may not work properly and have extremely long access times. Also, by removing the microSD from the device, it will no longer be possible to run apps moved to it. Finally, I must immediately warn you that the procedure for carrying out this operation is quite cumbersome and requires a minimum of technical knowledge.

In both cases, keep in mind that the performance of the operating system may decrease (the access times to the microSD are higher than those of the internal memory) and, therefore, it is of fundamental importance to use memory cards with high performance.

Is everything clear so far? OK, so let's take action. For format the SD card as internal memory, you can proceed in two different ways: after inserting the card and turning on the device, call up the Android notification area and tap on the banner related to the SD card. Next, tap the button Phone memory and, aware that this operation will delete all the data already on the card, tap the button Format SD card. At the end of the process, the device will be restarted.

Alternatively, you can get the same result by going to the Settings of Android (the d-shaped icongear placed in the drawer) and then on the sections Storage spaceSD card. Per concludere, tocca il pulsating (⋮) located at the top right, touches the item Memory settings located in the menu shown on the screen, then tap on the item Format as internal memory and confirm that you want format the SD card, by pressing the appropriate button that appears on the screen.

Once the procedure is complete, Android will automatically select the parts of the app and data to be moved to microSD, using precise techniques aimed at obtaining the best possible performance.

If, on the other hand, you want to opt for the complete movement of the apps, you will first have to obtain root permissions on the device, download a third-party app such as App2SD and format the card in two parts: one in charge of installing the apps (which will have the same file system as Android, that is ext4), the other dedicated to hosting personal data and files (which will have file system FAT32 and can also be read by other devices). Once this operation is completed, again via App2SD, you can move the apps to the memory card.

If you want more information about the steps I mentioned earlier, I suggest you carefully read my guide on how to move apps to SD apps on Huawei, which you can easily readjust to other Android terminal models as well.

How to format the SD card

Format the SD card on Android it is really a very simple operation: first, tap on the icon of Settings (the one in the shape ofgear) located in the system drawer, go to Storage space and tap on the item SD card, located in the panel that appears on the screen.

In Seguito, Premium Pulsing (⋮) at the top right, tap on the item Memory settings attached to the menu that is proposed to you, then touch the item Format and, bearing in mind that all data on the card will be deleted, confirms the will to proceed by touching the button Format SD card. The memory in question will be formatted using the FAT32 file system.

Once the formatting is complete, you can move all the images, videos and documents you want to the microSD (respecting, of course, the maximum size of the card itself): I explained how to do it in my guide to moving files to an SD card.

How to use SD card on iPhone and iPad

If you own a iPhone or  iPad, you will surely know that these devices do not have special slots for installing SD cards. This, however, does not mean that the latter cannot be used through the aforementioned devices, on the contrary: through some third-party accessories, it is possible to connect memory cards to Apple smartphones and tablets, through the ports lightning o USB-C (for the latest iPad Pro) they are equipped with.

These accessories consist of a front opening, in which to insert the memory card (or microSD), and a sort of small rear cable, the end of which is inserted into the Lightning port of the iPhone and iPad. Specific apps are also available with the adapters (installable from App store), designed to handle the transfer of files between the internal storage of the iOS device and the SD card. Below I show you some of these "adapters".

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Note that some iPad models, such as iPad Pro 2018 (those without the physical Home button), have a port USB-C which allows connection of SD cards via USB-C to SD adapters. By default, they only allow importing photos from cards; to use additional functionality (e.g. moving files in both directions), it may be necessary to install specific apps.

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How to use SD card on PC

You have purchased a new SD card and would like to manage it directly from the computer, viewing the files on it and, if necessary, formatting it? Then read very carefully the contents of the following paragraphs, in which I am going to explain how to carry out these two operations.

Manage SD files

In order to use the SD card on the computer, you must first have a reader suitable for containing this type of memory. Usually, sui desktop computer, it is located in the front of the case, with the slots clearly visible or protected by a flap. Sui notebook, instead, it SD card slot it is located on the sides or just below the touchpad, and may be protected by a dummy memory card.

Keep in mind that, if you want to manage a microSD, you may need a special adapter to transform it into a regular-sized SD card: generally, this adapter is included in the sales package of the microSD. If you don't have it, you can get it for a few euros in almost any computer store, or online.

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If your computer doesn't have a dedicated SD card reader, you can get one card reader external, connectable to the computer via USB cable. Pay close attention to the type of USB ports your computer is equipped with: most desktop PCs have "standard" (Type A) USB ports, but some notebook models, such as recently manufactured MacBooks, they only have doors USB type C.

Below, I show you a series of readers that, in my opinion, stand out for their quality / price ratio and that do not need additional drivers to work on Windows or Mac. suitable for you, depending on the USB ports available on your computer and the type of SD card you have.

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Once you have the necessary, you can finally read the contents of the SD card from Windows or macOS. This is a very simple operation, mainly for two reasons: first of all, you do not need to install any type of additional driver, as the necessary is already present on the operating system; Furthermore, the steps to manage files contained in SD cards are identical to those you would use for files contained in hard drives, USB sticks and other types of memories.

In any case, to access the contents of the card, first insert it into the reader (connecting, if necessary, the external reader to the PC via USB), wait a few seconds for it to be recognized and open the most suitable program based on the operating system running .

  • Windows - avvia l 'File Explorer / Windows Explorer by clicking on the icon in the shape of gialla poster located in the system tray, select the icon PC / Computer question from the sidebar of the window that opens to the screen, then double-click the icon of the newly inserted card.
  • MacOS - in this case, after connecting the board, a 'icon depicting the SD card directly on the desktop (usually in the upper right corner). If this happens, you simply need to double-click the icon to open the contents of the memory card. Alternatively, click the del icon Finder located on the Dock, then press the tab icon located in the left sidebar, inside the panel Positions.

If you need additional help on the steps described above, I invite you to consult my tutorial dedicated to reading SD cards on a PC.

Format an SD

Both Windows and macOS have built-in tools for formatting storage devices but, in this case, I recommend that you format the SD card using SD Formatter: this is the official program developed by the SD Association (the association that gathers the most important SD card manufacturers) and is compatible with both Windows and macOS.

To use it, connect to this website, if you are on Windows, or to this one, if you are using MacOS, click on the button Accept to start downloading the file. Once you have the package, act according to the operating system you have supplied.

  • Windows - start the installation file (eg. SD_CardFormatterXXXSetupEN.exe), click on your button Next, tick the box I accept the terms in the license agreement, award bottone Next twice in a row and, finally, press the buttons Install, YesFinish.
  • MacOS - launch the previously downloaded package (eg. InstallSD_CardFormatterXXX.mpkg), then click the button twice consecutively Continue and then Accept, continueInstall. Then type the Password of your user account and complete the installation by clicking on the buttons Install software, CloseMove.

Once setup is complete, insert the SD card to be formatted in the computer (using, if necessary, the adapters I mentioned earlier) and start SD Formatter using its icon located on the Windows desktop or in Mac Launchpad. If you are on Windows, press the button Yes to pass User Account Control.

Once in the program screen, select the card to format in the drop-down menu Select drive, type il name you want to assign them in the field volume label and specify the type of formatting you intend to apply: Quick format, to quickly delete the contents of the card, or Overwrite format, to securely delete data and make recovery very complicated. The latter solution, however, is much slower than the previous one.

When you are ready, click on the buttons SizeOK to start formatting: when finished, you will be notified with an on-screen message. For more information on this topic, I urge you to consult my guide on how to format an SD card, in which I have explained everything to you in even more detail.

If, on the other hand, you need to create partitions on the SD card (necessary operation, for example, to install an operating system on it), you can consult my specific tutorial on the subject.

How to use the SD card

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