What's point of external SD card?


Android forbids (I ask you!) nearly every app writing to an eternal SD card. So why have one?

My internal 16gb storage is almost full (I know should have forked out for more memory). My 32gb storage card is almost empty. But even ES file manager is not allowed to move downloaded files there.

I'd read something about it being an Android security safeguard, but quite honestly I'd prefer - in the case of corruption problems - that my SD card to get chewed rather than the internal memory.

So what's it all about?

I'll be told to get round the problem by "rooting" my Android phone and Android tablet. Being, sadly, not a geek, that frightens me (not to mention warranty fears). Would I have to learn a whole lot of new tricks to get apps to write to the external card?



Dreaming of Bugdroid.
One reason is most phones will store pictures and videos you take to the SD card to save space on the internal storage since they take up tons of space.


Thread starter
One reason is most phones will store pictures and videos you take to the SD card to save space on the internal storage since they take up tons of space.

Not my experience. On my Samsung Galaxy Tablet, any photo editing cannot be saved to the SD card. I cannot move downloaded pdf files there.


Smoke me a kipper...
The security model limits apps to writing to their own directories. So it should not forbid a photo editor from saving to its own folder, but would prevent it saving to the original location. And obviously it becomes very restricting for a file manager.

Now if you are rooted you can work around this. But I did read last week that Android 5 gives you more control over whether these restrictions are applied (on an app by app basis). If so that may mean that KK is the low point of SD usability and things are going to get better.


Android Expert
Never ever had a problem copying/cutting and pasting any file or folder from one place to another in Samsung's stock TW KitKat (4.4.2) using the inbuilt file manager on my Note 3. Some apps had problems at first, but were soon updated with altered permissions on their update. (Root Explorer was one). The only thing that irks is the inability to move apps to the external SD card. As for its use, I have nearly 30Gig of music on my external SD card. The lack of wifi and 3G (4G is only available in major conurbations here in the UK) makes streaming a thing of dreams only.


Thread starter
Never ever had a problem copying/cutting and pasting any file or folder from one place to another in Samsung's stock TW KitKat (4.4.2) using the inbuilt file manager ....

This is typical message....

"Your system forbids ES File Explorer from writing on external SD card (check https://code.google.com/p/andrid/issues/detail?id=xxxx), so ES can only write on it after rooted."

But yes, dynomot, you are right - the built-in file manager can copy and paste to the external card. So it seems that some apps can see and use what's on the SD card, but never write to, or save to, that card.

I hope Hadron is right - that Lollipop will change that.


Extreme Android User
I, too have never had any issues copying anything to SD, including the SD card in my LG G3. i've used Root Explorer, ES and others no issue.
Android forbids (I ask you!) nearly every app writing to an eternal SD card. So why have one?
Convenience. It is an easy way to carry a backup drive with you. Way more convenient (IMO) than USBOTG or cloud storage.

Also...they are removable. I went on a cruise last Feb. My Nexus 5 got soaked in saltwater...which of course destroyed the phone (even if I could have dried it out, the salt would still have corroded the insides anyway). Guess where all my vacation photos and videos were stored?

With SD, that would have been a trivial issue. I'd just take the SD card out and rinse it off and dry it. I'd still have lost the phone, but I'd have all my data.

There is no downside to SD, no matter what the Google nerds might tell you. Phones without SD are only worse for it.
I believe 5.0 is going to be a complete(or near complete) reversal of Kitkat's SD card policies.
Not a reversal so much as a grudging capitulation. Envough people have complained about it that Google is caving.

You will still never see it on Google's phones. Google hates SD and does not want people to use it.


The PearlyMon
Lollipop sets the same policies for internal and external storage now, so sd card hatred isn't an issue.

The KitKat implementation wasn't the greatest and now it's being improved.


The PearlyMon
I mean that Google didn't do it out of a hatred for SD cards.

Was the first implementation for SD cards only? Yes. Did they plan from the beginning to apply the new policies to internal storage? Yes.

Did they do a poor job the first time around and did they do an atrocious job not warning app developers before springing it on everyone? Absolutely.

Does Samsung apply the policy evenly in KitKat?

No. No they do not.

Two different models of Samsung devices running KitKat don't have the same sd card behaviors with the new policy.

Google hatred of sd cards isn't the issue.

As stated, Google doesn't even make devices with sd cards.

But Samsung does. You may be suffering more than other Sammy owners - if so the issue is Samsung rushing out updates without paying attention to their own hardware features.

Does the basic issue get addressed in Lollipop? Yes.

Will Samsung implement it correctly?

We'll see, I sure hope so.

I understand your frustration about rooting.

I was forced into it by bad carrier, manufacturer and Android decisions years ago.

The good news is that once you've done it, it gets easier from there on.

And you're not going to be held hostage by someone screwing something up - generally, thanks to the rooting developers, you can fix just about anything.

Just putting that out there fwiw.

But rooting isn't for everyone, you have to go with what works for you.
Hi All!
It's good to know that I'm not the only non-expert who can't understand why the external SD card limitation applies.
I'm sorry if this email is off-topic, but is there a simple, non-technical step-by-step guide to rooting that I (and others) could follow?
Who knows, it might even push me into learning some of the more esoteric workings of Android!
Thanks in advance.


The PearlyMon
Rooting steps vary by make and model - the front page of our forum lists the phones we have members supporting - and for each phone forum, inside is an All Things Root subforum.

If there's a known root for your phone, you'll find it there. :)


Moderati ergo sum
Just an observation about the SD card write permissions ... I think it's better to try and work within the framework Android has embraced rather than work around it. There are legitimate security reasons not to bypass the write permissions however inconvenient it may seem now.

From purely 'nix experiences, I've seen too many people running things with root permissions get so entangled in the tweaks, tricks and hacks that it ends up collapsing under the weight of their own complexity.

Think of your SD card as a stadium and your data going to a concert held there. With assigned seats, you can only go to your appropriate section, but you get the seat you paid for. With festival seating, you get what's left and there's a chance you'll be trampled in the mosh pit. ;)


The PearlyMon
Had more people paid attention to app permissions the complaints leading to this may have never happened.

I've seen a lot of unfounded paranoia over storage permissions.

As for bad apps - check the permissions first, that last screen before install is there for a reason.

The storage permissions may be like assigned seating.

They may also be like being told how to use our phones in accommodation of the people that complained rather than learning how to not do it wrong.

Anyway, I agree that if you're going to root, you're going to be responsible for whatever you change.

And no, deleting all the hidden apps and formatting /system are not great ideas.

But making your phone use storage the same way you've used it for 5 years isn't necessarily wrong either.

Having my sync'd music assigned to front row, South, and the matching album artwork assigned to the bleachers, North, doesn't really work for me.


Moderati ergo sum
To be breached/overturned in Android v5.0?

But with v5.0 you'll be able to perform there?

Don't be influenced by the tech blogs that are calling a waffle on Google's treatment of SD cards. Hyperbole is their bread with controversy as the butter. ;) Google hasn't retracted it's position, only improved it so it is less of an issue for the average user while still maintaining proper security.


The Doctor
Google is not overturning security measures for SD cards in lollipop. Currently apps can only write to folders which are labelled as 'owned' by the app. The only difference in lollipop is that the user has the option to manually allow an app to write to a specific folder. But the security measure of not letting an app write anywhere it wants is still there.


Curious how one can simply get round this "security" by using a computer and a USB cable then. Surely that's less secure in that unauthorised access can be gained by ANYONE, rather then simply an app that IS authorised.


The PearlyMon
The difference in "security" using a "computer" and a "USB" cable vs that provided by "digital" means also entails a "difference" in rights "granted" - a "number" of "systems" have a distinction when physical "access" is "allowed."

I would "question" the notion that ANYONE can "get" unauthorized "access" to my phone because it's sitting on my "desk" next to my "revolver" and I don't "see" ANYONE else "here" with a "computer."