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Why are there 3 different storage areas on my phon?

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by assassin204, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. assassin204

    assassin204 Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Just got the galaxy S2 and love it. I just have a question though:
    After downloading a few apps i realised that they were stored in a storage location just under 2gb... I immediately thought that the device was 16GB and started to panic, so i went into settings-storage to find there were 3 storages (device storage, usb storage and SD card)
    The apps i downloaded were stored into device storage which is 2Gb; is it possible to move them to the usb storage, or only to sd card(where the apps are currently).

    I am a bit frustrated by this as i wanted to store all my apps on the 16Gb storage and have the sd card to store other media....is this possible?


  2. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member

    Sure is.....Open Settings/Applications/Manage Applications, select the desired app and then the Move to SD card option. This will move it to the device's internal storage (USB storage in Settings/Storage).
  3. Lembo

    Lembo Newbie

  4. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member


    In simple terms, there's 16GB of flash memory in the GS2. Some of that is reserved for the OS, and 2GB of the remainder is available as Device memory. This is the area we've become accustomed to knowing as "internal storage" in prior handsets and (as before) is the default installation location for apps.

    The remaining space, approx 11.5GB, is available as USB storage. In the GS2 this is mounted as /sdcard to provide backwards-compatibility e.g. you no longer need a microSD card installed to run apps that expect to find one in place.

    Any external microSD card is mounted as /sdcard/external_sd and is displayed in Settings/Storage as SD Card.
    Rudedawg likes this.
  5. Lembo

    Lembo Newbie

  6. Crafty Bob

    Crafty Bob Lurker


    Cheers for the info. I've just stuck a 16Gb card into my S2. What's the best way to manage that if I've about 20Gb of music, and using double-twist to sync to my iTunes library on a mac?

    Should I move all my apps and stuff to the usb storage, limit the music to 16Gb onto the SD card and let the phone do the rest of the work?


  7. Slug

    Slug Check six!
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    Crikey, I dunno.... I never sync more than a subset of my own library, usually around 8-10GB. Having a "music" folder in each location isn't a problem, but I've no idea if Doubletwist will allow both to be used as a sync destination. I'm using Winamp myself right now and it certainly doesn't.

    My suggestion, fwiw, is that unless you're running short of device memory leave apps installed there and use the external card for the bulk of your music. That way you've still got the flexibility of having capacity in the USB Storage should you want to move apps. This is just a personal opinion though, based on how I think. There's no right (or wrong) answer so go with whatever works for you.
  8. assassin204

    assassin204 Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Sorry im not sure what you mean slug...
    If i select 'move to sd card' this will move apps to the SD card i have in my phone, what i want to do is transfer the apps to the usb storage. but there is no option in the phone to allow this.
    Does that mean it is only possible to store apps in device storage and SD card storage, whats the point in having usb storage allocated 11.5GB?
  9. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member

    Apologies, you're correct. I've just moved all my own apps larger than 4MB to SD card. My previous test was obviously flawed. :eek:

    Presumably to store user data such as music, videos etc? That's where I put mine, but as I said I only have just under 8GB stored.

    Tbh this "three-way choice" is so new to me that I'm still working out what goes where - I've got stuff dotted about all over the place!
  10. brykins

    brykins Android Enthusiast

    A month or so into my SGS2 and I am still puzzled over the memory issue.

    I know I have 2GB for storing my apps in. That's easy.

    However using Astro, I can navigate to /mnt/sdcard - and there are folders in there. Two of those folders are usbStorage and external_sd.

    So - usbStorage is the "rest" of the 16Gb after the system and 2GB space is removed. So about 11Gb.

    external_sd is the card that I physically plug in under the battery cover.

    However - couple of confusions:

    (a) if I don't have an external_sd plugged in, I can't move apps to SD card, so they can't/won't move to usbStorage. I've tried.

    (b) if I put an mp3 file into usbStorage, then it's not found by the system under music, or available to select as a ringtone.

    With those two issues, I'm not seeing what use the usbStorage is.

    Lastly - and this is THE most confusing one for me. Navigate to mnt/sdcard and there are my usbStorage and external_sd directories. Great. However, in the same place, there's loads of other directories (foursquare, Lightbox, etc) which are obviously where apps create and store their data.

    WHERE is that? Is it in the 2Gb for apps? It's not in the usbStorage as that exists in the same place. It's not on the external_sd card as I can remove that and they're still there.

    Not sure if I explained that last bit very well, but if my 11Gb usbStorage is sat in the sate root directory as all those other folders, where is the space that all those other folders are using?
    Randomly Set likes this.
  11. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member

    Confusing, innit? :thinking:

    Yup, that's where I was mistaken. When I tried previously I noticed the USB Storage capacity decrease and assumed (wrongly) that moving the app had caused it. A test with a larger data sample i.e. more apps proved this theory wrong. A pity, as imho it made more sense that way. ;)

    I don't think usbStorage is a normal folder/directory - see below.

    /sdcard is the physical internal storage. The sub-directories are created off the root of that. I suspect that external_sd is a symlink to the "real" physical microSD card, and that usbStorage is something similar. Syncing music to the handset, whether with Winamp or WMP, results in a "/music" folder created under /sdcard. The contents of this are recognised and listed by various media players.

    Fwiw, all my apps (bar those that actually allow a choice of location) place their data files in /sdcard.
  12. lotus49

    lotus49 Android Expert

    /sdcard/usbStorage is the mount point for external disks. If you have ever used a USB OTG cable, that is where any attached disk (actually the first recognised partition) is mounted.

    Similarly, /sdcard/external_sd is the mount point for the micro SDHC card.

    If you aren't familiar with the way Unix mounts disks onto the file system, this may be confusing but essentially Unix does not have separate drives (eg C:, F: ) like Windows. There is a single root for the filesystem (called "/") and any new disks are mounted (ie attached) to the file system on a subdirectory eg /mnt. Consequently, there will be a single file system no matter what, but there may be separate disks (which may be real physical disks like a USB drive plugged into the computer or virtual file systems like /sys and /proc).
    Slug likes this.
  13. Rudedawg

    Rudedawg Android Expert

    Well this answered a few questions at least. thanking you. Sorry I won't be specific ;)
  14. xmjox

    xmjox Well-Known Member

    Wow, I feel like I've attended a technology masterclass! Learnt so much just reading this thread, thanks to all those who shared their wisdom :)
  15. Randomly Set

    Randomly Set Lurker

    I'm not sure if it's because it's 01:46 here in England, but still don't understand this usbStorage nonesense.

    Are you saying that the 11-12Gb "available" as usbStorage is actually not available? If not, what is it?

    I want to be able to drop MP3s in there, and have the music player detect them
  16. DaveSyd

    DaveSyd Android Enthusiast

    Indeed it is confusing, not helped my the mixture of terms we are using, and mixture of terms used by Samsung in settings and folder names. Note that it is not just us getting confused the developers and apps are confused also. This is brought about by the hardware manufacturers outpacing the Android OS which was never designed to have mutiple SD cards. So to summarise and try to clarify;

    - Phone RAM, ~ 800MB has all the current running processes under Settings, Running Services. Manages itself by unloading least used process if it needs more room.

    - Device Memory, ~ 1.7 GB main internal storage memory & default app download location. Not accessable directly with 'My Files'.

    - SDCard Storage ~ 11.5GB, Mounted as /Sdcard in 'My Files' and still internal to the phone. Called /sdcard to maintain compatability. Confusingly called also called "USB Storage" under Settings, Storage. This area mounts on your PC under Computer\i9100\Phone (on Vista/win7). It appears that most applications see this as external due SD since there are many folders created by apps to store cache files, and other program data. Unfortunately there appears no conventions like in the Win world, with 'com.ebay...' file appearing in the root of this tree, while others are stored by name of developer or publisher not necessarily the name of the app!!

    - External micro SD, if you have one installed. This area is mounted as \sdcard\extrernal_sd in 'My Files'. The size of this of course relates the card you actually have (mine is 32GB and has 68MB used at the moment). When using Settings, Manage Applications, this is area Samsung SGS2 using when it moves an app. However to confuse you further can see at the bottom of the "Settings, Manage Applications, On SD Card" screen it MB used + GB free add up to ~11.5GB but this is wrong - my card is 32GB!! Have not worked that one out.
    Under Settings, Storage this area is refered to confusingly as "SD Card" at the top of the screen!! Because of Unix style of directory tree, and that most phones have 2 storage areas instead of 3 - file managers sometimes report incorrect usage and available stats. On the desktop when you plug in the phone it appears as Computer\i9100\Card.

    Having said all that perhaps you can help me clarify how the apps treat storage.
    - As mentioned managing Apps in Samsung direct treats internal memory as the SD card when moving apps. These are stored in a hidden folder in \sdcard. Hidden folders start with '.'

    - USB OTG(On-the-go) is an application, that mounts in 'My Files' as \sdcard\usbStorage. ie. if you plug a card reader into your phone it will host the device (like the desktop does) directly. When hosted folders will appear under \sdcard\usbStorage\sda, sdb, sdc, or sdd \ then your folder structure under the card. Note phone cannot host all USB items but storage, external powered HD, and some keyboards can be hosted. Because this is an application - do not expect to store files in \sdcard\usbStorage and have other application see them - they won't

    - I am currently using Norton Mobile Utilities - and it also has a application management allowing you to move apps, but it treats the SD card as being the External SD card not the internal one like the Samsung functions do!!

    - To add to the inconsistency the standard Camera application on SGS2 seems to know the difference!! When you choose to store on the 'phone' it's going to internal sd under \sdcard\DCIM\Camera while if you choose to store photos under 'SD Card' it is actually going to the external Micro SD and stored under \sdcard\external_sd\DCIM\camera. The Gallery app finds them all regardless.

    Perhaps clarifying some other apps treatment of this 3 storage areas is
    worthwhile? Hope this has added value instead of more confusion:thinking:
    FiveFreshFish, YouTu_01 and whycb like this.
  17. whycb

    whycb Lurker

    Finally, took the plunge and got this phone two days ago.
    i also added one 8GB micro sd to it.
    The storage is very confusing.
    i connect the phone to my PC. I can see 2 drives (F: and G:)
    In the F: drive, I can see many folders including "external_sd" When i right click/properties, it says 11.50GB
    Similarly, G: drive shows 7.6GB.
    From the many discussions in this forum, I thought "external_sd" is my additional 8GB SD.
    So, why is this in the F: drive which says 11.50GB?

    Then I copied about 4GB of songs to "external_sd".
    Disconnect the phone from PC
    a) go to My Files and another surprise - I can't find any of the songs or files copied in any of the directory/folders in /sdcard
    Under setting/storage. I have
    a) SD card total space: 7.6GB
    b) USB storage total space: 11.50GB and available 6.24G

    Then i connect the phone to PC again, copied a small file to G:drive, disconnect the phone, go to MyFiles and I can see it !
    the file in /sdcard external_sd

    This is very strange and confusing.
  18. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member

    /sdcard is the remainder of the handset's internal memory (approx 11.5GB free), which is mounted (usually) as the first removable drive on a PC.

    /sdcard/external_sd is the actual microSD card, which appears as the second removable drive.

    It's always safest when using Windows to treat each as a discrete volume and copy to that. The /sdcard/external_sd mount is a Linux convention and may not be correctly understood/interpreted by a non-Linux OS.
    FiveFreshFish likes this.
  19. davipiero

    davipiero Lurker

    Here is what i got in my ICS device

    1. I don't jave any picture/video/media stored in the usb storage as called internal SD or SDcard 1

    2. I stored all my media external SD as called SDcard 2

    3. I plug in the SDcard 2 into the phone

    4. Surely it will be detected now that the phone has 3 storages.

    5. Then, suddenly my SDcard 1 space is drained as much as the space used by the media files in the SDcard 2. So that the SD card 1 now detected as having much lower space than it should be. I check the path of the files in the gallery, well it is addressed to SDcard 2. Plug off the SDcard 2 will restore the space available in SDcard 1 detected by the android system.

    What is happening here? Anyone notice the same thing as me?
    What is the solution?

Samsung Galaxy S2 Forum

The Samsung Galaxy S2 release date was April 2011. Features and Specs include a 4.3" inch screen, 8MP camera, 1GB RAM, Exynos 4210 Dual processor, and 1650mAh battery.

April 2011
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