Adoptable storage is a way to increase your device’s main storage capacity through the special usage of an SD card. Read on to learn more, including the upsides and downsides.
One of the recurring issues that people have with Android devices is their relatively small internal storage. Android users have gotten around this problem by using SD cards to increase storage space, however, it requires a bit of extra work to store files and apps on the SD card, rather than the phone’s internal storage.
Some additional disadvantages of the SD card system to date have been:
- Not all apps can be installed to the SD card
- Widgets can’t be used with apps that were installed to the SD card
- Even when installed to the SD card, apps still use a portion of the device’s internal storage
In the latest software update (Android 6.0 Marshmallow), Google has come up with a solution to this problem, adoptable storage.
What is adoptable storage for Android?
When a user is running Android 6 on their device and then plugs in an SD card for the first time, they will be asked if the card should be used as Portable storage or Internal storage.
You read that correctly. Your SD card can now function as your phone’s internal storage, solving the issues mentioned earlier. The SD card is “adopted” as the device’s internal storage, hence the name “adoptable storage”.
Choosing the Internal storage option will lead to the card being reformatted and encrypted. During this process, the card will be wiped, so you should only do it with a blank card. Afterwards, the card will be formatted as an EXT4 drive with 128-bit AES encryption. The encryption is designed by Google to make it as secure as the device’s internal storage.
You will also be prompted to move your existing data onto the SD card. It can now be used in the same way as your phone’s internal storage in the past, or more specifically, as the default location to save files and install apps.
Of course, if you select Portable storage, nothing will change, and you can use your device exactly as in the past.
Using an SD card as internal storage
If you choose this option, your SD card will no longer show up in the Storage area of your device’s Settings menu. Instead, your internal storage will show roughly the same amount as the SD card’s storage space.
You can see the increased storage in the ‘Settings’ menu
There are two downsides to using adoptable storage to swap your SD card for your internal storage.
One is that you can’t remove your SD card from the device again. Of course, you can physically remove it, but everything on your device will crash until you reinsert it. The encryption also means that the card will only work with that one device. This is a biggie if you previously used your SD card to transfer files between different devices.
Because you are essentially tied to using that SD card after adopting it as internal storage, it makes sense to use one with plenty of storage space on it – otherwise, you have very little to gain by doing this.
Another drawback is that you’ll lose a little bit of speed in the trade. To counteract this, you should use the fastest SD card you can. Look for “class 10” and “UHS” when making your choice. In any case, it will still be a little slower than the actual internal storage. The device should benchmark performance before and after the switch, and tell you about the difference.