Surface Pro, Windows 8 and a micro SD card

Disclaimer: All this stuff is second nature to me and I sometimes forget that some are not as familiar moving around in the system.  This one gets pretty close to the heart of windows so I have to say if you attempt this, you do so at your own risk It is simple enough  but if you unmount or format the wrong thing it will not be good.

As I mentioned, I have a Surface Pro 64Gb model. I am not a neat freak but I am concerned about how fast I can chew up space on that 64Gb “System” drive.  I picked up a 64Gb micro SD card and plugged it in to the unit.  Well, I thought it was going to be that easy…guess again.

My plan is to make the micro SD card a permanent fixture in the Surface pro.  To manage my space all I wanted to do is set up libraries for Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos on the micro SD card. Oh, and have my downloads default to the card as well.

I have been enlightened.

Know this about Windows 8 on the Surface devices. By default Windows will let you install Apps and Programs to the internal SSD only. If you put in a micro SD card and try to install to it, well you will never find the SD card.

Windows 8 and removable (micro SD) media do not play well by default.  Sure they work fine for just popping in and out for “Storing” media, but if you want to utilize Windows 8 libraries and Metro apps that use Windows Libraries; that is another story.

When we put an external micro SD into the windows 8 device it is automatically given a drive letter and is formatted with xDFat. Windows recognizes this and disables several functions like “Add to library…”

Day 1 with your new micro SD card decide whether you want to use it like a thumb drive or to make it a permanent part of the system.

As a thumb drive, do nothing.  Pop it in and you are good to go.

If you want to integrate it into the system so you can use Libraries and install to the device you will want to “mount” the card as usable space. Mounting the external makes it appear as a folder on the C: drive…the OS is none the wiser.

It is simple yet scary to those that have not messed with disk manager.

  • Open Disk Management
    • From the charms menu  choose Search…
    • Enter Disk Management in the search field and click on Settings (below the search field).
    • In the results pane click on “Create and format hard disk partitions”.
  • Your micro SD card should be visible and most likely be assigned to D: drive. It will appear as Removable.
  • Right-click on the “Removable” drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths…

Make absolutely certain that you are on the Removable disk for these steps, Wouldn’t want to harm the C: drive.


  • Click on the “Remove” button.
  • Right-click on the “Removable” drive again and select Format, choose NTFS
  • Right-click on the “Removable” drive yet again and select Change Drive Letter and Paths…
  • Click on the Add… button.
  • Choose Mount in the following empty NTFS folder from the available choices.
  • Click the New folder button.
  • Suggestion: Create a folder you can recognize as the SD card under your user folder  C:\Users\”your user name”\SDCard or off the root as I did with C:\SDCard

Now you will want to create some folders under the Folder that you mounted the drive to.  under my C:\SDCard folder I created:

  • \Andy\
  • \Andy\Documents
  • \Andy\Downloads
  • \Andy\Music
  • \Andy\Pictures
  • \Andy\Videos

I added the Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos folder to the corresponding Windows Library. Now Metro apps that use Libraries will display the media it is supposed to.

I went to desktop mode IE and changed my default download directory to point to my new folder.  In IE (desktop mode) it is under Tools (gear) > View Downloads > Options…

Note that you can only change your download directory from Desktop Mode IE.  Metro IE  uses the desktop setting.  Also note that if you receive a cannot download (file has moved…) from Metro IE, you may have missed the step to format the micro SD with NTFS; I know this because I missed it the first time through.


Next I went into my MS Office products and change their default Save locations

So now all my non-program/apps media goes to my micro SD card.

The micro SD card is part of the system, so don’t go removing it or anything.  Use the USB slot to hook up a thumb drive or external disk to move files back and forth.


37 thoughts on “Surface Pro, Windows 8 and a micro SD card

  1. hr

    Thanks for sharing, I found this looking to see if the idea might work, Curious, Have you been brave enough to pop it out and see what happens when you boot back up? Or better, when you later reboot with it re-insert back into the system? Is Windows aware? Also I wonder what happens if a different memory card was inserted for a while (to say get pictures from a camera). My guess without ever trying anything like this would be that a different card would be seen as a removable device and your “mounted” directories would be missing in action until re-inserted. I wonder if it would complain when finding them again after reinsertion?

    Oh the trials and tribulations of an idle mind… but I know the urge to find out would get the better of me. Better just by the bigger SSD, might be safer for me 🙂

    1. I went ahead and popped my SD card (that was mounted as above) out, while my Surface was on. I found a place holder for the mounted card under Windows Explorer; clicking it produced an expected “location could not be found” error.

      Popping the card back in (Surface still on), the structure of the card seems to be intact and working properly.

      1. Update: I went ahead and did some downloading to insure my downloads were defaulting to the directory on the SD volume. No issues, all my downloads went to the SD volume (after card was removed and reinserted). Then I went ahead and installed on of the downloads to a Program Files directory that I created on the SD volume. All seems fine.

  2. NOTE: Removing the mounted SD card after setting up libraries does appear to break appear to break the links to Libraries – Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos. It was easy enough to add them back, but it does screw up the association.

  3. cnbkey

    what if I remove the library micro sd and insert another micro sd to use like a thumb drive, copy files to it, then remove to use elsewhere and reinsert the the original original ntsf formatted sd with my libraries..Are they still there or can it be removed once you set it up?

    1. The files and structure of the mounted SD card are intact when removed and put back in…what I found is the Windows Short cuts under Libraries gets messed up. If you set up libraries pointing to a location on the SD Card, then remove the card and reinsert it; then open Windows Explorer and click on a library location that is on the SD card you will receive a location doesn’t exist notification. This effects Documents, Music, Photos and Videos in Windows Explorer. Those folders on the SD card would have to be added back to the libraries. It really kind of sux if you are going to use your xSD slot that way. The physical files are not touched on the SD Card just the Links under Libraries gets stupid when the card is removed. We know that if the libraries point to nothing that the metro apps like Photos, Videos won’t show anything either.

  4. cnbkey

    reference to above if I reboot with the original micros sd with the libraries set up, will the system
    pick it u again”

  5. Anne

    I think I followed your instructions for using Disk Management to make my SD card show up in the “C” drive in Windows Explorer. I am trying to have the “SEARCH” “FILES” charm find the files with the searched for word. After placing my SDCard into the “C” drive the “SEARCH” “FILES” process in the SEARCH CHARM only finds the files with that word in my DropBox.
    So, how can I undo the placing of the SDCard into the “C” drive and have it show up like it used to as my “D” drive in Windows Explorer?

    1. You will just want to reverse the process to Unmount the SD Card.
      Charms menu > Search > “Create and” > Click on Setting under Search > Click on Create and format hard disk partitions in the results pane (This opens Disk Management). Find you SD Card. In the left column it will be Disk (with a number) and will say Removable under it. Press and hold on the SD Card partition and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths… on the Change Drive Letter and Paths for (SD Card) click on you mounted location (mine is Windows (C:) \SDCard). Click on the remove button to unmount the SD Card.

      1. Anne

        Thanks. I followed your steps and then chose Change Drive Letter and Paths and then “Add”. Now it is showing up as my “D” drive again in “File Explorer”.
        Do you have any idea if there is a way to have “Search” in charms find files on my SD card? Do I have to have the old “File Explorer” open to search for a file on my SD card?

  6. isara narapiromsuk

    i can only add music and video
    the pictures are shown in desktop library, but not in metro-pictures app

  7. Dan P

    I have successfully done this twice successfully with a 64GB micro SDHC card. However, the card disappeared at some point (possibly after a reboot) and isn’t view-able in the Disk Manager or in My Computer. Any ideas on why I keep running into this problem?
    When I put the card in other machines after this happens it isn’t recognized either. It seems that something is happening to totally corrupt the card.

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  9. Matt

    Awesome! I am now able to use my Venue 11 Pro 64 GB as basically a desktop replacement since it is now a 128 GB. Installed Dropbox on the microSD and it works flawlessly.

    ONE ADDITIONAL STEP I would add in directions for novices (like me). When formatting the SD to NTFS mine defaulted with a checkmark in the “Do a Quick Format” box. The process didn’t work. When I did it again and unchecked that box everything worked as advertised. The long format took over an hour, but when I click on the C-drive my 64GB tablet shows up as having 101 GB of usable storage.


  10. Giovhanny

    How would I go about reversing this process? In case I want to upgrade to a larger SD later on? Also, will the micro SD over heat if I am running a program like MS Office from it? Any advice helps.

  11. Loba

    I skipped the step of reformatting from exfat to ntfs, now i get a corruption on the microsd and cant format it at all =/

  12. Deedie

    very helpful guide this was. thanks

    however, I have an issue with the steps to do the library folders. when I right click (long press), I don’t get the option to include the folder in library. this is on an hp Omni 10, but that shouldn’t matter as its still running windows 8.

    anybody any ideas?

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  15. Thank you very much for this step-by-step guide! I have taken the liberty to post a link to your page in this forum, where Surface users were asking this particular question (installing programs to the sd card)

    I hope this is ok, if not, please notify me and I will delete my post immediately! Your article has been of great help to me, and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge! THANK YOU!

  16. I need to down load apps, free ones, and use the sd card with them on in another tablet. I have 8.1. when I do, the apps do not show up on the sd card but the space is indicated on it. I know its for copyright but I hate to have to load 100 apps, separately, on my surface pro and windows phone and my android tablet. anyone?

  17. Frank

    Hi, should the SD card space now show added to the C drive space? For example before avail 202GB now 202 + 64 for the sd… Mine is not doing this. Thanks

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  19. I am running Windows 8.1 x64 on a Surface Pro 3. I followed the directions above. I put my Dropbox and Google Drive folders on the SD Card (mounted under C:). Everything seems fine, except… If the card is idle (no files transferred for a period of time), then I become unable to access the files on the card. I get the “C:\SDCard is not accessible The device is not available” error.

    If I pop out the SD card and put it back in, all is well.

    Have I done something wrong?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  20. Ivan Verona

    Hello. I would like to know if this still works on windows 8.1. My main reason is that I want to use the sd card as my location for installing big metro app games like order and chaos online. This method seems different than the old registry tweak which doesn’t work on 8.1. This is like truly adding the sd card space to system drive c. Just wanted to verify before going in. Thank you.

  21. Rich

    I got to the point of Change Drive Letter and Paths which I changed to SDCard. It shows up under Allow access to this volume by using the following drive letter and paths: OS (C:)\SDCard. However I cannot access it from file explorer. It says location not available.

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