Using MicroSD Storage Effectively on Surface for Windows RT

Using MicroSD Storage Effectively on Surface for Windows RT

By now, most people have heard that all Microsoft employees were going to be given a Surface for Windows RT.  The one we all got, at least in the US, has 32GB of storage (about 16GB are free on a new device after accounting for the OS and related data).​  With Windows RT, there is no way to install apps to removable storage, so that 16GB will quickly fill up as you install new modern apps.  For that reason, most people will have a better experience adding additional storage for files, media, photos, etc., in the form of a microSD card (this is the microSDXC card that I personally bought for this purpose: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007WTAJTO/ref=wms_ohs_product).

The problem is that by default, Microsoft Surface for Windows RT treats this added 64GB of storage just like any Windows 8 device would…as temporary, removable storage.  If you will really be taking it in and out, transferring files manually, etc., then you’re all set.  What I wanted to do was use it almost like augmented built-in storage to free up the “C:\” drive for the system and apps.

Desired Experience

As I mentioned, I wanted it to be a more streamlined experience…more cohesive, than manually moving files around and using Windows Explorer to launch videos, music, and even photos.  I wanted my downloaded content from Xbox Music Pass or purchases to automatically get stored on the microSD card.  I wanted the Video app to see all the videos that I’ve stored, or even purchased and downloaded from Xbox Video.  I wanted the Photos app to see and store everything automatically on the expanded storage.  And I wanted it to just do this automatically without me thinking about it.

As expected, the built in media apps such as Music, Video, and Photos, use Windows Libraries to manage where the media is stored and indexed from.  You can’t arbitrarily point these apps to use different locations.  Additionally, these apps will store downloaded and purchased content automatically to the default save location that is set up in that library.  The problem is that Windows (including Windows RT) does not allow removable devices to be added to libraries at all, let alone be set as the default save location.  Evidently other people also want this experience since I’ve been asked about it several times…and for that reason, I’m doing writing this post to make it easy to help others in the same boat.

Solution

To get around this limitation we simply need to get Windows to think that it’s not removable storage. To do this, go to the desktop and open Windows Explorer. Click on “Computer to verify that the microSD card is being recognized. You should show two drives; a C: drive and a D: drive (where D: is the removable device).

Before we move on, you need to create a new folder on the C:\ drive. I recommend creating it at the root of C:\. I called mine “SD”, but you can call it whatever you want to…but you’ll use this new folder later in the process, so remember it.

Now right-click on “Computer” and choose “Manage” in the context menu that pops up.

Once the Computer Management window comes up, click on “Disk Management”, and you’ll see the hardware level information for the two drives you now have in the device. “Disk 0″ is your system drive (C:\) and “Disk 1″ is the MicroSD card you put in (D:\).

You can now right click on the D: drive and choose “Change Drive Letter and Paths…”.

You’ll see a window come up. You can leave this drive letter as D:, but you’ll need to add a new path as well. When you click “Add…”, choose “Mount in the following empty NTFS folder” and type in or browse to the new, empty folder you created on the C: drive earlier. When you’re done, it will look similar to this.

You can choose OK, and then close “Computer Management”. At this point your removable device is now mounted like it’s part of the C: drive (in my case, C:\SD). Explorer should look something like this:

Now create the library folders you want to in the SD directory. Mine looks like this:

Feel free to copy any content into these folders if you want to, but you can always do it later, too. Now you have to set up your libraries to include these folders since they appear as regular folders now. Do this by right clicking on the library you want to point to the SD card (I did Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos, but it’s up to you). Choose properties to edit the library to point to the new folder in addition to the existing ones. If you want to, like I did, make sure to set the new SD directories as the default save location (it will end up with the green check box next to it once you’ve done it). This last step will make sure new content that you download through the built in apps will automatically get stored there. It should look something like this when you’re done.

Do this for all of your libraries, and you’re done with the configuration. At this point, if you already have content saved in the real C:\ library folders, you might want to move it manually to free up space on that drive.

Hopefully in the future there will be easy to manage settings or wizards that help with this configuration, but in the meantime this should help preserve the space for apps and greatly reduce the file management tasks that we would otherwise need to take care of on our Surface devices. Please leave comments with corrections, other ideas, or additional information that could help others as well.