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How to install Windows apps on an SD card or USB drive

Eric Geier | June 8, 2015
In the past few years, we've seen a wave of new inexpensive Windows tablets and laptops, starting with the release of Windows 8. But as you may have found out the hard way, these lower-end tablets and laptops usually offer little internal disk space: as low as 32GB and even 16GB in newer models. Since Windows and basic software can easily take up double-digits' worth of gigabytes or more, there is typically little or no room left for extra applications, games, photos, documents, and other personal files.

Formatting your drive with the NTFS file system.

Even if your drive is already formatted to NTFS, you may want to create a new folder on the drive that will hold the data for your Windows 8 apps. Simply open a File Explorer window, navigate to the drive, and create a folder, perhaps naming it "Windows Apps", "Win8Apps", or something else to help you identify it. Inside this folder, Windows will create a sub-folder for each app you install in the future.

Change the registry setting

In order to change the location where Windows 8 apps are installed, you must first give yourself (or more technically the Administrators of Windows) ownership and editing permissions of the corresponding registry key. To get started, open the Registry Editor: go to the Start Screen, type " regedit", open the program in the search results, and follow these steps:

Accessing the Permissions of the Appx key.

Accessing the Advanced Permissions of the Appx key.

Opening the window to change ownership.

Changing ownership of the Appx key to Administrators.

Applying ownership changes to all settings of the Appx key.

Allowing full control of the Appx key.

Finally, here's where you define the location where you want Windows 8 app data to reside.

In our example, we're storing Windows 8 app data to a folder on the SD card, which is the E drive.

Move old apps to the new location

The registry hack we discussed will only affect apps you install after the procedure. Previously installed apps will remain at the old location. If desired, you can "move" these existing apps to the new location by uninstalling them and then installing again from the Windows Store. Keep in mind though, you may lose any previously saved data and settings for apps that you move.

We discussed just one method to help free up internal disk space on your Windows tablet or laptop. If more space needs to be freed, perhaps get rid of unnecessary items: uninstall unused applications and bloat-ware, clean out temporary files, and delete old documents and files. Also, consider coping the Recovery Partition of the device to an external drive and delete it from the internal drive.


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