Although Lollipop is on its way, there are plenty of users that will either not have the opportunity to experience Android 5.0 (due to either carrier or device restrictions) or aren’t interested in making the upgrade. For those planning on staying with KitKat, there’s one glaring issue that may be seriously causing issues with your device — some third-party apps (such as Polaris Office) are unable to write to your SD card.

It’s frustrating on a serious level. However, there was a very good reason for this. Security. Most every SD card is formatted with FAT32 — which is, for the most part, universal. Any app can write to any location on cards with the FAT32 format. Google considered this a security risk and decided to address the problem. In the end, that meant many third-party apps could no longer write to the existing SD card.

Oddly enough, this was actually implemented in 3.0. It wasn’t until 4.4 that Google actually forced the issue so that third-party applications could no longer write to the space.

Fortunately, there’s a fix. It’s not ideal and will take a bit of time, but it works. Here’s what you must do:

  1. Copy all of the files from your SD card to a PC
  2. Uninstall the third-party app(s) that can’t write to the SD card
  3. Restart device
  4. Have Android format your SD card via Settings | Storage | Format SD card (Figure A)
  5. Re-install third-party app(s) that couldn’t write to the SD card
  6. Copy data from the PC back to the SD card (into the same directory it was in prior to reformatting)

Figure A

Reformatting an SD card on a Verizon-branded HTC M8.

Your third-party Android app should now be able to write to the SD card. How this works is that, when you uninstall an app, it will delete any folders it created (or “owned”). By re-installing the updated version of the app, the folder on the SD card will be re-created with the proper permissions such that the app can now write to the directory on the SD card.

If this doesn’t work (it should), the alternative is to make use of an app like Dropbox. In the latest iteration of the Dropbox app, you can now move the synced folder to the SD card. If you’re third-party app has the ability to connect to cloud-based apps (like Dropbox), take advantage of that and store all of your files from the productivity app into the SD card by way of Dropbox.

No, this isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s one that will reclaim the SD card for third-party apps.

Do you take advantage of the SD card on your Android device? If so, do you bother with any level of security for the data you store there?