I help novice users with their Android devices. When browsing through the file system, many of them get confused about the fact that the internal storage (or rather, the emulated part they have access to without root privileges) is called "SD card" in many Android file managers

In the example above, "MicroSD" is the removable SD card, and "sdcard0" is the internal memory. What I've noticed is that most of my clients associate an "SD card" with this:

enter image description here

Now, the internal memory of the device is probably (physically) pretty much the same thing (I believe?), just inside the device somewhere, and not removable. However, the users typically don't know (or care about) that. To them the SD card is the card they can see, remove, swap around, etc.

In examples such as the one above, I've found that some novice users get confused as to what is the internal storage and what is the removable card.

Is referring to the internal storage as "SD card" confusing, or a bad practice? Or are there good reasons to do it?

I think it might be better if we call the internal storage... well, "Internal Storage". (Indeed, some software does call it that.) Is this better? Are there any reasons not to do this? The removable card can then be called "External SD card", "Removable SD card", or something like that.

Or, any other ideas for how to make this unambiguous to novice users?

  • 4
    "Internal storage" seems the sensible solution
    – PhillipW
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 9:07

2 Answers 2


Oh the bane of my existence: the confusing file structures of an android device. I couldn't really find an official reason for naming the internal storage SDcard0 and typical external storage as SDcard1 or SDcard other than compatibility reasons. There are some great resources out there to explain what is actually going on here, but if this is just a UI and the naming doesn't effect anything else, the main concern should be clarity, which is definitely lacking by default.

If something isn't a folder, but a drive, don't show a folder icon.

For the internal storage, it's a chip, so show a chip:

enter image description here

For external storage, it's an SD Card, so show an SD card:

enter image description here

And maybe show their capacity?

enter image description here

This is something that, in my opinion, Android really needs to do better. Normally, someone shouldn't deviate from the already established convention, but what's in place is known to be confusing. And this is a rare opportunity where fixing something with clearer labels won't break anything else.


Firstly novice user isn't aware that SD card and Internal Storage is seem. For normal user internal storage is something which is inside and user cannot do any changes to it. So when it comes to SD Card(Removable Disk) Users are very well aware that it can be removed and they know that this is external device. So only users who are tech savvy are the ones who understand this properly. As shown in example it is es explorer this is third party app and sometimes phones without default file explorer can actually install es file explorer to get access to root files . There is nothing like bad practice but depends on how users understand it.

Phone is by default formatted in Fat32 So there are two partitions So second partition is sdcard/ext_sd this is just a partition of internal storage

External is removable so External SD = Removable

Hope this helps.

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