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Make Windows Think Your SD Card Is a Hard Drive By Creating A Virtual Drive

Learn how to transform your microSD or standard SD card into a hard drive virtually so that Windows thinks it’s a hard drive.

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surface go SD card slot

Windows treats removable drives like SD cards and USB flash drives differently from hard drives, even if the hard drive is removable!

Let’s put an end to that discrimination.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a virtual drive so that Windows takes it that your removable drive is a hard drive. In my case, I am using a Microsoft Surface Go that only has 64GB of memory, so it frequently runs out of space.

After creating the virtual drive, you can install apps that previously couldn’t be installed on the SD card. For example, you can now put Adobe apps on the SD card, as well as the app’s Scratch Disks. The possibilities are endless, since you’re pretty much asking Windows to take your removable drive as if it were a hard drive.

SD Cards Are Slower Than SSDs

Although SD cards do not have moving parts, so they’re technically a solid-state disk, their speeds lag far behind most SSDs. So, make sure to store key files on the main hard drive.

I ran a simple test on my Surface Go to test the speeds of the internal hard drive and the Sandisk Extreme 64GB card that I have, and here’s the test result for my internal hard drive.

winsat surface go ssd speed test

And here’s the results with the SD card.

winsat sandisk extreme test

The internal memory took 20.56 seconds to run a sequence of tests while the SD card took 47.70 seconds. It’s pretty illustrative of the difference in speed.

You can run this test by opening Command Prompt with admin privileges. The run the command winsat disk -drive c . Replace c with the drive you want to test.

The moral of the story here is that you’ll get better performance if you store your files on the SSD of your device. Files like Window’s swap file or Adobe’s Scratch Disks are better off on a faster drive since they act like memory.

Don’t forget that SD cards come in different speed and reliability classes, and here’s how to read the symbols on the card. Buy the fastest and most reliable one.

That said, we’re here because we have probably run out of space on the main drive, so without further ado, here’s how to create a virtual drive.

How to Create a Virtual Drive In Windows 11

While these steps are written for Windows 11, you can also create a virtual drive in Windows 10. The steps might be a bit different, but overall, this guide should be equally useful for you.

First, right-click on the Windows icon on your taskbar. Then, click Disk Management.

Creating a Virtual Drive in Disk Management

In Disk Management, go to Action > Create VHD. You can find Action in the top toolbar.

A menu will appear.

In this menu, navigate to your SD card using the “Browse…” button.

This step creates a file that will act as the storage for your virtual drive. You will need to give your virtual hard drive a name. I named mine “virtualhd”.

In the “Virtual hard disk size” box, give it a size. I faced the issue where I wasn’t able to assign all the available space on my SD card to the virtual hard drive. You’d have to keep testing until you hit a comfortable maximum. On my 64GB card, I settled on 40 GB.

I left the rest of the settings alone, but you can consider whether you want a fixed-size virtual hard disk or a dynamically expanding virtual hard disk. A fixed-size one reserves the space you requested on your hard drive, whereas a dynamically expanding disk will expand as necessary.

My research shows that fixed-size virtual hard disks are faster, but to be frank, I also found other content saying there’s minimal difference between the two. I concluded that either method is fine.

Then, press OK and wait. The bigger your virtual drive, the more time it will take.

Initialize The Virtual Disk

You’re back to the original window in Disk Management.

In the bottom section, scroll down until you see your new Disk. For me, it’s Disk 3. As you can see, it’s “Not initialized”.

Read: Our Ultimate Guide On Using Your Windows Tablet

Right-click on the grey area (not the part which says 100MB/Unallocated).

Then, click “Initialize Disk”.

A menu will pop up — click OK.

Your virtual disk will come online and now you’ll just need to format it. Right-click on the white area where it says “Unallocated”.

Next, click “New Simple Volume”.

Follow the wizard and change anything you want. You can also power through it using the defaults.

You should see your new hard drive in File Explorer (Windows key + E).

Automating Virtual Disk Mounting On Login

If you restart your computer, you’ll find your virtual hard drive nowhere to be found.

Unfortunately, virtual drives have to be mounted every time through the Disk Management tool via Action > Attach VHD. Or by double-clicking on the VHD file on your SD card.

Ain’t nobody got time for that. So let’s automate it.

To automate it, you will need to go to your Task Scheduler. Click on the Start menu and type “Task Scheduler”. Open it.

On the right sidebar, click on “Create a Task”, which will open a wizard that will guide you through the process.

On the first page, type a name and a description. I just called it “Mount VHD” and described it as “Mount VHD from SD Card”. Make sure to check “Run with the highest privileges”.

In the Triggers tab, choose “New” and in the Begin the task section, choose “At log on”. You might be tempted to use “At startup” but I tried it and it didn’t work for me.

In the Action section, click the New button and enter this into the Program/script input box: powershell.exe -c Mount-DiskImage ‘D:\virtualhd.vhd’

Replace “D:\virtualhdd.vhd” with the path of your virtual hard drive. Make sure to include the single quotation marks before and after the path.

Restart your computer and see if the virtual hard drive gets mounted automatically.

Recommended Uses and Best Practices For Virtual Drives

When I created the virtual drive, I set out to solve a problem which was that Photoshop almost always would complain that it didn’t have enough memory for its Scratch Disk, which functions like temporary memory while using Photoshop.

After putting my Scratch Disk on the virtual disk, I no longer had any problems relating to “Scratch Disk Full”. Creating a virtual drive is great, but make sure to start with the best SD card you can buy. Here’s how to buy the fastest SD cards.

Nonetheless, it’s a better strategy to try to install as much as possible directly onto your internal hard drive before even touching the SD card. If you have to use the SD card, then install it directly on the SD card rather than into the virtual drive, given that the virtual drive is a child of the SD card.

Why should you prioritize your internal hard drive? Because…

  • Internal SSD drives are much higher in performance than a high-performance SD card;
  • Internal drives are harder to lose, SD cards can be accidentally dislodged and its small size makes it hard to find;
  • SD cards are less reliable than SSDs from a long-term data integrity point of view

Following this line of thought, I only put files that can be easily re-downloaded on my SD card. Yes to software files, virtual memory and file downloads. No to personal photos and documents that I created myself.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: So denkt Windows, eure SD-Karte sei eine richtige Festplatte - Anleitung zum Einrichten virtueller Laufwerke

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