New Lumias via Denim support downloading OS updates to memory card

When it comes to updating the operating system, the Windows Phone experience leans towards the positive when compared to the competition. Apple's iPhone notoriously need a huge heaping of space due to backups and Android, like all things, can vary from device to device.

However, one area that is of concern is Windows Phones with low internal memory. Even though some phones have a micro SD card for expansion, they can prove to be problematic for OS updates if there is not enough internal space. One minor fix in build 14219 of Windows Phone 8.1.1 aka Lumia Denim is the ability to install those updates using the expansion card.

The news comes through Microsoft's support channels, which note the addition:

"Lumia software update OS version 8.10.14219.341 (formerly Denim), or above enables support for downloading phone software updates to an SD memory card. The supported devices list includes: Lumia 530/530 Dual SIM, 630/630 Dual SIM, 635, 636, 638, 730 Dual SIM, 735 and 830. The feature will be available for possible software updates coming after 8.10.14219.341."

Nonetheless, there are exceptions to the rule, including some of the older Lumia phones:

"Other Lumia models with a SD memory card slot, such as Lumia 520, 525, 620, 625, 720, 820, 1320 and 1520, do not support downloading updates to memory card."

It is unfortunate that the Lumia 520 and Lumia 525 do not support this function, but newer phones like the Lumia 530 are a higher priority. The reason for this is although the Lumia 520 "only" has 8 GB of internal memory the Lumia 530 drops that down to a very low 4 GB making micro SD card support for OS updates more crucial.

It is not immediately clear why there is a distinction in hardware support for this feature, though presumably it has something to do with the OS and firmware for those devices. Going forward, new Lumia phones will likely all support this ability, which is long overdue.

We should note that this does not mean the OS is installed on a micro SD card, just the temporary installation files to update the OS in internal memory.

The Lumia 535 is noticeably absent from Microsoft's list, though we are assuming it is an oversight, and it joins the x3x series of devices in supporting this feature.

Have you had to uninstall some games or music in order to do an OS update on your Windows Phone? Let us know.

Source: Microsoft (opens in new tab); Thanks, C. Kotesh, for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Fragmentation.
  • This is about as profound as noting phones run on batteries. You cannot both have hardware/software moving forward and not have fragmentation. By definition that would mean new phones cannot get new features.
  • As you noted, mostly they are similar hardware, same price bracket and yet we see this. It isn't the first time either. Watered down software isn't being pushed to lower spec phones (those that make up 71% app downloads on the platform btw!) and some aren't even lower spec phones. Camera refinements for Lumia 925 or Lumia 920 is one example.  Similarly if certain phones with SD card get this fine tuning, why not the others? Why not a firmware update that can be pushed out to the best selling Lumia 520? It is only a little effort unless there is very obvious hardware limitation I am missing out.
  • @Rockstarzzz You are welcome to go get yourself an Android phone an really understand what fragmenation is. You will also experience various UIs and various keyboards. I'm staring at a Note 3 right now. 2 email clients. An email client that doesn't do Office 365 even though the exact smae code does on my buddies HTC with Lollipop! 2 stores. 2 calendar apps. Its a Samsung mess, how anyone thinks Android is great is beyond me its blinking horrible. I've had much better support in terms of OS updates and simplicity of use out of my Windows Phone(s) than I ever would with a Samsung Droid phone. What are these remarks about watered down software. Either you are butthurt as you aren't getting an update (ie. an old, or cheaper handset - so upgrade and stop whining) Or you are just a fanboi from another tribe trolling. Neither of which we care about, the overall story here is a posetive one and yet the commentors pee all over a good story. Way to go champ.      
  • New Years resolution Dan, reduce the snark
  • Would rather not, tbh.
  • New years resolution: More snark
  • Release the snark
  • Sir..first of all Ms updates schedule system is..not right..what I say is first release updates for all flagship Lumia phones if the update is going to be released on Jan the 1st week of jan for all flagship phones old and new and then the 2nd week for all high selling range phone and ..the 3week for mid range phones and other phones..this would be great...
  • Ironically... A SD card near a Lumia 925 :(
  • Its a 1520
  • Sure about that? Looks an awful lot like the 925 in my hands right now. On topic, I see the 521 isn't mentioned at all here. I did have to uninstall alot of apps/games to get the black update.
  • Jeez, this has nothing to do with anything. It is a 1520.
  • As someone who has a 521, get used to it never being mentioned directly as it is just a variant of the 520. If you see 520, you can assume 521 as well.
  • I used to have a 521 until I got my 925. If I had the money I would have looked into that 1520.3. I should note I've never seen a 1520 in person, that's what my confusion was about.
  • it is a Lumia 1520, son.
    BTW, why the 1520 & 820 can't support this. That doesn't make any sense.
  • Is there any need for the l1520 to support it?
  • Sad but true not even the 1320.
  • I agree it doesn't make any sense.
  • Not that it matters, but not a 925. The "PureView ZEISS" is too close to the lens, and the 925 has "PureView Carl Zeiss" instead.
  • Luckily for me, I'm on Verizon! So i don't have to worry about all the nonsense and hassle that comes with updating my phone! Verizon streamlines the process for me by refusing to push updates at all! Thanks Verizon!
  • Best comment ever! Always look on the bright side of life :D
  • The only bright thing about phones in Verizon are probably phones with flash on.
  • Win!!! A reminder why the upvote button needs to arrive pronto :D
  • this is absoule use of sarcasm. Thumbs up brother.
  • Hahahahahahahaha
  • CitizenKaneClapping.gif
  • Man you just rocked by your comment
  • No... Coz most of my apps and games are installed in SD card
  • MS, I always love u, but hurry up
  • Does this really matter??
  • Yes. If you only have 4GB internal, which is really around 2.3 GB available, then it is a very big deal.
  • Then i am on the safer side with L620 as it has 8GB internal memory. Hope WP10 update easily get installed on it. :)
  • Hah....haha ha ha ha...........haaaaaa!   Oh that was a good
  • U need a break! GWS
  • Yes, because if Windows 10 is a big download (which I think it will be) a lot of low memory devices won't be able to install it (because there won't be enough space to download, unpack and backup the phone to restore apps/settings/... ).
  • Yes but we have an option to download apps on SD card, so we can make space available for the update.
  • That's not true for every app.. But you have a valid point. :)
  • Not every app allows this. My father had the same issue with his HTC: WhatsApp can't be put on the SD card, but because it was taking up so much space there was no room for updates to be installed. With this fixed, that won't be an issue anymore.
  • I really dont care about saving my chats on Whatsapp, so whenever it exceeds a limit, i just delete & reinstall it. My whatsapp is taking just 40MB of space in internal memory. Ya i get problems with Twitter app, it easily exceeds 100MB with a couple of retweets & more, but fortunately we can install it on SD card.:)
  • It's not just WhatsApp, it's the general idea. Let's say the Windows 10 update is 250mb, then there is no way amy 4GB phone will be able to install it even without any app installed, let's break it down:
    Current phone OS (my Lumia 1520):  3.2GB
    Phone backup file (settings, app data, etc): 300 MB
    Update download: 250 MB
    Working space for the setup (extraction, moving files around): 400MB
    Total cost: 4.15 GB Therefore, this is quite a necessity :)
  • No uninstall for os updates as of yet .... Memory seems just fine in my l620
  • 520 doesn't support -.-
  • Is this for Windows 10 update?
  • Windows 10 is mentioned absolutely no where in this article.
  • I can see , how hard you are feeling like to punch him in the face :P
  • Maybe he is referring to the idea Windows 10 will be a large update; and thus, low storage phones may require this option. Heaven forbid he ask the question.
  • ^ This.
  • ...sigh....all these clueless indians.. and people wonder why HW/SW quality started to go downhill in the late '90s after most of the big IT companies outsourced sw development to india... Now thatshy it went downhill... because of all these clueless stupid guptas, kumars, sushants, nishants etc. who didnt learn to use their brains, and western people gave them Visual studio and Java developer jobs :S
  • Racist much? You sir are a waste of space.
  • What are you talking about? They're right! White people are supreme beings who NEVER make mistakes /s. Oh brother. This guy/gal isn't just a racist, he's also an asshole and an idiot.
  • What about you? how much you know ricsip?
    Don't forget Microsoft's CEO is also an Indian
  • Indians Clueless? Get a job at charter communications LLC as a customer rep. You'll find out fast who's clueless! Lolzz!
  • But If we removed the memory card that contains software update, what happen?
  • The OS is not itself stored to the card. The OS installation files are put on the SD card as a temporary spot to update the OS.
  • since you are online ..... do a article about the updated DP users and denim update on devices like 520 and 720... do they really gets firmware or just OS updates ( which they already have )
  • It's just somewhere to store the files so you can update the phone. Take it out after and you'll be fine.
  • nothing, only the files needed for upgrade get downloaded to sd, not the os itself, the os itself gets installed on internal memory
  • Think of it like putting a cd in your computer to install windows, once it's installed you can't take the cd out. Make sense???
  • Instead MS should get rid of all that junk of temp files. That could free alot of space. What about have temp files on the SD instead. What happens when you remove the SD? Cant see how this is an improvement. Its more a quick fix before new years eve...
  • "all that junk of temp files"
    Is this really a problem for users? I do not believe so. Also, nothing happens if you removed the SD card. This a temporary spot for the OS installation files, not the OS itself
  • Ah okay.
    I must say that the current 3.5GB of stuff I have in the Other and Temp folder isn't a problem per say on my 1520. But scale that to a lower memory device and I can see a problem
  • Those Other and Temp files aren't just the OS. They are also from apps you have installed that store data internally. If an app has it in its settings to clear (insert here whatever they offer), try clearing them out once in awhile and you'll see that stored Other and Temp data go down.
  • I hadn't thought about that. But neither I can remember ever seeing such a setting in an app.
  • So, new OS is downloaded onto sd, during installation OS files replace the ones on the phone memory, the sd card goes back to the state as it was before the download started...
    I miss anything?
  • Geez Daniel, how many times do you need to repeat that before people actually understand what you are saying!?  Maybe if they read just ONE of the times you wrote it, they might get it.  Great article as usual!  Always enjoy reading your stuff.
  • When people read every 4th word and focus on only one of the 4, you get responses like this and total useless questions.
  • you already can delete the temp files, but that would only free up around 500mb for most i think, so not enough for the upgrade files. when you remove the sd you just have the internal space, that's all, nothing happens
  • How is this not an improvement?? Nothing happens when you remove the SD card. The OS isn't installed on the actual card, its just the update file location. It'd be like if you downloaded an install file to an external hard drive then installed it on your C drive
  • Yes, I got it now :) This is a good think. I first thought the installation would remain on the the SD
  • Good to see they wouldn't compromise performance(again) by bringing back the the feature that made the dvp, focus, etc frustrating
  • I can't help feeling that 8 1 requires that memory to work efficiently. On a 2gb device WP is sucking up 1.5gb of it so it wouldn't be a stretch on smaller memory devices that it pagefiles.
  • Nah just move other apps tosd
  • Here is the first small hit against 1520, admittedly very minor.
  • Hardly worth mentioning.
  • I'm hating Microsoft everyday for not releasing Denim to my unlocked 930.
  • Sounds like you are giving this too much thought. These are just phones, not that important in life.
  • + a billion!! Glad I'm not the only one who feels that way!
  • Didn't actually expected you to saying that with "just" five of them in your hands!! (I'm wondering isn't holding them all at once impossible? :D) [Just Kidding]
  • Well, it is my job ;) Still, even I have perspective on this stuff and do not get, ahem, emotionally invested in it.
  • I would think it would be easier for someone with your job to be less attached to a device than the average Joe, given that a new phone arrives in hand every few months, and so apps and data are constantly on the move. It's kind of like movie critics vs. the public. Neither side views the product in the same way as the other. That said, I agree, people are too emotionally attached to their devices.
  • I don't know...But I think some people emotionally attached to their phone... Nowadays mobile phone is the most personal thing one might have rather than wallet, ID card or wrist watch etc. I don't know it's a good thing or bad thing but who am I to judge others?
  • I normally love your slightly venomous responses Mr Rubino, but what you just said actually makes me wonder if you truly wish to do the job you are doing? (that's none of my business) but a phone is very important in modern life, same way a car is and i assume a car manufacturer such as Mercedes would not announce that cars are not important in life. Bottom line: Phones are important to your readers lives, your editorial life depends on people reading about phones that they deem important, are phones important in life? = Yes.
  • Just like the car in your example, phones are just tools. I mean, my phone is important because is useful to me, but I'm not emotionally attached to it or at least my emotions don't go directly to this object.
  • "actually makes me wonder if you truly wish to do the job you are doing"
    Um, pretty sure I love my job and I'm very thankful for having it. However, I do not believe in being emotionally attached to material possessions. If you burned all of my things, not just phones, I would have the same response. It's more a Buddhist type stance rather than a statement about my job. They are just things, not people, not pets.
  • I'm of the same belief that they are just things, I'm glad you responded this way, but I had to mention it in my original comment as I didn't want to read a future article of yours with the slight doubt that you weren't truly happy writing it :D glad we cleared that up, all the best Daniel.
  • Hahahaha! Well yes but its like a car agency telling you you'll have your car next week for several months now. We as humans like to get what we're told to get.
    But yes, I shall move on with life now.
  • Most probably these "just phones" gives you a solid job and income, so you dont have to dig the ground on the fields for example :)
  • well microsoft it seems great for low memroy devices. Especially for those install tons of apps on internal memory
  • My 1320 is running out of storage because of the video app which I cant delete or move. And I dont have any downloaded videos or personal ones. Any help Daniel or anyone.
  • Buy a new phone?
  • Dont be a smartass. I said the app is using lots of space for no reason so why should I be getting a new smartphone. Ha.
  • Use a memory card.
  • Have you even read my comment. I cant move it to SD,
  • Hard reset and start fresh!
  • Windows Phone updates have become a nightmare for me. The last update took over 11 hours, the one before that was 10 hours. I was advised by several people to remove the SD and that would make it faster. This article definitely disputes that theory. (ATIV S).
  • there's your problem, samsung. nah, jk, is the download speed slow or the install, for me the installation only took around an hour or so, the download around half an hour
  • Sounds more like a Samsung issue. My Lumia 1520 has a 128 GB microSD card, plenty of music, apps and games installed to it and my updates take about 20 minutes. But yeah, currently no one is updating their OS via the expansion card.
  • Yeah. it shouldn't take more than 30 mins.
  • Could be a Samsung issue, Daniel - but I doubt it.  I've seen comments from other users that also have the same phone (remember that last update loop nightmare some people had?) - and their updates don't take as long as mine either.  It's just bizarre.  I don't have the wpTorrent on my phone as a user below suggested to remove.  It's annoying, that's for sure - there has to be some logical reason for it.
  • get rid of that Samsung junk.
  • Do you have wpTorrent on your phone? If so, delete it before doing backups/updates, then reinstall after finished... Saves loads of time!
  • There are still updates to come for cortana, for settings section, for action centre
  • I actually think this is a good idea even though my phone doesnt support it, this makes sense. 
  • Never needed to uninstall apps for an os update on my 720...! So don't mind this feature's absence on 720!
  • WTF! Some one pinch me plz....
  • *pinches*
  • Welcome Dan:)
  • Hmm this behavior such as : Only supported on... Sucks! MS is starting to behave like Samsung!!
  • Puzzled about why the 1520 isn't included...but hey, 32 GB always helps. I have about 20 Gigs free.
  • I think you just answered your own question.  This feature is for smaller storage phone that have 16 GB or less memory.  If you have 20 GB free on your phone and the OS update is less than 2 GB, why would you need to have the install files temporarily placed on a memory card?  It's not like the install files remain on your phone or the memory card after the installation is complete.  This new feature is for smaller memory phones who wouldn't have enough memory to install the new OS without having to delete pictures, music, videos, etc. first.
  • Updated cyan and denim... But I never uninstall any apps or games. I always move to SD card which app support sd card
  • A Microsoft így oldja meg, hogy az egyébként hardverileg megfelelő telefonokra ne lehessen a jövőbeni, nagyobb tárigényű, de erősebb hardvert nem igénylő oprendszereket telepíteni minden készülékre. Nyilván nem akar belső konkurenciát saját magának. Mindazonáltal gusztustalan.
  • Please translate....
  • Sounds like a good improvement. Shocked it took so long to implement. Better late than never as they say.
  • Are the Lumias 636 and 638 new coming models?
  • Don't know about 636, but 638 is exclusive to India.
  • This is a great option for devices that support it.
  • This is pretty cool.
  • I feel sad that my 1520 is already referred as "older models". It still haven't gotten a successor. Sucks to be on the high end. Nevertheless, gimme Denim soon... I am totally on my toes waiting.. LOL... Peace.
  • Take solace in the fact that you have one of the two best cell phones under the sun ( the other being the 930). Seriously, I can't imagine what more I'll want after Denim and the W10 update. :D
  • The 930 isn't actually great since it lacks nokia best feature glance.
  • I don't think it's so much that the 1520 is outdated, more that it has more than enough storage to make this feature redundant. Unless the OS update required something like 20gb of free space, we'd never need to use the SD card for it. However, a lot of mid-range Lumias have low storage and a huge SD card to make up for it, so it makes sense to use the SD card rather than the onboard storage. Not sure I made sense, it's been a long night haha
  • Dan, please put commas after "Lumias" and "via Denim" in the title. I had to read it three times before I got what it meant.
  • Since when is WP8.1.1 aka Denim? Denim is Firmware and 8.1.1 is OS.
  • 1520.3 does not need the feature at all. It already has enough memory.
  • I have a Lumia 535 and I don't see the option in Storage Sense or Phone update and I have the build 14219.341.
    So I think that Microsoft didn't forget to mention the support for this feature for their first Microsoft branded Lumia.
    Of course it is not really a big problem since you have 8GB of eMMC and you can save most of the apps and data on the micro SD.
  • I don't get the positiveness relative to other competitors. I've been waiting for denim for months, but apple customers get their updates within a week or so of announcement.. I get that carriers are at fault and that the evergrowing number of models makes it difficult to target all devices at once, but I'd assume that unlocked/unbranded/unwhatever/CVs "flagship" devices would be among the first in line. Also, I'd forgive Nokia when doing slow rollouts due to their weakened situation, but MS can definitely do better. Phased rollouts are terrible for tech lovers.. My poor 930 is sad, so sad :'( #1stworldproblems
  • I wish we could update the phone by attaching it to a computer with the Windows Phone app. You know, like we were able to do with the Zune client.
  • for a TON of the windows phone owners across the globe their phone IS their computer so i think that is why Microsoft went with the in place OTA update .... supporting more than one way to update can be a technical nightmare too. having your phone tied to your pc is SO 2007 :P
  • On windowsphone? No, I always make sure I have more than 5GB of free space in my 8X .... On android? Yes! I remember first update I ever received, it was FroYo (2.2.1) & had to uninstall all the games & most of the apps I had on my Motorola Milestone just to Install the update (via PC)
  • Well thats a good news for my Lumia 530, but not on me, need to buy a higher space of SD cards, Only got 8 Gb, 140 mb available :D
  • No 520, so it is not good news for me
  • Nice to hear, thinking of buying a Verizon 735 outright as a secondary device. Thankfully, Denim managed to install over the 12GB of "Other Storage" that'd been on my 928 since Amber - no app/game deletions necessary. So happy to have finally gotten that wiped out.
  • Microsoft team is doing right things day by day expect releasing a FLAGSHIP phone. #JANUARYisontheway
  • When are they going to release it for925 in india
  • Microsoft said Denim will be here for 1520s, 930s, 830s and Icons by Q4. December 29th, and my 1520 and I are still waiting...