Knowledge of micrometer-size polyacrylamide elastic microsphere (MPEM) transport and retention mechanisms in porous media is essential for the application of MPEMs as a smart sweep improvement and profile modification agent in improving oil recovery. A transparent micromodel packed with translucent quartz sand was constructed and used to investigate the pore-scale transport, surface deposition-release, and plugging deposition-remigration mechanisms of MPEMs in porous media. The results indicate that the combination of colloidal and hydrodynamic forces controls the deposition and release of MPEMs on pore-surfaces; the reduction of fluid salinity and the increase of Darcy velocity are beneficial to the MPEM release from pore-surfaces; the hydrodynamic forces also influence the remigration of MPEMs in pore-throats. MPEMs can plug pore-throats through the mechanisms of capture-plugging, superposition-plugging, and bridge-plugging, which produces resistance to water flow; the interception with MPEM particulate filters occurring in the interior of porous media can enhance the plugging effect of MPEMs; while the interception with MPEM particulate filters occurring at the surface of low-permeability layer can prevent the low-permeability layer from being damaged by MPEMs. MPEMs can remigrate in pore-throats depending on their elasticity through four steps of capture-plugging, elastic deformation, steady migration, and deformation recovery. © 2014 American Chemical Society.