How To Free Storage Space On Your Android Device

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android storage spaceHere is a common problem: Running out of storage space on your Android device. If you like to play top-notch games from Gameloft, take lots of photos and videos, or even create periodic backups of your device, things can get crowded very quickly.

Next thing you know, you can’t install that cool new game, or get weird errors because you don’t have enough space.

So, below I’d like to share four different ways to figure out where all that free space went to. All of them are free, and one of them is built right into Android.

Built-In: Storage Settings

android storage space

Depending on how tight your storage situation is, installing a third-party app to figure out where all the space went to might be counterproductive. I mean, you don’t have enough space as it is, so before we try to take up more space, let’s see what Android offers natively. Go to Settings > Storage, and you should see something like this:

free up storage space android

This screen lets you browse through your internal storage, internal SD card (like the Galaxy S II has), and external SD card, and see what’s taking up space in each volume. This is your first line of defense: You will instantly be able to tell whether all the space is spent on apps (1.44GB above) or photos and videos (1.26GB above). If you tap one of the file categories, Android will try to open a file manager in that location so you can clear it out. Alternatively, if you find that the problem is with apps, just tap Apps:

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free up storage space android

The Manage Apps screen will pop open, showing you which apps are taking up that precious space.

With this simple built-in tool you can probably free up enough space to resolve a temporary emergency. We can now safely assume you have space to install at least one app, and can look at some free third party solutions that are more powerful.

DiskUsage

free up storage space android

DiskUsage visualizes your disk space using a treemap, the same interface used by the excellent WinDirStat. One difference is that with WinDirStat, parent folders contain their subfolders, while in DiskUsage the folder structure moves from left to right: Above you can see /mnt/sdcard, the parent folder, and its subfolders (Titanium, Android, DCIM) on the right, each with its own subfolders to the right. Single-tapping a folder zooms into it smoothly, so you can quickly drill down:

free up phone storage android

Once you find a file you’d like to delete, tap Menu and select Delete. One big drawback DiskUsage has is that it won’t let you preview the files properly: For example, above you can see several video files that take up quite a bit of space on my device. I can easily delete them, but there is no way for me to preview them before doing so, to make sure I really don’t want them (or that I have them backed up to my computer). Other than this drawback, DiskUsage is simple and polished.

Storage Analyser

One level up in complexity comes Storage Analyser, which visualizes data using progress bars rather than a treemap:

free up phone storage android

Storage Analyser’s space includes some slick refinements, such as the nice popup for switching between storage media, that also shows storage stats at a glance:

free up phone storage android

Unlike DiskUsage, Storage Analyser let me preview a video by single-tapping it. If you long-press a file, you can select multiple files for batch operation:

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The Filter feature lets you exclude selected files and folders from the report. This is useful if you have a ton of MP3s or photos that you really don’t want to delete, and you don’t want them skewing the reports.

SD Maid

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Last but not least comes SD Maid, with nearly 4,000 Google Play reviews and a 4.4-star average. SD Maid is the only app in this roundup that asked for Root access when I launched it, but it offers rich functionality in return. The top part of the screen is taken up by a horizontally scrolling list of tabs – a UI mechanism I personally dislike, because it makes it difficult to discover the different parts of the app (some users may not even realize the need to scroll horizontally to reveal extra tabs). Here are some of the more interesting tabs:

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The Corpse Finder tries to track down folders that uninstalled apps left behind. It’s a bit scary to use (what if it’s wrong?), but assuming you have a current backup, you should be able to fix any errors it makes.

There’s also a tab that lets you hunt the biggest files on your phone:

freespace[26]

This is interesting mainly for hunting large videos, but again, be careful before you delete anything (deleting nandroid backups, the largest files shown above, is a bad idea). The Clean System tab can hunt for thumbnail cache files, log files, and other miscellanea that can be removed to quickly free up some space without messing anything up:

android storage space

Obviously, those gallery thumbnails would eventually be regenerated as you browse your gallery, but it can work as a temporary fix. SD Maid is a rich app, but these examples should give you an idea for what it can do.

How Do You Do It?

What’s your solution for freeing up space on your Android device? Are you careful not to install too many apps, or do you periodically sweep things clean? Let me know below!

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13 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Mac

I’m using Link2SD with a partitioned SD card. Simple and very effective!

Reply

Bumferry

I use app2SD which allows me utilise the little amount of storage available on my xperia arc S. easy to see what uses the most memory and the cache as well as moving apps from internal storage to the SD card where optional.
It also lets you know what aspects of the app (widgets and the like) might not work if they are moved.
it takes up very little space and has allowed me to utilise a lot of space on my phone and speed it up no end in the process.
For a free app, its been a life saver.

Reply

Scott

Erez, what version of Android are you using? On mine (LG Optimus with Virgin Mobile) when I tap on “Settings” I do not see the same “Storage” option you displayed. Mine says “SD Card and Phone Storage”, then when I choose that I am only shown how much storage each area is using. Tapping on them does not show the more detailed breakdown in your screenshot or open a file manager. I truly wish my Android had a built in way of showing exactly what is using up all my space… I am always getting “low memory” settings. Right now it says my available internal space is just 38mb. Anyhow, you should probably update your article to clarify which version of Android has the built in Storage setting and file manager you write about since apparently not all have it.

Erez Zukerman

Hi Scott,

I use Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). If you do not have this option in your ROM, it is probably because your carrier disabled it for some reason.

Android fragmentation is a huge issue, and this is an implicit disclaimer in all Android posts: Not all phones will have the same options, ever. Sad, but true.

alson

the thing is my storage shows 7 gb available on the sd card and when i open application in setings it just shows that 5.5 gb used and thats the limit it gives..whats happening to the rest of the 2 gb thats still free

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Spencer Vincent

HTC Wildfire S is a great phone but the memory problem is ridiculous! No Way Out

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Athos

Thanks, i’ll check diskusage.

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Totoy Badiola

How does one move files from internal sd to external sd? I use ICS on Samsung Galaxy Tab 2

Erez Zukerman

I suggest using a file manager like Total Commander for Android, or Root Explorer.

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andrew

great stuf.. managed to get all my storage back without having to formal my s2. i was down to 2gb and deleted every thing i could find. Sd maid showed me that my rom backup were taking 5 gb. and old ‘corpses’ of games another 3 gb. so now i got 9 out of 12 gb. my internal memory was ok. thanks a lot dude

Erez Zukerman

Woot! Happy to hear it helped! :)

Sam

this happened with me too..
2-3 gb in rom backups and old game data.. glad i found this article

(wish my GNex was 32gb+)

Reply

Anonymous

Try not to add to many apps. Get rid of unused ones too. When i get a little more familiar with it I will try other things!

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