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Sitting in his armchair, my dad throws his phone to me. “I just can’t get rid of it,” he says, shrugging, “it’s taking up space that I want to use, but how can I delete it?”

He’s talking about an MP3 of the rarely heard track from Bob Dylan’s eponymous 1962 debut album in which he performs ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (a song made famous by The Animals a couple of years later). There’s no reason for Dad to keep it on his phone, a Sony Xperia E, but he can’t seem to find a way to delete it.

I handle the phone, shaking my head. He’s clearly having another of his “senior moments”, and I’ll have it deleted in a moment.

Ten minutes later, it’s still on his phone. Why can’t I delete it?!

Manufacturer ROMS & Functionality

Initially it seemed as though unfamiliarity with the Sony ROM was the issue, but soon it became apparent that actually, there is no obvious way to delete an MP3 — or any other file saved to the phone.

muo-android-delete-mp3

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My first attempt at deletion (and several subsequent ones) involved using the file browser within the MP3 player app. Unfortunately no long-tap or menu option offered the choice to delete.

In contrast, my custom ROM (I’m using OmniROM 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device With a bunch of custom ROM options out there, it can be hard to settle on just one -- but you should really consider OmniROM. Read More ) has a couple of MP3 players installed, both of which enable MP3 deletion. It also has a file manager. So why doesn’t the Sony Xperia E make it simpler to delete files?

Clearly there is a need by the manufacturer to stop standard users accidentally breaking their phone’s software. However, blocking deletion of files added by the user seems short-sighted.

So just how would you delete a file in this situation?

Delete A File Using Your Desktop Computer

This is actually the method we used. All it takes is to connect the Android device via USB to a desktop computer (we were using a Windows 8 device) and wait while the drivers do their thing.

muo-android-delete-explorer

Once connected, you can browse Windows Explorer to find the phone listed (usually under its model name) as a device, double click to open and then browse the contents. Note that Android devices are locked down to prevent you deleting anything important (unless you’ve rooted your phone Why Doesn't Android Come Rooted? Why Doesn't Android Come Rooted? Rooting your Android phone is a rite of passage. It unlocks the functionality that separates Android from iOS and opens a realm of almost infinite customization. Replacing the entire operating system is possible on a... Read More ).

After you’ve found the file you’re looking for (photos will usually be in the DCIM directory, downloaded images in Pictures and everything else, including MP3s, in Downloads) just select and tap the Delete key on your keyboard. Make sure that you only have the file that you want to discard — and the correct one at that — as deleting from an external device doesn’t add the file to the Recycle Bin. If you get this wrong, the data is lost forever.

You may be interested to find that there are many other methods available for connecting an Android smartphone or tablet to a Windows computer. Oh, and a Mac, too Android File Transfer: How To Transfer Files Between Android And Mac Android File Transfer: How To Transfer Files Between Android And Mac Need to transfer files between your Android device and your Mac? You're in luck. Read More .

Deleting Files From Android With An App

Various file management apps are available that can help with finding and deleting an app on any Android system where native file management has been restricted.

muo-android-delete-media

Probably most popular is ES File Explorer (although other Android file managers are available The Best Way to Manage Your Files in Android: Dual-Pane File Managers The Best Way to Manage Your Files in Android: Dual-Pane File Managers Do you occasionally need to move and organize files in Android? For this purpose, Android's conventional methods of organizing files sucks. Don't get me wrong – ES File Explorer provides one of the best file... Read More ). With this app, you can browse your phone, find the data you’re looking for (see the previous section for an idea of where to find the data) and simply long-tap to select and then tap Delete from the menu bar to discard.

Should you make a mistake deleting data from Android with a file manager, there is no option to restore (unless this is a specified feature of the software). However, you might employ a data restore app designed to scan your phone’s storage and retrieve the file you inadvertently rejected. Apps capable of doing this include Dumpster Image & Video Restore and Restore Deleted Files.

Don’t Overlook Removable Storage!

One last thing to consider is whether the data has been saved to a removable drive or the phone’s internal storage. If you’re short of the necessary USB cable but have the files you’re trying to delete on your Android’s microSD card, then unmounting it (Settings > Storage > Unmount) and inserting it into your computer’s card reader (using a microSD to SD adapter) is the best alternative. You can then use your desktop file browser to find and eliminate the rogue file.

Having demonstrated the ease with which media files can be discarded on Android, I’ve solved a problem for my dad, and hopefully for you too. If you’ve any questions about any of this, or suggestions for better apps, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  1. DANIEL
    November 23, 2016 at 3:08 am

    I think I'm more lost now than I was before. So my understanding is that I need to down load an app, which takes up more space (that I don't have), just to delete media files??? Why is this phone so complicated and non- user friendly? Why does this phone not come with a simple way of deleting media files or freeing up SMS memory? My dumb flip phone was easier to use. Also, is there a phone number to call where I can talk to an actual living person over the phone so I can resolve this issue?

    • Christian Cawley
      November 23, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      That's only one option. The other would be to delete via your PC, as explained above.

  2. Mohamed Al Sayed
    October 23, 2015 at 2:27 am

    i suggest that you use "Long Path Tool" its an amazing tool google it AND will solve your problem

  3. Jim
    December 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    In file explorer, look for your phone/tablet main SD card. Look to a folder called estrong, that is where the recycle bin is. With es you can delete those files. Another place to check, is downloads, believe it or not,some have to be told.

  4. suzybel
    December 30, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I find deleting files using my PC the easiest way, but I do have a question. Where do the files you delete from external device go? They do not appear in the recycle bin. Do they still take up space on the device even though they cannot be seen?

  5. Tim Vels
    December 30, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I had no problem deleting files ever since Android 2.1.
    Now in 4.4.4 and still have no worries with ES File Manager. Best ever! :)

  6. Cho
    December 30, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Instead of "..unmounting it (Settings > Storage > Unmount) .."
    Why not just Power Off for a bit?

    • Jeff Smith
      October 5, 2015 at 6:36 am

      I've tried that many times, Cho, including removing the card and the battery once the phone's off. It doesn't work. "Unmounting" the SD card with it's attendant formatting is the only fix I've found.

      But I haven't tried ES File Explorer yet. Hoping it will work.

      ANDROID needs to get its excrement together. Theres NO EXCUSE for the Android file browser's failure to delete files.

      NO DAMN EXCUSE.

  7. RustyRiley
    December 30, 2014 at 12:15 am

    I have trouble "appreciating" this article -- from my earliest days -- I've only been on Android -- and I've "always" rooted my phone -- now, this post gives another good reason why -- but "with great power comes great responsibility", so no one should rush into it, but ... ES File was one of the first to get around the problem with increased security on KitKat, so I've always been glad I use it, but I've used several others, and always been glad to come back to ES -- power plus ease of use; AirDroid is good for some things, of course, a "not good" but better than the others for PC-Android exchanges, file deletions etc etc.

  8. Salkis
    December 28, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Please try myphone explorer in windows salkisand the app

  9. Doc
    December 27, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I've been using Ghost Commander to manage files, and with the SMB plugin (Server Message Block, often referred to as "Samba"), I can copy files from shares on my Windows computer without a USB cable.

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