Android

How to Free Up Storage Space on Your Android Device

Dan Price Updated 08-07-2020

App, photo, and operating system sizes are always getting larger. If you use an older Android device—or even the entry-level model of a newer device—you’ll quickly find yourself hitting the storage limit.

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There’s nothing worse than whipping out your phone for a once-in-a-lifetime photo, only to be met with the dreaded Storage Full message. So how do you free up storage on Android? Keep reading for a list of tips and ideas.

1. Identify Storage-Hogging Apps

How many of the apps currently installed on your phone do you frequently use?

Sure, we all need an email client, some social media apps, a news app, and perhaps a game or two. But do you really need that random weather widget you downloaded or the app that distorts your face to make you look like your dog? Probably not.

Recent versions of Android make it easy to see which apps are the worst offenders. Navigate to Settings > Storage > Other apps. Wait for the list to populate, then tap the menu button in the top-right corner and choose Sort by Size.

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Once you know what’s taking up the most space, uninstall anything you don’t need by heading to Settings > Apps & notifications > See all X apps.

2. Delete Offline Content

Lots of apps let you save content on your device so you can access it when you’re offline.

For example, Spotify lets you save music directly to your phone. Some RSS readers let you save articles to read later, as do bookmarking services like Pocket. Podcast apps save audio files for offline playback, Chrome can even save webpages for offline access.

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Saving content for offline use is great—if you have enough space. If you don’t, you’ll quickly start wondering where all your free space went.

A few prudent steps will fix this problem. Instead of downloading dozens of albums, try making a playlist on Spotify with just enough songs to cover your gym session or commute. Only open the notebooks you use most frequently on OneNote, and avoid downloading any huge files from cloud storage services.

To clear the offline content that you already have saved on your device, you have two options. You can clear app caches How to Clear Cache on Android (And Why You Should) What is the purpose of cache in Android, and how can you clear it? We look at everything you must know about Android cache. Read More on a case-by-case basis by going to Settings > Apps and notifications > See all X apps > [App Name] > Storage and cache > Clear Cache.

Alternatively, you can use a reputable third-party tool that will clear app caches in bulk. SD Maid is one such tool.

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Download: SD Maid (Free, in-app purchases available)

3. Move Photos to the Cloud

Google Photos will automatically back up all your photos to the cloud. As long as you’re happy with a slightly lower resolution, they won’t count against your Google Drive storage limits.

When looking at the photos on your device using Google Photos, it’s easy to miss the fact that they’re not saved locally. They’re still accessible and viewable through the Photos app as long as you have an internet connection.

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The app will even alert you when it can help save some space, with an on-screen notification making you aware that you’re closing in on your storage limits.

If you think you’re close to capacity, you can get the app to check on your behalf. Navigate to Google Photos > Menu > Free up space. The app will scan your phone, let you know how many photos have already been backed up, and advise you on which ones you can safely delete.

4. Move Content to an SD Card

Sadly, fewer and fewer devices now ship with an SD card slot. They’re especially rare on premium phones.

There’s a good reason for lack of SD support on modern phones 6 Reasons Why You May Not Want to Use SD Cards With Android Phones You might think that using an SD card on Android solves all your storage woes, but you should know about these serious drawbacks. Read More : cheaper SD cards will not perform as well as more expensive ones because they have slower read/write times. But many users won’t realize that their SD Card is at fault—they’ll just think the phone is sluggish. That’s bad publicity for manufacturers; they’d rather you just bought a more expensive model with more storage.

If you have a mid-range or budget device, it’s more likely to have a slot for SD cards. This is fortunate, given that such devices typically offer less built-in storage than their more expensive counterparts.

Android is capable of formatting an SD card so it appears as internal storage on your device. Go Settings > Storage > [SD card name], then tap on the three vertical dots in the top-right corner and choose Storage settings. Select Format as internal to begin the process.

5. Take Advantage of the Google Files App

The Android storage manager app Files comes pre-installed on all stock Android devices. It’s not as powerful as some of the best Android file explorer apps The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android Looking for the best file manager apps for Android? Here are the top Android file browsers you should try. Read More , but it does a decent job of letting you organize the downloads, shared files, and other documents on your phone.

One of the app’s most overlooked features, however, is the Free up space tool. It’s directly integrated into the Android Settings app. To use it, go to Settings > Storage and tap on Free up space.

The Files app will automatically open and start analyzing your storage. It will identify junk files, large files, old files, and anything else it thinks you can safely delete. You make the final decision of whether to complete the removal.

Download: Files (Free)

6. Android’s Storage Manager Tool

If you don’t trust yourself to keep up with these storage maintenance tasks, you can let Android do some of the work for you.

The native Storage Manager tool has been available since Android Oreo. Head to Settings > Storage and slide the toggle next to Storage manager into the On position. If you tap on Storage manager, you can customize the feature, including how long to keep backed up photos and videos on your delete before the local copy is automatically deleted.

Learn More About Android Storage

Keeping your device free of clutter is just one small part of knowing how to manage the storage on your Android device.

For example, did you know that it’s possible to move entire apps to your SD card How to Move Apps to an SD Card on Your Android Need to move apps to an SD card on your Android? Here's how to offload apps and free up storage space on every version of Android. Read More and away from your internal memory? If this isn’t an option, check out more tips on using an old Android phone with little storage space.

Related topics: Android Tips, Cloud Storage, Storage, Troubleshooting.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. g.m.nelson
    February 6, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    one of the worst apps for internal storage is WhatsApp which insists on storing all media files internally. the best option(s), only leave chat critical media in the chat, for all others: 1. delete unneeded files, 2. transfer files to external/computer/cloud storage then delete chat file, 3. for files you wish to keep on your phone, create folder(s) in SD storage, use gallery options or a file manager to move files then manually revise chats to delete "shadow image" place holders of the original.

  2. Sameer Niazi
    August 8, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    thank you dear

  3. Annette Clay
    October 9, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you alot for your help

  4. Tammy
    September 18, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this article it is very educational and easy to follow

  5. Anonymous
    July 1, 2015 at 3:12 am

    My Samsung ACE GT-S5830 came with a pathetic 158 Mb and shortly after installing Stock Lite v8 Rom and trying (and uninstalling) tiny apps from Google Play Store my memory was down to ~20Mb. I noticed the Google Play Services app had become VERY fat (over 66Mb from 1.5Mb) so within Settings> Applications> Manage Applications> All , I found the Google Play Services app, selected, and uninstalled the updates. After applying same to Google Services Framework, over 80Mb of memory was clawed back!

  6. aj
    May 18, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I

    Hi I have a same problem runnngout storage space what can I do to fix. My phone is huawei G6. Please help me

  7. Harry
    May 3, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    SdMaid saved me the trouble of undergoing another factory reset and loss of data, Phone is really free now???????? Thanks a lot

  8. fred12
    May 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I have a oppo Android phone and it's been given me storage problems so I went to the Android store near me and the guys told me that every Android phone has a back up storage?? I was like what but it's very big !! AWESOME! :-D

  9. nana
    April 7, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I use AppMgrIII, open the most annoying app, then Clear Data.

  10. Louise
    January 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I have an xperia which is telling me I have 140mb but when I tried downloading an app at 46.52mb it told me there was an error due to "insufficient storage on device" I'm beyond frustration... Can't you please help this woman before her sanity leaves the building

  11. Penny
    December 31, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Tried downloading the sd maid app... however, it tells me that there's not enough room!!! So catch 22, how can I free up space? I've moved what I can ie. music, pictures, etc to the sd card, but apps taking up majority of the room. & I'm sure there's stuff taking up room which can be cleaned up which I can't see.... how to do this without an app??

  12. Anonymous
    November 4, 2012 at 1:11 am

    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!

  13. andrew
    September 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

    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
      September 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      Woot! Happy to hear it helped! :)

    • Sam
      November 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      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+)

  14. Totoy Badiola
    September 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm

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

    • Erez Zukerman
      September 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm

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

  15. Athos
    July 25, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Thanks, i'll check diskusage.

  16. Spencer Vincent
    July 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm

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

  17. Scott
    July 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    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
      July 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      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
        January 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

        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

  18. Bumferry
    July 13, 2012 at 9:29 am

    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.

  19. Mac
    July 13, 2012 at 3:14 am

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