Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The sizes of apps, photos, and operating systems are getting larger. The Facebook app alone now takes up a whopping 250 MB. If you also use Pages Manager and Messenger, you’re looking at well over half a gigabyte of storage space. Games, videos, images, and back-ups will also eat through your memory.
If you use an older device, or even the entry-level model of a newer device, you’ll quickly find yourself hitting your storage limits. There’s nothing worse than whipping out your phone for a once-in-a-lifetime photo only to be met with the dreaded “Memory Full” message.
In this article, I’m going to show you a few ways of quickly, safely, and easily freeing up some much-needed storage space.
1. Identify Memory-Hogging Apps
Be honest, how many apps that you currently have installed do you frequently use?
Sure, we all need an email client, some social media apps, a news app, 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 and tap on Apps. Wait for the list to populate, then tap the menu button in the top right-hand corner and choose Sort by Size.
2. Delete Offline Content
Lots of apps let you save content so you can access it when you’re offline. For example, one of the key features of Spotify Premium is the ability to save music directly to your device. Some RSS readers let you save articles to read later, as do bookmarking services like Pocket. OneNote will sync all your notes onto your phone for offline access. The list goes on.
Saving content for offline use is great — if you have enough memory. If you don’t, you’ll quickly start wondering why all your free space has suddenly vanished.
A few prudent steps will alleviate the problem. 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 on a case-by-case basis by going to Settings > Apps > [App Name] > Storage > Clear Cache. Alternatively, you can use a reputable third-party tool like SD Maid.
Download: SD Maid (Free)
3. Move Photos to the Cloud
Google Photos will automatically backup 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.
If you’re looking at your photos on your device, you won’t notice they’re not saved locally. They will still be accessible and viewable through the app as they were before as long as you have an internet connection.
The app will even alert you when it thinks it can help save you some space, with an on-screen notification making you aware that you’re closing in on your memory 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 and let you know how many photos have already been backed up and can be safely deleted.
4. Move Content to an SD Card
Sadly, fewer and fewer devices are now shipping with an SD Card slot. The Nexus line hasn’t included one for a long time, the new Google Pixel doesn’t have one, and lots of high-end phones from HTC, Motorola, and Sony are also missing one. The exception is the Samsung Galaxy S7.
There’s a good reason for their absence: Cheaper SD Cards will not perform as well as more expensive ones because they’ll 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 an SD Card, which content you can move onto it depends on which version of Android you are running. If you have Android 6.0 or later, you can format your SD Card as internal storage (Settings > Storage > Storage & USB) and your phone will take care of the rest. If you have an older version of Android, you’ll only be able to move certain apps. You’ll need to root your device to move everything.
5. Use a Storage Analyzer App
If you’ve performed all the above steps but still can’t work out what’s taking up all your space, you might need to turn to an analyzer app to investigate all your device’s folders.
The best one is arguably DiskUsage. It’s a great way to find old downloads, leftover files from games, and other rogue entries.
The app will display all the results in an easy-to-understand on-screen graphic, thus helping you find any files and directories which consume a lot of space.
You can delete those files and directories from within the app itself.
Download: DiskUsage (Free)
How Do You Free Storage Space on Your Device?
I’ve shown you five methods that can dramatically decrease the amount of internal storage space being used on your device.
But there are lots more – and I want to hear about them. What apps do you use to analyze your folders? What space-saving tips do you have to pass on to your fellow readers? How do you prevent your device from hitting its memory limits?
You can get in touch with your ideas, tips, and solutions in the comments section below.
Originally written by Erez Zukerman on July 12th, 2012.