The 1-2-3 Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Android Smartphone

Andy Betts 11-11-2016

It’s common to hear people complain that their phone has started to slow down, or that they’ve run out of space, or that the battery life is no longer any good.


A lot of these things can be caused by the various apps, files, and other random stuff that amasses the more you use your phone. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean it up, and Android has the tools to get the job done.

1. Uninstall Apps

The first place to start is to uninstall any apps you don’t use. We all tend to accumulate apps over time, leaving them there just in case we ever need them. If you don’t use them, uninstall them.

There’s no real benefit to keeping hold of apps that you don’t use. They clutter your app drawer, they take up space, and they can run in the background or go online without you realizing. If you want to see the amount of space an app is using, go to Settings > Storage > Apps, then select Sort by size from the menu.

uninstall apps

In addition to uninstalling apps you’ve downloaded, you can disable any system apps that you don’t need. When you disable an app, its icon gets hidden, any updates get removed, you can’t launch it, and it won’t run automatically.


To disable an app, go to Settings > Apps, then locate the app and tap Disable. To re-enable it, find the app again and tap Enable. Note that disabling only works for built-in system apps that can’t be uninstalled.

Get Rid of “Speed Booster” Apps

While you’re at it, you should get rid of any “performance-boosting” app you have installed. These rack up hundreds of millions of downloads, but are almost all junk.

These apps include task killers, RAM boosters, or anything else that promises to speed up your phone. They don’t work Why RAM Boosters and Task Killers Are Bad for Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More . Cache cleaners are unnecessary because the feature is built into the operating system. Antivirus apps generally aren’t needed because all apps submitted to the Play Store are scanned for malware (unless you’re downloading apps from outside sources). Battery savers usually will not extend your battery life 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More .

All these types of apps make grand claims that are rarely fulfilled. More often they will slow down your phone or drain your battery. They also tend to be packed with advertising, and many play fast and loose with your data privacy.


If you want to go a step further, you could tackle some of the big name apps too. Facebook is notorious for slowing down Android — so why not check out some of the alternatives instead How Facebook Is Ruining Your Android (and What You Can Do) If you care about battery life, performance, or privacy, you're going to want to uninstall the official Facebook app and use one of these alternatives. Read More ?

android memory

Android has tools to help you identify resource-heavy apps. The battery chart shows which ones are using the most power, and some versions of Android Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More let you see what apps are taking up your RAM.

2. Free Up Space

Every phone comes with a limited amount of storage space that is several gigabytes less than what was advertised. Most devices lose up to 8GB to the operating system and pre-installed apps, and there’s no way to reclaim this.


clear data

Thus, you need to keep an eye on the space you do have available. There are several things you can do to keep plenty of storage free.

Go to Settings > Storage to see how your space is distributed between your apps, media, cached data, and other files.

Tap Apps, then Sort by size from the menu, and you can see how much space each app is taking up. This doesn’t just include the app files, but also any content (such as offline playlists in Spotify Is Spotify Premium Worth Its Premium Price? Is Spotify Premium worth its premium price? Discover what Premium offers and whether you should upgrade from Spotify Free. Read More ) and cached data.


If you don’t want to uninstall an app, you can tap Clear data to free up its space. However, this will completely reset the app, including any login details, saved settings, or scores.

What To Delete?

You don’t need to worry about Cached files, as this is managed by Android. When you use apps, certain files and data get cached so they can be restored quickly, making the app work faster. Android decides how large the cache can get and will delete its contents intelligently if it needs more space.

Images, Videos, and Audio are self explanatory, and they also give you an easy way to free up space. Unless you need to store your photos and videos on your phone for some reason (maybe you’re frequently out of range of Wi-Fi or 4G), you can use a cloud service to store them How to Select Which Google Photos to Back Up on Android Is Google Photos backing up too much on your Android phone? Here's how to restrict it to only pictures you choose. Read More .

Google Photos is the obvious choice, with its offer of unlimited storage for slightly compressed files Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos If you aren't using these hidden Google Photos features, you're really missing out. (Hint: There's free and unlimited photo storage!) Read More , but you can also use Flickr, or Dropbox, or pretty much any other cloud app.

Similarly, you can upload your full iTunes library to Google Play Music The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed Google Play Music is a music streaming service, a local music player, and a podcast player all mashed into one. And it's great. Read More without needing to pay for Google’s streaming service.

Misc Files

The other category is called Other or Misc. This is harder to call, as it contains literally all of your user data.

App settings, files, or game saves might be stored here, as will files you’ve dragged and dropped from your desktop Move Files from Mac to Android Without Android File Transfer If you need to transfer files between your Android device and Mac computer, these tools make it quick and easy. Read More . The Download folder is also here, containing everything you’ve downloaded through your browser — that’s often something that needs clearing out.

You may be able to identify what each one relates to, as they’re normally neatly sorted into folders. You can delete any files you don’t need, or any folders relating to apps you’ve uninstalled. If you aren’t sure what a file or folder is, it’s best to leave it alone.

other data

Of course, if you have a phone with a microSD slot, you don’t need to worry about freeing up space. Recent versions of Android enable you to move apps or large files to a card. Just tap the app’s name then select the Move to SD Card button.

3. Factory Reset

Finally, the simplest option: a factory reset. It’s a bit of a pain to have to do it, but if your phone has really slowed down, if it’s throwing up errors, or if it’s just generally buggy, a factory reset is the best option. Just make sure you’ve backed up everything first.

factory reset

A factory reset clears out everything from your device, including all your account information, returning it to the state it was in when you first bought it.

When you turn it back on, you will need to enter your Wi-Fi and Google account details. All your old apps should automatically start reinstalling. A lot of apps are now able to backup their data to your Google account (like Pokemon GO 10 Pokemon Go Tips and Tricks Everyone Should Know Pokemon Go is still fun even years after its launch. Here are the best Pokemon Go tips and tricks to get more out of the game. Read More ), and if any of yours do this, then that data will be restored without you needing to do anything.

For the rest, you need to make sure you have a proper backup plan in place. Helium is a good option, albeit not the easiest to use, or you can check out our other recommendations for Android backup apps How to Back Up Your Android Device Properly Here's how to completely back up your Android device by protecting your photos, SMS, contacts, and everything else. Read More .

Your Spring Cleaning Apps?

It’s easy to clean your Android phone, and for the most part, the tools you need are built right into the operating system. While a little slowdown is inevitable over time, cleaning out the junk and getting rid of misbehaving apps every now and again should keep your phone running smoothly.

How do you keep your phone in good shape? Do you have any favorite apps to help with the job? Let us know in the comments.

Originally written by Chris Hoffman on August 26th, 2013.

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

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  1. Nathan mead
    December 25, 2018 at 5:17 am

    I like using sd maid to clean my phone.

    my phone is a 2017 LG K8 so i have RAM cleaning tools and a battery usage and storage manager built into android 7.0 (stock) but i like using sd maid for getting rid of advertisement files (they hide and are hard to delete with built in apps and i get tons of them because all my apps are free and the advertisement files won't go away by themselves) and sd maid also has a app to .apk built in so if i like a older version of a app but hate the new one (and the Google play store auto updates when i have it set not to) i can install old versions without having to download them from untrusted websites and it's fast when exporting.

  2. Molly
    February 21, 2017 at 3:00 am

    I got my phone back in December I get notifications there are 4 VIRUSES. My phone will shut down in 1 day if not fixed. I used Android clean house. Woke up the other morn. It was gone. Tried to install again no avail. The only thing I can think of I did wrong was to use Wifi that was unsecured. I'm pretty upset I guess I just can't have a phone.

  3. Anonymous
    July 10, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    This article didn't help at all with my question, which was "how do I know which misc files in my phones storage are important, & what can I delete?" Which was the question that led me to this page/article.

    • Teresa Peneguy
      March 26, 2017 at 6:12 am

      I know!!! I have found 100 articles that say to delete misc. files you don't need, but not one saying how you can tell!

  4. keisha
    April 25, 2015 at 4:23 am

    Is it ok to delete all misc. Files

  5. swap-lady
    September 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

    My directory list at Download was too big, so apps could not read recent files. I have cleaned Download from those files, but still apps dont recognize the newest downloaded files. How to proceed?

  6. Ben Mah
    September 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    l've rooted my note 1 and even changed to custom rom, Can i still use the factory reset without bricking the phone? Pls help.

    • Anonymous
      March 30, 2017 at 2:24 am

      I think you can. It wipes your apps and storage so it shouldn't brick it. But if does, it can be fixed

  7. Anonymous
    September 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I did factory reset my galaxy note 2..I loss my my photos data everything ...any tell me how I can get my photos
    Pls help me
    Thank you

    • user
      September 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      You can't if you didn't create a backup

    • muo2
      September 7, 2013 at 5:35 am

      Pandora Recovery - Find and Recover Deleted Files of Any Type - Free!

      Ccleaner is great too

    • Anonymous
      March 30, 2017 at 2:23 am

      Use DiskDigger

  8. Nik
    September 3, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Use sdmaid...

  9. Alwi
    August 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    How to configure my galaxy note 2 so that my stuff saves automatically to the SD card memory. At the moment nothing is saved in the card and when there is any need for update of some of my apps I receive notification that there is no enough memory. I would appreciate your help. Thanks

    • Dick
      September 3, 2013 at 3:43 am

      I need this too! Thanks!

  10. Sadiq
    August 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    If you want to backup your apps and games here's what to do.
    Download the app android assistant from the playstore.
    Once you open it tap on the tools bar (top right) and tap on app backup and restore. You will see all your apps that are on your phone (every single one of them).
    Mark the ones you want to backup and hit backup selected at the bottom. After this process is complete, open your file manager or my apps and scroll to android assistant appbackup & you'll see your backed up apps.
    You can back them up to a computer via the usb cable.

  11. Kit
    August 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Can I follow this article to clean/tune my android tablet as well ???

    • Jamie
      August 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm


  12. Judythe Welsh
    August 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I have a samsung galaxy s3 and every time I go to settings - apps... the settings cradhes so I can't do anything with my apps from the settings. ... any suggestions would be appreciated....

    • Federico G
      August 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Try doing a factory reset, the first step on this guide.

  13. Wilhelm V
    August 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    My version of this goes something along this:

    Step 1) Erase System, Data, Cache, and Internal SD
    Step 2) Downloaded a Rom...
    Step 2.1)Extract the Rom...
    Step 2.2) Remove any useless garbage from System/Apps
    Step 2.3) Add any modifications that I may want (Audio Mod, More Applications to system, etc)
    Step 2.4) Rezip rom and move it to my internal SD card.
    Step 3) ??????????????
    Step 4) Profit

    • Dick R.
      August 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      What is a "rom"?

      • Anonymous
        March 30, 2017 at 2:26 am

        In this case, it's a modified version of Android, with less bloatware, more features, and more updates

    • Scott
      September 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Read Only Memory