How to Free Up Space on Android

Android phones and tablets are powerful devices with tons to offer. Users can quickly fill up the storage limit as they download apps or games, and add music or videos. Additionally, many low-end devices are almost out of space the day you buy them. No one wants to micromanage their phone storage, so here we’ll explain how to free up space on Android.

If you take a lot of high-res photos, 4k video, or download large games like Asphalt 8, storage limits will become an issue. Even on phones like the Galaxy S7 which only has 32GB of storage built-in. Of course having a microSD slot for expansion is helpful, and you can always move apps to the SD card in a pinch.

Read: Best MicroSD Cards for the Galaxy S7 & Galaxy S7 Edge

With that all said, below are some tips on how to free up space on your Android smartphone or tablet. Whether that’s using Android’s built-in tools, moving apps to the SD card, or using cloud storage applications. We’ll cover that and more below.

Free up space with a microSD card
Free up space with a microSD card

As Android evolves so do the tools and capabilities built-in. These days, modern versions of Android have settings specifically for viewing and managing your storage. Not to mention seeing what’s using the most, clearing the cache, or moving apps to an SD card. This is the first step of many for owners.

Use Android’s Built-in Tools

Our first recommendation would be to take advantage of the many tools built right into stock Android. Google’s Nexus devices have storage managers, and most other devices from Samsung or LG have actual “File Manager” apps. Additionally, each and every Android device has a “Storage” option in settings, so we’ll start there.

To do this slide down the notification bar and tap the gear-shaped settings button at the top. Or find the “Settings” application and icon in the app tray. In settings head to “Storage”. You’ll see something similar to the screenshot below.

Android-storage

From here users will see how much space is used up by apps and their data, by pictures and videos, audio files, downloads, cached data, and other miscellaneous files. Samsung devices may list the storage out in a different format. Tap any of the breakdowns to see more information on that specific item.

As an example, try tapping on “Apps” to see which apps are using space, and delete anything extremely large. Especially if it’s an app that’s no longer in use. Many forget about the “Downloads” folder, which can often be full of pictures and other things over months or years of use.

storage-clearIt’s a good idea to delete old files from the Downloads folder, or clear the cache on apps taking up too much space. A prime example is Facebook or Instagram. Both pre-download photos and video, and can often be using nearly 1GB of space. Apps consume space on our devices by the app data itself, and cache.

Above we’ve cleared nearly 500MB of space by wiping out the cache on Instagram. That’s a half a gigabyte. Which is just photos or video from people we follow being temporarily saved. The app pre-loads them for improved performance, but it wastes valuable space on our devices.  Another good example is Google Music or Spotify, which will cache music for offline playback. Clearing the cache from any of the four apps mentioned above can save users tons of space in minutes. Not to mention many other apps.

Get a MicroSD Card And Transfer Any Data

The easiest way to free up tons of storage on your Android smartphone or tablet is by getting a microSD card. As long as your phone supports it, microSD cards are extremely cheap and an easy way to expand storage. In 2016 almost all major smartphones released have a microSD slot.

Users who have a lot of photos, music, or more important video, will want to transfer everything to a microSD card and off of internal storage.

Galaxy-S7-microsd1

Slide in a microSD card and reboot your phone or tablet. Now, use the built-in file manager to transfer any and all content to the SD card. Additionally, those with Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer can plug it into a computer over micro-USB and manually click and drag files.

We’d recommend any documents, downloaded files, photos or video, and much more be moved to the microSD card. Music is a big one too. Those who aren’t using a streaming solution will want to put all music on the SD card. Next, lets move some apps too, in order to free up space on our device.

Move Apps to the SD Card

Another extremely easy way to free up space is by moving apps to the SD card. However, there are a few limitations. Anything installed on the phone out of the box, typically can’t be moved to the SD card. Additionally, any apps where you’re using the Widget won’t work unless its on internal storage.

We’d also suggest any app that needs the best performance like games, be installed to the internal storage for the best performance. For anything and everything else, move it.

Instructions

To start, pull down the navigation bar and tap the gear-shaped settings button. Or find “Settings” in the application tray. Navigate to the “Device” column or find the option labeled “Applications” then “Application Manager”. It may also be called “All Applications”. Now owners will see a list of all of their apps on the smartphone. I’m moving Clash Royale to the SD card.

S7-apps2d

 

Once you’re in the application manager simply scroll through and find any app or game that was downloaded from the Google Play Store. Select the app, tap the first option called storage, and under “Storage used” where it’s set to internal storage tap the big “Change” icon as shown below. Then select “SD card” and proceed.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 2.07.41 PM

Here’s the full set of instructions and steps.

  1. Settings
  2. Applications
  3. Application Manager
  4. Select “Downloaded App”
  5. Click “Storage”
  6. Choose “Change” storage and select “SD card”
  7. Confirm you’d like to move app to SD, tap “Move” and let it export
  8. Repeat 4-7 for any downloaded app.

These steps may vary slightly for different phones not made by Samsung, but it should be relatively easy for any and all owners to figure out. Select phones may just have a “Move to MicroSD” button inside the application about screen that’s shown above. If so, click that and move each app. It only takes a few seconds.

With Android 6.0 Marshmallow an SD card can also be formatted so the operating system thinks it’s “internal storage” instead of removable. This is called adoptable storage. We’d recommend choosing that, although it will format the SD card and erase all data to complete. Then, the phone will simply show internal and external storage as one big amount.

Use Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is another excellent way to save space on our smartphones and tablets. Whether that’s uploading all of your images and video to Google Photos, or saving video and files to a program like Dropbox. They are convenient, easy to use, and often free.

The way cloud storage works is anything uploaded goes to servers and are stored somewhere else, instead of your phone. As long as you have internet (4G LTE or WiFi) it can be accessed in seconds. Many don’t understand “the cloud” but you should still use it. We’d recommend Google Photos, as images and video take up the majority of space on most smartphones these days.

google-photos

With Google Photos users can instantly backup any and all photos and video to the cloud. You’ll get unlimited free storage if you choose “High Quality” backups. Which are still excellent in terms of photos. Or, select original quality, which counts against a limit where you may run out and have to buy more cloud storage. We’d suggest using the free solution. I have thousands of photos uploaded to Google Photos.

Furthermore, under the settings menu of Google Photos there’s an option title “Free Up Space”. This will find and let you manually delete duplicate photos, or upload new images to the cloud and delete them off of your device. Potentially freeing up 2-5GB of space or more. Everything can be accessed from the photos app or online at a desktop.

Other Thoughts

The same idea behind Google Photos and storing things in the cloud works for music too. Rather than waste 10GB of space on your phone with music, upload it to Google Music and stream songs over the internet. Alternatively, owners can consider trying popular apps like Dropbox, BOX.net, or even Microsoft OneDrive. The solutions are endless, and all work great. Also give apps like Clean Master a try. It will clear cache, delete old apps, or clear duplicates of anything on your phone.

At the end of the day this all will only help so much. Make sure you use caution when downloading large files or games. Delete apps you no longer use, and if you’re really concerned make sure the next phone you buy has 64GB of storage or a microSD slot. Some that come to mind are the Galaxy S8, LG G6 and more. When it comes down to it though, the tips above will get most users enough space to continue using their device without worry. Drop us a comment below with any questions or concerns.

One Comment

  1. Nicky

    02/15/2017 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for an informative article about how to use the tools already on our devices. So many things I read are basically just ads for cleaner apps, which just add to the problem. Great detailed steps. I didn’t know that about widgets, so thank you.

    Reply

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