These days phones typically come with at least 32GB of storage as standard, or perhaps 16GB if you’ve bought a budget model. But even that is easy enough to fill up when you get a bit too carried away with installing apps and taking photos and videos.
Even if you’ve not run into any storage issues just yet, managing your storage properly can help keep things ticking along nicely performance-wise.
(If you’re playing with such a tiny amount of internal storage that you’re getting the “insufficient storage available” message when you try to download an app or app update, and have already followed all our suggestions below, see our separate guide on how to clear Android’s cache.)
Without doubt the best way to free up space on Android is to perform a factory reset and start afresh. But setting things back up how you want them can take an awful lot of time, and you may lose precious photos, video and other files if you’ve not backed them up correctly.
1. Move photos and video off internal storage
This is possibly the one item on this list that will have more impact than any other. Photos and videos take up a crazy amount of space, and the more storage space you have the less likely you are to routinely go through and prune out the poor shots.
If your device has space for a microSD card, add one and automate the saving of such media to microSD. If your device does not support microSD there’s Google Photos. In fact, we’d advise using this free app anyway, since it’s useful for ensuring all the important memories get backed up and are accessible from any device on which you are logged into your Google account.
Download and install the app, then launch it and go to Settings, Backup & Sync. Ensure it is backing up your media over Wi-Fi, and that any important folders – such as your WhatsApp or Snapchat folders – are included. (More on that in the next step.)
When it’s finished backing everything up, in Google Photos go to Settings, Free up space. Follow the prompts to delete the local copies of your media and see just how much storage you’ll save.
2. Delete WhatsApp media
It’s easy enough to prevent WhatsApp automatically downloading pictures and video to your phone. However, did you know it also stores any media you send over the service?
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to view these files from the Gallery, so instead open your file browser app (if you don’t have one you can get a free one from Google Play) and navigate to Internal storage > WhatsApp > Media > WhatsApp Images >can also check out the other folders within Media, such as WhatsApp Video.
You may be surprised what you find here, so delete what you don’t need, including any duplicates already backed up in Google Photos.
3. Move data to Google Drive
Since you’re using a phone that runs a Google-owned operating system, it makes sense to make use of Google’s other cloud-storage tools, too. Though your document files will take up significantly less space (unless you have a lot of them, or a lot of multiple-page PDFs for example), all these can be moved to Google Drive. As with Photos, this will create a useful backup and make those files accessible from any online device.
. Delete unwanted apps and games
Sometimes people think they’ve deleted all the junk they’ve installed through Google Play, and really all they’ve done is scanned their home screen for unused apps and deleted those they find there. Worse still, sometimes they’ve only deleted the shortcut icon, and the app is still lurking in the app drawer. (Not all Android phones allow you how to uninstall apps from the home screen.)
The best way to unearth unused apps and games is to visit the Apps menu in Settings. You want to avoid deleting anything important just because it doesn’t seem familiar to you, so ensure you’re looking only at the Downloaded tab if your device offers such as option (this will depend on which version of Android you’re running).
You can also access a list of the apps and games you’ve downloaded by opening Google Play, choosing Settings, My apps & games, then selecting the installed tab. To delete anything here just tap on it, then choose Uninstall.
Don’t avoid deleting paid apps simply because you once spent a quid on them: any previous purchases from Google Play can be re-downloaded at a later date free of charge.
5. Delete your downloads
Everyone always forgets about downloads, which are often left behind in a forgotten folder long after they’ve been any use to you. If you don’t have a file browser app on your device you can download one free from Google Play. Now search for the Downloads folder and ditch anything you don’t need.
How to get more storage in Android
We have already discussed adding a microSD card to expand your device’s storage potential, but not all phone support them, and others do so at the expense of a second SIM slot which you might prefer to use. The good news is there are other ways to add storage to Android.
Even if your phone doesn’t natively support a microSD card, it’s easy to attach one to make use of on an ad-hoc basis using a microSD card reader. This connects to your phone’s Micro-USB port, or you can use a wireless version such as the Verbatim MediaShare Wireless Mini, available for £18.99 from Amazon UK.
The Verbatim looks like a USB flash drive – and, indeed, can be inserted into your PC’s USB port where it will act as such, allowing you to drag and drop files on to it – but inside is a microSD card, which supports the transfer of files as well as content streaming.
By downloading the Verbatim MediaShare Wireless Mini app (free from Google Play or the App Store), you can connect it to your Android phone or tablet over Wi-Fi to access the contents of the microSD card. The great thing about using the wireless connection on the Verbatim is that up to five people can share that connection, and you can password-protect access to the drive.
An internal battery lasts for up to three hours and is recharged over the USB connection.
Alternative options include connecting to a wireless hard drive or plugging in a flash drive and connecting over OTG. You might not realise it, but the majority of Android phones and tablets support USB OTG (On The Go), which allows you to plug in peripherals such as storage drives, just as you would with a PC. Provided that your device supports OTG you simply need an OTG adaptor, which cost very little over at Amazon. Note that you may need to power the drive from an external source while it is plugged into the phone. For more information see How to add microSD support to your Android phone or tablet.