Clear space on an An­droid de­vice

Clear the Down­loads folder, delete un­needed off­line maps, and more. BEN PAT­TER­SON and MICHAEL SI­MON re­port

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Few things in life are as an­noy­ing as find­ing that your An­droid hand­set re­fuses to in­stall any more app up­dates be­cause it’s run out of stor­age. Un­like many of life’s lit­tle an­noy­ances, though, this one’s easy to fix. You can quickly clear out hun­dreds of megabytes or even a gig or two by sweep­ing up stale down­loads, root­ing out off­line maps and

doc­u­ments, clear­ing caches, and wip­ing un­needed mu­sic and video files.

1. Clear out all cached app data

If you dig into the Apps stor­age set­ting screen and tap on an in­di­vid­ual app, you’ll no­tice that each app has its own stash of ‘cached’ data – any­where from a few kilo­bytes to hun­dreds of megabytes, or even more.

These caches of data are es­sen­tially just junk files, and they can be safely deleted to free up stor­age space. Tap the Clear Cache but­ton to take out the trash.

If pok­ing through each and ev­ery app look­ing for cached data to clear sounds like a chore, there’s an easy way to clear all cached app data in one fell swoop. Tap Set­tings > Stor­age > Cached data, then tap OK in the con­fir­ma­tion win­dow.

2. Clean up the Down­loads folder

Just like on a PC or a Mac, your An­droid de­vice has a Down­loads folder (or Files on Pixel and some Oreo phones). It’s a favourite hide­out for mis­cel­la­neous junk files down­loaded from the web or by your var­i­ous apps. Open the app drawer and tap Down­loads or Files to see what’s lurk­ing in­side. Tap the three-line menu icon in the top cor­ner of the screen and sort the list of down­loads by size, then take a look at what’s hog­ging the most stor­age space. If you see any­thing you don’t need, tap and hold the file to se­lect it, then tap the Trash but­ton.

3. Dump pho­tos that are al­ready backed up

One of the best fea­tures of Google’s Pho­tos app is its abil­ity to back up your en­tire photo li­brary to your on­line Google ac­count. Once your snap­shots are

safely backed up, Pho­tos can zap any lo­cally stored images to free up more space. Open the Pho­tos app, tap the three-line menu but­ton in the top left cor­ner of the screen, then tap Free up de­vice stor­age. The Pho­tos app will let you know how many pic­tures it can delete from lo­cal stor­age; tap OK to pull the trig­ger.

Note: If you’re us­ing the ‘High qual­ity’ set­ting for un­lim­ited but lower-res­o­lu­tion cloud stor­age of your backed up pho­tos, keep in mind that the ‘Free up de­vice stor­age’ fea­ture will delete your full-res­o­lu­tion orig­i­nals. Make sure you’ve stored them else­where be­fore you tap the OK but­ton.

4. Man­age down­loaded mu­sic and pod­casts

Google’s Play Mu­sic app gives you two op­tions when it comes to stor­ing tunes on your de­vice:

you can man­u­ally pick which pur­chased or up­loaded Google Play songs and al­bums get down­loaded, or you can let the app make those de­ci­sions for you. Ei­ther way, mu­sic lovers may end up with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of their de­vice stor­age gob­bled up by their favourite artists.

Same goes with pod­casts, with Play Mu­sic’s de­fault set­ting geared to auto-down­load the three most re­cent episodes of each sub­scrip­tion. If you sub­scribe to more than a few pod­casts, those episodes – and the space re­quired to store them on your hand­set – can add up quickly.

To check ex­actly how many megabytes or even gi­ga­bytes of stor­age Play Mu­sic has re­served for tunes and pod­casts, tap the three-line menu but­ton in the top left cor­ner of the screen, then tap Set­tings > Man­age down­loads. To wipe a song

down­load or a pod­cast from lo­cal stor­age, tap the orange Down­loaded but­ton to the right of its name. You can do the same thing with Spo­tify, YouTube Mu­sic, or Ap­ple Mu­sic, de­pend­ing on your stream­ing app of choice. The process is slightly dif­fer­ent, but each app al­lows you to find and delete any­thing you’ve down­loaded.

Bonus tip: You can use the same method to man­age your down­loads in the Play Movies & TV app.

5. Erase off­line ar­eas in Google Maps

Down­load­ing a map in the lat­est ver­sion of the Google Maps app is a great way to nav­i­gate when your de­vice is off­line, es­pe­cially now that both search­ing and driv­ing di­rec­tions are sup­ported.

But those search­able off­line ‘ar­eas’ come at a cost: stor­age space, and po­ten­tially lots of it. In­deed, a

sin­gle off­line map can con­sume more than a gi­ga­byte of stor­age de­pend­ing on the size of the area.

You can check how much space your off­line maps have staked out by tap­ping the three-line menu but­ton in the top-left cor­ner of the main Google Maps in­ter­face, then tap­ping Off­line. The stor­age used by each off­line map is dis­played be­low its name. Tap the map and tap Delete to re­claim its stor­age space.

6. Un­load your least-used apps

I love the fact that I can down­load and in­stall An­droid apps to my de­vices re­motely from a desk­top web browser. The down­side? My An­droid hand­sets tend to be over­stuffed with too many apps, many of them used only once (or even never).

The so­lu­tion, of course, is to delete some of those apps – ide­ally, the ones you use the least. There are

also sev­eral apps that can track your app us­age and tell you which apps you’re us­ing the least, among them: App Us­age (, App Us­age Tracker (, and Qual­i­tyTime ( fave.

co/2AAt8cF). But the best judge of the apps you don’t want is you. You can ei­ther browse your app drawer to find any apps you don’t need any­more, or check out your li­brary in the Play Store.

To find a list of every­thing on your phone, open the Play Store app, tap the three-line menu but­ton in the top right cor­ner of the screen, tap My apps & games, then tap the In­stalled tab. Next, tap the Sort but­ton near the top-right cor­ner of the screen, then pick an op­tion, such as Size or – bet­ter yet – Last Used. If you sort your apps ac­cord­ing to Last Used, scroll to the very bot­tom of the list to see which apps you use the least. See a sel­dom-used app you could do with­out? Tap it, then tap Unin­stall.

7. Use Oreo’s stor­age tools

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone that’s been up­dated to Oreo, Google has built in some great tools for tracking and man­ag­ing your stor­age lim­its. Head over to the Set­ting app and tap the Stor­age tab. In­side you’ll find a handy run­down of every­thing that’s tak­ing up space on your phone, just like on Nougat. But in Oreo, you have more con­trol over your files. Tap on any of the sec­tions and you’ll see a list of re­lated apps and how much space they’re us­ing. Tap again, and you’ll be able to clear any­thing in­side by se­lect­ing the ‘Free Stor­age’ but­ton. Just keep in mind that this will clear any files be­ing help in­side the app.

You’ll also find a new ‘Free up space’ but­ton at the top of Oreo’s stor­age man­ager. Tap it and you’ll see a list of your down­loads and in­fre­quently used apps, as well as an op­tion to clear any pho­tos and videos that have al­ready been backed up to the cloud. It’s es­sen­tially a short­cut, but it’s a handy one.

8. Turn on smart stor­age

Oreo in­cludes a new tog­gle called Smart Stor­age that can work won­ders with­out need­ing to do a thing. Flip it on, and your phone will au­to­mat­i­cally clear out the big­gest space-steal­ing cul­prit: pho­tos and videos.

Since we all for­get to clear out our photo li­braries reg­u­larly, you can choose to au­to­mat­i­cally re­move backed-up pho­tos and videos af­ter 30, 60, or 90 days, mak­ing sure you phone isn’t stuffed with du­pli­cate pho­to­graphs.

9. Get an SD card

Nearly ev­ery An­droid phone you can buy in 2018 has a slot for ex­pand­able stor­age, so you’ll be able to double, triple, and quadru­ple the space on your phone

for just a few pounds. You’ll want to get a mi­croSD card from Sam­sung or SanDisk in at least 32GB ca­pac­ity. Prices per gi­ga­byte de­crease sub­stan­tially as the ca­pac­ity in­creases, so you should buy the big­gest card that you can af­ford. As a very gen­eral rule, around 45p per gi­ga­byte is a good price.

Once you se­lect the size you want, in­stalling it is a snap. There’s no for­mat­ting to worry about, just pop open your SIM card slot and slide in the SD card. Then, you’ll be able to shift files and apps onto the card as needed to free up pre­cious in­ter­nal space.

10. Take ad­van­tage of Google Drive

Google gives 15GB of free cloud stor­age with ev­ery ac­count, so you might as well use it. Any­thing in­side your Down­loads or Files app can be jet­ti­soned to your Google Drive by tap­ping the menu but­ton in the top

right cor­ner and choos­ing ‘Send to...’ This will open the share sheet, where you can se­lect Save to Drive to choose which folder to add it to. Then you can delete it from your phone with­out los­ing it for­ever.

And if 15GB isn’t enough, you can up­grade to Google One and in­crease your stor­age by an or­der of mag­ni­tude for just a few pounds a month. For just £1.59 per month you’ll get an ex­tra 100GB of space.

Down­loaded tunes and pod­casts in the Play Mu­sic app can gob­ble up an im­pres­sive amount of stor­age

Just tap one of your off­line maps in the Google Maps app to up­date it or – if you’re run­ning low on stor­age space – delete it

You can find out which apps you use the least with help from the Play Store app

The stor­age man­ager in An­droid Oreo will help you see ex­actly what’s eat­ing your phone’s free space

An­droid Oreo’s Smart Stor­age can free up space with­out your need­ing to lift a fin­ger

The best way to free up space on your An­droid phone is to add more of it

10. Your phone comes with 15GB of free space that you might not be utiliz­ing

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