Android phones and tablets can fill up quickly as you download apps, add media files like music and movies, and cache data for use offline.
Many lower-end devices may only include a few gigabytes of storage, making this even more of a problem.
According to How To Geek, the less space you have, the more time you’ll have to spend micro-managing the internal storage. If you find yourself regularly running out of space and needing to manage it, consider getting a phone or tablet with more storage next time around.
Use Android’s built-in storage tool
Modern versions of Android have a storage pane that will show you exactly what is taking up storage on your device. To find this, open the Settings screen and tap Storage. You can 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. However, it works a little bit differently depending on which version of Android you are using.
Identify folders and files taking up the most space
Android’s built-in tool is helpful for visualising the space used by different types of data, but not the exact amount of space used by individual folders and files. For this, you’ll need a new app called Files Go from Google. It’s free in the Play Store, so go ahead and download it. You’ll need to grant storage permissions and app access when you fire it up, so run through that to jump into the main part of the app.
The main interface will show you some interesting things like unused apps (if you have any), low-res files, duplicate files, temporary files, downloads, and files that are taking up a lot of space. It is super intuitive and allows you to quickly pinpoint apps and files that are literally just wasting space.
Tapping on any of the category cards will show you contents of the said category, allowing you to pick and choose what you want to delete. Even the Temporary Files option lets you see which apps are holding on to data, allowing you to clear them out individually.
But wait, there’s more: tapping the “Files” option at the bottom will let you take a look at your storage in a more categorised view, very similar to Android devices running Nougat or older. This is great for anyone running Oreo who prefers the old Storage layout.
Tapping each option will show you a more granular breakdown of its contents. For example, the Images entry will show you everything from that folder, including Screenshots, Downloads, and the likes. You can also choose to sort the results by name, date, and size. I recommend the latter since you’re trying to clear up space.
Many Android devices still ship with microSD card slots, although they are becoming less and less common. If your phone or tablet does have a microSD card slot, you can purchase a microSD card and insert it into your device to gain more storage. The storage you gain can hold music, videos, pictures, and other media files–and, in some cases, even apps (see the next section). Some apps may allow you to move their cache locations to the SD card, too.
If your device already has an SD card, this is a good option if you want more storage. MicroSD cards are fairly cheap, so you can upgrade and get a lot more storage for a fairly low price.
After installing the SD card, format it as portable or internal storage (if your phone has Android 6.0 Marshmallow), then connect your device to your computer and move your music, media, and other files to the SD card’s free space.
Move apps to the SD card
Depending on your phone and version of Android, you can also move apps to the SD card to free up space.
Users with Android Marshmallow and above can do this by formatting the SD card as internal storage. Then, the SD card will be seen as local storage on that device. The system will determine which apps make the most sense to move to the SD card, then go ahead and move them over. You can’t discern between true internal storage and an SD card formatted for internal use, so there’s no way to manually move individual apps over. (You also won’t be able to move the SD card between devices anymore, unless you erase and re-format it.)
Move photos to the Cloud
Photos can take up a lot of space on a modern smartphone. Rather than storing them all on your phone, you could use an app that automatically uploads photos you take to an online account like Google Photos, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Flickr, or something else. Google Photos is integrated into the “Photos” app on your Android device and offers unlimited storage of photos. You can access them from within the Photos app or at photos.google.com on any computer.
However you do this, you can then use the Photos app on your device to remove the copies of photos stored on your device itself, potentially freeing up gigabytes of space. You could also just copy those photos to your computer and back them up the old-fashioned way, too. The best part about using this method is that you can still access all of your photos through the Photos app, regardless of whether they’re stored locally or in the Cloud. It’s seamless (and brilliant).
If you don’t like Google Photos, you can also do this with other apps, like Dropbox. The same trick could work with other files taking up a lot of space on your device. For example, you could upload a large music collection to a service like Google Play Music and stream it back to your device over an Internet connection, caching the files you need instead of storing your entire collection on the phone.