Your dog is cuddled into the perfect silly position, paws stretched out, a goofy expression on its face. You grab your Android smartphone and start snapping photos.
But wait! You’re running out of storage space and your phone offers a gentle suggestion that you need to do some housecleaning.
That’s why you need to know how to free up space on your Android device, so you’re not constantly running out of digital room to roam.
1. Find the culprits
It’s one thing to know you’re low on storage and another to know exactly what’s taking up all your space. Here’s how: Open up your “Settings” and choose “Storage” to get a quick overview of what your internal memory limit is.
You can see how much room you have overall, how much space is left, and which categories are using more than their fair share. Apps, pictures, videos, and audio are usually the memory-hungry offenders you’re looking for.
2. Cache out
While you’re checking out your storage situation in settings, be sure to scroll down and look for a section called “Cached data.” Tap this and Android will give you the option to clear your cache.
Select “OK” in order to clean out files like images and text used to display webpages in your browser. This won’t hurt anything. It might make websites take a moment longer to load, but you will temporarily free up some space on your phone.
3. Trash some apps
Remember that time when you downloaded Pokémon Go, spent one intensive week trying to catch Pikachu, and then never touched it again? It’s probably time to uninstall that app and any others you don’t use anymore.
You can find a complete list of your apps by opening “Settings” and choosing “Apps.” Click on any unwanted apps and choose “uninstall” to clear them off your phone. In particular, keep an eye on games and navigation apps. These can be sneaky storage hogs that suck up valuable room on your gadget.
4. Wrangle your photos
Most of us don’t haul a separate digital camera around because the cameras on our phones turn out such nice-looking pictures. That convenience comes at the price of eating up storage. A typical photo can easily take up 2 MB of space, and that adds up quickly when you’re snapping hundreds of glamor shots of family gatherings, gorgeous landscapes, or really great restaurant meals.
The easiest way to move those old photos off your phone and into safekeeping is through Google Photos. Open your “Photos” app, touch the menu and choose “Free up space” to remove photos that have already been backed up online. Now go take some more photos! You can always access your old ones through the Google Photos app.
5. Ditch those downloads
The Downloads app on Android is the equivalent of the junk drawer in your kitchen. It holds all those forgotten files you downloaded from the internet but don’t need anymore. Open up your apps, select “Downloads,” and see what’s hiding out in there.
You might find some old PDFs, past-their-prime coupons, or unneeded photos. Sort by size to see which ones are the biggest space eaters. Touch and hold a file to get the trash-can icon and clean it off your phone.
6. Insert a microSD card
One of the quickest ways to add storage to your phone is to plug in a microSD card, but there’s an Android catch here. Not every Android phone has a slot for a microSD and some phones hide the slot away. The Moto X Play, for example, tucks the SD card slot into the SIM card tray.
An SD card is a great place to stash storage-munching files like music and video for those times when you don’t want to eat up data by streaming your entertainment. If your phone supports microSD, you’re golden. Pick up a microSD card (a 64 GB card can be found for under $20 with some smart shopping), insert it into your phone, and start offloading files from your internal memory onto the card. Need more details? Google has you covered with SD card usage instructions.
7. Turn to a cleaning app
You’ve backed up your photos and removed excessive apps, but you would like to squeeze a little more storage out of your phone. This could be a good time to add an app back into your arsenal. There is a host of apps available in the Play Store that handle cleaning chores aimed at giving you back your lost storage.
Apps like SD Maid and 1-Tap Cleaner are well-reviewed system-cleaning apps that keep things simple with an easy interface and no magical performance-boosting promises. The basic version of SD Maid is free, but the more capable, upgraded Pro version will run you $3.49 from the Google Play store. A quick scan will tell you how much room SD Maid can free up. You then get the option to trash those unwanted files and reclaim your storage space.
Bonus: Consider your next Android phone
Smartphones aren’t forever. Someday you’ll want to upgrade and that will be a great time to think about splurging a bit on a phone with more built-in storage or one that supports SD cards (or both). With so many photos, videos, games, and apps in your life, you will always find a way to fill it up.
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If you’re using one of the 2 billion (or so) Android smartphones or tablets around the world, this is critically important. You must turn this feature on for all of your smartphones and tablets.