Phones and tablets only have so much internal memory. If you’re running out of space for apps or data, there are a few quick tricks you can use to free up space and get back to using your Android device.
This post covers both freeing up space on your system storage and SD card or USB storage – the system storage space is for apps, while the SD card or USB storage is for other data.
Move Apps to SD Card or USB Storage
Apps install to your Android device’s system storage by default, but you can move many of them to your SD Card or USB storage. This frees up space for more apps. Even on phones with no separate storage media – like the Galaxy Nexus – the phone’s internal storage is partitioned into a space for apps and a separate USB storage partition.
Most apps will work fine when moved to the SD card, but there are two catches:
- You can only move apps to the SD card if the developer has added support for this to their app. (There are some other ways to move apps that don’t yet have support, but they’re more complicated.)
- The SD card storage is disconnected from the phone when you connect it to your computer. Any apps installed on your SD card won’t be available while your phone’s storage is mounted on your computer. Apps that must remain in memory, such as live wallpapers, widgets, and launchers, should remain installed on the internal storage.
To get started, open the Applications screen in the Settings menu.
Tap Manage applications to view your installed applications.
To view the apps that are taking up the most space, tap the menu button and select Sort by size.
You’ll find the largest apps at the top of the list. Tap the app you want to move to your SD card.
On the app’s details screen, tap the “Move to SD card” or “Move to USB storage” option to free up space on your system storage.
To move multiple apps to the SD card or USB storage at once and easily view the apps that can be moved, try the free App 2 SD app
Clear App Cache or Data
You can also clear an app’s cache or data from its details screen to free up space. Clearing the cache clears an application’s temporary files, while clearing data is more drastic. Clearing data will set your application back to its original state, deleting all your custom settings and data – for example, if I cleared data here, it would delete my saved notes.
To clear multiple app caches at once, try the free App Cache Cleaner app.
It may be obvious, but uninstalling apps is one of the best ways to free up space. If you don’t use an app much, go ahead and uninstall it. Even if you’ve purchased the app, you can re-download it from Google Play (formerly the Android Market). Sorting apps by their size is particularly useful when looking for apps to uninstall.
Visualize Disk Usage
Use the free DiskUsage app to graphically visualize and browse the files taking up space on your storage. If you’re familiar with file-system analyzers like WinDirStat, you’ll be right at home with DiskUsage.
Tap the folders to zoom in and dig deeper. When you’ve found a file or folder you want to delete, tap the menu button and select Delete to delete the selected item.
DiskUsage can also scan your app storage space, providing another way of visualizing the space used by installed apps.
If you’ve taken photos and haven’t yet removed them from your device, they may be taking up a good bit of room. To upload your photos, launch the Gallery app and tap the Camera folder.
Tap the menu button and select one or more photos you want to upload. Once you have, tap the Share button and select Picasa – photos uploaded to your Picasa web albums will appear in the Gallery app, but they’ll be stored on Google’s servers and downloaded to your device when you view them. This is also a good way to back up your photos.
If you have the Google+ app installed, your device may already be automatically uploading your photos to a private Picasa album – in which case, you can delete the photos from your phone entirely.
You can also get photos, videos, and other files off your device by connecting it to a computer with a USB cable or using AirDroid to transfer files over Wi-Fi.
Be sure to leave a comment if you have any other tricks or useful apps to share.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 04/27/12