Reach your Chromebook’s storage limit and you’ll start seeing errors when downloading and creating files. This isn’t hard to do, as Chromebooks often come with only 16 GB of internal storage.
You’re supposed to use online services and cloud-based storage rather than rely on local storage, but you can still do many things offline on a Chromebook. You may download large video files to watch offline on your Chromebook, for example.
Check Storage Used
Use the Files app to view how much space is used on your Chromebook and how much is available. Select your Downloads folder and click the gear icon. You’ll see how much space you have left on on your internal storage.
Note that you won’t have the Chromebook’s full storage capacity available for personal files. For example, if you have a 16 GB Chromebook, you won’t have all 16 GB available — some storage space is used for your Chromebook’s system files.
Clean Out Your Downloaded Files
Open the Files app and select “Downloads” to view your downloaded files. Click the Size column to sort by size and you’ll see the largest files near the top. All of your downloaded files appear in this list, so you can easily delete the largest files you no longer need.
If you’d rather save a file but remove it from your Chromebook’s internal storage, you can upload it to your Google Drive — ideal for smaller files — or connect a USB drive or SD card and move it to there. Use drag and drop to move files from your Chromebook’s internal storage to your Google Drive storage online or a connected external storage device.
Check Offline Google Drive Files
Click the Google Drive folder in the Files app and select Offline to view files your Chromebook is caching offline. You can sort these files by size, too.
Chrome OS automatically manages whether a file is available offline or not, so there doesn’t appear to be a way to remove the offline copy of a file. However, you can force a file to be available offline — right-click a file and ensure the “Available offline” option is unchecked. If this option is checked, your Chromebook will always keep an offline copy of this file, taking up more space.
Clear Browser Cache and Other Data
Chromebooks don’t show you how much data is being used by the browser cache and other temporary files, but the browser cache is likely using quite a bit of space. This helps speed up web browsing at the cost of storage space on your drive.
You can clear this stuff with the Clear browsing data tool — click the menu button, point to “More tools”, and select “Clear browsing data” to open it. Be sure to check the “Cached images and files” checkbox to clear your browser cache, which probably uses up the most space on your drive. The history and other options here may also use up space. Your Chromebook will gradually accumulate cache data again, but this should give you some breathing space for now.
Chrome OS also doesn’t allow you to see how much space each installed app is using. Some apps are tiny because they’re just shortcuts to websites. Other apps are larger because they run offline. There are even some games that run entirely offline and consume hundreds of megabytes of space.
You’ll have to use your best judgment when removing apps. Focus on games that run offline or large offline apps. Uninstall them by opening the app launcher, right-clicking them, and clicking “Remove from Chrome” or “Uninstall.”
Remove Other User Accounts
If you’ve followed this process, you’ve been managing the download files, browser cache, and apps for a single user account. If your Chromebook has multiple user accounts, you may want to repeat this process on each account to free up even more space.
If you no longer need an account — for example, if a friend logged into your Chromebook once to try it out and their account is still there — you can delete the account. This will delete all the user account’s local data. You can only remove other accounts if you have Chromebook’s “owner account” — the first account set up on the Chromebook.
To remove user accounts, open the Chromebook’s settings screen and click “Manage other users” under “Users.” Remove any user accounts you no longer need.
Remove Developer Mode Files
If you’ve set up a desktop Linux system using Chrome OS’s developer mode, those files are also using up space on your Chromebook. You may want to uninstall packages or remove files to free up space if you still use the Linux system.
If you don’t use your developer mode system anymore, you’ll need to disable developer mode by re-enabling OS verification. When you do, your Chromebook will reset itself to a factory default state, erasing all your developer mode settings and giving you a fresh, clean Chrome OS system. Any downloaded files will be wiped. Luckily, most of the stuff on a Chromebook is synced online so you can just sign in with your Google account again and your data will be synced back to your device.
You can expand your Chromebook’s storage space with a USB flash drive or an SD card, assuming your Chromebook supports an SD card. Buy the appropriate SD card for your Chromebook and plug it in. The SD card will fit snugly in the slot, so you can leave it inside your Chromebook all the time and use it as additional storage space for your downloads and media files. Removable drives appear alongside your Downloads folder in the Files app.
Image Credit: Carol Rucker on Flickr