If you’ve had your Android device for a while, you’ve probably started to notice some lag that wasn’t there before. Apps load a bit slower, menus take a bit longer to show up. This is actually (and unfortunately) normal—here’s why.

This problem isn’t unique to Android, either—try using an older iPad with a new version of iOS and feel how slow it’s become. But the solutions are slightly different for each platform, so let’s talk about why this happens on Android—and how to fix it.

Operating System Updates and Heavier Apps Require More Resources

Your Android phone doesn’t have the same software it had a year ago (it shouldn’t, at least). If you’ve received Android operating system updates, they may not be as nicely optimized for your device and may have slowed it down. Or, your carrier or manufacturer may have added additional bloatware apps in an update, which run in the background and slow things down.

RELATED: Why Your Android Phone Isn't Getting Operating System Updates and What You Can Do About It

Even if you haven’t seen a single operating system update, the apps running on your device are newer. As developers gain access to faster smartphone hardware, games and other apps may be optimized for this faster hardware and perform worse on older devices. This is true on every platform: as the years go by, websites become heavier, desktop applications want more RAM, and PC games become more demanding. You aren’t still using Microsoft Office 97 on your computer, for example—you’re using a newer version with more features that require more resources. Android apps are the same way.

RELATED: The Best "Lite" Versions of Your Favorite Android Apps

How to Fix It: There’s not much you can do to alleviate this. If your operating system seems slow, you could install a custom ROM that doesn’t have the bloatware and slow manufacturer skins many devices include—though keep in mind that this is generally for more advanced users and is often more trouble that it’s worth. If your apps seem slow, try switching to “lite” versions of the apps you’re already using.

Background Processes Can Slow Things Down

You’ve probably installed more apps as you continue to use your device, some of which open at startup and run in the background. If you’ve installed a lot of apps that run in the background, they can consume CPU resources, fill up RAM, and slow down your device.

Similarly, if you’re using a live wallpaper or have a large amount of widgets on your home screen, these also take up CPU, graphics, and memory resources. Slim down your home screen and you’ll see an improvement in performance (and maybe even battery life).

How to Fix It: Disable live wallpapers, remove widgets from your home screen, and uninstall or disable apps you don’t use. To check what apps are using background processes, visit the Running Services menu in Developer Settings (on Marshmallow and above). If you don’t use an app that’s running in the background, uninstall it. If you can’t uninstall it because it came with your device, disable it.

RELATED: How to Access Android's List of Running Apps in 6.0 Marshmallow and Above

Full Storage Leaves Little Room for Your OS to Run

RELATED: Why Solid-State Drives Slow Down As You Fill Them Up

Solid-state drives slow down as you fill them up, so writing to the file system may be very slow if it’s almost full. This causes Android and apps to appear much slower. The Storage screen in the Settings menu shows you how full your device’s storage is and what’s using the space.

Cache files can consume quite a bit of storage space if allowed to grow unchecked, so clearing cache files can free up disk space and make your file system perform better—at least, until those caches inevitably fill up again.

How to Fix It: Photos and videos that you’ve taken with your camera are going to be the largest culprit here, so back them up and delete them from your phone often. You can even do this manually by using Google Photos.

Otherwise, uninstall apps you don’t use, delete files you don’t need, and clear app caches to free up space. You can also just perform a factory reset and only install the apps you need to end up with a like-new device.

To clear cached data for all installed apps at once, open the Settings app, tap Storage, scroll down, tap Cached data, and tap OK (Note: This option is only available on Nougat and below).

On Android Oreo, things are a little more difficult. Google removed the option to see all cached data for a more granular (and arguably easier to understand) approach. While the Storage menu is still found in Settings > Storage, you’ll notice it looks dramatically different than it did in previous versions of Android. To find cached data taking up space, you have to jump into each appropriate category, like the “Music & Audio” or “Movies & TV apps” sections. You’ll find cached data for all other apps in the “Other Apps” section.

What Not to Do

Any good list of how to speed up your aging device should also include what not to do. Really, it can be summed up in one basic sentence in this situation: don’t use task killers.

I’m likely beating a dead horse here, but it’s crazy how many people still have this antiquated idea that task killers are somehow required to make an Android device perform its best by killing background tasks. This is just wrong—don’t install a task killer for any reason, regardless of how laggy your device is. Just follow the steps in this guide. Seriously. It’ll help. Trust me.

Performing a factory reset and installing only the apps you use will help by removing all those old apps and files in one fell swoop. A factory reset won’t fix bloatware included with your device, but it can help—just like reinstalling Windows can help fix a slow PC.

Profile Photo for Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is ex-Editor-in-Chief of Review Geek and served as an Editorial Advisor for How-To Geek and LifeSavvy. He covered technology for a decade and wrote over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
Read Full Bio »
Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
Read Full Bio »