When you picked up your shiny new Android device, you probably thought “yeah, this has plenty of storage. I’ll never fill it up!” But here you are, some number of months later with a full phone and no clue why. No worries: here’s how you can figure out where the space hogs are.
You can use built-in features to figure this out, or third-party apps. I find the easiest and most straightforward tools to use are often the ones included in Android itself, so we’ll start with those, before showing you some of your other options. It’s worth noting that things may look a little different depending on what handset and version of Android you’re using here.
To find storage stats on your device running stock Android (like a Nexus or Pixel phone), first pull down the notification shade and tap the cog icon. (If you have a Samsung Galaxy device, skip to the next section.)
From there, scroll down to Storage and tap it.
Oreo is the newest version of Android, and it brings some pretty dramatic changes to the storage menu, so we’ll highlight the differences here.
In Nougat, you get a handful of pretty straightforward categories, like Apps, Images, Videos, and the like. Tap on a category and you’ll see exactly what you’d expect: things that fall into that description, sorted by the amount of space they take up.
In Oreo, however, Google has taken a different approach. It still uses a similar category-based approach, but this time things are sort of bundled together. For example, Photos & Videos is now one entry instead of two. But there are also new options here, like Games and Movie & TV apps, just to name a couple.
But here’s where Oreo’s approach is completely different from Nougat: instead of having all apps shows up under the “Apps” entry, now apps show up depending on which category they fall into. For example, all of your photo-based apps—be those camera applications or photo editors—will show up under the Photos & Videos menu. The same goes for Music & Audio, Movie & TV Apps, and so on, so forth.
This is a bit of a weird change to get acclimated to if you’re a longtime Android user. Instead of simply tapping on “Apps” to see a list of every application on your phone, you now have to tap through several different menus to find the same information.
But at the same time, I kind of like this containerized approach—grouping apps alongside the same files they use makes a lot of sense. It also helps you get a feel for superfluous apps you may have installed—things that are basically just taking up space because you use one main app for everything.
It’s also worth noting that if an app doesn’t fall into any of the listed categories, you’ll find it in the “Other Apps”section.
So Samsung does this thing where it changes things simply because it can, and the settings menu always takes one of the biggest hits—things are all over the place here, and the storage menu is no exception.
Note: We’re using a Galaxy S8 running Android Nougat here. If your device is older, things may look and function a little differently.
To get to the Settings menu, first pull down the notification shade and tap the cog icon.
From there, tap on into the Device Maintenance menu.
It will immediately start running the device maintenance checklist, but you can pretty much ignore that—just tap on “Storage” at the bottom.
Here, you’ll see some simple categories, like Documents, Images, Audio, Videos, and Apps.
You can tap on each entry to see what sort of stuff is taking up space from that particular category. The bad news is that there are no sorting options here, so you can’t sort your list of apps by which ones are the largest. You’ll just have to scroll down, take note of which apps use more space, and consider which ones you want to uninstall. Have fun with that.
If you’re not happy with what your stock operating system offers in terms of storage stats, there are a number of apps available in the Play Store that should take things up a notch for you. But we think the best is Google’s own file management from the Play Store, called Files Go. It’s an excellent tool for checking your device’s storage stats—especially if you’re using something like a Galaxy phone that doesn’t let you sort files and apps by size, or you’re not into Oreo’s new sorting options.
Go ahead and give it an install and get it set up. You’ll need to grant it storage permissions and whatnot, as well as usage access for app tracking. Once that’s done, you’re ready to rock and roll.
While the main interface is useful for intelligently cleaning up space, that’s a different story for a different day—you’re looking for the Files section. Tap on that option at the bottom.
This section is super straightforward: it’s broken down into categories. Tap on each one to see what’s filling up space in each category.
Now, here’s the important part: if you want to sort the options by size, tap the three lines in the upper right corner, then choose “By size.”
Poof! Now you can easily see what’s taking up the most space in each category—even apps. It’ll even tell you when they were last used, so you know which apps are less important to you.
Now that you’ve found what’s using up your storage, you can pretty easily get rid of it: delete files you don’t need, uninstall apps that you’re not using, etc. As you probably noticed Android Oreo and Samsung devices both offer a sort of quick “free up space” button—use that to intelligently get rid of stuff you probably don’t need (you’ll confirm first, don’t worry). Otherwise, If you’re looking for more ways to free up space, we have a solid list of options here.