Ten ways to REALLY free up internal storage space on your Android

If clutter and insufficient internal storage space on your Android are getting you down, then read on: this article won’t just tell you to clean caches, uninstall apps and the like (which we believe are only marginally and temporarily effective), but will get to the heart of the problem with recommendations that make a significant impact.

The thing is: for those of us who have insufficient storage problems, clearing caches and junk files has become a weekly  – if not daily – ritual. But it isn’t supposed to be this way: there are better interventions out there that are a lot more significant, that can really make a dent in freeing up space from your Android’s internal storage. This post compiles TEN interventions in total and ranks them according to the potential impact they can have.

There are three ‘categories’ of interventions that you can perform, as follows:

  • Those that can be done on any Android device.
  • Those that require an external SD card connected to your device.
  • Interventions that you can do if your device is rooted.

Below is a list of useful FREE tools that are mentioned in this post. However, note that this article is NOT about the tools, but rather aims to provide a useful discussion about how best to tackle the problem of clearing up space on your device.

  • Clean Master: one-stop-shop for cleaning functions and batch app uninstalls
  • Diskusage: PC style graphical representations of where all of the space on your Android went.
  • ES File Explorer: our free Android file manager of choice.
  • Framaroot: if you want to take the plunge and unroot your device, this is one of the easiest ways to do it.
  • URSafe Media Redirector: which can move files saved into a certain folder into another one of your choosing.

 

Here’s the list of recommendations.

My aim was to list those interventions that can have a significant effect first.

(1) Save photos and videos to EXTERNAL SD card by default rather than internal storage

Save media to External SD CardRequires: an external SD Card.
Potential impact (high/med/low): high.

A spree of photo snapshots, a few videos here and there, and your internal storage can be filled so significantly that it makes clearing caches and junk files small fry in comparison. What’s more, this can happen silently, creeping up on you even if you one take a few pictures or videos each day, such that one day suddenly your Android internal storage will be overwhelmed seemingly without explanation.

Of course you can go in and delete your photos and videos and/or move them to your PC (and you should), but the fact is there is really no need to have your small internal storage deal with all these media files while your external SD card has a ton of free space sitting idle, especially if your internal storage already has a lot on it’s plate.

The good news: you can set you camera to save straight to your SD card, so you wouldn’t have to always worry about your media suddenly overwhelming your device or bogging down your Android OS. It’s actually very easy to do this: go to your camera app/settings/storage and select memory card (see screenshot above right), and you’re done.

 

(2) For all media intensive apps: set the save folder to EXTERNAL SD (e.g. Podcatchers, music sharing apps, wallpaper downloaders etc.)

Requires: an external SD Card.
Potential impact (high/med/low): high.

I use my Android to download and listen to podcasts, and I subscribe to many channels, and (predictably) one day I realized that my downloaded podcasts are eating up most of my internal storage. Worst of all, this happened slowly, one automatically-downloaded podcast at a time, without me ever realizing what was going on, until all the internal storage space was occupied and my device choked.

So ask yourself: what apps do you have that download media consistently?, whether it’s audio podcasts, mp3’s, videos, or images. Consider any of these categories: podcatchers, music sharing or streaming radio apps, video sharing or streaming video apps, voice note apps, camera apps that might store images or video in custom folders aside from the default folder (mentioned in point #1 above), wallpaper downloading apps, etc. The Diskusage app mentioned at the top of this article can help shed light on this by revealing bloated folders.

What to do when you’ve identified a space-hogging app? One of four things

  1. Change the default folder where the app saves data: go into the app, and look in the settings/options. In many cases the default save folder can simply be changed. If so, switch it to external SD card.
  2. Change the frequency of saving data: which is to say, limit how much data is being downloaded. Tell your Podcatcher to only keep a small number of episodes for each podcast you subscribe to, or tell it to stop downloading episodes automatically, etc.
  3. Find a different app that does the same thing but will save to external SD card and/or is more flexible: what I mean, specifically, is that if the application is not adaptable enough to let you save to the external SD card rather than internal storage, or will not let you change the frequency of downloads, or whatever, get rid of it and find one that will. To keep with the ‘Podcatcher’ example, there are many excellent free options out there to choose from, no reason to stick with one that won’t let you customize the save folder.
  4. Get rid of it: do you even use that app? If not, or if you use it rarely, getting rid of it might be the best course of action.

 

(3) Check to see if there’s a LOGS folder hogging a ton of space on your internal storage (non root)

Requires: nothing.
Potential impact (high/med/low): high.

This can happen with Android: a ‘logs’ folder appears that can grow extremely huge, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me (if you have an insight, please share it). Use DiskUsage or ES File Explorer (or any file manager) to check if there’s an sdcard/logs folder. You may not find it, but if you do, check to see how much space it is occupying. In my experience I found that the logs folder had inexplicably grown to 125 megs, and simply deleted it without any adverse effects. Obviously if the folder size is insignificant, you may as well not remove it.

 

(4) Check to see if there’s a LOGS folder hogging a ton of space on your ROOT folder (root)

Requires: root.
Potential impact (high/med/low): high.

Similar to point #3 above, but requires a rooted device, because you’re looking for a ‘logs’ folder in the root folder (/). I am speaking from experience as I did find such a folder myself (again, without much of an explanation) that had grown to more than 1 GIG in size, deleted it, and as you might imagine my internal storage problems disappeared immediately.

If you are suffering from a nagging ‘low storage available’ error that never seems to go away no matter how much space you clear, this may be the problem. It requires rooting your device to fix this (if you’re up for it and looking for a simple way to root, check out aforementioned Framaroot).

 

(5) Move apps to SD Card

Requires: an external SD Card.
Potential impact (high/med/low): med to high. (depending on how many apps you’ve installed).

Three things: (1) if you have an external SD card you really need to move most or all of your apps over; (2) some apps are not moveable, others will lose widget functionality or other functionality if moved, but Android will let you know before you commit to the move, and (3) you could do this individually/manually for each app from the ‘App info’ screen in the settings, but better to use a program such as ‘Clean Master’ which can automate the process and do it in batch. (It will also display a notification whenever you install an app that can be moved to the external SD card, that will let you move them on the spot as soon as they’re installed).

In the screenshot bottom left: the ‘move’ tab in ‘Clean Master’ lists all apps that can be moved to SD card; check all of the ones you want to move in batch (although for non rooted devices you will have to press the ‘Move App to SD card’ serially for one app after another). The bottom right screenshot demonstrates Clean Master’s automatic prompt to move an app to SD card as soon as it was installed.

Clean Master move apps to SD card in batchClean Master automatically prompting moving an app to external SD

 

(6) Change the default folder where your Android screenshots are saved to one on the EXTERNAL SD card

Requires: an external SD Card.
Potential impact (high/med/low): low to med. (depending on how many screenshots you take, if any).

Do you take screenshots on your Android? If not, skip this as it does not apply to you. However, if you are like me and take frequent screenshots for reviews and tutorials, then you can see how these would silently build up.

But the thing is: unlike the ‘camera’ media folder (point#1 above), there is no way to change the screenshot save folder in most Android devices, unless you using a custom screenshot app that may offer this. Moreover, the screenshot folder itself may be different depending on the device that you have.

But of course I will propose a way to do it, using an app that runs in the background and re-routes files saved into a folder of your choosing into another one, also of your choosing.

  1. Install URSafe Media Redirector and run.
  2. Click ‘manage redirections’ (bottom) then ‘add’. Click ‘path from browse folder’ button and browse to the screenshot folder, then press ‘path to browse folder’ button and specify a location on the SD Card, and finally toggle ‘Activation switch’ on and save.
  3. In the main screen, click the red ‘Media Redirector Started’ button, to turn it green, and make sure that the ‘Auto stat on boot’ checkbox is checked.

URSafe Media Redirector Screenshot 1URSafe Media Redirector Screenshot 2

Note that (a) the free version of this app allows only ONE active redirection rule, and (b) this can work with just about any app that insists on saving files to a folder on the internal storage, but it will move the files in a one way redirection. (Which is to say if the app comes back looking for them in that location, it will simply not find them).

 

(7) Clean your ‘junk’ and cache files

Requires: nothing.
Potential impact (high/med/low): low to med. (depending largely on how recently your last cleanup took place, and how many apps you run).

This is something which you need to do periodically. These files include CACHE files for most apps, APKs (i.e. Android app installers) that may still be lingering around on your device, temp files and folders, etc.

Clean Master does a good job with this. You can do the ‘standard’ cleanup pretty much at will, but be careful what you are deleting if you switch to the ‘advanced’ tab. The advanced tab has a nice function whereby it will find and list the biggest files on your device, which can be very useful and impactful, just in case you forgot all about that 700 MB video file that you were watching on the bus six months ago.

 

(8) Uninstall apps you do not use

Requires: nothing (well, willpower)
Potential impact (high/med/low): low to med. (depending on how many apps you install and whether they are big or small).

If you install a lot of apps you may already suspect, somewhere deep inside, that all of these added apps aren’t really adding to your overall user experience, and that most of them are just occupying space and will rarely, if ever, be used.

So go ahead and remove half of them, or at least a third. You will feel strangely better. Note that ‘Clean Master’ is an excellent batch uninstaller that will let you check all of the apps you want uninstalled and uninstall them all in batch, one after another. It also will rank/sort your app list by date of installation as well as by size (in MB).

 

(9) Uninstall bundled apps that came with your device that you do not use (ROOT)

Requires: root.
Potential impact (high/med/low): low (but somehow feels really good).

Doors open when/if you root your device; suddenly, many (though not all) of the apps that came pre-installed when you bought your device, that you NEVER ever use. I would advise to back these apps up first, though (Clean Master can do it). This is because in case you want them back you may not be able to go to Google Play and simply reinstall them.

 

(10) Check to see if your Android suffers from the ‘Bloated Contacts Storage’ bug, and fix it.

Requires: nothing.
Potential impact (high/med/low): low to Med (but really ought to be fixed anyway).

On some devices, the contacts list will grow into a much larger size that it should, eating up space silently and invisibly. This issue may be related to having multiple GMAIL accounts with large numbers of Google+ contacts, but I don’t really know for sure.

I cannot expound too much about this, since I have not experienced it myself on any of my devices, but I thought I would list it here because I like to be as comprehensive as possible (and anyway ‘Ten ways to bla bla’ sounds a lot better than ‘Nine ways’ in a title ;).

In any case the solution seems to involve finding out if you do have the problem, exporting/backing up your contacts and then reimporting them (with some steps in between). For more info on this here’s a Google search that might help.


That’s all. Do you have any other ideas to clear files off of Android’s internal storage that was not mentioned? Please share it in the comments section below.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Ephobia

    All are good solutions but I think the best way is Link2SD (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.buak.Link2SD). Needs a little bit experience but at the end, you have always a reasonable space with having many apps.

    • SamerKurdi

      Hmm. An interesting application. If I am not mistaken, it differs from Clean Master (option #5 above) in that (a) it can force move apps to SD card even if they otherwise unmovable, and (b) of course, requires root. Is there anything else?

      I will add this as #11 in my next update of this article.

      • ephobia

        Hi Samer, it actually moves the application file, dalvik-cache file and library files of the application to the SD card, and remains a link in the system for the application, so the system is fooled.Give it a try, if you have time.

        • SamerKurdi

          I see. This is excellent information. I will surely check it out!

    • gg no re

      Yep Link2SD is amazing if you have a root device

  • :)

    When you update your system app, android downloads new version to /data, and keeps old version in /system anyway. So good way to free space is to replace old version with new one, but you need root to do it. The other good thing for saving space is odexing apps.

  • http://carbonize.co.uk/ Carbonize

    You say “note that this article is NOT about the tools” yet you repeatedly refer to using Clean Master to achieve the change.

    My experience with Clean Master is that it is horrible and will wipe required files. I used it twice and on both times I found it had wiped my stored data for some of my apps forcing me to login on them again which makes me wonder what else I lost.

    • SamerKurdi

      Carbonize: “not about the tools” in that I am suggesting courses of action that can be considered, rather than the notion of pressing a button and thinking the problem can be solved.

      I am interested in your experience with Clean Master, because I have been using it for such a long time that I have come to really like the app. There are two modes (standard and advanced) and I do think standard is quite safe, while advanced really requires the user to be careful. Would be curious about you giving it a second try and seeing if your experience is different.

      I also like CM because it is a great batch uninstaller that will sort apps by size and date, etc.

      • Ravi.M.G

        Clean master seems safe without root permision but if root granted it cleans application data and make them usless until restart.

  • Kazi

    dpcnews24
    In any case the solution seems to involve finding out if you do have the problem?

  • http://carbonize.co.uk/ Carbonize

    OK been playing and to be honest apart from the advice regarding moving images, music and apps to external storage and uninstalling unused apps, be they system or downloads, things like cache and junk file cleaning are just wasting your time as the saving you get from them is minimal.

    If you really want to save storage I suggest rooting and then using a ROM such as Cyanogenmod.

  • Maxpower

    Not all Android devices have SD storage . . . this article leans on that premise pretty hard

  • 666

    Thx man

  • Chel Zee

    But in my phone. There is no setting saying to direct all files to sd card. So i just use clean master to move them but its really full now so i cant download anymore.

  • Bbb

    Bbb

  • Dr_Nain

    The LOGS tip were for me really useful. 200MB logs of 1GB total internal memory! The logs files were in a subfolder of the “Data” folder (Jellybean 4.2, root access needed).

  • Jennifer Aguirre

    I bought a new android phone. It say it has 4G internal storage upon checking setting>storage> it only shows Total Internal storage space is only 1.25G?