Here is a common problem: Running out of storage space on your Android device. If you like to play top-notch games from Gameloft, take lots of photos and videos, or even create periodic backups of your device, things can get crowded very quickly.
Next thing you know, you can’t install that cool new game, or get weird errors because you don’t have enough space.
So, below I’d like to share four different ways to figure out where all that free space went to. All of them are free, and one of them is built right into Android.
Built-In: Storage Settings
Depending on how tight your storage situation is, installing a third-party app to figure out where all the space went to might be counterproductive. I mean, you don’t have enough space as it is, so before we try to take up more space, let’s see what Android offers natively. Go to Settings > Storage, and you should see something like this:
This screen lets you browse through your internal storage, internal SD card (like the Galaxy S II has), and external SD card, and see what’s taking up space in each volume. This is your first line of defense: You will instantly be able to tell whether all the space is spent on apps (1.44GB above) or photos and videos (1.26GB above). If you tap one of the file categories, Android will try to open a file manager in that location so you can clear it out. Alternatively, if you find that the problem is with apps, just tap Apps:
The Manage Apps screen will pop open, showing you which apps are taking up that precious space.
With this simple built-in tool you can probably free up enough space to resolve a temporary emergency. We can now safely assume you have space to install at least one app, and can look at some free third party solutions that are more powerful.
DiskUsage visualizes your disk space using a treemap, the same interface used by the excellent WinDirStat. One difference is that with WinDirStat, parent folders contain their subfolders, while in DiskUsage the folder structure moves from left to right: Above you can see /mnt/sdcard, the parent folder, and its subfolders (Titanium, Android, DCIM) on the right, each with its own subfolders to the right. Single-tapping a folder zooms into it smoothly, so you can quickly drill down:
Once you find a file you’d like to delete, tap Menu and select Delete. One big drawback DiskUsage has is that it won’t let you preview the files properly: For example, above you can see several video files that take up quite a bit of space on my device. I can easily delete them, but there is no way for me to preview them before doing so, to make sure I really don’t want them (or that I have them backed up to my computer). Other than this drawback, DiskUsage is simple and polished.
One level up in complexity comes Storage Analyser, which visualizes data using progress bars rather than a treemap:
Storage Analyser’s space includes some slick refinements, such as the nice popup for switching between storage media, that also shows storage stats at a glance:
Unlike DiskUsage, Storage Analyser let me preview a video by single-tapping it. If you long-press a file, you can select multiple files for batch operation:
The Filter feature lets you exclude selected files and folders from the report. This is useful if you have a ton of MP3s or photos that you really don’t want to delete, and you don’t want them skewing the reports.
Last but not least comes SD Maid, with nearly 4,000 Google Play reviews and a 4.4-star average. SD Maid is the only app in this roundup that asked for Root access when I launched it, but it offers rich functionality in return. The top part of the screen is taken up by a horizontally scrolling list of tabs – a UI mechanism I personally dislike, because it makes it difficult to discover the different parts of the app (some users may not even realize the need to scroll horizontally to reveal extra tabs). Here are some of the more interesting tabs:
The Corpse Finder tries to track down folders that uninstalled apps left behind. It’s a bit scary to use (what if it’s wrong?), but assuming you have a current backup, you should be able to fix any errors it makes.
There’s also a tab that lets you hunt the biggest files on your phone:
This is interesting mainly for hunting large videos, but again, be careful before you delete anything (deleting nandroid backups, the largest files shown above, is a bad idea). The Clean System tab can hunt for thumbnail cache files, log files, and other miscellanea that can be removed to quickly free up some space without messing anything up:
Obviously, those gallery thumbnails would eventually be regenerated as you browse your gallery, but it can work as a temporary fix. SD Maid is a rich app, but these examples should give you an idea for what it can do.
How Do You Do It?
What’s your solution for freeing up space on your Android device? Are you careful not to install too many apps, or do you periodically sweep things clean? Let me know below!