Sitting in his armchair, my dad throws his phone to me. “I just can’t get rid of it,” he says, shrugging, “it’s taking up space that I want to use, but how can I delete it?”
He’s talking about an MP3 of the rarely heard track from Bob Dylan’s eponymous 1962 debut album in which he performs ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (a song made famous by The Animals a couple of years later). There’s no reason for Dad to keep it on his phone, a Sony Xperia E, but he can’t seem to find a way to delete it.
I handle the phone, shaking my head. He’s clearly having another of his “senior moments”, and I’ll have it deleted in a moment.
Ten minutes later, it’s still on his phone. Why can’t I delete it?!
Manufacturer ROMS & Functionality
Initially it seemed as though unfamiliarity with the Sony ROM was the issue, but soon it became apparent that actually, there is no obvious way to delete an MP3 — or any other file saved to the phone.
My first attempt at deletion (and several subsequent ones) involved using the file browser within the MP3 player app. Unfortunately no long-tap or menu option offered the choice to delete.
In contrast, my custom ROM (I’m using OmniROM) has a couple of MP3 players installed, both of which enable MP3 deletion. It also has a file manager. So why doesn’t the Sony Xperia E make it simpler to delete files?
Clearly there is a need by the manufacturer to stop standard users accidentally breaking their phone’s software. However, blocking deletion of files added by the user seems short-sighted.
So just how would you delete a file in this situation?
Delete A File Using Your Desktop Computer
This is actually the method we used. All it takes is to connect the Android device via USB to a desktop computer (we were using a Windows 8 device) and wait while the drivers do their thing.
Once connected, you can browse Windows Explorer to find the phone listed (usually under its model name) as a device, double click to open and then browse the contents. Note that Android devices are locked down to prevent you deleting anything important (unless you’ve rooted your phone).
After you’ve found the file you’re looking for (photos will usually be in the DCIM directory, downloaded images in Pictures and everything else, including MP3s, in Downloads) just select and tap the Delete key on your keyboard. Make sure that you only have the file that you want to discard — and the correct one at that — as deleting from an external device doesn’t add the file to the Recycle Bin. If you get this wrong, the data is lost forever.
Various file management apps are available that can help with finding and deleting an app on any Android system where native file management has been restricted.
Probably most popular is ES File Explorer (although other Android file managers are available). With this app, you can browse your phone, find the data you’re looking for (see the previous section for an idea of where to find the data) and simply long-tap to select and then tap Delete from the menu bar to discard.
Should you make a mistake deleting data from Android with a file manager, there is no option to restore (unless this is a specified feature of the software). However, you might employ a data restore app designed to scan your phone’s storage and retrieve the file you inadvertently rejected. Apps capable of doing this include Dumpster Image & Video Restore and Restore Deleted Files.
Don’t Overlook Removable Storage!
One last thing to consider is whether the data has been saved to a removable drive or the phone’s internal storage. If you’re short of the necessary USB cable but have the files you’re trying to delete on your Android’s microSD card, then unmounting it (Settings > Storage > Unmount) and inserting it into your computer’s card reader (using a microSD to SD adapter) is the best alternative. You can then use your desktop file browser to find and eliminate the rogue file.
Having demonstrated the ease with which media files can be discarded on Android, I’ve solved a problem for my dad, and hopefully for you too. If you’ve any questions about any of this, or suggestions for better apps, please leave your thoughts in the comments.