How to Clear Storage Space on Your Phone

Michael Kwan
Nokia Lumia Windows Phone

Aside from complaints about battery life, one of the most common problems that smartphone users face is running out of storage space. Careful management of the storage capacity on smartphones can help free up space, making it possible to once again take more pictures and download more apps.

Delete Old Downloaded Files

As you make your way around the Internet through your mobile web browser, you may download a variety of files for different reasons. You might save an image for later reference or download a PDF file for review. These files may become irrelevant to you over time while still taking up storage space on your phone.

iPhone

The mobile Safari browser actually does not allow you to download any files directly. Instead, it only provides the option to open files in another app. Because of this, you will need to go into each app to delete the associated downloaded files. Files that were not opened in another app will be deleted when the browser cache is cycled automatically.

Android

  1. Downloads on Google Android
    Downloads on Google Android
    Open the app drawer on your phone.
  2. Tap on the Downloads app.
  3. Review the list of downloaded files.
  4. Long-press on any file to enable multi-select.
  5. Select all the files you wish to delete.
  6. Tap the 'trash' icon in the top right corner to delete.

Windows Phone

  1. Swipe from the right to open the app list.
  2. Navigate to and open Storage Sense.
  3. Tap on the Phone bar.
  4. Scroll down to Downloads and tap on it. This reveals a list of files downloaded with Internet Explorer.
  5. Review the list of files and choose which files to delete.

Uninstall Large and Unused Apps

Not all apps are made alike. Some are small and lightweight while a growing number of apps can be upwards of a gigabyte in size. If you have downloaded too many apps or there are certain apps on your phone that are too large, it can be very beneficial to uninstall some of them.

Android

  1. Google Android app listing
    Google Android app listing
    Optionally check to see which apps are taking up the most space on your phone.
  2. Return to the main Settings menu.
  3. Choose Apps or Application Manager from the main Settings menu.
  4. Tap on the app that you would like to uninstall.
  5. Tap the Uninstall button.
  6. Tap on 'OK' to confirm that you would like to uninstall the app.

iPhone

  1. Check to see which apps are taking up the most space on your iPhone.
    1. Open the Settings menu.
    2. Navigate to General.
    3. Select Usage.
    4. Scroll to Storage and tap on Manage Storage.
  2. After determining which apps you would like to uninstall, return to the main home screen by pressing the home button.
  3. Long press on the app that you would like to delete until it starts to wiggle.
  4. Tap the X icon on the top-left corner of the app's icon to uninstall it.

Windows Phone

  1. Just as with deleting downloaded files, you can check to see which apps are taking up the most space on your Windows Phone through the Storage Sense app. The difference is you will choose Apps+games from the list instead of Downloads. This will present a list of apps from largest to smallest.
  2. From the main list of apps, press and hold on the application you would like to uninstall.
  3. Press Uninstall from the resulting menu.
  4. Tap 'Yes' when prompted for confirmation.

Delete Old Messages

Individual text messages typically do not take up very much space on a cellphone, but the accumulation of hundreds or thousands of text messages over time can become much more burdensome. It is prudent to clear out old messages on a periodic basis.

Android

Screenshot of iPhone keep messages screen
iPhone keep messages screen
  1. Open the Messaging or Hangouts app to access your text messages.
  2. Open the Settings screen by pressing the menu button (three horizontal lines).
  3. If you are using the Hangouts app, Choose SMS. (There is no need to do this with the Messaging app.)
  4. Check the box marked with 'Delete old messages.'
  5. The app will automatically delete older messages when the phone's storage is low.

iPhone

  1. Open up settings on your iPhone.
  2. Choose Messages.
  3. Tap on Keep Messages.
  4. Choose the duration for which messages should be kept on your phone. The iPhone will then automatically delete messages that are older than 30 days or older than one year based on the settings you choose. By default, messages are not deleted automatically and are kept forever.

Windows Phone

  1. There is currently no option to delete all messages on Windows Phone or to automatically delete all messages older than certain period of time. Messages must be deleted manually.
  2. Open the app for text messages.
  3. Press and hold the Select icon to enable multi-select.
  4. Tap on the tick-box next to each message that you would like to delete.
  5. Tap the trash can icon at the bottom of the screen to delete the selected messages.

Remove iBooks and eBooks You're Done Reading

The ability to read eBooks on your smartphone is really convenient, but keeping books that you've completed reading is unnecessary and a waste of precious storage space.

iBooks

With iBooks on the iPhone:

  1. Open the iBooks app.
  2. Tap Select.
  3. Choose the books you would like to delete.
  4. Tap on Delete. Optionally choose to 'Delete This Copy' rather than to delete the book from all your devices.
  5. Tap on Done.
  6. Removed books can always be restored from your account.
Remove an ebook from the Kindle app
Remove eBook from Kindle app

Kindle

With the Kindle app on any device:

  1. Open the Kindle app.
  2. Press and hold on the ebook that you would like to remove.
  3. From the contextual menu, choose 'Remove from device.' If you choose 'Remove from carousel,' the book will remain on your phone but will not appear in the carousel of books.
  4. Even when a book is removed from the device, it can be re-downloaded from your Kindle library at any time.

Upload Photos and Videos to the Cloud

The cameras on modern day smartphones are very good at capturing both pictures and videos, but these files can get very large, especially if you take a lot of photos. It's unnecessary to discard your precious photos altogether, because they can be easily backed up to a number of cloud-based services.

Dropbox camera upload settings
Dropbox camera upload settings

In fact, many of the mobile apps for cloud storage services come with the option to automatically upload the pictures and videos you take with your mobile device to your cloud account. This includes unlimited storage with Google Photos and Amazon Cloud Drive, as well as both free and paid accounts through services like Dropbox, OneDrive, and iCloud.

The exact steps vary from app to app, but are very similar. For example, setting up the automatic upload in Dropbox for Android is very easy.

  1. Open the Dropbox app.
  2. Tap on the three horizontal line icon to open the menu.
  3. Tap the gear icon to open the settings screen.
  4. Scroll down to the Camera Upload section.
  5. Tap on 'Turn on Camera Upload.'
  6. Under 'What to upload,' choose between 'Photos and videos' and 'Photos only.'
  7. Under 'How to upload,' choose either 'Wi-Fi only' or 'Wi-Fi or data plan.'

Remember that in most cases, the automatic upload will not automatically remove or delete the photos from your device and you must do that manually.

Store Large Files on a Memory Card

The ability to store music, movies and other large files on a memory card only applies to smartphones that have a microSD memory card expansion slot, so it is not applicable to any iPhone model, for instance, nor will it work for the Nexus smartphones or the Samsung Galaxy S6 family.

For phones that do have a microSD slot, a memory card can be a great resource for storing media files and other large files in an effort to alleviate storage needs on the phone itself.

The most straightforward way to load content onto a memory card is through your computer and a memory card reader. It is recommended that you turn off your phone before removing or inserting a memory card for best performance.

Consider a Larger Phone Next Time

Even when a phone is listed as having 16GB of storage, not all of that is user accessible because the operating system and other files already occupy some of that space.

In the case of a 16GB iPhone 6, only 11.7GB is available to the user. And since fewer and fewer smartphones come with memory card expansion slot - coupled with the fact that images, videos, and apps are getting larger in size - internal storage capacity is becoming a crucial deciding factor when choosing a phone.

The tips and advice described here can help, but nothing can help more than having more storage space in the first place. It may be a very worthy investment to spend a little more money up-front to buy a phone with more storage capacity. Some phones come with as much as 128GB of internal storage! That should be a lot of space for high-resolution videos and large mobile games.

How to Clear Storage Space on Your Phone