Free up storage space on your phone in six easy steps

Have you received these dreaded messages? “iPhone storage full.” “Insufficient storage available.” “Storage space running out.” “There is not enough available storage to take a photo.” So frustrating! You may not be able to take photos on your phone or download new apps. Your phone may start working more slowly or not at all.
So, how do you clear storage on your iPhone or Android phone and get everything back to usual?

by Alyssa Schmitt
Woman holding cat takes selfie
Learn how to free up space on your phone to make room for new selfies!

How to clean up your phone storage

Here are six steps you can follow to free up space on your phone:
  1. Check your storage use
  2. Delete or offload apps you haven’t been using
  3. Optimize photo storage
  4. Clear your cache
  5. Delete downloads
  6. Delete photos sent and received in message apps

1. Review your storage use

Knowledge is power, and the first step to decluttering your phone is to check see how your storage is actually being used. The good news is that your phone makes this easy for you – in your settings, there is an overview of what is on your phone, how much storage each item takes up, and even some recommendations for freeing up space. Armed with this knowledge, you can decide what to keep on your phone and what you can do without.

How to clear storage on an iPhone

To free up space on your iPhone, your first stop should be: Settings > General > iPhone Storage

In some cases, you will see a list of Recommendations based on your storage usage, e.g., “Review Large Attachments.” Tap on the recommendations and follow the instructions – this may already be the answer to your storage problem.

Need more recommendations? Follow steps 2 to 6 below to clean up your phone storage.

How to clear storage on an Android phone

To free up space on your Android phone, go to Settings > Storage. The location may vary depending on your phone and model – e.g., on a Samsung phone you might find this under Battery and device care.

Some Android phones have a Free up space button at the top of the Storage screen. You can tap this to review items you may be able to do without. Then continue with steps 2 to 6 below.
Good to know: Some Android phones feature an SD card slot. If your phone has one, you can purchase and add an SD memory card to give yourself more storage space.

2. Review your apps

On your phone’s storage page, you will see a list of all the apps installed on your phone along with the amount of storage they take up. On some phones, you will also see the date you last used the app, which can be a good clue as to whether you actively use it – or if it is simply taking up valuable real estate on your device.

Now you can manage your app storage by:
  • Deleting unwanted apps: You can tap on an app in this list to open up a screen with app information. Depending on your phone, you’ll see an option like Delete, Uninstall, or a trash can icon. Tap this to remove the app and all its data from your phone
  • Offloading apps: This option on an iPhone will let you uninstall the app but hold on to the data related to it. On average, this will free up about half the space that the app needed. Offloading the app is less radical than deleting it completely, because if you ever decide to reinstall it, you can pick up right where you left off.
  • Deleting app data: This option can be useful if you have downloaded episodes of your favorite Netflix show, podcasts, songs, etc.  You can delete this content without deleting the app itself. On an iPhone you can click on the podcast, streaming, etc. apps that appear on this list to view and delete downloaded episodes on your phone (swipe left to delete). On an Android phone, tap on the app and then Storage, where you can tap Clear data to delete any data stored in the app.

3. Optimize photo storage

When you checked your phone storage, you may have been surprised to see how many gigabytes are taken up by photos! This is where you can take advantage of available cloud storage options. If you are not yet using any form of photo backup, I would strongly recommend that you start today – not only can you free up storage space on your phone, but you also lessen the risk of losing precious memories if your phone is lost, stolen, or broken.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the many different photo backup options that are out there, including how you can use them to free space on your phone. For example:
  • The Mail & Cloud app offers automatic photo backups that are available on all your devices. If you save photos to your Cloud, they are stored securely until you decide to delete them. So, once you have backed up photos to your Cloud, you can free up space on your phone by deleting the photos there.
  • If you use iCloud to back up your photos, you should be aware that photo storage is synced. So, if you delete a photo from your phone, a copy will not be automatically kept in your iCloud. However, you can still use iCloud to optimize your photo storage. If you have iCloud Photos activated, Go to Settings > Photos and select the option to Optimize iPhone storage. This keeps lower resolution versions of your photos on your phone (which take up less storage), but the full-size versions remain in your iCloud.
  • On an Android phone, you can go to Google Photos and use the Free up space option to back up photos to your Google account. If you delete them from your phone, they should still be available in the Google Photos app. However, keep in mind that they still could be deleted due to account inactivity – check Google’s current policies.
Bonus explainer: If you’d like to learn more about using the Cloud for photo backup, see our deep dives: Use the Cloud to back up and share your photos and Automatic photo upload with the mobile apps

4. Clear the cache

The apps on your phone may also save temporary files like search history, user settings, or recently viewed pages. Clearing this cached data can help free some storage space on your phone
  • Clearing your iPhone cache: Unfortunately, there is not a magic button for clearing all cached data from your iPhone. If you go to your main Settings page and scroll down to the list of apps installed on your phone, you can tap on individual apps to see if they have a clear cache option. To clear the cache of your phone’s Safari app, go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data, select a timeframe, and tap Clear history.
  • Clear the cache of your Android phone: You can clear cached data from a single app by going to Settings > Apps and tapping on the individual app. In the app info, tap Storage > Clear cache. Some Android phones have the option of clearing cached data from all apps; go to Settings > Storage and tap Cached data.
Bonus explainer: If you read the above paragraph and thought “Cache? What’s that?” we have an explainer for you: What is a cache? Uses, types and what happens when you clear it

5. Delete downloads

While browsing the internet or checking your emails, you may have downloaded PDF documents, Word attachments, etc. that are still sitting in your phone’s storage. This is the time to delete any files you no longer need!
  • iPhone: Under Settings > On My iPhone you can find documents saved in your Downloads or in programs like Acrobat. Tap Downloads and then Edit to delete files you don’t want anymore.
  • Android: In My Files > Downloads, you’ll find a list of all the downloaded files on your phone, so you can decide if you still need all of them.

6. Delete photos sent in text messages

Believe it or not, the GIFs, stickers, photos and other media our friends and family text to us can end up in our phone storage. This is especially true if a messaging app is set up to automatically save media from your chats. More on that in a second – first, let’s look at what’s on your phone:
  • In your iPhone Settings, tap General > iPhone Storage > Messages. Tap the different categories to delete attachments your sent or received by text message.
  • The default Google Messages app on an Android phone will not automatically download media to your phone (unlike iPhone’s Messages). If you have changed the settings to auto-downloads and would like to clear these files, you’ll find them in your My Files app.
Nowadays people use a wide variety of messages apps, and they all differ as to how they store media on your phone. Going forward, if you think your messaging apps are eating into your phone storage, you can stop messaging apps from saving media to your phone. The settings will vary according to messaging app and phone, so we can’t cover them all here. But as an example, here’s how to do it in WhatsApp:

Stop saving media in WhatsApp for Android:

  1. Open WhatsApp
  2. Tap the menu with the three dots
  3. Tap Settings > Chats
  4. Toggle off Media visibility

Stop saving media in WhatsApp for iPhone:

  1. Open WhatsApp
  2. Tap Settings > Chats
  3. Toggle off Save to Camera Roll

You’ve done it! What will you do with all the shiny new phone storage space you’ve freed up? is the right email address for everyone! If you don’t have one yet, why not create an email address with today?

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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