How to free up storage space on your smartphone

It’s happened to all of us. We use our smartphones to store all of our photos, videos, music, podcasts and more — but then receive that dreaded “Storage is Full” warning on our home screens. 

Before you start sending your favorite photos to the trash, you can free up a lot of space without sacrificing your precious personal data.

In this week’s tip, we’ll show you how to clear space on your Android and iPhone devices and make use of the storage you already have in a few easy steps.

Find out what’s hogging space

It’s important to know which categories of data are using up the most space on your device, so you know which files and apps you can safely delete and which ones you want to save.

For iPhone users, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.

Here, you’ll see how much space is available on your device, a chart noting how much storage each data category is using, and an ordered list of all the apps using the most storage space on your iPhone. On this screen, Apple may also present you with a few recommendations to offload unused apps, review attachments or delete old conversations that could be using up a lot of space.

For Android users — depending on your version or device — go to Settings > Storage, or Settings > Battery and device care > Storage.

Android users will also see a chart showing which data are taking up space on your device. Tapping on each category should give you more detailed information. Many Android users will also have the option to use the built-in “Free Up Space” tool, which will walk you through some steps to delete junk files, large photos or unused apps.

Backup your files to the cloud

Automatically backing up your smartphone is always a good practice, especially in the event that your device is damaged, lost or stolen. It’s also a great way to free up space on your phone. 

By backing up your data to an online cloud service, you can delete files on your device — say, those old photos from your vacation in 2015 — but you’ll always have access to them through your backup. 

Both Apple’s iCloud and Google’s OneDrive offer a small amount of free cloud space, but if you have a lot of photos and other data you want to save, you should consider upgrading your storage plan for a small fee. Once backed up, you can then delete the data that’s hogging all that space. 

Our previous tip, “Don’t lose your photos and data. Here’s how to easily backup your phone,” will walk you through the steps.

Optimize your photo and video settings

Newer smartphones have incredible photo and video quality. That increased quality comes with some incredible file sizes, too. 

Luckily, you don’t need to store your HD photos and videos directly on your device. Instead, you can optimize storage on your smartphone to a lower quality version (after all, you’re looking at it on a small screen) while your original, high quality file is backed up in the cloud, and can be downloaded at any time. This may also be a good time to sort through some of those blurry photos and delete them, too!

For iPhone users, go to Settings > Photos > Optimize iPhone Storage. For Android users, go to the settings for Google Photos and choose “Free up space.”

Clear out your cache

Cached data are the little bits of information that remain stored on your device after you visit a website. This temporary data can build up after a while and take up a lot of space on your phone. 

To clear cache on Apple’s Safari, go to Settings > Safari > Tap Clear History and Website Data, then confirm.

To clear cache on Chrome on Android, open the Chrome app > tap three dots for More > History > Clear browsing data and follow the instructions to clear out cookies, site data, cached images and files.

Delete unused apps

The apps on your phone typically store the bulk of the information on your device, and apps that you don’t use anymore could be using up a lot of space. 

As mentioned in our previous step above, visit the storage settings on your device and browse through the apps in the list. You’ll likely see a number of apps you never use, so feel free to tap on the app and delete it. You can always download the app again when you need it, but be aware that some of the data for that app may not be accessible once you download it again, so choose wisely.