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How to free up storage space on your phone

POSTED: March 18, 2017 12:31 p.m.
Amy Iverson/

Don't miss an important photo because your phone storage is full. Give your phone a good spring cleaning with some simple steps.

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We download massive amounts of information onto our phones. We take tons of photos and videos, try out apps, look at attachments, and text GIFs to one another.

Because of this, it’s likely your phone has told you — on occasion — that you are out of storage space. This usually leads to a frantic deleting of photos you hope you won’t miss, so you can hurry and record your baby’s first steps.

Don’t put yourself in that position. If you take time every week or so to maintain what you’re storing on your phone, you should be able to video and text to your digital heart’s content.

Whether you have an Android or an iPhone, there are steps you can take to maximize your storage and keep all that content under control.

Find out what is taking up the most space

Start off right by determining which features are hogging all the capacity. You may be surprised that something like Messaging, or a specific app that you don’t use much, is holding too much of your storage hostage. Android: Go to Settings and tap Storage. iOS: Go to Settings, then to General, and finally to Usage.

Delete unused apps and games

Now that you know what’s taking up the most storage, go through your phone and delete apps and games you don’t use very often. You can always download them again for free if you decide you want to use them.

Android: Go to Settings and tap Apps or Application Manager. Then tap the app you don’t want anymore, and tap Uninstall or Disable.

iOS: Hold down the app until it wobbles, then hit the X to delete.

If you have iOS 10 or above, you can now delete many of the pre-installed apps from Apple. These apps don’t necessarily free up storage space on your phone, but it can free up visual space. These apps are now deletable: Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Contacts, FaceTime, Find My Friends, Home, iBooks, iCloud Drive, iTunes Store, Mail, Maps, Music, News, Notes, Podcasts, Reminders, Stocks, Tips, Videos, Voice Memos, Watch and Weather.

Transfer videos & photos off your phone

For most people, videos and photos eat up the bulk of phone storage. Keep the ones you absolutely need on your phone and export the rest.

Android: Many phones have the option of using a MicroSD card, which can add up to 200 GB in some models. Another possibility is to back up photos and videos to Google Photos for unlimited photo storage. You can always find them in the photos app or on any computer at photos.google.com.

iOS: Apple’s iCloud Drive gives you 5 GB of free storage. You can optimize this by going to Settings, then iCloud, then Photos. Turn on iCloud photo library. Then your phone will store any photos in a lower resolution, but they will still be full quality in the cloud. You can always buy more cloud storage, but iPhone users can also use Google Drive (for 15 GB of free storage) or Dropbox to store photos and videos.

Delete old messages

That long history of text messages you’ve been saving can take up a lot of space, especially if you like to send a lot of pictures, videos and GIFs. Make sure you save any pictures you want to keep, and then delete old conversations.

Clear out the cache

Cached data include little bits of information stored on your phone. Give it a good spring cleaning.

Android: Go to Settings and select Storage. Tap on Cached Data and select OK to clear cached data for all apps.

iOS: Go to Settings, then Safari. Tap on Clear History and Website Data.

And for iPhone users, there’s a crazy trick from Lifehacker that actually works. Go to Settings, then General, then About to see how much capacity is left on your phone. Then go to the iTunes Store and find a movie that takes up more space than you have left (I used "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"). Click twice to rent it and your phone will tell you it does not have enough capacity available to download it. Then, go back to Settings/General/About and your capacity will have magically grown. Don’t ask me how it works, but it does. I doubled my capacity when I tried it.

Use these methods to free up storage on your phone right now, so you’ll never miss an important moment again.
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