How to Use Android's Storage Manager

Manage your files and free up space by dipping into your settings

You can quickly clear up phone storage on your Android device using a storage manager located in the Settings app. Before Android Marshmallow, you needed a third-party app to manage files, but when you upgrade the OS to Marshmallow or newer, you no longer need to download anything.

Clearing out space on your phone is an essential part of its maintenance, especially if the phone is low on internal storage or doesn't have a memory card slot. Here's everything you need to know about managing files and storage on Android.

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

How to Free up Space With the Storage Manager

When you free up space on your Android device, the phone has more space for new apps, photos, videos, and music, and often, faster performance. When a phone is close to full, it tends to get sluggish. Android refers to this feature as storage, but file management is what it does.

  1. To access your files, go to Settings. The Storage section displays how much room is available: X% used - X GB free.

  2. Tap Storage.

    Android storage settings.
  3. You'll see a list of everything on your phone, in categories including music & audio, games, files, and system (files need to run your OS). At the top, you can toggle on Smart Storage which automatically deletes old photos and videos when the phone is close to running out of space.

  4. Tap a category to view the apps associated with it.

    Android storage settings.
  5. Tap an app, and clear the cache or clear data (files, settings, and accounts) These actions can often fix problems with an app that's acting up.

  6. Go back to Storage settings.

  7. Tap Free Up Space to display files organized by category: Backed up photos & videos, Downloads, and Infrequently used apps, along with how many gigabytes each uses.

    Android storage settings.
  8. The Backed up photos & videos option is all or nothing; you can't select specific files.

  9. Tap Downloads to see a list of PDFs and other documents.

  10. Under Infrequently used apps is a list of apps organized by how recently you've opened them.

    Android storage settings.
  11. Select any items you'd like to remove and tap Free up X GB. You'll get a confirmation popup message that offers to turn on Smart Storage, if it's not already enabled.

  12. To delete an unwanted app, go to the Google Play Store, tap My Apps, select the app, and tap Uninstall.

Another method is to drag unwanted apps from the app drawer to the trash icon that appears when you press and hold an app.

You can't delete many pre-loaded apps, otherwise known as bloatware, without rooting the device. 

Another way to make space on an Android smartphone is to back up your pictures to Google Photos, which offers unlimited cloud storage and provides access to your images on any device. For other files, offload them to Dropbox, Google Drive, or another cloud service.

Always be sure to back up your data first, in case you accidentally delete something important.

Alternative Ways to Free Up Space on Your Android

If you want to access Android system files, you can root your smartphone and install a third-party file manager. Rooting your smartphone is a straightforward process, and the risks are relatively small. The benefits include the ability to manage files on the smartphone, remove bloatware, and more.

If you want to do a quick cleanup, as you would on a computer, the built-in tool does the trick.