'Insufficient Storage Available' is one of Android's greatest annoyances. Here's how to fix it.

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How to fix an all-too-common bug, or actual problem, with storage on Android phones

When your Android phone or tablet is working just fine and doing what you want, it's easy to forget it's a computer.

But every so often, something goes wrong, something does not work. And the guts of your phone—its UNIX-based file system, its weird partitions, its odd dependencies. The little persnickety man pulling the gears for the seemingly humanoid robot appears, and he is unhappy.

Such is the case when you, the owner of a phone that purports to have something like 16 GB or 32 GB in storage, cannot install an app, even a small one. Your phone has a few apps on it, maybe a bit of music and some photos, but you are, you believe, nowhere near your size limit. But the next time you install, or try to update, you get a message: "Insufficient storage available."

I just received this while trying to update Yelp, of all things. I went into the Storage area of Settings, and found that I have 10.32 GB of space available out of a total 25.59 GB. So that should be enough to simply update Yelp, which is a bit more than 11 MB if you install it new, and the updates are usually just changes with much smaller file sizes. But it's not, because "Insufficient storage available," every time.

The thing about "Insufficient storage available" is that, like its UNIX-like lever-puller, it's not great at telling you exactly what's wrong, just what it can report about that thing you tried to do. I have seen people complain about storage issues on big phones before, like the Galaxy S4, which makes less than half of its 16 GB version available to owners. I remembered making Midas-like decisions about which apps to keep on my Nexus One. I had thought that, with newer phones with much more storage, that app limitations were a thing of the past.

No so, it seems: "Insufficient Storage Available" still comes up, but for different reasons. I wanted to put together here all the reasons an Android phone might see this error. Let's get into it.

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