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

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

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disk_space.pngPhoto by author.
Big cubes full of phone stuff.

You can get a big-picture look at what is using up your internal and external space by installing DiskUsage, a free app that visualizes what's sitting around in storage.

Uninstall unnecessary apps: I know, you might need all of those things you have on there. Believe me, I know. But keep in mind that you can re-download any of them at pretty much any time if you have a decent data connection. When I make a cleaning run through my phone, I tend to target the shopping apps (which I never remember to open at the store), rarely played games, the restaurant ordering apps, the individual bank/credit card apps (I tend to do Mr. Serious Money Stuff in a full browser anyways), and little utilities left over from projects. Wi-Fi Analyzer? You were great, you fixed the problem, but you can't hang around. Sorry.

Also, why do I have Netflix on my phone? When have I ever sat down and actually watched a movie on a 4-inch screen? Goodbye, Netflix on phone.

Clear the data on your launcher (if you're using an alternative): Do you rock Nova Launcher? Finding launcher bliss with ADW, or one of the new-fangled systems like EverythingMe or Aviate? Then you can go ahead and "Clear Data" on "Launcher," the app that counts as your phone's default homescreen/app manager. You might save quite a few MB by doing so.

Clear the data on any apps that don't save files or require logging in: What kind of data is your Gallery photo app holding, at around 20 MB? Mostly thumbnails of photos for fast browsing, which it can rebuild. Look for apps of this type, with data that can be easily replaced.

WARNING: Below this point, it gets really geeky

If you're going to use any of the strategies below this point, mostly sourced from outside publications and blogs, you should know that:

  • They require quite a bit more time
  • They have the potential to wipe your phone's data (and in some cases may intentionally do so)
  • They have the potential (unlikely, but real) to actually mess up your device, to the point that your phone carrier might not take it back.

They are listed in order of least wonky and dangerous to most. But it's relative.

Strategy #4: Force your phone to allow SD installations

Earlier on, I noted that developers who make large apps are supposed to allow installation to SD card, but not all do. You can go around a developer's wishes by becoming a pretend developer and tweaking a setting on your phone.

The best write-up I've seen of this method comes from Techgage. Once you've enabled the install location, you can use that same AppMgr III or many other apps to move them all at once.

Strategy #5: Kill a weird leftover folder that messes things up

Remember my Yelp problem? I did, in fact, have lots of storage space available. But Yelp, during some likely failed update attempt, had convinced itself that I did not have such space. The solution, after much searching, was a folder deep in the "data" section of my phone's root storage.

To get to that folder (data/app-data/com.yelp... and so on), you will need root access to your phone. To my knowledge, this requires one of two things: a "rooted" phone, one with access to the core internals of the thing that a "root file explorer" app can use, or deep terminal access to the phone through an SDK connection. There are many good reasons to root your Android phone, but this alone might not be worth it, especially for just one app.

Strategy #6: Create a partition and move apps over yourself

This is truly the nuclear option, but it's also the way to make sure you've got room. Carve up your phone's SD card into app space, swap space, and storage, and you can install any app you want outside the core system.

What did I miss? How else can you free up internal space on a phone that needs it, or overcome a strange "Insufficient storage" bug? Tell me on Twitter, or leave a comment on this here page. I'd love to expand this list.

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