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Storage Space Running Out | Insufficient Storage – Solution for Android

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If you’re on Android, you’d probably have come across this message ‘Storage Space Running Out – Some system functions may not work’ or ‘Error Downloading App – Insufficient Storage’ when trying to install new apps from the Google Play Store. You might have been able to solve the problem temporarily by deleting some pictures and/or videos. But the problem returns a couple of weeks.


storage-space-running-out-androidThis is a very common problem in Android. When your storage space runs out, you’ll no longer be able to install new apps from the Play Store, and in some cases, you’ll not even be able to take pictures or videos. And sometimes, some of your apps will no longer open, and your phone will often hang or slow down.

You may wonder why this is happening when you can clearly see that your SD Card still has lots of free storage space.

Note this: your error message when installing apps does not have anything to do with your storage memory; it is the Random Access Memory (RAM) that runs out. Your SD Card memory or phone memory plays little role in the error. Of course, by freeing up more phone memory, your RAM increases, which is why our main intention will be to free up more phone memory and cache memory.

If you do not have an external SD Card, like me, all you have is your phone memory, and it’s only quite natural that you should run out of free space eventually.

Let’s take a closer look at how the storage system works and how we can fix this problem permanently.

Storage Space Running Out / Insufficient Storage: Where Did All The Free Space Go?

There are two types of phones as far as storage is concerned, and these are ones with external storage and ones without external storage. We’ll take a look at these two separately.

1. Phones with no External Storage or SD Card

I’m using Moto X, which has no external storage functions. There are many phones now with no external storage capabilities. For this type of phones, the only memory you have is your phone memory. Everything, and I mean everything, is stored in that very limited 16 GB or 32 GB.

storage-space-running-out-androidAs we keep on installing more apps, take more pictures and videos, download more stuff from the internet and/or WhatsApp, it is obvious that we’ll eventually run out of storage at some point.

As you can see from the screenshot I took of my phone, a major portion of my memory space has gone to Pictures and Videos. This is because I’ve set my phone camera to take pictures at the highest resolution. A single picture taken from my phone comes to a size of 3MB or more.

And then, apps take up a good deal of my memory space. Facebook alone takes up 285MB of my memory space.

A great portion of my memory space goes to ‘Misc’. This miscellaneous, upon closer inspection, reveals that WhatsApp data takes up more than 2GB of my phone memory, which is huge.

Also, some of my storage space goes to ‘Cache’. Cache memory is useless, in some way, because cache memory is stored away in a hidden place and is accessed only when it is demanded. One could very easily be done away with cache memory.

So, clearing up some storage space on a phone without external storage… This should be fairly easy. It’s a simple matter of deleting and uninstalling.

Firstly, we start by uninstalling apps that we barely use. And then, we delete pictures and videos that we don’t like. Or, we create a backup of our entire gallery to our computer, which is what I did in my case.

Once you’ve created a backup, you can simply choose to delete all of your photos and videos; or you can delete the bulk of your media files.

This is what I did in my case: I deleted all of my WhatsApp image media files (which is over 6000 images) and deleted some photos from my gallery.

This increased my free space from 404 MB to 4.06 GB, which is huge.

If you have no computer to backup your data to, you can simply select certain images and videos from your gallery and WhatsApp media folders and delete such files to free up some space.

This will give you enough free space to install new apps. We’ll take a look at how we can free up even more space by using intelligent apps a little while from now.

Phones with External Storage or SD Card

insufficient-storage-androidPhones that have external storage capabilities, that is external SD Card slot, make for easier storage space allocation.

Normally, this type of phones have little phone memory as there is chance for more external storage.

There are many ways to free up your phone memory. We’ll take a look at some of the more significant ones:

  • Move media files from phone memory to external SD Card: If your media files (pictures, videos, downloads, etc.) are stored in your phone memory, go to your file manager and move your files to your external SD Card.
  • Set your camera to store photos in external SD Card: If you haven’t already done so, you can change the settings of your camera to store photos in your SD Card, instead of your phone memory. So the next time you take a picture, your photos should automatically get stored in your external storage.
  • Move apps to your SD Card and clear app cache: To do this, go to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications. Click on the applications one by one, some of the apps will have the option to ‘Move to SD Card’. When you see that option, click on it. It will move your app to the external SD Card. Also, you will see an option to ‘Clear Cache’ on all your apps, click on it to clear the cache memory of such apps.

If after all of this, you are unable to free up adequate space, we’ll resort to the following help using third-party apps.

Solving Insufficient Storage in Android Problem Using DiskUsage App

DiskUsage is a small application (185 KB in size) that displays a map of how your files are stored in your phone. It displays the files, directories and subdirectories in a very visual way so you can easily spot which directory or file is taking up lots of space.

insufficient storage diskusageAs you can see from the screenshot I took of a friend’s phone, there’s only 170 MB of phone memory out of which 112 MB is allocated to core Applications and there’s a free 50 MB space, after clearing the cache memories from apps in the previous steps.

Tap on any directory to zoom it. If you see unwanted or unnecessary files, tap on it, click on the Menu and select delete. However, it is impossible to preview the file you’re about to delete, which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the app.

On a phone like my friend’s (Samsung Duos), which is a very old model, you’d hardly expect too much of phone memory, and at this point, there’s really no unnecessary data to delete. The external SD card however has a lot of free space. All media files are stored there. The phone memory only stores apps that are necessary to power the phone.

Free Up More Storage Space Using SD Maid

storage-spaceSD Maid is a powerful system cleaning tool to clean up unnecessary files and ghost files from your phone. Apps and Android as a whole leaves lots of data behind even after you delete a file or app. The system constantly creates logs, crash reports, debug files, etc. which you do not need. These files are stored in your phone memory even after you have deleted the apps or files.

SD Maid analyzes your phone and deletes these ghost files, among other things.

Upon scanning my Moto X phone with SD Maid, I was able to free 110 MB of phone memory. These 110 MB are gallery thumbnails that are no longer needed, corpses or unused logs and reports, and unused databases.

insufficient storageOn my friend’s Samsung Duos phone, I was able to clean up 33 MB of unwanted data.

And these are mainly unused data from the Android system. The AppCleaner feature of SD Maid can clean unused data from apps, but this feature requires the pro version of SD Maid; so, we’ll not be discussing that.

Using SD Maid is pretty easy and straightforward. There is a Scan button, which upon tapping scans your system for dead files. Once the scan is complete, a Clean button will appear. If you tap on it, the app will start cleaning those unwanted files. Pretty neat.

Creating More Storage Space on Android – CONCLUSION

So, here are the more important steps in freeing up more storage space on your Android phone:

  • Delete unnecessary media files – images, videos, docs, etc.
  • Delete and uninstall unnecessary apps
  • Move media files and apps to your external SD Card (if you have one)
  • Clear cache of all your apps
  • Set your apps (camera, Whatsapp, etc) to store media files to your SD Card (if you have one)
  • Use DiskUsage app to analyze your memory storage structure and delete any unnecessary files.
  • Use SD Maid to clean up dead and unused files, databases, logs and reports from your system

storage-space-insufficientAt the start of this article, I only had 404 MB of free space on my phone. I now have 4.10 GB of available space on my phone. Of course, mine is a slightly different case as I did a backup of all my media files, the bulk of which I deleted from my phone.

Note to Moto X Users: Changing Camera Image Resolution

If you’re a Moto X user or any phone that does not allow you to change Camera settings, there is a very simple and easy way to solve the problem.

The camera app that comes pre-installed with your phone does not have an option to change image resolution. The pre-defined resolution is pretty high thus taking up much space when taking pictures.

You can solve this problem by going to Play Store and installing other camera apps like the default Google Camera (Android stock camera) developed by Google or Camera MX. These camera apps come with settings to change image resolution and other nice features.

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