[GUIDE] Android Storage Memory and How to Deal with Insufficient Storage Warnings
04-07-2017 12:27 PM
- [Updated 11/21/16]
So you just got your brand-spanking new Android phone with 4 GB of storage memory, and you can't wait to fill it up with apps, apps, apps, as well as texting everyone and their mothers just how cool your phone is and trading funny photos and videos. But wait! What's that warning that just popped up in your Notification Bar -- "Insufficient storage"?!? How can a phone with 4 gigabytes of storage be low already? Besides, you plugged in a 16 GB microSD card, and the Storage menu shows that there's 14 GB free there, so you should have plenty of storage, right? What the ...?
To understand this kind of problem, it's important to understand how storage memory is allocated and used in Android. Older Android phones (ones that came with Android versions up to and sometimes including 4.0) typically break up storage memory into 3 main partitions (i.e., areas):Starting with Android 4.0 (actually 3.0, but that was only for tablets), phones started to come with what we might call "unified storage," where there was no division between App Storage and Internal Storage -- it became one big partition, which allowed you to utilize the entire available storage for app installation. The main drawback was that you could no longer plug the phone into your computer via USB cable and access it as "USB Mass Storage" (where it essentially acts as another drive). With the old system, even when the Internal Storage and External SD partitions were mounted by your computer as external drives, your phone could still function, because the crucial App Storage partition was not mounted (and therefore still accessible by your phone). However, trying to have the computer mount a unified partition would render the phone inoperable while plugged in via USB, because the whole partition would be unavailable to the phone, including all of its apps. That's why newer phones only have the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) option when connecting via USB, not USB Mass Storage. MTP gets around that problem, but limits your computer's access to folders on the phone. But MTP is a topic for a later day.
1. Application Storage: Where Android installs apps. This can range from as little as 256 MB to 3 GB, depending on the phone. Lower end phones usually have less storage, and therefore can have fewer apps installed at one time. Data that the apps generate and save on the phone may also be saved here, although they might also be saved in one of the 2 other areas below. When you start to approach the Application Storage limit, you start getting insufficient storage warnings. You can free up Application Storage by moving some apps to #2 below, but you can never move the entire app, because some key elements need to remain in Application Storage.To move an app to Internal Storage, go to Settings>Apps, select the app, and tap "Move to Internal Storage."
2. Internal Storage aka Internal SD Card aka Phone Storage: This part of the phone's storage goes by a few different names, as you can see. Don't be confused by the term SD card -- if it says "Internal SD," it's referring to the nonremovable storage that the phone came with, not the card you insert. It can be used for storage of data, either by the user (i.e., photos or videos you take, music files you keep stored on the phone) or by the apps. As mentioned above, you can also move components of an installed app here by going to Settings>Apps, selecting the app, and tapping "Move to Internal Storage."
The amount of Internal SD Storage can vary from ridiculously low (around 120 MB) to a lot (like 16-32 GB). Keep in mind that when a phone is advertised as having "8 GB of storage," not all of that storage is available to the user. About 3-4 GB is usually taken up by the operating system and other preinstalled apps (aka bloatware). If the phone came with very little Internal Storage (and really cheap phones usually do), then you end up not being able to do a whole lot. You can't install a lot of apps because the Application Storage runs low, and you don't have much Internal Storage to move apps to. And data generated by apps also fills up storage.
Here's a screenshot from my Razr Maxx (running Jellybean 4.1.2, but originally came with Gingerbread 2.3.6, with 16 GB of onboard memory and a 32 GB external SD card), showing Application Storage and Internal Storage:Notice that my Application Storage is 3 GB. Also notice that the total Internal Storage available to me is actually only 8 GB, even though the phone was advertised as having 16 GB of memory. This is because you have to subtract the 3 GB allocated for App Storage, about 3-4 GB for the OS, and another 1-2 GB for bloatware, leaving 8 GB.
3. External SD Card: This is the physical microSD card that you can remove. Most of these older phones can handle up to a 32 GB card, which seems like it should greatly expand your phone's capabilities, but the problem is that the external SD card can really only be used to store media files (like photos, videos, and music), and as an ancillary storage area for some apps (but not all). You generally can't move apps to an external SD card because removing the card (purposely or accidentally) would then cause the app to fail and possibly destabilize the system. That being said, there are some apps that supposedly can move a whole app to the external SD card (search on Google Play for "app2SD"), but they often warn that it may not work on Android versions 4.0 or higher. (There are also ways to do this on rooted phones, but rooting is beyond my personal scope of knowledge.)
Here's a screenshot showing External SD Card storage:Notice that in both of the screenshots, you can see the name of the actual directory of those storage areas (/storage/sdcard0 and /storage/sdcard1).
Here's a screenshot from my 2012 Nexus 7 running Jellybean 4.3, showing only the unified Internal Storage:
So what should you do if you get an Insufficient Storage warning? Try some of the following:
1. Text messages can take up a decent amount of storage especially if you've never deleted any, and most certainly if they contain multimedia (photos or videos). Delete text message threads regularly.
2. Most apps have a cache, which is where they store temporary data. Some can build up really big caches, and this can take up a lot of space. You can always clear an individual app's cache by going to Settings>Apps, selecting the app, and tapping "Clear Cache." You can also clear all app caches by going to Settings>Storage, selecting Cached Data, and then agreeing to clear all caches.
3. Go through all installed apps and uninstall any apps that you never or hardly use. If you realize later that you do need one of them, it's simple enough to reinstall it. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to remove preinstalled apps (aka bloatware) unless you root the phone (hack it to gain complete control -- risky for novices). If you have Android 4.0 or above, you can Disable apps by going to Settings>Apps>All, selecting the app, and tapping Disable. This won't remove the app from storage, but will prevent it from opening, and therefore from generating any data that has to be stored anywhere. It will also prevent the app from being updated by Google Play Store, which can be important, since updated apps are often larger in size than the original version.
4. Move all media files (photos, music, videos) from Internal Storage to the external SD card. Also, if you take a lot of pictures, go to the Camera app's Settings and change the default storage area to external SD. If you have a relatively small SD card (like 8 GB or less), and it's already getting pretty full, then make use of all of the many cloud storage options you have, like Google Photos (unlimited free storage of photos that are up to 16 megapixels in size), Box, OneDrive, Flickr (1 terabyte of photo storage!), and more.
5. You can also move apps to Internal Storage as mentioned above by going to Settings>Apps, selecting the app, and tapping "Move to Internal Storage" if the option is available. Not all apps can be moved, and if you don't have much Internal Storage to begin with, this won't help you that much.09-18-2013 01:30 PMLike 22
4. Move all media files (photos, music, videos) from Internal Storage to the external SD card. Also, if you take a lot of pictures, go to the Camera app's Settings and change the default storage area to external SD. If you have a relatively small SD card (like 8 GB or less), and it's already getting pretty full, then make use of all of the many cloud storage options you have, like Google Drive (of course), Box, Skydrive, Flickr (1 terabyte of photo storage!), and more.
How? And importantly, how to move these files in a way that the apps can still find them? I know if I get a memory mover app I can move them but Gallery will never see them again!10-23-2013 09:42 AM
There are a few different ways to move the files:
1. Use a good file manager app. If your device doesn't have one preinstalled, try Total Commander or ES File Explorer. Moving a lot of files this way can be slow and clunky, though.
2. Connect your device to your computer via USB, and use the computer's file manager program like Windows Explorer to drag and drop files. Depending on your device, though, your computer may or may not be able to see the external SD card.
3. Move the files wirelessly using AirDroid, which allows your computer to explore and manipulate files on your device using a wifi connection and a desktop interface.10-23-2013 10:57 AM
- Many thanks.
I had for a long time an error message "insufficient storage available"/
I have read this article, I have never deleted SMS messages before reading this I article,
After reading it I deleted 100 SMS text messages, now I don't have the problem anymore.
Thanks.12-09-2013 01:35 PM
- 02-07-2014 01:15 PMLike 2
- Even better that App Cache Cleaner is - FMR memory cleaner less 200 KB - https://play.google.com/store/apps/d..._recover&hl=en
Hope that helps.03-14-2014 02:23 AM
- I have a samsung galaxy tab 3 and when i look up my issue on google i look at multiple forums and my question is not answered, i wanna set my default storage
to my external SD card. But its not working when i go to "my files" and go to settings and do the whole thing. I'm not trying to move any apps to the SD card or anything else,
i just want to know how to make my SD card default storage is there any other solution?? Please help!!03-26-2014 08:33 PM
- Welcome to Android Central! According to the T-Mobile support site, you can't set the default storage area:
"Changing the default memory location is not supported
03-27-2014 01:20 AM
- All camera photos save to the device memory.
- All other media files save to the memory card. All applications save to the device memory."
- Golfdriver97Ambassador Team Leader
Signed, an M8, Liquidsmooth, and the AC Forums App07-11-2014 11:02 PM
- 07-26-2014 07:48 PM
- Hi, I Installed Facebook and Whatsapp in my newly purchased Micromax Canvas a120 Colours, which has been stored in PHONE MEMORY, and now i am unable to move them in my Internal Memory. Is there any other Way. And i also wanted to know how to move apps from PHONE MEMORY to Internal SD, as not even a single app of mine shows the option of Move to Internal Memory. Please Help.08-08-2014 12:46 AM
- Welcome to Android Central! Not all devices allow apps to be moved to the Internal SD, and those that do allow it still can't move certain apps. If your device isn't allowing it, then you'd probably have to root it first. I can't help you there, though--you'd have to Google "Micromax Canvas A120 Colours root" and "move app to SD." Good luck!08-08-2014 01:23 AM
- Hi Diddy,
Actually I have installed my app (which has developed by me) in external storage (removable SD card). The app contains db file and few other attachments as well. These files are stored in data storage (SD card) section which is in the app manage section. While I am trying “Move to Phone Storage” functionality, the app storage only moved into Phone storage and data storage not moved. So once I removed the SD card from my device, I am not able to refer the attachments and db file.
Question: How to move the data storage from external storage to phone storage?08-19-2014 09:14 AM
- Welcome to Android Central! I'm not sure I can help you there. If there's an external SD card installed, some apps will automatically detect it and start using it to store some data files. Perhaps you could uninstall your app, unmount and remove your microSD card, then reinstall your app. If it doesn't detect the microSD card, I assume the data files would be stored in Internal Storage.08-19-2014 01:41 PM
- I've tried all of the above and still nothing will save to my external SD card. What I use my tablet for mostly is, games, shopping apps like Amazon and Facebook. Since I play a lot of games, or would like to on my tablet am I just out of luck as far as being able to download them to my external SD card which is where I have the most storage? Also, if that is the case, what is the external MicroSD card used for? Thank you for your time. My tablet is a SS SC-72JB.
-09-25-2014 07:11 PM
- Welcome to Android Central! The external SD card is mostly beneficial for storage of media, like music, photos, and videos. Not all devices allow you to move apps to the SD card, and those that do only let you move a portion of the app, since a substantial part of the app has to remain in Internal Storage.
It is a common misconception that microSD support makes up for low onboard Internal Storage. Sorry!09-25-2014 11:54 PM
- Please describe how to "research". I did not find this forum thread in all my googling about the s308. None of the specs mentioned that 13gb of the advertised 16gb would be completely inaccessible and unusable. I emailed the company and they told me there must be a problem with "my" software. yeah... I am returning phone (fortunately bought through Amazon) and spending a bit more to get a REAL android phone. What a joke. I will be commenting on every positive review I can find telling people to not buy any cheap Chinese phone no matter how good it looks in the specs and reviews.11-04-2014 08:44 AM
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[GUIDE] Android Storage Memory and How to Deal with Insufficient Storage Warnings
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