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  1. Thread Author  Thread Author    #1  

    Default [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    So you just got your brand-spanking new Android phone with 4 GB of 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--”Low memory”?!? How can a phone with 4 gigabytes of memory 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 memory, right? What the …?

    To understand this kind of problem, it’s important to understand how 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):

    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 low memory 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 memory 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 Storage can vary from ridiculously low (around 120 MB) to a lot (8 GB). Keep in mind that when a phone is advertised as having "8 GB of memory," not all of that memory 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 memory.

    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:

    [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings-screenshot_2013-09-18-11-27-22.png

    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 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:

    [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings-screenshot_2013-09-18-10-47-28.png

    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).


    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 memory 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.

    Here's a screenshot from my 2012 Nexus 7 running Jellybean 4.3, showing only the unified Internal Storage:

    [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings-screenshot_2013-09-18-14-42-48.png


    So what should you do if you get a Low Memory warning? Try some of the following:

    1. Text messages can take up a decent amount of memory, 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," but it's easier to install an app like and use it on a regular basis.

    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.

    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.

    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.
    Last edited by B. Diddy; 09-18-2013 at 11:20 PM.
  2. #2  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] How to Deal with Low Memory (work in progress)

    Liking it so far! 4GB of storage? Yikes.

    Sent from my Motorola Droid Maxx using Tapatalk 4
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  3. #3  
    Golfdriver97's Avatar

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    Default Re: [GUIDE] How to Deal with Low Memory (work in progress)

    Great idea Bill!!

    Sent from a Slim 4.3 S3

    Devices: Current: Nexus 5, Moto X, Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0); Retired: Galaxy S2 (Epic 4G Touch); Traded: Galaxy S3
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  4. #4  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings


    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!
  5. Thread Author  Thread Author    #5  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Rapaport View Post
    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!
    Welcome to Android Central! I would not recommend moving an app's data files to the external SD card, because you're right, the app won't know where to look. I'm only referring to any media files that you may have placed in Internal Storage, specifically photos, music tracks, or videos. If you place files like these into a directory on the external SD card, the relevant app should still be able to scan for them and find them. The directory on the external SD card should just be something like "Movies" or "Pictures," right off the root directory. You can use any file manager app to create the folder, or you can insert the SD card into your computer and use Windows Explorer on a PC, or whatever the equivalent on a Mac is.

    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 or . 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 , which allows your computer to explore and manipulate files on your device using a wifi connection and a desktop interface.
  6. #6  

    Talking Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    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.
    B. Diddy likes this.
  7. #7  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    I have a Straight Talk LG38 (Optimus Dynamic) and have had numerous issues with the Memory. Can ANYONE tell me how to MOVE my video and media files to the SD card?
  8. Thread Author  Thread Author    #8  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    Quote Originally Posted by bourne2god View Post
    I have a Straight Talk LG38 (Optimus Dynamic) and have had numerous issues with the Memory. Can ANYONE tell me how to MOVE my video and media files to the SD card?
    Welcome to Android Central! Use a good file manager app like or . Locate your media files, then use the file manager to move those files to the external SD card. Make sure the target is specified as external SD card, because many devices label the Internal Storage as "Internal SD Card."
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    jakman50 likes this.
  9. #9  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    Even better that App Cache Cleaner is - FMR memory cleaner less 200 KB -

    Hope that helps.
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  10. #10  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    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!!
  11. Thread Author  Thread Author    #11  

    Default Re: [GUIDE] Android Memory and How to Deal with Low Memory Warnings

    Welcome to Android Central! According to the , you can't set the default storage area:

    "Changing the default memory location is not supported
    • All camera photos save to the device memory.
    • All other media files save to the memory card. All applications save to the device memory."

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