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5 min read 31 comments

Clear app cache or clear app data: what's the difference?

Anybody who has ever encountered an app or software problem on Android may have been given the advice “clear the app cache” or “clear the app data”. These two solutions are often thought of as miracle cures for Android, but what is the difference between these seemingly similar operations? Let me explain what they are, and how and when to use them.

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What is clearing the app cache?

The cache is the temporary storage area of a device, which retains certain kinds of data. The aim of this is to speed up how quickly and smoothly your device operates and reduce how much data is processed and consumed.

After restarting your phone, have you ever noticed how slow your camera app is to open at first, while each subsequent attempt is quicker? The increase in speed after the initial launch of an app is thanks to this cached data. Similarly, you might find that websites load faster on a second visit. Once again, this is because files such as images have been previously stored in the cache.

There is often no need to manually manage cached data: Android is very capable of doing this on its own. However, if an app starts to misbehave or stop working, then you may wish to manually take this step.

AndroidPIT android marshmallow problems and solutions 2
Going to Settings >Storage>Cached data gives you a one-tap solution for removing cached data. / © AndroidPIT

When you clear an app's cached data, you remove the temporary files placed there, and you'd be surprised how often this simple step works. You should also note, however, that it doesn't guarantee better performance, and the app may even be temporarily slower the next time it's used.

What does 'clear app data' mean?

Clearing app data is a more severe (for want of a better word) step. While the cache can be cleared with little risk to app settings, preferences and saved states, clearing the app data will delete/remove these entirely.

Clearing data resets an app to its default state: it makes your app act like when you first downloaded and installed it. For example, say you make changes to the settings of your favorite fitness app. You change the length of exercises and sound settings.

Clearing the cache will not affect these saved settings. Clearing stored data may, and in all likelihood will. 

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Clearing app data is simple, but it will delete all your in-app preferences and settings. / © AndroidPIT

When should they be applied?

There are a few circumstances in which you may wish to clear app or cached data.

  • Firstly, to save storage space. Some apps can store gigabytes of data that you no longer need (podcast apps are often guilty of this). In this case, you may wish to clear their data.
  • The other, and more common, reason is to reset an app to a default state if it has become problematic, buggy or otherwise disruptive. 

How do I clear app or cached data?

I recommend doing preventative cache cleanings from time to time, and when you do it, do it from the list of apps with the most data. In order to do this:

  • Go to the Settings Menu
  • Click on Apps
  • Find the All tab (if your system doesn't show you all apps by default)
  • Choose an app that is taking up a lot of space
  • Click the button Clear Cache. If you're running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer on your device then you'll need to click on Storage and then Clear Cache.
  • To clear the app data instead of the cache, simply select Clear Data instead
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Clear each app's cache separately. / © AndroidPIT

However, this only works to clean one app. In order to clean the cache of every app at the same time, follow the steps below:

  • Go to Settings
  • Click on Storage>Cache Data or Saved Data
  • A screen will ask for confirmation to remove everything stored within the caches. Confirm and save to remove the content.

For individual tutorials for specific devices, you can search the AndroidPIT website.

A word on "performance-boosting" apps

There are many apps that claim to "boost device performance" but often this just isn't true. In many cases, these apps merely provide a one-touch button for ending processes and clearing the cache, both of which are largely unnecessary on today’s Android platform.

You can, and should, do this manually if it is ever required, but don't make it a habit.

A cache is basically a storage area where data or frequently used processes are saved for quicker access in the future. Ultimately, the cache actually saves time and avoids unnecessary use of hardware on your phone.

So, cleaning your app when your phone is running slowly or the memory is full could seem like the best option in the short run, but it could have consequences in the long term, which is why you shouldn't do it too often.

Final thoughts

There is no “better” or “worse” option when it comes to clearing the cache and clearing app data. Both processes have their own purpose.

Your first step towards fixing a problematic app should be clearing the cache, as this is the least intrusive method for quickly fixing apps. If that fails, or if you wish to free up a larger volume of storage space, then clear the data. Just remember that anything stored or saved in the app, including audio, video, or image files, will also be removed. 

Has that cleared up your concerns regarding app data and cached data? If not, tell us in the comments.

31 comments

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  • holy shit you are a saviour!!!

    yesterday i was downloading a lot of apps (from play store) and photos (from browser) at the same time (i noticed some apps were pending) when suddenly browser froze and i restarted my phone.

    after it turned back on, my default gallery, CAMERA, download, and play store all crash when i try to open them!!!

    i freaking panicked and emailed meizu and posted on 60 different flyme forums.

    really unfortunate timing for me, because in china, there is ccurently a 3 day festival (and therefore 3 day public) holiday going on, so no staff were able to help as they are all busy celebrating.

    i planned to backup to my mac and factory reset my phone since all the forums about apps crashing had the same response: backup and factory reset your phone.

    i installed android file transfer from the official website but my phone WON’T COME UP (media transfer is ticked in settings). so the internet told me about usb debugging but that sounds dangerous so i had to look up how to turn developer mode off.

    that’s how i came across this article.
    instead of wiping my whole phone (that i’ve only had for 3 days!!!) i cleared cache and data for gallery, download, camera and now they’re all working again!!!!!!!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!


  • One thing to point out, the camera app opening quicker is due to the program being cached in the RAM, while the caches we are talking about clearing are on the hard drive.


  • I am using Android 7 with the EagleEyes (Plus) app. Every time the app senses motion/heat, it sends a Push notification to the Push Log. There are many Push notifications in the log. How do I clear these. I tried the instructions here to clear cache, and the Push Log is not cleared. I do not want to "Clear App Data" because that will clear important and desired configuration information of the app. If I do that I will have to reconfigure the app or worse, reinstall the app.


  • In a chatting app like Facebook Messenger, if I clear it's data, would all the messages be deleted permanently? even if we open it from browser?


  •   1
    Deactivated Account Jan 16, 2017 Link to comment

    Does clearing the app cache delete your text/mms messages?


    • GXP Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

      It shouldn't, since you can access your texts through a number of texting apps.


  • best article in recent months.... hats off u


  • I have rooted my phone and installed TWRP as recovery.
    Sometimes I go in rec.mode and clear the cache partition wiping cache from all apps at once.


  • So the updates are also removed ?


    • no.
      Read article again, or:
      clearing cache can be done any time when you feel app becomes slow.
      Clearing data from app I only can imagine you have made wrong settings in app and want to "reset" the app like you had it just after installing first time.


    • No


  • Thanks,
    Very informative and nicely written.


  • Go to the
    “Settings”.
    Click on the “storage” option.
    Click on “cached data”.
    A pop up window will be open on your screen.To delete the cached data, click on the “OK” button.The data will be erased.


  • nice


  • Nice one! Got it


  • Nicely written.


  • peter Sep 17, 2016 Link to comment

    Now ,everything is more cleare,thanks for your desctibtion


  • Thank you so much for your explanation. It's kind of like the android cleaner and eraser, right?


  • I am still uncomfortable with clearing data from Google / HTC / T-Mobile apps. A national pharmacy app had accumulated 10 Gb of data, so that definitely was cleared. (too many weekly ads w/graphics) I just have to re-enter username, password, favorite store, etc.

    Google Play services = 132 Mb, Google App = 92Mb, Google+ = 50 Mb. What is the danger of clearing this data?

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