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How to clean up your Android device: cache, history, files and more

Even more stressful than a sluggish phone is an 'insufficient storage' message in the Play Store when you're trying to download a new App. If you're reading this article, it's because you've probably run into a lack of storage on your phone or your device is performing worse than you'd expected. If you're looking for an app to clean your smartphone, I'm warning you, the vast majority don't deliver on their promise and, many times, the solution is in the Android system itself.

Before going on, I need to inform you that this article was written in collaboration with AndroidPIT readers and other members of the content team. So, the solutions found in this list are based on the number of times they were mentioned in user responses on the site's social media. It does not reflect the opinion of the editorial team.

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Find a problem using DiskUsage


DiskUsage is unique for each individual, a personal statement. The first thing you need when you're cleaning your smartphone is to find out which type of data or feature is taking up the most space. Using DiskUsage, you can take a look at all of the memory usage information on your smartphone or tablet. Therefore, it's easier to see exactly which folders and files are using up the most memory on your device.

diskusage app
DiskUsage will help you identify which files are using up the most space on your phone. / © AndroidPIT

After scanning, you can see the size of each app, including their cache, and even how many voice files you’ve saved. DiskUsage will graphically show you which of your files are the biggest, and then it’ll let you choose which ones you’d like to delete.

DiskUsage Install on Google Play

Manually clean an app's cache


The majority of our site’s readers and editors manually clean their apps' caches as well as frequently deleting images and videos that they receive through WhatsApp.

By doing so, you can get to know your device and its features better. You can even take preventative measures, like blocking those avalanches of automatically downloaded pictures on messaging apps. Furthermore, by doing this manually, you can be certain that you won't cause any long term damage to your device.

Many cleaning tools promise to improve the memory and performance of your device. This does happen, but it's mostly due to cleaning out your apps' caches. A cache is basically a storage area where data or frequently used processes are saved for quicker access in the future. In the end, the cache actually saves time and avoids unnecessary use of the hardware on your phone. So, always 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.

I recommend doing preventative cache cleanings on occasion, 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;
  • Choose an app that is taking up a lot of space;
  • Click the button Clear Cache. If you're running Android 6.0 Marshmallow on your device then you'll need to click on Storage and then Clear Cache.
androidpit clear cache
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.

Factory reset your phone

Just like the name says, restoring your phone to factory settings takes you back to zero and resets your device's settings to exactly how they were the day it came out of the box. There won't be any extra apps, contacts, settings or any type of data, only what comes standard on Android.

However, if you have updated your system to a more recent version, the system will keep the most recent upgrade. So, if you were running Lollipop and updated to Marshmallow, after the reset, your phone will continue running Android Marshmallow.

This feature is mostly used by people that like to install different ROMs on their device but it could also be very helpful to users who have an older phone. Doing this will give your device a breath of life. I especially recommend it if you've had your device for more than a year and you've never formatted it. Additionally, it's important to backup your data before resetting your phone.

In order to restore your phone to factory settings, the most common way is:

  • Go to Settings;
  • Click on Backup and Reset;
  • Make a backup in the Android system itself by using Drive;
  • Factory Data Reset;
  • Reset phone;
  • You may have to put your PIN in again;
  • Click on Reset phone or Erase Everything;
  • Restart.
ANDROIDPIT factory reset moto x play
Restoring your phone to factory settings will delete all of your data / © AndroidPIT

 

SD Maid - System Cleaning Tool


SD Maid was one of the apps that was most mentioned by both users and members of our team alike. It works like an internal tool box that lets you find files or app directories that are no longer installed on your smartphone; search for known file types and locations which can normally be securely deleted and, among other things, remove duplicate files.

The app has a well designed and intuitive interface which works just as well for users with or without root access. If you have administrative access to your device, you can remove even more fat to free up space in your memory.

sd maid app
SD Maid delivers on its promise but it offers more options to users who have root access. / © AndroidPIT

The app does have a PRO version, which costs $3.49. I recommend the PRO version to only those users who have rooted their phone, since the majority of the features need root access. A while back we talked with the App developer and sincerely, SD Maid is very honest in their advertising. They don't make promises they can't deliver on.

So, if you think manually cleaning your phone is a bit too much work, then according to both users and the AndroidPIT team, SD Maid is a solid option.

SD Maid - System Cleaning Tool Install on Google Play SD Maid Pro - Unlocker Install on Google Play

CCleaner – Puts you in control


CCleaner was the top voted among AndroidPIT readers. But what else can you expect since it's one of the most popular computer services out there. This app simply and efficiently removes useless, obsolete or temporary data. However, it should be used in moderation.

What makes this software attractive among PC and smartphone users is that it performs a device analysis; scanning the cache, browser history, received calls history, files and various storage areas on the system. Then, it'll recommend what should be deleted.

In addition to all that, it gives a list of apps that are taking up a lot of memory in the cache and then, it gives the user a chance to choose if they'd like to remove that temporary data or not.

ccleaner
CCleaner is one of Android's most popular cleaning tools / © AndroidPIT

Just like SD Maid, the app's interface is simple and intuitive.

Contrary to its competitor Clean Master, which promises to speed up your smartphone, CCleaner doesn't force users to end processes; it’s offered as an option, but the final decision is up to the user. This type of feature, in fact, is a stopgap, since when you close all your apps and start another, the last one will, of course, run faster. Yet, this is just time consuming because you'll have to open the other apps again when you want to use them.

CCleaner Install on Google Play

Conclusion


Don't make the mistake of believing that your smartphone will have 50-70% better performance after using a cleaning tool. Sorry, but it's just not true. For this article, I tried looking within our community of Android users for the answer to the best way to remove excess data from an operating system and, to my surprise, I realized that our users manually clean their devices much more often than they use an app.

However, in case you don't feel like doing the leg work, keep in mind that when you're choosing an app to remove unwanted files that are taking up space on your device, look for apps that give you information about your options and not just an optimization button.

If you have an older smartphone and you just can't part ways with it yet, try rooting it, because the features on cleaning tools are much better on rooted phones. Also, take advantage of new features like Google Drive or Dropbox, as they can come in very handy. Also, if you can use an external memory device such as a microSD card, it could help save you some precious space.

Lastly, always keep your phone updated, and if you're not using an app, remove it from the drawer. You can always download it again from the Play Store when you really need it.

Are there any other apps or processes that you'd recommend to clean your smartphone's system?
 

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22 comments

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  • Thank you! I use to clean up temporary files the program Orderprog PC Cleanup

  • Thaks for the useful post. Duplicate files fixer is also a very good app to delete duplicate files from your android and recover lots of storage space. goo.gl/KHMNBX

  • hello,
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  • hello,
    Use Krojam Cleaner for clean junk file. It is trusted and make free space in your pc.
    you need to advertise software Krojam Cleaner: KrojamCleaner.com

  • My ram memory is nearly full what options are there to sort this out

  • Werf Abb 4 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks for the useful tips, there are also some desktop cleaner tools for Android users which help user to clean files selectively on computer, here is an example: http://bit.ly/2fHNi5T

  • My Gallery E tablet has a built-in cleaner, so getting an cleaner app would be the same, right?

  • NOT techie at all. Looking for source that addresses my Samsung Galaxy Tab (4?) It's a 7" and fits in my hand comfortablly. That's why I purchased it. Also it's (?) 8 or 16th with a 32 or 64gb SanDisk card.
    But it runs slow. Periodically my folders just vanish and finally I can't seem to get it to use my SD card which was installed at time of purchase. Everything seems to loaded directly onto my tablet. Assuming that is why it runs slow. Have deleted apps just to be able to update others. Is there a "dummies" site for people like me to resolve issues?
    Thanking you in advance for your attention to this cry out for help.

  • Mark G. 4 months ago Link to comment

    You really do not have to install third party apps that claim to clean your system or free up storage.

    Firstly you are wasting precious internal storage by downloading these apps, but more importantly you can easily manage your system by using the features that are provided by Android.

    If you have a Samsung Galaxy you will already have a app that clears the cache and free's up RAM.

    Miscellaneous Files are files that certain apps download in order to work properly, sometimes these files are no longer required. For example, my magazine app zino will automatically download the latest magazine but will keep the previous ones, this can soon add up to a lot of storage. These files can be deleted as necessary. Another type of data is used for my music player, it has a option to download artist & album artwork, I have over 3000 individual tracks and albums, if I delete these files from Miscellaneous files then my music player will look wrong and not perform effectively.

    I would suggest that you try a excellent file manager app called X-plore, it has disc usage built-in, you can easily see what files are taking up storage and you can delete as necessary.

    Android is extremely good at managing RAM access, and provides the tools needed to manage temporary files and internal storage.

    It's a false economy that third party apps will clear your system, I urge you to uninstall them and give it a try to manage the system yourself as Android designed.

    Peace 🖖

  • Mark G. 4 months ago Link to comment

    I am using the excellent Samsung Galaxy S5, it was running Android 5.02. My 16GB of internal memory was always nearly full (I'd try to keep 1.5GB free), this inevitably meant that I had to delete cache and uninstall unused apps,.

    I recently received the Update to 6.01 which improved the overall performance of my S5 but my storage was dropping bellow the 1.5GB minimum until eventually I was getting warnings that my storage was critically low. (this was after doing everything possible to free up storage, including uninstalling apps

    So I bit the Bullet and done a full factory reset (FR). (I don't like doing a FR as my music player resets album and artist artwork and I have over 3000 tracks, doing a FR means I have to go through each track and change the artwork)..

    Anyway I did the FR and its been brilliant, my device is now optimised to the new version which means it runs so much smoother and faster, battery life is excellent.

    The main positive though is my internal storage was full, I had couple hundred MB left, after the FR I now have 7GBb free, yes 7GB! That included all the apps that were previously downloaded. I have now been able to re-download apps without worrying about the amount of storage.

    I have literally doubled the number of apps and still have over 4.5GB free..

    So I urge everyone to periodically run a factory reset, and always do a factory reset after a major update.

  • Anyone tell me I have samsung j2 model yesterday I had update software how I hide or remove sim name from lock screen it's create problem to see notification

  • Warren JB 4 months ago Link to comment

    Useful. I've recently wondered why most of my 16gb is taken up by some category helpfully labelled 'other' in ES file explorer, and why it didn't go down much after uninstalling some apps and shifting as many others as possible to an external sd card. Might give some of these other apps a try, see if they shed more light.

  • I use CCleaner, but want to point out (have done once or twice before) that there is an important section of Internal Storage that the cleaners don't touch, and some apps can store huge amounts of useless data there - it's the Misc. section.

    My experience with an older 8gb tablet was a mysterious clogging to the point of warning boxes and crashes, even after using cleaners and reviewing apps. The culprit was Zinio magazine app, that saves month after month of deleted magazine files in Misc. and does not provide any purge in the app itself. Deleting that file in Misc. freed up over a GB of storage and did not affect the app's performance at all. I'm not aware of any cleaner that deals with Misc in Storage (Zinio devs wrote me they plan to allow moving storage to microSD next year.)

  • Everything is too obvious. Nothing special. I need a real solution for my smartphone, but I can't find it. Nothing helps, indeed. What's wrong with Android? CCleaner is the best app, but it has been useless recently. What's going on? What's next?

  • chayusiro 8 months ago Link to comment

    How to clean up your Android device: cache, history, files and more? Nice sharing. I got it, thanks a lot. http://goo.gl/H1SeU2

  • Gogogo 8 months ago Link to comment

    Please check out this awesome junk file clean App , Norton Clean.

    • I will NEVER install any Nortonsh#T either om PC or smartphone. Norton digs unnessesarilly deep in system and nests itself there and using amounts of memory. Norton is bad!

  • What about Clean Master???

  • Leonardo May 15, 2014 Link to comment

    Yes clean master is what I use as well and I think its a great app...works like a charm!

  • I find clean master very handy and good widgets as well I have used on several phones and os versions

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