Android customization – how to regain storage space by cleaning the cache on your Android device

by: Jonathan FeistJanuary 1, 2015

Android internal Storage clear cache

Last week on our Android customization post, you got to play with image files and change up your wallpaper on your Android device. After messing with all those image files, you may be finding that your internal storage space is strangely low, so we should try to fix that.

There are many things you can do to clear up the internal storage of your Android device. Uninstalling apps, deleting files, moving apps and files to your microSD card, if you’ve got one, are all great places to start, and when things get really bad, you can always perform a full system reset.

Before you go so far as to wiping your entire device, there is something else you might try, clearing your system cache.

Before we get started

We do not require anything special today, clearing system cache can be done right from your Android operating system. As always, you’ll find that we are working on a vanilla Android device, your device may have slightly different steps, but it should offer the same functionality.

Why should you clear your system cache

Let us start with a basic understanding of what your system cache is exactly, and why you might not want to clear it. Cache files on an Android device are a collection of all of the images, videos, text files and more that are required to display things like web pages, advertisements and more.

You may have noticed that the very first time you load certain apps or web pages it takes much longer to do so than the next times you load them. This is where cache comes into play. That first time around, the images and other elements have to be downloaded from the internet, or extracted from compressed app files or even have to be manually generated on the fly, as with photo thumbnails. These files are then saved into your system cache, so the next time around your app or webpage can pull the file from a local store, which makes it load much faster.

For the apps and web pages that you frequent, cache is a wonderful tool. But what about all those images for those web pages that you will never visit again, social media posts that you’ve already read or files for apps that you’ve uninstalled? They take up valuable space on your device, and it’s probably a good idea to make them go away.

Android clear system cache

Don’t fret, clearing system cache is easy. We’ll start out by heading into your main system Settings.

Choose Storage.

Choose Cached data.

In the popup confirmation box, choose OK.

That is all there is to it.

As you might imagine, this cleared all cache on your device, so the next time you start up your apps and websites they may take an extra little bit to reload the elements into cache again. This is OK, just remember to come back here again as frequently as needed to clear things up again.

If clearing cache for everything on your device is too invasive for your needs, Android offers a method to clear cache on an app-by-app basis.

Android clear app cache

In your main system Settings, tap on Apps.

Tap on each app that you wish to clear cache.

Tap on the Clear Cache button.

It can be very time consuming to go through your entire list of apps, clearing cache for each as you go, but if it is worth the hassle for you, it is great that the option exists.

What’s next

You’ll find that many apps can handle their own cache settings. Myself, I have both Dolphin browser and ES File Explorer automatically clear their own cache each time I exit the app. If you’ve been following me for long, I am sure you can imagine that my image thumbnail cache for my screenshots folder gets pretty big in no time, having ES clear that cache automatically is a life saver.

However, there are certain system app cache that do not get cleared with the above steps. The absolute worst offender in my experience, your camera/photos cache.

To clear your camera/photos cache, which I try to do after every couple hundred pictures taken, or photos viewed in the Photos/Gallery app, you’ll need a file explorer installed that is capable of viewing hidden files. Of course, I turn to ES File Explorer, but you should be fine with your app of choice.

Android photo thumbnail cache

Head into your files, look for DCIM, then .thumbnails. I usually just go ahead and delete all of the files in here, but you may wish to transfer them to SD card or other as a backup, just in case. Either way, you can see that my Christmas day photos on the phone ran up a thumbnail cache almost 600MB. Since I have removed the photos from the phone for sharing and further processing, I don’t need these cache files at all. Delete!

Next week

With all this extra space now available on your Android device, we will use next week’s Android customization post to load you back up again. How would you feel about a little home-grown device security? I’d like to show you how to use Tasker to discreetly take and store a photo from the front camera of your device every time an intruder turns on your display.

Are there any other hidden cache or thumbnail stores on your device that you regularly delete?

Happy New Year!

  • deepilt

    How can i restrict background data for “android os” while using mobile data. Please help.
    Greetings from Nepal

    • Ahmad Yasser

      head to settings – wireless and networks – data usage. then press the options (menu select) button, or the 3 dots and select “restrict background data”.
      or you can set each app individually, by clicking on the app you want in data usage section also, then restrict background data.

  • Mali

    Umm duhh.. We are Android users here..not retarded apple fanboys.

    • Chris

      this type of comment makes me ashamed to be an android user

      • Chris Roble

        me too namesake

    • What can I say Mali, I have three new enthusiastic and pleasant Android users in my life right now, when all three ask me how to do the same thing, I figure it’s worthy of a little tutorial.

      Now, I’ll take you to task, how much space did you gain clearing your photo thumbnail cache? Have any other storage space tips for the new users out there?

      • Android Developer

        Cache folders are supposed to be managed by the apps and the OS (at least for the internal storage cache), but Google suggests app-developers to never rely on the OS, and clear their own cache :

        About suggestions of how to get more storage, you could go over folders that you think are not needed anymore. This can be done via the storage screen, under “misc” files.

        Same goes for apps. If you see apps that you don’t use anymore, or take a lot of space for no reason, you can either uninstall them or clear their external storage data (or uninstall them). You can try my app if you wish, if you want to see all installed apps and their correct sizes, and also be able to batch uninstall :

      • Atomasx

        My thumbnail cache is 13.54gb. To delete it or no?

  • Guest

    deleting the DCIM > .thumbnail doesn’t clear up space on Xperia SP, and the .thumbnail file grows bigger and bigger even when I deleted most of the pics. Any other solution for this?

  • Fahim Hossain

    deleting the DCIM > .thumbnail doesn’t clear up space on Xperia SP, and the .thumbnail file grows bigger and bigger even if I delete most of the pics. Any other solution for this?

  • thestig

    i use clean master .. simple :)

    • Chris

      same. it does the job with out the nonsense BS other apps of the same kind do. plus the interface doesn’t look like shit

  • Ishan

    Well if you wanna know what’s taking up your space install disk usage app. It’s amazing.

    • Chris

      Android has tools bulit in. no need to download silly, roge apps

  • WarRaven

    That dcim database will reload itself on my tablet at 500mb too, I don’t sync with Google+ an have less then 10mb of pictures.

    Its a bug, on my N7 its 170mb, my N5 170, my N4 at 30mb.

    I can’t find a reason for the 500mb db though, you can delete that, all your pictures an it restores immediately after reboot.
    Its said that deleting it an making a dummy file named the same an placed in cache folder stops it from ever being created again.

    Works for me, as that cache is in a hidden folder an is not reported by is in storage.

  • kaycargan

    I am running out of memory on my s5 and am REALLY worried about losing precious photos. I have google photos and drive which i thought saved ALL my photos. They appear on my phone but not on google drive when log on using laptop. So as can imagine i am worried to clear my cache incase thry are not ALL on my sd card (which is also getting full)
    Help please

  • Scott Wittig

    On my google tablet I was able to hit the power and volume down? Then a special menie came up where I could delete system cache and reboot like new speeds. Can this be done on the phones too?

  • Phyllis Stockstill

    Mali needs just get off of here. I thank you very much for this information. I had seen the option both here and at each app, but needed to make sure it was what it appeared to be, a temporary of cache of data, and I could clear it with no bad effects. I’m a bit if a computer geek, and still needed to have this verified. In the general computer use classes I teach, I tell my students that it is as important to know what not to do as what to do. Mali is definitely not speaking for all of us.

  • kellu

    But how to clear internal memory from data left over after unintelligible apps?

    • kellu

      Uninstalled apps

  • Yeap Chie Yang

    When I cleaned cache, the free storage seems decreased…..what should I do?? :(

  • MeAgain

    I tried deleting the Snapspeed cache and it deletes the pic from my device?
    What is happening here?
    Please help.

  • hannah

    Hello. I am having some problems with my newly upgraded kitkat phone to lolipop. Can you suggest on how to downgrade? Because it was really disaster. My front cam was gone, google play services keeps on closing other apps and my phone as of the moment feels like sh*t. Thank you so much!