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Make more internal storage space on Android

Posted on Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 at 7:16 pm. #

Radio Festival app on Android

Update: I no longer use a Nexus One. The Galaxy Nexus has no such memory restrictions.

As you’ll know, I have a Google Nexus One Android phone. I quite liked it after 24 hours, I liked it more after four months, and then discovered alternative ROMS later. I’m now using the Blandroid ROM, which is simply vanilla Android with none of the extra stuff that even Google shoves onto its own phone.

Android has four bits of memory. The system ROM – that’s where the actual ROM (“Android”) is held. On my current setup, this is 152 MB. The SD card – where you can put some (not all) applications, and where most applications keep their data. Spotify downloads music here, for example; Google Maps places the map cache here. On a standard Nexus One, this is 4 GB. The third, simply called RAM, is the memory used by the running applications. This is 364 MB on my setup. The final bit of memory is the most important: Internal Storage. This is 205 MB on my setup; and this is where many of your applications are stored, and some data, too. This is the memory space that really matters: and, I’ll bet, the memory space that you need to watch. Chances are you already do.

If you run too low – less than 20MB left – of Internal Storage, your phone warns you. Your phone automatically stops doing certain things – like syncing your email, and sometimes even accepting text messages. This is a bad thing, and chances are, you’ll want to save as much internal space as you can.

Here’s how (on Android 2.3.4)…

First, check how full your internal storage is, by going into Settings/Application Settings/Storage Use. You’ll see “Internal storage” at the bottom, showing how much space you have free.

1. Move as many apps to your SD card as you can
Go into Settings/Application Settings/On SD card. You’ll see a list of all the applications you can move onto your SD card. If any aren’t ticked, try ticking them, and you’ll be taken to a page for the app letting you “move to SD card”.

2. Clear your browser cache
The standard Android browser keeps its cache in internal memory. That’s a little silly. Go into the browser, and choose Menu/Settings/Clear cache. (You might as well clear other stuff as well if you want.

3. Uninstall some apps you don’t want

4. Reduce the amount of Gmail you sync
Open Gmail, then Menu/More/Settings/Labels/Number of days to sync and reduce that.

But, you’re an advanced user, and you’ve already rooted your device (and probably using an alternative ROM). So, here’s some more interesting ways to save memory that I’ve discovered using trial and error:

Download Titanium Backup. You might need the Pro version – £3.79 – to achieve everything below. You’ll probably have this, as a power user, since it helps backup all your apps and settings before switching ROMs.

1. Clean up the Dalvik cache. This is a cache used by the phone when running applications, and sometimes it doesn’t clean itself when you uninstall an application. In Titanium Backup, try Menu/More/Clean up the Dalvik cache.

2. The way to make the biggest saving is to turn applications into system apps. Doing this moves an app from your Internal Storage into your System ROM. I’ve turned Gmail and Google Maps into system apps – saving over 10MB. To do this, first, check on the Titanium Backup front screen how much spare space is in your System ROM; then touch Backup/Restore at the top of the screen. Find an app, long-hold it, and choose “Convert to system app”. You’ll have to change any links on your home screen, which’ll magically disappear. (As an aside, any updated to these apps will need to be converted again).

3. If you want to make more System ROM room, you can even delete the system apps using Titanium Backup. I deleted the Music player, since I use Spotify instead. (Tread carefully, I guess, but my phone is still rock solid).

Arguably, users shouldn’t have to fiddle around to avoid a low memory error: but, unlike the iPhone, you do have considerable fiddle-room when it does appear.


Adam Bowie
commenting at July 27th, 2011 at 11:11 am

Lack of internal memory is the biggest issue with Android. I’m suffering in a very similar manner to you with a “one in – one out” rule for apps right now.

And Android developers who needlessly don’t allow installation to SD card need a serious talking to. Some very good apps don’t sit on my phone because of this.

James Cridland
commenting at July 27th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Currently on Android, you can’t *both* have a widget, *and* install to an SD card. I agree, that would be useful…

Neerav Bhatt
commenting at July 28th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

The Nexus One and it’s cousin the HTC Desire which I used for a year had far too little Internal Storage, it was bad design by HTC so I was forced to use the LeedDroid ROM to compensate

Newer phones like the Motorola Atrix etc have oodles of Internal Storage so don’t have to constantly require tweaking to install lots of apps, sync plenty of mail etc

commenting at August 1st, 2011 at 5:36 pm

James, great tip. Is it ok to spread the word:



Vincent Lo
commenting at August 4th, 2011 at 9:41 am

It’s happening a lot on my Desire. I’ve found I can’t even take photos when memory is low. Grrrrr.
Will try the System Apps option.
I wonder if Flash will move over as well!

commenting at October 22nd, 2011 at 7:17 am

“The way to make the biggest saving is to turn applications into system apps. Doing this moves an app from your Internal Storage into your System ROM.”

Depends on your setup. Android memory is poorly explained around the traps and inadequately spec’d phone make things worse. This can be a VERY, VERY bad idea. Ok, I exaggerate – a bit. My System ROM was 25MB. I’ve just moved a bunch of system apps to Internal and my sluggish phone is now very fast. HTC Desire; S-OFF. I have over 250 apps, most on my 1GB ext4 internal memory partition on the SD-Card. See also http://ijustutter.com/increase-system-rom-speed-of-android


commenting at October 23rd, 2011 at 7:20 am

Can anybody suggest what is the internal memory(android 2.3) suggested circa 2012 with too many apps coming into the market?Where does new Mango OS based phones stand vis-a-vis the subject of internal memory?

24 hours with a Google / Samsung Galaxy Nexus - James Cridland
commenting at November 29th, 2011 at 10:07 am

[...] One of the main issues of the Nexus One was its memory management. I have had to do some irritating fiddling to run the amount of apps I’d like to (though CyanogenMod appears to lessen the need for [...]

B Campbell
commenting at December 16th, 2011 at 8:34 am

Thanks James.

Any opinion as to whether there needs to be any margin of unused space left in “System”, if so how much? On my HTC Wildfire S (2.3.3) Tit. Backup Pro now reports “System” as 272MB (43.9 free); “Internal” 157MB (41.8MB free) – these amounts after various deletions of unwanted items & app installs.

David Furness
commenting at February 4th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Some great info here, thanks James. Have managed to get from under 40MB to over 110MB free space on my Xperia Arc S, enabling me to put a couple of widgets back on that I’d had to take off to clear some space. Moving this stuff shouldn’t really be necessary on what wasn’t a cheap phone!

Interestingly, Titanium Pro is letting me move Google Maps to the SD card, when Apps2SD hasn’t allowed this.

The ‘convert to system app’ option for the Jorte calendar works well too, as the widget wouldn’t have worked on the SD card.

Being able to clear the dalvik cache was worth the £4.49 for the pro upgrade of Titanium on its own!

commenting at April 23rd, 2012 at 1:33 am

You can also clear the Dalvik cache through terminal (free on app store)

cd /data/dalvik-cache
rm *

And then reboot the phone. The cache will gradually increase with installed applications but it gets rid of any thing left from old installations. Ive just run it after probably 15 applications had been removed, gained a net of about 10mb (50mb cache before, replaced by a 40mb cache after reboot)

I have a Galaxy Ace, Rooted and with a combination of Link2SD, and switching a number of things like maps away from system to user app and using Link2SD combined with cache cleaning, have 70mb free internal memory (of 180mb)

commenting at June 14th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Does it work on Huawei U8651T? I don’t want to make a mess on my phone.

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