Managing Files and Storage
You might be familiar with Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”—but do you know the Law’s corollary that states “Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity”?
Sadly, this corollary seems to be all too true: However much storage space you have, on your Android device in this case, you’ll find you want to carry around that quantity of files—or usually more. Between the songs and movies you bring for entertainment, the books and documents you need for work or study, and the files you create directly on your device, the built-in storage can quickly become full. This is especially true if you record video, which can chew through several gigabytes of storage space in next to no time.
Most devices come with only a modest amount of storage space. At this writing, manufacturers pretend that 16GB is a generous size and charge a savage premium for higher-capacity devices. So chances are that you’ll need to manage the files and storage on your device.
Adding an SD Card
If your device accepts an SD card, add the highest-capacity SD card that works. If your device’s SD card is awkward to insert and remove, you will probably want to leave a single card in place, but if you can swap SD cards easily, you can use several of them. This gives you an easy way to quickly load files onto your device from your computer: Copy them to the SD card, and then insert it in your Android device.
Android expects SD cards to use the FAT file system. Almost all SD cards come formatted with FAT, so if you’ve got a new card, you’re good to go. If the SD card is formatted with another file system, you need to reformat it before your device can use it.
You can reformat the SD card on your device itself or by using a computer. The following sections explain how to reformat an SD card on Android, on Windows, and on OS X.
Formatting an SD Card on Android
Here’s how to format an SD card on Android:
- Insert the SD card into the slot.
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap the Storage button in the Device section.
- Tap the Unmount SD Card button to unmount the SD card from the file system.
- Tap the Format SD Card button.
- Tap the OK button in the confirmation dialog box that opens.
Formatting an SD Card on Windows
Here’s how to format an SD card on Windows:
- Insert the SD card into a card reader built into or connected to your computer.
- Open a File Explorer window showing This PC (on Windows 8) or a Windows Explorer window showing Computer or My Computer (on earlier versions).
- Right-click the SD card and then click Format on the shortcut menu to open the Format dialog box.
- Click the File System drop-down list and then click FAT32.
- Clear the Quick Format check box to make Windows check the SD card for errors while formatting it.
- Click the Start button.
- Click the OK button in the confirmation dialog box that opens.
- When the Format Complete dialog box opens, click the OK button.
- Right-click the SD card and then click Eject to eject the card.
- Remove the card from the card reader.
Formatting an SD Card on OS X
Here’s how to format an SD card on OS X:
- Insert the SD card into a card reader built into or connected to your Mac.
- Click the Launchpad icon on the Dock, type dis, and then click the Disk Utility icon to launch Disk Utility.
- In the left pane, click the SD card. The right pane displays controls for managing the card.
- Click the Erase tab to display its controls.
- Click the Format pop-up menu and then click ExFat.
- Click the Name field and type the name you want to give the card.
- Click the Erase button.
- Click the Erase button in the confirmation dialog that opens.
- After the format operation finishes, click the Eject button on the toolbar.
- Remove the card from the card reader.
Choosing a File Manager
You can manage files and folders on your device by running a file manager on the device itself. Some devices include file managers, whereas others don’t. If your device doesn’t have a file manager, download and install one from the Play Store.
Both ES File Explorer (see Figure 1.16) and ASTRO File Manager are powerful file managers that are easy to use. Both are free from the Play Store; ASTRO File Manager also offers a paid version, ASTRO File Manager Pro, which removes the ads.
FIGURE 1.16 If your device doesn’t come with a file manager, you can install one from the Play Store, such as ES File Manager.
Checking Free Space and Seeing What’s Taking Up Space
To see how much space you have left on your device, open the Settings app and touch the Storage button. The Storage screen appears (see Figure 1.17), showing the Internal Storage section at the top and the SD Card (if your device has an SD card) further down the screen.
FIGURE 1.17 Use the Storage screen to identify which types of files are taking up your device’s storage space.
The Storage screen is easy to read:
- The bar chart at the top of the Internal Storage section shows what proportion of your device’s storage is in use and how much is free. The color bars show you the file types.
The Total Space readout gives your device’s total capacity.
- The Available readout shows how much space is available.
- The Apps readout shows how much space the apps are taking up. You can tap the Apps button to display the Apps screen, from which you can uninstall apps to recover space.
- The Pictures, Videos readout shows how much space your pictures and videos are occupying. You can tap this button to view your photos in the Gallery app or the Photos app. You can delete photos using these apps if necessary.
- The Audio readout shows how much space your audio files—such as songs, ringtones, and podcasts—are taking. You can tap this button to display the Open From panel, which gives you several ways to browse the files. But usually it is easier to manage your music from your computer if you sync your device with it.
- The Downloads readout shows the amount of space occupied by files you have downloaded. You can tap the Downloads button to display the Downloads screen, from which you can delete files to free up space.
- The Cached Data readout shows how much space is devoted to cached data. Cached data is data saved by apps to enable them to display it more quickly; for example, web browsers cache recent web pages in case you visit them again.
- This Misc. readout shows how much space miscellaneous files are occupying.
After reading the previous section about the Storage screen, you can likely see several straightforward ways of recovering space on your device: You can delete apps you no longer need; remove pictures, videos, and audio items; delete any downloaded files; and clear your cached data.
If you’ve installed a lot of apps, deleting any that you don’t use is a good way to start recovering space on your device.
Open the Settings app and tap the Apps button in the Device section to display the Apps screen. This screen can display the apps sorted either by name in alphabetical order or by size in descending order. If the apps appear in alphabetical order, tap the Menu button and then tap Sort by Size to get a list with the biggest apps at the top.
If you want to see what’s taking up space, tap the Menu button and then tap Sort by Size (see Figure 1.18) to get a list of apps in descending order of size.
FIGURE 1.18 On the Apps screen, tap the Menu button and then tap Sort by Size to see which apps are taking up the most room.
To remove an app, tap its button on the Apps screen. The App Info screen for the app appears, and you can tap the Uninstall button to uninstall the app.
Removing Pictures and Videos
Pictures can take up a large amount of space on your device, and videos can eat up all your remaining storage in just a few minutes of shooting.
You can access your photos and videos by tapping the Pictures, Videos button on the Storage screen. If the Complete Action Using dialog box opens, tap the app you want to use (such as Gallery) and then tap the Always button or the Just Once button, as appropriate. You can then use the app to select individual photos or videos and delete them as necessary.
Removing Audio Items
If you need to remove audio items from your device, tap the Audio button on the Storage screen. Android displays the Open From pane, in which you can touch the app in which you want to view the files.
Deleting Downloaded Files
If you no longer need files you have downloaded to your device, delete them to recover space on it. Tap the Downloads button on the Storage screen to display the Downloads folder. You can then tap and hold a file to select it, select other files as needed, and then tap the Delete icon (the trash can).
Clearing Your Cached Data and Miscellaneous Files
If you’ve deleted all other content you can spare from your device, but you’re still short of space, you may want to clear your cached data and delete your miscellaneous files.
You can clear your cached data by tapping the Cached Data button and then tapping the OK button in the Clear Cached Data? dialog box (see Figure 1.19).
FIGURE 1.19 You can clear cached data to free up space on your Android device.
You can tap this button to display the Misc Files screen, which provides controls for selecting the files and deleting them. Normally, the miscellaneous files take up only a small amount of space.