How to free up space on your device

BY James O'Malley

14th Nov 2023 Technology

3 min read

How to free up space on your device
Running out of phone storage? Our tech expert James O'Malley shares his tips for freeing up space on your device so that you have more room for those sunset photos!
Use any device for long enough and you’ll inevitably fill it full of photos, videos and other documents. But what should you do when you start seeing the warning messages about running out of space? Here’s some tips about how to slim down and free up more space for future projects and adventures. 

On your phone:

If you have an iPhone or Android, then it is likely that the biggest user of your phone’s storage is all of the photos and videos that you’ve taken. The good news is that both Apple and Google have figured out a clever way to work around storage limits using the cloud.
On Android, I recommend checking out the Google Photos app. Fire it up, hit your profile photo and then choose “Free up space” from the menu. Or if you’re an iPhone user, you can simply go to your Settings app, and then “Photos”.
In both cases, you can choose from the menu to "optimise" your on-phone storage. In other words, when you take a photo or shoot a video, your phone will quietly upload it to the company’s cloud service provider the next time you connect to wifi.
"It is likely that the biggest user of your phone’s storage is all of the photos and videos that you’ve taken"
This is not just great for safe keeping (see last month’s advice on backing up), but the apps will automatically remove older photos and videos stored on your phone, without deleting them forever. They will be stored safely on the cloud, with only a smaller “thumbnail” version of your photos actually stored on your phone.
But if you do want to access your older photos? There’s no need to worry. As long as you’re connected to the internet, if you scroll back to your older shots, the photos app will seamlessly re-download the full quality originals for you to see.
More broadly, Apple takes this idea of "optimising" your storage even more seriously.
In the App Store section of your iPhone Settings app, you can even tell your phone to delete unused or irregularly used apps. Be careful though, as one day you might find yourself stranded in the countryside, praying for a phone signal so you can re-download that parking app you hardly ever use—but you now desperately need. 

On your computer:

If you’re using Windows, the best place to start is by going to “This PC”, right-clicking your hard drive and clicking "Properties". Here you should see a button for the “Disk Cleanup” tool, which will automatically scan your computer and find files that can be safely deleted, such as old installation files you no longer need, and unused apps. It will also identify any particularly large files on your computer, so if you no longer need that massive video file, it’ll help you get rid of it quickly. Just don’t forget to empty your recycling bin!
"If you’re still in need of more space, it might be worth considering upgrading your storage"
And finally, if you have a Mac, the best place to start is by going to your Settings app and look at the "General" section. Here, you should see a "Storage" section, and your Mac will calculate what’s taking up the most space on your computer. Hitting "Optimise Storage" will, like Windows, help you rid yourself of the largest unnecessary files. And you can also configure your file bin to empty automatically after a set number of days. 
If you’re still in need of more space after doing this, it might be worth considering upgrading your storage. We covered some of the extra storage options last month when talking about back-up strategies. 
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