Spring Cleaning: How to clean up and speed up your Android smartphone

by Robert Nazarian on
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It’s Springtime which means it’s time to clean out the clutter in your life. While it’s important to do it in your home or office, you shouldn’t forget to do it with your smartphone. Like any clutter, it’s actually better to do it periodically so things don’t “pile” up, but hey, even if it’s once a year, it’s better than never. With most people on 2-year contracts, it’s nearly impossible to never do some cleanup and keep your phone running like it was the day you first turned it on. Also understand that it’s not always about the slowness of your phone. Many phones have limited storage space and you might be experiencing errors from lack of free space. In either case this guide will make sense.

If you really want to clean and start anew, the best way is to do a factory reset, but it makes sense to avoid it if you can. Try these six steps and you could avoid the headaches of a reset and get rid of the sluggishness you’ve been experiencing. Even if you think you phone is running okay, I still recommend going through this short guide to keep things from “piling up” down the road. Some of these steps won’t pertain to you so don’t feel like you have to complete each step. Hit the break to get started.

#1 Delete old text messages. If you do any amount of texting, you will be surprised how many pile up, and you really don’t need them. Grab Delete Old Messages from the Google Play Store. This is a simple free app that will delete all messages based on your specifications. For example, you can tell it to delete all messages older than 1 month ago. It offers more fine tuning options for pro users, but this free version should suffice. I’m not a heavy texter so I chose to delete all messages older than 2 months. If you text upwards of 500 messages per month, I would go no more than one month, and 1 or 2 weeks might make more sense.

#2 Uninstall unused apps. We’re all guilty of downloading an app to try and then forget about it. Now is a good time to look at all your apps, and if you aren’t using them, just uninstall them. Most of you veterans know how to do this. With ICS and some manufacturer UI’s it’s easy to do it from your launcher drawer. Just open your launcher drawer and long press on any app you want to uninstall. If you have ICS or the manufacturer UI has the built-in feature, you will see an option to uninstall. Just drag the app icon over that. If you don’t see the option, then the best way is to open the Play Store, tap the menu, and tap my apps. This will show all the apps installed on your device. Just tap the ones you want to remove and tap again to uninstall.

#3 Clean the cache from your apps and browser. Cached files are temporary files created by all your apps. These can take up a lot of space and drain you memory, especially for apps you don’t use often.  There are a number of apps that will clear out your cache and some will even go so far as deleting text messages (step #1), but I like Easy Cache Cleaner. Upon opening the app, it will scan all your apps and tell you the total amount of cached files. I had over 507MB the first time I ran it. At the top, you will see the option to “Clean All.” Go ahead and tap that. The whole process from opening the app to clearing all your cache will take less than a minute. Unfortunately a lot of these apps don’t work with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich so you will have to manually delete the cache for each app. Just make sure to click “Clear cache” NOT “Clear data.” If you don’t have ICS, you can still clear your cache by using this method as well, if for whatever reason you don’t want to delete all the files.

#4 Move apps to your SD card. If you have an older phone with limited internal storage, it’s a good idea to move some of your apps to your SD card. Just grab Apps2SD from the Google Play Store. All apps aren’t eligible to be moved to your SD card so Apps2SD takes out all the guess work. It will let you know which apps can be moved and for those that aren’t eligible now, it will notify you when things change. I would start with the apps that you don’t use often, but don’t use this option to move unused apps. If you don’t plan on using an app then please uninstall it from your device as mentioned in step #2. Apps2SD happens to have a built in cache cleaner so you can utilize this app instead of Easy Cache Cleaner from step #3.

#5 Delete unused files on your SD card and on your device. I know you’re thinking there must be something wrong with me because I just told you to move apps to your SD card, and now I’m telling you to clean it up. Utilizing your SD card for apps is okay, but you should go through it and look for files that are not needed. Sometimes apps that you’ve uninstalled leave folders behind. Delete all those. Look at your photos. Do you really need all of them? The same with music. Delete what you don’t need. You can do this by connecting your phone to your computer via USB or through an app called Astro File Manager from the Google Play Store.

#6 Remove deleted (or trashed) emails. If you’re using the stock email app (not gmail) there could be a lot of unwanted emails in your trash. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy way to “delete all emails” in the trash folder so you might have to actually remove the email account from your phone and set it up again. This will start things from scratch, but if your email is IMAP based, this won’t be a big deal. If you’re using a POP account, you will lose all your “non trashed” emails that are on your phone. In that case you might have to manually delete them which won’t be any easy task. If you can live with it, I highly recommend just deleting the account from your phone and setting it up again. It won’t take long at all.

If you follow these 6 steps, I think you will find your phone will be back to how it worked when you first got it. If you find that these things just aren’t enough, than you should consider a factory reset. You need to make sure you’ve backed up everything that you want BEFORE doing it. If you are going to go this route, you should download MyBackup Pro to back up what you need. Please understand, if you’re aren’t rooted you will not be able to save game progress data or your usernames, passwords, and other settings for your apps. Some apps do have a back up feature so for any of those, make sure to back up that data to your SD card. For most devices you can perform a factory reset by going to menu/settings/privacy and selecting factory data reset. Make sure you don’t have “delete SD card contents” checked. Again, I want to be clear, by doing this, you delete everything on your phone and unless it’s backed up, you won’t be able to retrieve it.

If you have any other recommendations please add them to the comments below.

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • http://www.mitprof.com/ John Ernest

    There are some applications that can’t be moved to my SD card. I don’t know why but I noticed that these applications are the ones that range from 15-20+mb and gives your mobile phone a really hard time. Any Ideas how to resolve this?

    • byno

      Some apps can’t be moved to the SD card due to system limitations. Think of it like this: Your SD card is an “external hard drive” for your phone. When you store apps on the SD card, they can’t be accessed when the SD card isn’t “mounted” to the Android OS. Mounted means the SD card is currently being used by the Android OS; it is readily available for whatever you may need to use it for. If you store, for example, Maps on the SD card, you wouldn’t be able to use a major element of the Android OS when you don’t have the SD card mounted. So, for example, if you are dropping files from the SD card to your phone, you wouldn’t be able to use Maps until you’re finished. Maps may not seem very important, but imagine if you have Navigation on your SD card and you connect your phone to your car stereo via USB. The stereo will mount the SD card and just like that, your directions are gone. Another example would be Dialer. If you move Dialer to the SD card and you’re transferring files from PC to phone, you wouldn’t be able to receive phone calls. It can be a very bad thing, it just depends on the situation.
      Also, an app’s widgets can’t be accessed, put on the homescreen, or even recognized by the OS when the app is on the SD card. So your weather clock, Facebook or Twitter widget, or any widget you use can’t be used if that app is on your SD card, due to the fact that the widget will crash and could cause instability if the SD card isn’t mounted.
      It just makes it really simple if you imagine the “external hard drive” scenario. If your music program was on the external HD and you unplugged it, you wouldn’t have the music program. Just Google trying to keep things simple.

  • Gjolliffe1

    Thank you for this, helped me to moved a bit to SD card which previously had shown not possible.

  • Brian

    I have a question & I haven’t been able 2 find an answer easy enough 2 follow? My question is after I have changed phones from captivate, impression, to SG2 how do I know which files I need 2 delete & not mess ne thing on my SG2 up? Please respond or point me in the correct direction! I don’t mind reading! LOL!

    Have a Blessed Day,

    Brian

  • Ismail Mahommed

    deleting unused contacts..any apps

  • Gloria

    Everybody knows that if you want to increase speed, you just run a defrag, common sense, theres a number of apps on the market that allow you to run a defrag, just search for defrag in the google play store, any number of the apps will allow you to increase your android smartphone speed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002610678322 Jonathan Jenkins

      You certainly shouldn’t run any kind of defrag on a solid state memory device. They’re rated for a certain amount of write operations and a defrag program may shorten it’s life. They have much faster access times than spinning drives. Also the Android OS, which is derived from Linux, doesn’t need defragmenting.

  • Kenl

    The last 2 days all my contacts just disappear. I have a Galaxy Nexus.
    I have to delete and re-install my email. then every comes back.
    Any ideas why and how I can resolve this?
    Thank you!

    • Mike

      Could be a virus download tuneup 2014 utilities for smart phones should take care of your problem have fun

  • Morgan

    I have a Galaxy S 2 Android. I am running low on space for my SD card, it’s now to where I can’t do anything hardly on it. School starts back Aug. 20 and I dont want to tell my parents.. Help!! I need a way to clean some of it up not delete anything but make it work again.Please help!!

  • Guest

    THANKS SOO MUCH for the delete old messages app i wouldve never thought of that and i have to delete about 10,000 messages lol

  • http://twitter.com/books_inabox toolbox

    hai, i’m not a heavy text person, and i already set my text to be deleted after a certain number of text.
    yet 2 days ago, i got notification that my text storage is full and i cannot receive anymore text.
    i deleted all text immediately but the notification still says the storage is full. pls help me. thx.

    • Mike

      Look up utilitie 2014 tune up for.smartpbones and it will gied you thrue the rest of the appp habe fun

  • Eunicee

    Thank you for all the ideas on how to do spring cleaning on my Androids. It made things so simple for me who is new to this type of phone.

  • kate

    How do i see what i have on the sd card before i delete whats on it?