Technology

How to clear the cache on your Android phone or tablet (and why you should)

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

If you’re experiencing slow performance on a smartphone or tablet, there are common steps you can take to troubleshoot and often fix it. Simply restarting your device can take care of a lot of problems.

Another common way to increase performance or at least free up extra storage space on an Android phone is to clear an app’s cached data and clear Chrome’s cached data for websites you visit.

Below I will walk you through both processes, which don’t take very long at all. The hardest part is figuring out where to look, and that’s exactly what I’m going to show you.

Also: How to record a call on your Android phone

As with any tutorial that walks you through how to do something on an Android device, the steps for you may differ slightly from what I outline below due to different device manufacturers and custom software on top of Android. But the gist of the process is covered and it should be similar enough to at least get you pointed in the right direction. (And here is how to clear the cache on an iPhone.)

How to clear an app’s cached data

The fastest way to see all the apps installed on your Android phone or tablet is to open the Settings app and view the main list of Storage; Press it. Find and tap on the next screen Apps possibility. Some phones, such as Moto G 5G, skip the Storage option and specify Apps directly in the Settings app. If you’re having trouble finding the apps directory, use the search bar at the top of the Settings app to find it.

When viewing the app list, to make it easier to see which apps are using the most storage space on your device, tap the three dots icon in the top right corner and select Sort by size.

Android Storage and Apps Storage pages showing sorting of apps by size

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Select any app from the list. Note that I specified to select an app and not a system service such as Android System Intelligence because I’ve had mixed results when clearing the cache of a system app or service. So I recommend doing this only for apps.

When you open an app, you can see the app size, user data, cache size, and the total amount of storage it’s taking up. At the top of the page you have two options: Clear storage and Clear cache.

Don’t select Clear Storage as that will pretty much reset the app and you’ll have to set it all up again. However, you can clear the cache without negative consequences.

Clearing the cache for Facebook

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Continue to go through the list, look at the apps that are taking up a lot of space, and clear each one’s cache. Or, if you really want to be thorough, you can go through and clear the cache of every app on your phone. But I recommend starting with the biggest culprits, like the Facebook app seen here in the screenshots.

How to clear Chrome’s cache

Open the Chrome app on your Android phone or tablet, then tap the menu icon with three dots in the top-right corner. Then select History > Delete browsing history.

Clearing browser data for the Chrome browser

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The following screen will show you a list of options; you can choose which data you want to remove from Chrome and choose the time frame for which you want the data removed. Each data setting has a brief description of what it means and how it will affect your experience.

Clearing cookies and website data will e.g. log you out of some (in my experience, all) websites. Clearing cached images and files may cause Chrome to take a little longer the next time it needs to load images for a website you visit.

Also: How to Clear Opera Browser’s Cache (And Why You Should)

Select and choose which data you want to delete and a time period and press the “Clear data” button at the bottom of the screen.

FAQ

What is cached data?

When you clear cached data, whether it’s for an app or from Chrome, you’re really just removing various files and information that the app has downloaded. For an app like Facebook, cached data can be profile pictures, photos, videos, and similar content that the phone stores to speed up scrolling through your timeline.

In other words, while the files and data help with the overall experience, they are not essential and can often become bloated and take up too much storage space.

How often should I clear my Android device’s cache?

It depends on! If you see a lot of performance issues, it should be something you do in a list of troubleshooting steps. Or maybe every quarter, or twice a year? It really just depends on how well your phone or tablet runs.

Do I only get storage by clearing the cache?

No. In fact, one of the first troubleshooting steps I follow when I encounter strange errors or problems in an app is to clear the cache. Often files in the cache are corrupt or out of date and forcing the app to rebuild the cache fixes this issue. It’s a win-win.

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