Make your Android fast again — it is possible
Updated May 4, 2017 to make sure these tricks work with the latest and greatest Androids!
We’ve all been there. You have a fancy, new, highly complex Android device that can do everything from checking your email to surfing the web to controlling your microwave so your popcorn doesn’t burn. It’s shiny and screaming fast while doing all the things we wanted it to do. Everything is roses all around.
Fast forward a year down the road, and besides the shiny wearing off, things aren’t as zippy as they used to be. Apps take longer to open and run. Transitions between screens take longer to redraw than we would like. The speed demon that your device once was is starting to get a little frustrating to use. Your Android is slow.
Don’t fret. This happens to every computer, even the Android one you carry in your pocket. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to alleviate your pain and get back to Speed Racer mode again. None are difficult, and we’re going to take a look at the five best things you can do to “fix” a slow Android.
Delete all those apps you’re not using
You know the ones I mean. We all download apps on a whim, try them a time or two, then forget they are even there. They sit in the app drawer, counting their days and plotting ways to make your phone slow by using resources like CPU cycles for background services, taking up memory blocks and fragmenting your storage, and generally cluttering the place up. It’s not you, dog whistle simulator app, it’s us. Things just aren’t going to work and we have to say goodbye. We’re still the best of friends, right?
To delete any app you’ve downloaded, you can head into the device settings to find the App “manager.” The people who made your phone might have buried it inside another section (hello there, Samsung!) but poke around or ask somebody and you’ll find it.
Once open, you’ll see lists of apps that are installed on your phone with various sorting options. When you find an app that needs to go away, tap the list entry to open the application’s info screen. At the top you’ll see a button to Uninstall it. Tap. Boom. Bam. Goodbye unwanted application.
Be vicious here. You can always download an app again if you decide you needed it after all — and that includes apps you paid for — but getting rid of the stragglers and hanger-on apps can make a big difference in how your phone runs the apps you do want.
Clean up that device storage space
After some time, you’ll find a literal crap-ton of “junk” in your storage. Remember all those times you said, “Wait, let me take another one” while you had the camera open? All those pictures you didn’t want are still there. So are the screenshots you took to share then promptly forgot all about them. Add in the Downloads folder and you just might have one hell of a mess. I know I do.
This is also an easy fix. To delete the pictures you no longer need, simply open the gallery app and choose the ones that need to go, and delete them. The same goes for videos. And doing it this way, through the gallery, means you have to see each picture or video before you delete them to be sure you really want to delete them.
Next, open the Downloads folder from your app drawer. There’s a good chance you’ll find it’s filled with images, zip files, sound clips and any number of files that you no longer need. If you don’t need them, there’s no reason they should be taking up storage space, right? Zap them to oblivion. Again, doing it this way makes sure you look at files before you delete them.
Finally, open the storage page in the settings and move down the list until you see an entry for “Misc.” or Other. Tap it, and you’ll see a list of miscellaneous files that applications have created on your device storage. If you see something you know you no longer need, you can delete it here. If you don’t know what a file is for, don’t delete it.
If you root and ROM, be sure to look at your backup files and toss any that you no longer need. Those suckers can be HUGE.
Clear your cached data
Cached data is generally a good thing and unless you think you have an issue it’s best to just leave it alone. Intelligently keeping some things in a local storage, like the post thumbnails for the Android Central app, means you don’t have to download or generate them each and every time you open the app itself. And a well-written app knows when to clear its cache and start it all over again. But like all good things, there are drawbacks.
Apps you rarely use will have cached data that not only takes up space, but is always out of date and will need flushed and rebuilt anyway. Sometimes, cached data can be buggy and cause apps to misbehave — especially when it’s woefully out of date. You can clear the cache for an individual app in the Application’s info page (see section one about deleting apps above), but if we want to freshen things up so that our Android runs faster we want to wipe the cache all at once.
That’s also easy!
Open the settings on your Android, and go into the device storage page. Scroll down the list until you see the Cached data entry, and tap on it. You’ll see a pop-up telling you that you’re able to clear out all cached data. Say yes with no fear — there’s nothing here that an app needs, and anything important will be re-cached the next time you open the app.
Look at your SD card
Not all Androids have one, but if you do, a messy slow SD card can really make your Android chug. We can fix that to some extent. What we want to do is backup the card, format it so that it’s clean and ready, then put our files back into place. The easy way to do this is with a computer.
Warning — you can lose game progress, app data, coins you paid real money for in Tiny Tower and other things you may not want to lose by doing this. If your favorite application doesn’t use Google Cloud save, think about this before you do any tapping clicking or popping.
Power down your Android, then take the SD card out of the device. Place it in an adapter so that it can go into either an SD card slot on your computer or into a free USB port on the computer, and insert it in the appropriate hole. Your computer will take a second then mount it so that you can see all the file on the card itself.
Next, make a folder on your computer desktop to put all the files in. Name it something you’ll remember, like sd-card-backup or the like. Using the file manager on your computer, copy all the files from the SD card and paste them into this new folder you created. Double check that they are all there. Then triple check that they are all there. Once you know all the files were copied, unmount the SD card from your computer and pop it back into your phone.
Fire up your phone, the dive into the storage section of the settings again. This time, we’re going to format the SD card. This wipes all data off the SD card. Make sure you have everything backed up, or you’ll be sorry. Go ahead and format the card, then power the phone off again.
Formatting your SD card will erase everything on it. Back up all your stuff before you click or tap any buttons!
Pop the SD card back into the computer and open the backup folder. Go through and delete anything you know you no longer need, but be sure you don’t need it first. I might have three DVD images for Red Hat on the SD card in my phone. Those don’t need to be on my phone, so I wouldn’t copy them back over to the freshly-formatted card. Err on the side of caution here, and if you don’t know what a file or folder is, copy it back over. Once you have everything you want and need copied back to the SD card, place it back in the phone and power it back on.
Once everything is up and running again, go into the app drawer and say “Dammit, Jerry, what happened to my apps!?” Some of your apps were partially installed to the SD card in a secure image when they were installed. Find those apps in Google Play and reinstall them to fix it.
Pro tip: This step is sort of a pain in the butt. It also can make a huge difference, so it could be worth doing. Either way, it’s not something you want to do very often, so think about upgrading that SD card when you do it. This is a perfect time to move to something faster and bigger than that Class 4 16GB card you bought when you first got your phone …
If all else fails, factory reset
Trust me: I hate resetting a device as much as you do. They take hours to set back up, and no matter how careful you were backing things up you always lose something. Not to mention all the game progress you are going to lose. But sometimes, things are so FUBAR that you just have to go here. Especially if you’re the type of person who just has to root and mess with things to make them “better.”
Factory resetting makes everything go away and returns your phone to the same condition it was in when you first opened the box. Firmware updates will still be in place, but things like your text messages and other data not in the cloud are gone forever. But sometimes, a fresh start is the best way to go.
You’ll find a way to reset your phone in the device settings. Look for words like backup and restore or privacy to find the exact entry. Once you find it, tap away and wave goodbye to all those Knights of Pen and Paper levels.
When things boot back up into Android, you’ll be nice and fast again, which is good because you’ll be spending plenty of time swiping and tapping to set everything back up.