In Windows Phone 8.1 and newer, Microsoft includes a useful feature called Storage Sense that lets you manage how your handset utilizes its available storage. This feature is especially useful for those handsets that include microSD storage expansion, since you can offload many of your apps, games, and much of your data to this removable storage.
Note: Storage Sense is moving forward to Windows 10 for phones, but also for PCs and tablets. I’ll be looking at this evolved version of Storage Sense in a future article, but it works similarly to the version in Windows Phone 8.1 today.
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Here’s everything you need to know about Storage Sense.
Find Storage Sense. Storage Sense is a Settings app. In Windows Phone 8.1 and 8.1.1, you will need to scroll down the unsorted list of Settings apps to find it. In Windows Phone 8.1.2, you will find Storage Sense under Settings, System.
Understand the Storage Sense user interface. Storage Sense presents a graphical view of the storage in your phone and, if you have it, the installed microSD card. You can tap either of these items to dive deeper into either storage area, as you’ll see.
Determine where music, videos, podcasts, photos, apps and games, and downloads are stored. If you have a microSD card in your handset, you can use the four options at the bottom of the Storage Sense main view to determine where music, videos, podcasts, photos, apps and games, and downloads are stored. Note that this applies only to new items; if you were previously storing these items in the handset’s internal storage, they will remain there unless you move them.
See what’s taking up the most space. You can tap the Phone or SD Card (if you have one installed) bars to see which items are taking up the most space in storage.
Free up space. You can tap on individual items in this view—Apps & Games, Music, Videos, and so on—to dive even deeper in order to free up space. In the Apps & Games view, for example, you will see exactly how much space each app (and its associated data) is taking up and, in some cases, you can use the Select app bar button to select one or more apps and then uninstall them, freeing up space. In other views, like Music, you must manage space from elsewhere in the system, so you will see a Manage button which, in this case, brings you to the (Xbox) Music app.
Delete temporary files. If you scroll down to the bottom of the Phone list, you will see an item called Temporary Files. This works as it does with Internet Explorer in “big” Windows, so tap this item and then tap the Delete button to clear out any temporary files and save some more space.
Delete downloaded files. The Downloads item (which can be in both Phone and SD Card) contains files you’ve downloaded from the Internet. You can tap this item and then tap the Delete button to delete downloaded files and save even more space.
Move items from internal storage to microSD. If you have a microSD card installed, you can (and probably should) move as much data and apps/games from internal storage to the microSD card. (Some apps and games cannot be moved, but Storage Sense will alert you when that’s the case.) For example, to move as many apps and games from internal storage to microSD, open Phone and then Apps + Games, tap the Select app bar button, tap Select All, and then tap Move. This operation may take several minutes depending the size and number of the items you are moving. But the savings can be considerable.
Understand the System entry. If you scroll down to the bottom of the items in the Phone list, you will see an item called System that often takes up GBs worth of space. As Storage Sense notes, these files are essential to the operating system—they are in fact the Windows Phone OS itself—so there is nothing you can do to manage this storage. This is just the price of entry: on my Lumia 1520, for example, System takes up 3.22 GB of the 3.74 GB of used internal storage, or almost all of it.
Manually manage storage. Storage Sense can’t do it all. If you wish to move data like documents, pictures, music, or videos from internal storage to microSD, you can do so manually. On the device, you can use Microsoft’s Files app, which works like File Explorer in “big” Windows. But I find it’s easier to do this from a Windows PC: Just tether your phone to the PC and then use File Explorer to move files between internal storage and microSD. (From here you can access the Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Ringtones, and Videos folders on the phone and, if available, its microSD card.)