Sometimes, when an app has outlived its usefulness, you’ll want to uninstall it to make way for new ones. Uninstalling apps is easy enough: simply go to the Apps list, find the app, and hit the Uninstall button. But it’s not so easy to completely uninstall apps on Android.
Unfortunately, for those who like a clean file system, some apps will leave behind “orphaned files” after uninstallation on Android devices. These files were created by the app so that it can do its job if they weren’t properly deleted after the app was uninstalled. This can get annoying when your device’s system is slowly clogged up by files and folders that aren’t being used. The solution then is to find a way to reliably remove leftover app data.
Reduce the amount of data that’s left behind after uninstallation by clearing the data. This won’t always be perfect, but it’s a good solution if you don’t want to install any additional apps to do so. It’s also important to note that this task is performed before the app is uninstalled.
- Go into your device’s Settings. (This can vary from device to device, but you can generally get there from the Settings app or by pulling down the notification tray and clicking the gear icon.)
- From here, select “Apps & notifications,” “Application Manager,” or “Apps,” depending on your version of Android.
- Tap “App Info.”
- Select the app you want to uninstall and tap Storage.
- Select “Clear data” and/or “Clear cache.” Depending on the app, there may also be a “Manage data” option to clear additional settings and data. For instance, a browser app may have this option to delete bookmarks and stored passwords.
This will wipe the additional data the app has installed, which may give a cleaner uninstall.
When trying to figure out how to completely delete an app, you might have noticed some left over folders in your file manager app. This is another manual way to completely uninstall apps on Android.
You can either connect your device to a computer or use a file manager app. The app that comes pre-installed on your Android device works fine in most cases.
For me, File Manager is the default app. Whichever app you use, use the search feature to search for the name of the app you want to remove. Even just one unique word will help.
Only delete files and folders that you’re certain are only tied to the app you want to remove. It’s a good idea to back up your device before doing this just in case.
Connect to a Computer
If you’re trying to do a major clean on an Android device, using a file manager tool becomes tedious. After all, you might have dozens of folders and files left over from numerous apps that you’ve installed and uninstalled over the course of a year or more. One of the easiest ways to remove apps from Android along with all traces is to first uninstall the app as usual from Settings and then use your PC to remove residual files from your phone.
- Connect your device to your computer via a USB cable.
- Tap “Other USB Options” at the prompt. Alternatively, drag from the top to open the notification tray and select “USB charging”.
- Change the default charging option to “File transfer”. Depending on your version of Android, it may also say “File transfer / Android Auto”.
- If you connect your device to access files often, select “Always” to confirm your choice or “Just once” to only allow access this one time.
- Use your computer to browse files on your Android device and delete folders and files you don’t need. Your Android device shows up as the name of your device. For example, I have an LG Velvet and the folder shows up in File Explorer as Velvet.
Make sure you only delete folders and files you absolutely no longer need. Some files may go into Recycle Bin, but others are gone permanently.
If you’d prefer to do a proper clean (or just want a simple app solution), SD Maid is a fantastic way to remove leftover app data on Android phones. It’s a general cleanup app with some options locked behind a premium paywall. The ability to clean up dead files, however, isn’t locked away.
As soon as you run SD Maid, you’ll be given several options. The one you want is the morbidly-named “CorpseFinder.” Tap the name to see what it does, or tap the circular arrow on the right to begin.
It’ll hunt for files left over by uninstalled apps. After the search, it’ll tell you if it has found any files. You can tap on the “CorpseFinder” button to view the files it believes are orphaned or press the bin icon on the right to throw them away.
On the file results screen you can tap individual files to delete them or hold-press to batch-select files to delete. This is particularly useful if you want to target specific files that CorpseFinder has detected.
If you want to exclude a file, make sure no other files are selected, then hold-press the file you want to keep and select the pin at the top.
ES File Explorer
ES File Explorer is a little more feature-packed than SD Maid. It was removed from Google Play Store due to legal issues with its parent company. However, the app itself is still amazing and actively updated. You just have to download it using a third party store, like APKPure. You’ll need to allow the installation of apps from unknown sources, though.
At its heart, it allows you to organize files on your device as well as on devices on the same network as you. It also comes with a durable Cleaner tool which helps clean up dud files. It can pick up on APKs that are no longer needed, advertisement junk, and thumbnail files. For the sake of what we’re trying to do, however, we’re going to focus on how to completely delete an app on Android using this tool.
To use it, after installing ES File Explorer, use the Cleaner tool.
The app will then scan your device for redundant files. Any files that have been left over from installed apps will appear under “Residual Junk” on the results page. Feel free to also browse what else ES File Explorer has found to really give your file system a scrub.
You can tap a result to see its details and tap the checkmarks on the right to select/unselect files for deletion. Once done, hit “Clean Now,” and it’ll get rid of those pesky files for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I completely remove pre-installed Android apps?
If you’re like most users and hate all the bloatware that comes with a new device, you can remove much of it using the steps above. There are also other methods to remove bloatware without rooting your phone.
However, certain apps, especially Google apps and certain manufacturer and carrier apps, will require you to root your device for uninstallation. We can help you make this process relatively easy: use our guide to root your device with Magisk. You can also try rooting your Android phone with SuperSU.
Always back up your Android device before rooting it just in case something goes wrong.
2. What if I delete the wrong file or folder?
If you use a file manager app on your Android device, you may be able to recover the file or folder if the app has a trash folder or recycle bin. This completely depends on the app, though.
Ideally, you backed up your Android device before deleting anything. If so, use your backup to restore the file.
If the file or folder you removed was tied to a specific app, uninstall the app using your phone’s Settings. Then, reinstall it from Google Play Store or wherever you originally installed the app from. This will recreate the folder/file. However, any saved settings and data will be deleted.
3. How do I know if it’s okay to remove a file or folder?
If you aren’t sure whether a file or folder can be deleted safely, research its name using your favorite search engine.
Another option is to back up the file or folder to a cloud service or your computer. Then, remove the item from your Android device and verify that all apps and your device still work correctly. Even if they do, you should keep the backup for at least a few months.
If you can’t verify whether the file or folder is important, don’t remove it. Most leftovers aren’t that big, so they won’t take up much space at all. However, the more traces that get left, the less space you’ll have on your device. Over time, they can pile up and result in performance issues due to a lack of space on your device.
It’s a good idea to clean out trace files from uninstalled apps anytime you remove an app so they don’t take over. For example, I test apps often. After just three months, I removed nearly a gigabyte of trace files from uninstalled apps.
4. Why do some apps have a “Disable” option instead of the “Uninstall” option?
Such apps are usually Google, carrier, or manufacturer apps. They can’t be removed without rooting your device. However, you still have a way to keep them from running. Use the “Disable” option in Settings to do so. This removes settings and data, but keeps the app on your device.
5. Are trace files harmful?
No. The files that are left behind after you remove apps from Android are not harmful.
Image credit: andrekheren via Pixabay
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