Android smartphones are great, but they’re not immune to the ravages of time. While scratches or physical wear can be prevented with cases and mindful handling, it can be much harder to stop system slow down, which can creep its way into the user experience until one day your phone doesn’t feel quite so fast anymore.
When that happens, you’ll spend too much time trying to figure out what to blame for this system bog and how to fix it, a frustrating process when nothing feels like it’s working.
After culling your background apps and enabling/disabling features in an effort to get your phone’s performance back up to speed, it may seem your only option left is to reset your phone to factory defaults — but not so fast. There’s another step you should take before such drastic measures, and that’s to clear your smartphone’s app caches.
Clearing out the app caches — where apps store temporary files and other data — can be just as effective as a full-on factory reset for restoring your device’s performance and responsiveness. Better still, the process keeps your personal data, settings configuration, and installed apps intact (though some app data such as login information or locally-stored saved game files may be lost).
It’s possible that some of these cached files can eventually become corrupt, causing all manner of performance hang-ups like apps loading slowly or crashing, a laggy UI, or full-blown lockups that require hard resets. If your device is displaying similar symptoms, then clearing the app caches to remove the offending files will likely help return its performance to normal.
How to delete app caches on all Android smartphones
As mentioned before, wiping app cache won’t remove your personal files or system settings nor uninstall any apps, but it’s possible you may lose saved login credentials, saved games, and other temporary app data. If you want to keep these files, be sure to save them or perform a system backup first.
Also, if after you’ve performed the cache clean up and your device is still running slow, then it’s probably time to perform a full factory reset.
Android 9 Pie (9.0 and higher)
While this task used to require users to boot into recovery mode to access and delete caches, as of Android 7.1 and higher, Google has removed the option to batch-delete app caches from recovery mode even though the potential for problems caused by junk files hanging out in your cache remains the same.
Batch-delete caches with Files by Google
It seems strange that the only solution for batch-clearing app caches on Android Pie—Files by Google—is not a standard inclusion and must be downloaded separately. Still, it’s by far the easiest way to clear cached files available.
Download Files by Google from the app store. Be sure to give the app permission to access your storage and app usage during installation.
Open the app. It will automatically inform you of junk files, unused/unnecessary apps, and large files taking up extra space that you can delete.
Delete these extraneous files and apps to alleviate some of the bloat and hopefully solve any issues they’re causing.
Delete individual app caches in Android 9 Pie’s settings menu
While Android 9 might not include an option to batch-delete caches by default, if you don’t want to download Files by Google you can instead delete app caches individually from the System settings—fair warning, it’s tedious, and the more apps you have the worse it will be.
Open the Settings app on your device
Go to Apps & Notifications > See all
Tap the name of an app, then tap “Data usage”
Tap “Clear Cache”
Repeat for all apps
Android 8 Oreo (8.0)
If you are still running Android 8 Oreo, you can delete cached files by going to Settings > Storage > Cached data and then deleting the cache.
Older versions of Android
On the off-chance you happen to be running an even older version of Android, you can delete both system and app caches through recovery mode:
Turn off your Pixel device.
Press and hold the power and volume down buttons until your device boots into the recovery mode.
Select your preferred language
Select “Wipe Data and Cache” then “Wipe Cache”
Select yes to confirm
After the deletion process is complete, select “reboot” from the main menu to restart your device and complete the operation.
This story has been updated since its original publication.