Using "pm setInstallLocation" to free up phone storage


If you are running Android 2.2 and above, there is a simple way to free up more phone storage without rooting the device.

First you need to download and install the Android SDK. Now this is not as scary as it sounds. It is actually a pretty standard installer, and it will come it handy later if you plan on doing more hacking on your Android device. The reason for installing the Android SDK is to use a command-line utility in the SDK called "adb".

Next you need to download and install the USB driver for your device. If you using an Android device from one of the major manufacturers, this page should help you locate the driver.

Now select "Settings" on your Android device, then "Applications", then "Development", then make sure "USB debugging" is checked. After you have done that, plug the device into the USB port on your computer and make sure all necessary drivers are properly installed.

Open a command prompt and "cd" to the Android SDK folder. Then type "adb devices":

> cd \android-sdk-windows\platform-tools
> adb devices

You should see your device in the list of attached devices. If not, the USB driver for your device is not properly installed.

Now, issue this command:

> adb shell pm setInstallLocation 2

This lets you move applications that do not have A2SD support to external storage. The usual caveats apply i.e. you should not attempt to move widgets, input methods, live wallpapers etc. to the SD card. And system apps like Google Map etc. cannot be moved. But otherwise, eveything else is game, and you can free up quite a bit of phone storage by moving previously unmovable apps. In addition, every app you install from now on will go automatically to external storage (some of which you may have to manually move back to phone storage).

The nice thing about this method is you can easily revert the changes by issuing:

> adb shell pm setInstallLocation 0

The permissible values are:

0 - auto (default; OS decides where to install)
1 - force internal (forces apps to install on phone storage)
2 - force external (forces apps to install on external storage)

In fact, if your phone is already rooted, there is a free app called Move2SD Enabler in the market that does this in a nice GUI.

The limitation to this approach is that you are constrained by what you can move. Android's native A2SD only move application files, not library and data files, so some phone storage will still be used. However, for most users, this approach should free up enough phone storage with a minimum of fuss and complexity.

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