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Solved: contacts storage using up too much space on Android

March 25, 2011

I’ve been slowly falling out of love with my Android HTC Desire over the past few months. It’s been slowing down and frequently running out of space. The contacts storage on the device kept growing and growing – eventually reaching 40Mb – and because it could only be stored on internally and not on the SD card, it was killing everything else.

I tried a number of options – turning off sync on my Exchange account, turning off sync on my Gmail account, removing the Facebook and Twitter apps – none of them made a difference. Contacts storage kept on growing, to the point that I had to keep removing apps that I like just to keep the phone running. Eventually it stopped receiving email and there were no more apps to remove.

I started to wish I’d bought an iPhone.

But then I took some drastic action, and came up with a procedure to fix the issue. Here’s a step by step guide:

Step 1 – Turn off sync

Firstly, turn off sync. Go to Settings > Accounts & Sync and go through each of your accounts, stopping them from syncing with your contacts.

Step 2 – Backup your contacts

The following actions will not delete your contacts from your Gmail or Exchange accounts, but it’s always best to be sure in case something in your settings means that they do get deleted. It’s a small chance, but better safe than sorry.

In Outlook on your computer (I’m using Outlook for Mac), go to File > Export, select only Contacts and export them to a file on disk.

In Gmail on your computer go to Contacts then in the More Actions menu select Export and save all of your contacts to a Google CSV file.

Step 3 – Backup your phone contacts

Just in case you’ve got contacts that are only saved to your phone and not saved in Exchange or Google, go to People in your phone, press Menu, select Import/Export > Export to SD Card, and select to export your Phone contacts. In my case it told me there was nothing to save.

Step 4 – Delete your contacts storage

Now the big step. What we’re going to do is wipe your entire contacts database – settings, contacts, everything. Providing you’re like me and sync all of your contacts with Exchange or Gmail, then this should be no issue – as soon as you resync your contacts will return exactly as they are now. But if you’ve got contacts that you store locally only on your phone, then these will be wiped.

But don’t worry about that too much – you’ve backed all of those up hopefully in step three! So just need to restore them if you can’t find someone.

So go to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications and find Contacts Storage in the All tab. Press Clear Data and confirm that you want to clear. Your contacts storage will go from many MBs to zero.

Step 5 – Turn on sync again

This was the step that made me nervous. When you turn on sync, does it wipe all of your remote contacts, or does it reimport your remote contacts? Thankfully, it just reimports them all. Go to Settings > Accounts & Sync and re-enable sync for all of your mail accounts. It might take a few minutes, but your phone will reimport all of your contacts in the background.

That’s it!

That’s all I had to do. My contacts storage has gone from 40MB to 400KB and my phone is significantly faster and more responsive. And while I’m sure it will start to build back up again over time, at least I know how to fix it again in future. And let’s hope before then HTC or Google fix the issue.

Thankfully I don’t need to join the cult of iPhone quite yet…

Update: This post remains popular over a year after it was published so it’s obvious that lots of people have been having similar issues. I recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S3 and haven’t had any similar issues since, so it seems that the latest versions of Android do make the problem go away. So if you’re consistently having problems still, maybe an upgrade will help!

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29 Comments
  1. Obi-Shawn permalink

    I’m having a similar problem with the HTC Hero. My contacts file is around 56 MB, and I’m certain it’s all the Facebook updates/photos and such it downloads and saves. Saving to SD card would really solve the problem…

  2. Hi,

    Good find, I have the same problem on my HTC Desire and haven’t yet found a solution.

    Will give this a shot and let you know the verdict

  3. Paul Coxon permalink

    just stumbled across this blog post…having exactly the same problems so going to give it a try, thanks so much! :-)

  4. Hi,
    I have been having the same problem. My contacts file has been breeding like rabbits and squeezing everything out.
    Thanks so much for this. It works.
    Except that, even though I turned off sync in ‘accounts & sync’ the phone continued to sync with Gmail contacts. I hit the ‘stop sync’ button and then cleared the Contacts data file again.
    Because of all the syncing with Facebook and Gmail, I was getting duplicates upon duplicates!
    I now leave all syncing with Gmail & Facebook OFF. (the Gmail Calendar sync, never worked anyhow!)
    I now just sync with Outlook.
    I did the hard thing and waded through my Outlook contacts and deleted every duplicate. Then exported a copy for backup.
    I then deleted every contact in my Outlook, AND in Gmail AND my phone.
    I synced and my Contacts file dropped from 25mb to 2.5mb!
    Whew! I now have room on the phone to load up more fun stuff.

    So thanks
    Paul Wombat Johnson

  5. Seems to be working. Thank you!
    I went from 115 MB down to 9 MB, though it doesn’t appear to be done resyncing yet (after 15 mins!). Nonetheless, I’m sure it’s mostly finished, and the phone is now much zippier, which is awesome.
    Thanks again.

    -JC

    • Eh, ended up with 18 MB. Big improvement. I’m just wondering if there’s anything else I can do to trim this down a bit. I seriously doubt I have that many more contacts than, say, your average networker (~900, but I know people who have like 4,000 contacts!).
      If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears :)

  6. Ireti Akinroyeje permalink

    Dear Carl Eisenstein,

    Brilliant, thank you very much for this advice! It works!

    Very happy, although after almost 22 months with my HTC Desire, I am due for an upgrade next month ;)

  7. Thank you so much. I use my twitter and facebook for business and so had about 12,000 contacts in my phone that I didn’t know how to get rid of-they were using up 285mb! After having the phone a week it was nearly full. Great fix!

  8. hiren dabhi permalink

    Thanks! it solve my problem

  9. Thanks! It works perfectly!

  10. JEN permalink

    Insane. I went from 80mb (no exaggeration) to 2.7mb. Everything was explained so plainly yet in detail and the pics were a perk :) THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST!

  11. Hingreed permalink

    How do you utilize Outlook to back up the contacts that’s on your phone?

  12. yep worked for me too!
    my contacts storage went from 16ishMB to 1.45MB

  13. chorando permalink

    Worked a treat on HTc desire Contacts list went from 30mb to 786kb! Brilliant

  14. How do we know, how much space contact files is taking ? Also, in my gmail contacts, I only see my original ‘mail only’ contacts (except a few who have added their number in their gmail account) I don’t see any phone numbers. Now, why the hell did google think that I’d want same contact list in my phone as I have in gmail account ? If I sync, I get all the mail contacts in my phone book but NO phone contacts in gmail/contacts. Even on my old Nokia 5310, I could export/import contacts separately. Goolgle/Android integration stinks.

  15. epmccart permalink

    Thanks tons! Came across this post and it worked! My contacts file was *666* MB (if that’s not an interesting enough… and large enough… number), and this got it WAY down. We’ll see how long it lasts, but thanks!

  16. My contacts exploded, al set now. Thanks

  17. Larissa permalink

    Broke my USB, all contacts are saved on my sim so, do I need to back up contacts? Think I might just write down all the contacts I need. Just incase.
    Thanks for the help!

  18. Thank you, thank you. This was so helpful and totally solved the problem on my 3G slide.

  19. Moeen permalink

    I accidentally cleared contacts storage coz of my HTC legend running out of space (without knowing it actually wipes contacts). When I turned on sync. The contacts got deleted from my Google Accounts as well. Big loss.

  20. Thank you! This is a very nice tip. I will try it and share my experience.

  21. Thank you very much! this worked.

  22. dschwar1 permalink

    i had the same issue… completely resolved by wiping that f-in contacts storage file

  23. David permalink

    Thanks. This worked 2 years after your original post. Saved 50% of my storage,

  24. My galaxy note 10.1 was about to seriously crash when i decided for the same option , surprising was that the contact storage apk was like 6gigs and 0bytes of my 16gig internal mem wwas available. Now im fast again…

  25. Frenchie Frazier permalink

    I am confused as to which contact is ok to be deleted. Numbers are stored three places. All contacts , contacts, and iCloud. This takes too much space! Which is ok to delete?

  26. ha ha ha !!! nice trick… doesnt work !!! basically this trick doesnt have logic… once exported contacts will sync again from online accs. then how files size can be in kb’s??? good try…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Cómo arreglar la falta de memoria interna en Android | Get into Android blog
  2. Cómo arreglar la falta de memoria interna en Android | RC1 blog

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