Solved: contacts storage using up too much space on Android
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.
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 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!