If you’ve ever peeked in your Android app drawer, you’ve noticed that every app has two actions: Clear Cache and Clear Data. There’s also something called the “cache partition,” which isn’t the same thing as the individual app caches.
Why do these all exist? What are the differences? And most importantly, is it possible to clear them when you need to free up space on your Android device? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Android app data, Android app cache, and Android system cache partition.
Each installed app also gets its own directory for private data, located in the system’s /data/data directory. This directory is also inaccessible except by rooting your device.
As you use your various Android apps, certain settings and inputs get stored between sessions. For example, logging into an app and checking “Remember me” will store your details to private data. Data also stores things like account settings, app preferences, etc.
Some apps (like Spotify) may store offline audio data, while others (like Maps) may store offline map data. This can take up a LOT more storage space than you were expecting, so it can be useful to know how to wipe app data in case your storage space runs low.
When you clear app data, you’re essentially clearing all of the private data it has ever stored since you installed it and used it. In other words, clearing app data “resets” an app back to how it would be when first installed.
To clear app data for a specific Android app:
Generally speaking, a cache is a special kind of storage that holds frequently accessed files and data. The purpose of cache is to make future access to those files and data faster, because cache storage is optimized for quick loading. The downside is that cache storage is limited and takes up space on your device.
As you use an Android app, you may need to periodically pull data from the internet—for example, images. Instead of downloading a specific image every time it needs to be displayed on the screen, an app might store that image in the app’s cache. It’s immediately available the next time you need to display it, plus you save on bandwidth.
Note: App cache isn’t the same thing as the system cache partition on Android. Keep reading to learn more about that below.
Cached data is meant to be temporary, so there’s no harm or risk in clearing an app’s cached data. To clear the cache for a specific Android app:
On Android, the system cache partition is where temporary system files are stored. The system cache partition is located in the /cache directory, which is separate from individual app caches and remains inaccessible without rooting your Android device.
What kind of data is stored in the system cache partition? Mainly, system updates.
Prior to Android 7.0 Nougat, system updates were downloaded and stored in the system cache, then applied upon reboot. Starting with Android 7.0 Nougat, a new seamless update system was introduced that no longer uses the system cache for system updates. However, only newer Android devices are capable of using the seamless update system. If your device didn’t launch with the seamless update system in place, it won’t ever be able to use it—even if you eventually update to Android 7.0 Nougat or later.
For all Android devices that still use the system cache for applying system updates, it’s typically a good idea to wipe the system cache partition after a successful system update. This ensures that your system updates never use outdated files or data. There is no harm in wiping the system cache partition.
To wipe the system cache partition on Android devices: