There are perks and downsides to using WhatsApp, the world’s most widely used messaging app. An upside is that your contacts are more likely to be on WhatsApp, but at the same time, you also have to put up with those obnoxious good morning messages, expendable memes, and all sorts of unnecessary stuff that, once downloaded, will sit in your phone for eternity. But that growing pile can be particularly concerning on phones with limited internal storage, and with expandable memory becoming rare, it can be a challenge. Handling all the WhatsApp media and files running into several GBs can be a big and tedious task for sure, but here's our guide for cleaning WhatsApp photos, videos, files, and other stuff from your phone.
With WhatsApp, it's easy to identify chats using a lot of storage and may slow down your phone. Using the storage manager, you can easily sort the files by size and delete the ones you don’t need anymore or have already backed up. Here’s how you can get there:
- In the main Chats tab, go to Settings by tapping the vertical ellipses icon at the top.
- Head to Storage and data and select the first option that says Manage storage. There you’ll see the break-up of the storage WhatsApp is using, along with some suggestions and a list of chats sorted by size.
- Go into Larger than 5MB to glance at the files taking up the most storage across all chats, or tap on the first chat to reveal all the files you’ve received from that contact. They are sorted by size by default, but you can change that order from the hamburger menu at the top.
- Now you just have to select the media and files you don’t want anymore and hit the delete button. Removing a file from here also wipes it from your phone storage unless you’ve made another copy of it outside the default WhatsApp folder.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 with as many chats as required to reclaim most of the storage space.
There’s a good chance you only have a few (or single) contacts or groups that send a lot of junk. Instead of going the long way, you can simply get rid of their stuff from their chat window itself.
- When on their chat screen, tap the ellipses menu at the top-right corner and select Media, links, and docs.
- On the next screen, you’ll see all the files in that chat arranged by type. You don’t get the option to sort them by size, so you’ll have to scan the files manually.
- Select all the files and media that need to go and tap the trash icon in the top menu.
It can be tough to keep track of your phone’s storage when you have a bunch of contacts and groups sending you all kinds of photos, videos, PDFs, and whatnot. If you fall under that group, you’ll appreciate having some smart tools that make your life easier.
Files by Google
Files by Google was originally designed for super-cheap phones running Android Go-edition to help users manage meager phone storage. As it turns out, you can use the same AI smarts to filter out WhatsApp files that need to be trashed. The Clean section of the app gives you an overview of what’s taking up the most space and gives suggestions based on what’s there in those images.
Frair warning: The Files by Google app messes up identifying the image content sometimes. Although its fairly accurate, you'll want to take a quick glance at the app's recommendations before you get rid of your WhatsApp media.
Besides that, the Files app also highlights the WhatsApp images folder so that you don’t have to dig for the folder manually. That comes in handy if you prefer looking at all your WhatsApp media in one place instead of getting to them one chat at a time.
Save your photos to Google Photos
Google Photos continues to be the best photo management app for Android, and it’s no surprise that it works well for managing WhatsApp media, too. Of course, you'll what to keep your Google Photos feed organized, or you'll learn just how quickly 15GB of free Google Drive storage can disappear. Like Files, Photos also gives quick access to your WhatsApp media folders where you can back up any important stuff or get rid of what you don’t need anymore.
The backup feature on Google Photos is the most helpful. After the Google Photos app has backed up an important image or video on WhatsApp, you just need to use the Free up space feature, to remove it from WhatsApp
Neither of these two apps is ideal when organizing a ton of WhatsApp files, but they do help trim down the clutter quite a bit to make it more manageable. There are a handful of third-party apps that claim to automate the entire process, but we advise going against them. That’s because many of them do image processing in the cloud, and we're guessing you wouldn’t want your personal photos to end up on a no-name remote server.
How to keep WhatsApp from hogging your phone storage in the future
You’ll probably find yourself scrambling to clear your phone’s storage in no time if you don’t prevent WhatsApp from filling up the space again. There are a few simple things you can do to ensure that.
Save a lot of space on WhatApp by turning off media auto-download
Head to Settings > Storage and data and deactivate auto-download for all file and network types. Doing this will give you control over what files you want to download on your phone and which are best left unseen.
Hide your media visibility in the WhatsApp gallery
Those who just don’t want media shared on WhatsApp to show up in their phone’s gallery app can toggle it off from Settings > Chats > Media visibility. Instead of a universal rule, you can do that for individual chats and groups as well by going to their profile page > Media visibility > select no.
Note that doing this just won’t show the images and videos in the gallery app; they’ll still be downloaded in the default WhatsApp folder.
Use WhatsApp web if you live on your laptop
People who spend most of their time on a computer should use WhatsApp web for their chats. Media files viewed on the desktop naturally don’t take up any space on your phone, though they still remain accessible whenever you need to download them. This is particularly helpful for single-use files that would otherwise live on your phone storage until you got to them manually.
WhatsApp isn't the only game in town
Yes, WhatsApp is the app everyone uses to chat (unless you're in the US), but it's not the only awesome third-party messaging platform. Check out our favorite end-to-end encrypted messaging apps if you want to chat with your friends and family in private.