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Clear app cache or clear app data: how and when to use each

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Anybody who has ever encountered an app or software problem on Android may have been given the advice “clear app cache” or “clear app data”. These two solutions are often thought of as miracle cures for Android, but what is the difference between these seemingly similar operations? Well, that is exactly what we try to explain in this article.

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What is cache?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of app cache, let's try to understand what 'cache' is. In the simplest of terms, the cache is a reserved storage space that stores temporary data. This data is primarily used to help apps, browsers, and websites to load faster. Another way to remember it is to think of cache as a tool to speed up and offer a faster experience. Apart from offering a faster, smoother user experience, the cache also helps you reduce the amount of data that is processed and consumed.

Let me try to help you understand this using an example.

After restarting your phone, have you ever noticed how slow your camera app is to open at first, while each subsequent attempt is quicker? The increase in speed after the initial launch of an app is thanks to this cached data. Similarly, you might find that websites load faster on a second visit. This is because files such as images have been previously stored in the cache.

What does 'Clear app cache' mean?

Now that you understand what 'cache' really means, it is also easier to understand the term 'clear app cache'. When you perform this step, what essentially happens is that all the temporary data related to an app is manually deleted.

Now, there is often no need to manually manage cached data on Android smartphones because the system is very capable of doing this on its own without you even noticing it. However, if an app starts to misbehave or stop working, then you may be required to take this step as part of troubleshooting.

When you clear an app's cached data, you remove the temporary files placed there, and you'd be surprised how often this simple step works. You should also note, however, that it doesn't guarantee better performance, and the app may even be temporarily slower the next time it's used.

What does 'clear app data' or 'clear app storage' mean?

If you haven't noticed yet, 'clear app cache' and 'clear app data' ('clear app storage' on newer phones) are two distinct steps. What you should note, however, is that clearing app data is a more severe step. While the cache can be cleared with little risk to app settings, preferences, and saved states, clearing the app data will delete/remove these entirely.

Clearing data essentially reset an app to its default state: it makes your app act like when you first downloaded and installed it. For example, say you make changes to the settings of your favorite fitness app. You change the length of exercises and sound settings.

Clearing the cache will not affect these saved settings. Clearing stored data may, and likely will.

App storage option screen for the Facebook app
Clearing app data is now known as 'clear storage'. Note that this step will delete all your in-app preferences and settings / © NextPit

When should they be applied?

There are a few circumstances in which you may wish to clear app or cached data.

  • Firstly, to save storage space. Some apps can store several GBs of data that you no longer need (podcast apps are often guilty of this). In this case, you may wish to clear their data.
  • The other and more common reason is to reset an app to a default state if it has become problematic, buggy, or otherwise disruptive. 

How to clear app data or cached data?

On Android 11 and above follow these steps to clear app data or cached data.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Storage.
  3. Select Apps or Other Apps.

This will open a list of apps currently installed on your phone. By default, it will show you the apps with the most data used at the top. On older Android versions, you also get the option to sort the apps by size.

  1. Select the app you want to clear the cache/data.
  2. You will see two options: Clear storage and Clear cache.
  3. Depending on your intention, choose between either of these options.
  4. Once again, do note that 'clear app data' or 'clear app storage' is the more drastic of the two options and should only be used if you have big issues with an app or if you are really running low on storage space.
Steps to clear cache on Android 13
Since Android 11, the steps to clear cache or storage remained mostly the same as above / © NextPit

If you are on an older version of Android, you have the option to clear all cached files with a single click. To do this, all you need to do is to go to Settings > Storage > Cached data and select Clear Cache. This option is no longer available on newer Android versions including Android 10 and 11.

Clear all cached data notification on Android Marshmallow
On older Android versions, going to Settings > Storage > Cached data gives you a one-tap solution for removing all cached data / © NextPit

A word on "performance-boosting" apps

There are many apps that claim to "boost device performance" but often this just isn't true. In many cases, these apps merely provide a one-touch button for ending processes and clearing the cache, both of which are largely unnecessary on today’s Android platform.

You can, and should, do this manually if it is ever required, but don't make it a habit.

So, cleaning your app when your phone is running slowly or the memory is full could seem like the best option in the short run, but it could have consequences in the long term, which is why you shouldn't do it too often.

Final thoughts

There is no “better” or “worse” option when it comes to clearing the cache and clearing app data. Both processes have their purpose.

Your first step towards fixing a problematic app should be clearing the cache, as this is the least intrusive method for quickly fixing apps. If that fails, or if you wish to free up a larger volume of storage space, then clear the data. Just remember that anything stored or saved in the app, including audio, video, or image files, will also be removed. 

Has that cleared up your concerns regarding app data and cached data? If not, tell us in the comments.

This article was last updated in May 2022. Older comments have been preserved.

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David McCourt

David McCourt

David enjoys staying abreast of the latest technology and newest Android apps. Outside of the office, he can be found playing snooker and writing bad 00s indie songs.

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  • 1
    MMoore 6 months ago Link to comment

    Does clearing data on the text app get rid of all the tests???

  • 1
    Ester Madibo 6 months ago Link to comment

    Wow ! this is awesome am now quite clear about clearing of cache coz u guys have putting the understanding of this in a chronological manner which i do think almost everyone will understand the issue of clearing cache . Thanks for your knowledge-based n have a Beautifull weekend chao .

  • 1
    Denise Silas 7 months ago Link to comment

    The question I asked which apps are okay to clear data that you won't lose important information. EXAMPLE IF I CLEAR DATA FROM ONE OF MY GAMES APP

  • 1
    Denise Silas 7 months ago Link to comment

    What apps are okay to clear data from

  • 5
    william joe Jul 29, 2022 Link to comment

    Open the Settings menu on your Android phone and select Apps from the list.
    Depending on your Android version, you might get an option to open installed apps, all apps, enabled, disabled, and other apps.
    Choose the appropriate option and navigate to the app whose cache you need to clear.

    Hope these steps of clearing cache help you too

  • 1
    Elana Jul 27, 2021 Link to comment

    Do you know if clearing the cache or data would delete Instagram Reels Drafts specifically? I have three drafts that are not working and keep giving me the notification "Oops, something went wrong". Reels takes a very long time to make so I'm really worried about this and trying to figure out how to retrieve them since IG no longer gives me the option to download the video I'm creating. thank you!

  • 2
    YossiD Aug 21, 2020 Link to comment

    It looks like I need to reinstall an app in order to get it working properly again, and I'm concerned that I will lose app data (the same that would be lost if I select Clear Data. To be safe, I'd like to make a backup of those data before doing the uninstall/reinstall. How can I find where those data reside on the phone in order to make a backup?

  • 1
    Jenny Solomon Apr 8, 2020 Link to comment

    Is there a way to clear former usernames under "access data" without affecting anything else, such as your archived photos?

  • 1
    Mohammad Forhad Mar 18, 2020 Link to comment

    Hi, just wondering if I select "Clear Data" for WhatsApp app. would I have to verify/activate my WhatsApp account again? Or I can use it as it is?

  • 1
    Rad-Dad 36 Jan 24, 2020 Link to comment

    It's been a long time since I heard someone speak articulately plain English about smartphones.
    Thank You So Much for your articles.

  • 1
    586 362 0043 Dec 15, 2019 Link to comment


  • 1
    Smthompson Dec 11, 2019 Link to comment

    If you cleared Data by mistake is there any way to recover it without pricey recovery applications?

  • 1
    Gil Grape Nov 23, 2019 Link to comment

    I have a zte and I cleared the cache but playstore is still saying I don't have enough memory to update an app. Should I clear the data from some of the apps or what?

  • 1
    Olivia Nov 2, 2019 Link to comment

    I have a lg g stylo and lg stylo 3 so it I clear my data I'll lose everything on my android?

  • 1
    Kaguiri Fraltoditas Sep 29, 2019 Link to comment

    If I clear data of Instagram, will it logout of all accounts?

  • 1
    Patrick Stovall Sep 4, 2019 Link to comment

    So if i were to clear data in my files, which is nearly 4GB big for some reason, would i lose all of my pictures, like even the ones saved to my SD card or cloud

  • 1
    nic the coward Jun 4, 2019 Link to comment

    so for example, if i were to clear data from OneDrive, would that delete the files i have on my onedrive account as well?

  • 1
    Fred V May 17, 2019 Link to comment

    Curious and fearful of my local storage, if I delete the app data of YouTube while signed in, will I lose my search history, watch history and comments?

  • 2
    Aries albert Feb 20, 2019 Link to comment

    Thank you so much. This is really helpful.

  • 25
    Deactivated Account Oct 8, 2018 Link to comment

    Google Play Store in my smartphone was misbehaving / malfunctioning for a few days. I cleared its cache and after that magically it started working normally.

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