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Microsoft clarifies how ‘Other storage’ works on Windows Phone 8 GDR2

Over the weekend, we posted an in depth article on the ‘Other Storage’ issue prevalent on Windows Phone 8 GDR1 devices. The problem is that for some users that area fills up with a lot of data, often of an unknown origin, with no way to gain it back besides a hard reset. From 2 to 10 GB, users have had their data disappear and it prevents them from installing new apps or games due to the restricted size. Case in point, our Lumia 720 has 2.4 GB of Other storage, which can be severely limiting on a device where you only start with around 5 GB.

Two things need to be separated here before going forward: the bug and the architecture of the OS. It is true that with GDR1 devices (any phone below OS build 10327) there is a bug related to uninstallation of XAP files for app installation than can leave remnants behind. While for small apps, this is not a big deal, if you uninstall or download a trial of say NOVA 3 (1 GB) it can have a devastating effect on space.

But there is also the design of the OS. In other words Windows Phone 8 is meant to have some space occupied by Other storage as a way to cache frequently accessed media, graphics, app and game data for fast, offline loading. That’s not a bug but the architecture and it can’t really be “fixed”.

Starting with Windows Phone 8 build 10327 (aka GDR2 devices), the bug is supposed to be addressed. This was tweeted by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, who oversees the Windows Phone team. We clarified that while it appears to be ameliorated, users will still lose some gigabytes of storage due to the Other category. On our Lumia 1020, we only have 2 GBs of apps/maps installed and 300 MBs of photos, but are up to 2.6 GB of ‘Other’. So far, that has not inched upwards, thankfully.

Now, Belfiore has responded to another question on the matter, going into a bit more detail:

“GDR2 fixes situations where the OS didn't clean up some files. So, it will grow, but it will then shrink properly…Also, know that Other includes stuff you *want*-- like email attachments. So it doesn't go to zero when these are present.”

In other words, Other storage should now be more dynamic than in the previous release. We have seen some isolated reports that when using an app like Shrink Storage, as the device approaches 100% completely-filled space, Other Storage visibly drops down in response.

Setting expectations

"Other" storage

That’s good news for users so long as expectations are kept within check. If you have a 32 GB device, seeing your Other Storage hovering around three or more gigabytes of data may be the norm of using Windows Phone 8. The problem of course is what people assume is “normal”. Lack of information on what can occupy that space and the reality that even though you have less than 3 GB of data installed, you can have more than 3 GB of Other storage, can cause users to still feel a bit robbed.

The other problem, pardon the pun, is what you’re buying. When you start on a 32 GB device, you really only have 26 GB of actual available space (OS installation, etc.). Now subtract 2 to 3 gigabytes for Other Storage and you are down nearly 10 GB from what you thought your device came with.

That’s a perception issue for consumers buying these phones. While we can spend all day writing articles and trying to explain this material, the fact is that most customers will never know any of this information. They will just see that they bought a 32 GB phone but only have 22 GB available after a few days of usage, with not much to show for it.

The good news is we should see a significant drop off in those horrifying reports of people with 10 or 15 gigabytes of Other storage, rendering their phone useless for daily use (we had one report of a user who had lost so much space, they couldn’t even place a phone call). But as we said above, make sure you have your expectations set. You will still sacrifice a few gigabytes for Other storage, once you upgrade to GDR2, something that should be going more widespread in August. Fingers crossed.

Update: For those suffering from a bloated Other Storage on their GDR1 device, if and when you can finally update to GDR2, the installation will fix and remove those 'bad' files, thereby fixing your situation. You should see a noticeable decline in your Other Storage upon finishing. 

Source: Twitter; Thanks, Tomi V., for the tip

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

230 Comments
  • Other storage isn't a problem for us Nokia users
  • Yes, it is. Once again, you are confusing Other Storage with Temporary files. Read our articles first.
  • The 'Other' storage thing is confusing for an average user. When I first used Nokia's Storage Check it cleared out over 3GB from the 'Other' storage. So there must be some link with the 'Other' storage and 'Temporary' files? I still have >5GB in 'Other' though.
  • Oops, and here I thought temporary files were the other on the device... well I'm a idiot for that, I thought I had 177MB of other, turns out. I have 1.1GB of other!
  • Good Answer. Daniel Rubino I am quite annoyed by these Nokia fan boys...whenever I mention this problem they always suggest me to use Lumia Storage Check.........and  my response WTF....   and the funny thing is they can't listen anything more than that.   anyway I am quite surprise that "other storage" is not a bug but the architechure problem.  
  • With All this other storage issue, they should just give us permission to install apps on microSD card then quite a few headache goes away including concern for 8GB phone.
  • +10000
  • I wish we had this feature as well.
  • true!
  • Keep Dreaming.......Microsoft will never provide this feature. But if they do(which is not gonna happen), I'll be very happy about it.
  • I wouldn't hold my breath, mainly becase quite a few WP8 phones do not support micro SD cards (although most of these seem to have larger amounts of in phone storage). It would be nice, but I would be surprised is this happens.
  • I don't quite get it, so can somebody please tell me why MS will have an issue about allowing app installation on SD cards? Obviously the lack of storage space for app installation would mean lesser apps being installed in devices, which is detrimental to the WP ecosystem in general.
  • Or put Other Storage on the SD card?
  • you should report on how the nokia lumia storage app handles this other storage
    in settings>phone storage>phone it says i have 4.69gb music+video, 20.22mb pictures, 3.47gb apps and 1.95gb other with 1.71gb system and 17.28gb free space but in the lumia storage check app it says i have 4.4gb apps, 5.7gb media and files, 1.6gb system and 17gb free space.
    in details the apps break down to 3.8gb apps and 631mb app data, 107mb maps, 147mb temporary files, 20mb photos, 4.7gb music+video, 1.2mb office documents, 135mb email+contacts, 0kb rintones, 1.6gb system and 656mb other i say that the lumia storage app gives a better breakdown of what is exactly on your device i mean, 1.95gb other and 656mb other are drastically different dont you think...
  • But those 656 are included among other things like map and app data on the 1.95
  • exactly.. hence the confusion... they should have just named it app data instead of other because hun=man nature wants to know what exactly these other files are and how to remove them initially i thought that everything the apps downloaded(because they are sandboxed) were included under the apps section so i was baffled at how my other grew to 9gb... the problem, i know now but not them, was because i downloaded the entire nokia maps data base. all of it if i had the nokia storage app i would have had to reset my phone... MS should rename that whole other nonsense... i am happy with app data i wouldnt want to delete it as much than a this so called other
     
     
     
     
     
  • +1
  • Ya Dan I have 3.4 GB in other storage its been as high as 8.1 GB, but it now hovers just over 3.0 GB's.
  • Incorrect.
  • Sorry,but Nokia actually addresses only temporary storage &not other storage.
  • My 820 has 2.1 gb of "other"..
  • Shit! My 925 is saying 1GB, but after Shrink Storage it was cut down in half
  • My 810 says 3.5 and storage check doesnt even work on my phone.
  • Owned
  • 5 gigs in other for me.
  • -1
    You're wrong. I only have 2.6 GB of storage left on my Lumia 920. Expandable storage for media files should be available on all the high end Nokia WP8 devices as well. I have 5.7 GB of 'Other' storage.
  • +1
     
    I'd love to see Nokia or HTC give the High End microSD card support. 
  • Got to over 10GB on my Lumia 822 before finally doing a hard reset.  Sitting at +4GB right now.  There are definitely installation files left over that shouldn't be when installing apps.
  • I had the same problem with my L900.  "Other" kept growing for no good reason until I had to do a Hard reset.  That brought things back to normal and it didn't continue to grow and grow after that.
     
    I haven't seen a similar problem with my 920, although I do purge "Other Storage" very week or so, usually frees up a half a Gig or so, but sometimes not that much.  "Other" storage stays around 0.4 Gb even when I 'Purge' it - so that's probalbe a lot of email atachments etc.
     
    Basically, my L920 has been fine.
  • How do you "purge" the Other storage?  I thought that was part of the problem (without GDR2), that you couldn't purge anything in Other.
  • Talk for yourself pal, for me it is a problem.
  • My 820 has 2.8 gb of other :( is that ok?
  • I can't be sure, sorry. It depends of the apps you have installed and the accounts you have set up in your handset.
  • Its 'normal' according to MSFT... my Other storage is 4GB!
    http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c236/purple11/wp_ss_20130730_0001_zps2...
  • Sorry pal, not even Nokia is perfect.
  • No true.  I have Nokia 810 on T-Mobile (aka 820 on ATT), and we never received update.  Still on version 8.0.10211.204.  I was pissed when T-Mobile discountinued 810 less than 6 months of its release.  T-Mobile is testing GDR2 on the 810, and I hope they'll give it to us.
  • Ha! Don't drag me into this. Being on Nokia 810 is like not being with Nokia @ all ;)
  • So much for being first to comment :P
  • I have a Nokia Lumia 928 (32GB) and it's got 9.2GB sucked up by 'Other'.
  • So, what happens for the people on GDR1 (or below) that uninstalled something, and it didn't fully clean up after itself.  Does upgrading to GDR2 retroactively go and clean up these stubs or are they forever screwed until they do a hard reset?
  • would like to know this too
  • Yes, believe it or not, when you update the OS it will clean it out. No worries there.
  • When we use Nokia's solution, I see that the album thumbnails for SkyDrive folders within "Photos/Albums" no longer have pictures associated with them and turn to just gray tiles.
  • Thanks for adding that note, I've been wondering this exact thing for a while now.
  • The problem is, when does the cleaner come anyway, late 2013? you say it as if we can update now :P
  • Valid question!
  • All we ask for is control over the other storage. I don't mind the other storage.
  • Yes, they should add an option to wipe all the cache.
  • I wouldn't ever use that. What they should do is finer grained options on file types to both cache and wipe. Like Clear Email Attachments/Don't Cache Email Attachments. As long as I can save email attachments that I want to keep, I don't need the pictures from my ATT bill cached. But I may want to cache other stuff.
  • So the 'shrinkage' Joe refers to may start to eat away at whatever Other Storage i happen to have on my 920 post GDR2? - 4gb in my case (according to the Nokia storage check app)
  •   Pretty much like I explained in the previous thread; If you read up on the technical reasons why this is, there is is a collection of (temporary) system files, attachments and 'app specific temp. files' and the OS may grab as much space as it can for this purpose. Where it goes wrong is when apps put stuff there the OS does not expect and so is not aware of it (and the mentioned .XAP files). As a result on a 'cleanup' these files are not removed. The correct information on this is out there but got kind of shoveled under by the plethora of people who were under the impession that having a 2-3GB 'Other Storage' allocation meant they had a problem while in fact that alone does not imply a problem at all. If your 1020 has 2.6GB of 'Other Storage' it should start to get smaller as you need more space upto the point the minimum required amount of space is used. On my GDR1 L620 this area never goes over 700MB.
  • Other storage in my L620 is between 600 and 700mb. I think it is working as intended. I dont play games so games may be the problem.
  • In my L620, Other storage size is 1.1 GB 
  • I'm getting pwned with 2.36gb on my other storage for my L620. I only use RSS apps and reddit picture feeds (no games except online chess). Might be time to run shrink storage again. 700mb sounds more reasonable.
  • That could be the problem of why your "other storage" is extremely large. The OS is trying to store some of those files so that when you view them again, it's not eating away at your data package.
  • Other storage is just like the Other Storage or Reserved Space in Zune... for squirting songs or Guest Syncing mode.
  • Lol i forgot that was called squirting
  • What about T-Mobile 8X?! .. When will they get GDR2??
  • Based on HTC's track record.... Never
  • You should say..T-Mobile's track record
  • I call BS on both comments.  My HD7 regularly got timely updates from T-Mo, GDR1 update was timely, and so far T-Mo 8X is the only US phone even rumored to have the update ready to go.  Just becuase we all saw the release date of last Monday and it is a week late, doesn't mean that they are sitting on the update and choosing not to release it.  It's more likely they are fine tuning to make sure that the phone doesn't brick, like the unlocked versions did.
  • Don't listen to the sarcastic clowns. http://www.wpcentral.com/t-mobile-us-htc-8x-receive-gdr2-update-july-22nd
  • I have also 2.6 GB of storage in other now too on my 1020. I think the issue has been resolved. I had 6 GB on my 920. I have just about every game and app from my 920 now on my 1020. Cheers
  • Even temporary files don't clear on my 521
  • Even on the desktop pc you can't clear every temp files.
  • this comment makes no sense. on a desktop pc, right click the c: drive, and click properties. Near the pie graph detailing free and used storage, there is a button that says "disk cleanup". this will allow cleaning of temporary files.
     
    if you meant you cant remove a 521's temp files using a pc, then that is moot. the pc app for windows phone is designed to manage media. thats it.
  • I'm taking about files some is still attached so some programs and you can't clean everything.
  • if i understand what your saying properly, than correct. However, it seems odd when you have 200MB of unclearable temp files for months. temp files are supposed to be temporary, so if they are not being used as temporary files, then they are storing them in the wrong place.
  • 26GB of usable storage on a 32GB phone? My 920 had 29GB. My "Other" stays within the 700+MB range when I access Storage Check. When I just go into the system area, it says around 2GB. Do I go by what's in Storage Check or system?
  • Lumia 920 does show a total of 29 GB. Of that 29 my storage check says the system uses 1.6 GB. So subtract your system storage from the total and that would be how much available space u have for media, apps, other, etc.
  • Mine actually did. I have an unlocked Rogers 920 and checked this the day I got it, prior to adding any apps and music. I also uninstalled a number of things I didn't need since I'm in the US and on T-Mobile, not Rogers.
  • I'd like a better understanding of the "other storage" all together. Like what exactly is it comprised of, what contributes most to it, and how long does it take for the OS to release whatever parts of it aren't necessary. Also (and this is where I shoot myself, and this whole thread in the foot) do other OS's have something similar?
     
    I'm glad I got the L925, but I probably would have kept using my L810 a little longer if the other storage wasn't weighing it down. I'm starting to lean more in the same direction as a lot of other people as far as wanting more space on my phone(s). If this is really something that can't be avoided there should be some minimum space requirements on the phones. 'Cuz 8gb's goes away hella fast.
  •  
    Other storgage basically is your phone's scratchpad.
     
  • It was intended to be a reserved kind of space for your OS to cache temporary files to for easy access (emails, saved documents, saved songs on some apps etc.). So it really doesn't do much apart from letting the OS grab things before you open them for a fast/smooth experience. That's that unless you want a detailed/technical explanation and that I can't provide. Heh.
  • Email attachments,profiles of person on people hub,app data like here maps data,game saves
  • If the "Other" is related to the OS, perhaps Microsoft should have not separated it and simply put those files along with the "System". That way consumers would better understand and it would be more clear and honest.
    We have Xgb of apps, Xgb of media usage and Xgb of system usage.
    Either that or allow us to see exactly what's stored in the "Other" and delete what we want to delete and not assume we *want* all the stuff that's there.
  • Then people would see that their system files growing constantly which would lead to rumors of OS being bloated and buggy. If GDR2 fixes this issue to a reasonable amount, I think it's fine. Although no reason for an app like "Storage Check" not being able to control caching. It wouldn't really change the experience for average user and WP is all about average user with closed ecosystem and lack of any kind of modifications.
  • I would like to know what the comparison is in regards to storage with the other platforms...it's not like all operating systems don't use the space somehow. =[
  • The best way to approach this issue is to backup before you upgrade to GDR2 and then do one final Hard Reset to set things right. Otherwise, those stale xap files of uninstalled apps will still be there unless we install and uninstall the same app again to address this problem.
  • Except that MS is also being incredibly slow on providing a solution to backup game progress, making this a terrible solution for many if not most people. This is another thing (like orientation lock) that boggles the mind it is still an issue three years on.
  • Do I get to keep my game saves? I think not..
  • Yeah well, the game progress save features are more the responsibility of the developer than Microsoft. As stated earlier by Microsoft, there are already means for them to do so to Windows Azure, but the developers are supposed to bake them in.
  • If I recall correctly, Azure is the cloud solution of Microsoft. That totally makes sense because save files are enormous./s How about putting them together with the "Other Storage"?
  • The backup functionality in WP8 is just plain old terrible. It just reinstalls the programs you had and your texts. The contacts will come back by setting up your account.
    Here is what is really terrible about it though: It doesn't work if the phone your phone doesn't have its APN information pre-set to your carrier. Unlocked phones sometimes aren't an issue as they'll auto-configure but the unlocked T-Mobile 8X that I use for my parents lines on AT&T does NOT allow restoration. It's preconfigured with T-Mobile APN and no auto-configure on first boot. Since WP8 doesn't allow you to connect to WiFi before doing the setup and it doesn't let you initiate a restore after the initial setup you're fucked. Also it is terrible for anyone on a limited data plan because it forces you to use the cellular connection to begin the restore. If you're in a 4G area it will probably download at least 100MB before you're able to get into the wifi settings and connect to your network.
  • My Other hovers around 1Gb on Vodafone 32Gb Lumia 925
  • Lumia 925 with 32 GB!? I didn't know that!
  • Vodafone exclusive :(
  • Hopefully this update comes soon then because my other storage is at 9.33GB...
  •  The best thing to do is Microsoft give to us, owners of WP devices, the option to clean the other storage. Like in Android, where you can clean cache or data. Ok, we know it has information that the apps may need, but if we need space, clean this space must be available, and use all our applications as if it were the first time.
  • That shouldn't be necessary. Space is freed up as you need it. Assuming it works.
  • I need it when trying out a new game from Marketplace.. does it free it up than? Or give me an error that I dont have enough storage?
  • You do realize that even on Android, scrubbing the cache and data does NOT remove all the OS and App generated data that is left laying around?
     
    The way WP8 does this is not wrong, it is just hard for people to get their heads around. 
  • The WP does it IS wrong. Other storage should never get to 10GB. This is NOT an issue on Android.
  • +925
  • I think the problem is the fact that these files are labeled with the generic term "other". If MS would be more descriptive with what exactly the space is being used for, it would bring clarification to end users. If it's being used by email attachments (or whatever), for goodness sake's make an app that says exactly what the files are.
  • It only took what, about a year?
  • Probably more than a year by the time everyone has access to it. Still don't have it on my ATT Lumia 920, 2 T-Mobile 8X's, or Rogers ATIV S. 
  • WP8 handles storage terribly, I seriously want the option of a 64 GB Lumia 9xx device. Crossing my fingers for that when GDR3 arrives. Seriously, is a 64 GB Lumia 935 (T-Mobile) too much to ask for in 2014?
  • I still don't understand the ruckus. Um, do "other storage" analogs not exist on other platforms? I mean, I know I ran into this quite frequently on my fruit device as I used work email, etc quite extensively. I regularly reset the device to just do a clean sweep. Perhaps they should just offer a setting to allow users to control whether they want performance or storage optimized.
  • The ruckus, as explained in the article, is two fold: the bug in GDR1, which is pretty severe for some and two, the perception of how much space should you actually have.
  • It's a tricky issue. It wouldn't be a bad idea for future releases to have a setting that controls the max amount of space other storage can use. Frankly, I haven't have a problem on my 920, but allowing users to put a cap on it could help with the issue by putting control in users' hands, with a big warning that it will likely increase data usage by requiring more syncing etc. If a user tried to install an app and the other storage cap was set too low, it would tell them to increase it and retry the installation.
  • Yup, agreed, it is tricky both for explanation and management, if at all possible (MS so far seems reluctant to allow users to manage certain aspects of the OS e.g. closing apps).
  • This was my thought also. Just as you are able to limit the size of the swap file on desktop Windows, there should be a user adjustable limit on how much space is used for OS scratch room. They could make it a selectable drop down (ex: 2gb, 4gb, 6gb, 8gb), with information about what this setting may effect as far as OS performance.
  • +1 It's not too hard both for Microsoft and users
  • I can't get GDR2 fast enough!!!!!!!! I factory reset my phone monthly just to be able to use it.  I download and try apps, sync pics to skydrive, lots of email etc and the other storage has almost made me want to throw my phone.  Recently, low memory has caused operating issues with the phone as well.  I have to try to stay around 1GB free space to prevent issues.
     
    I am sooooo glad a fix is on its way; I just hoping that it works.
  • I have 7.19 GB in Other storage on my L822. This update can't arrive soon enough. I had to delete so much to install Halo... :-\
  • So by this "clarification" what they're really saying is that there will never be a fix to it so don't expect it. This comes after months of wp8 was release to the general public. Such BS.
  • The article...not sure you read it.
  • I did read it, you wrote yourself that this other storage can deem the device unusable. The fact is there's an expectation that this will be addressed or fix in gdr2 when it comes out now there's more explanation as to why this happens and from the sounds of it likely won't be really addressed. Bottom line its an issue otherwise you wouldn't written about it.
  • having a few hundred MB in "other" isnt an issue. Android and iOS devices have an "other" all the same. GDR2 fixes a bug in WP8's clearing mechanism that kept it from removing old and unnecessary files, as well as failing to remove unnecessary files upon near max memory, from other. Theres no "fixing" other because its not something to be fixed. your phone would fail to work properly without it.
  • Read again? Or actually read for the 1st time?
  • Do I need to mention the little elf with pixie dust again
  • I'm sick of Microsoft and their behaviour. 2GB "other" on a device, which has around 6GB free memory by default (which is pretty every device below a Lumia 920)?!? That's 30% loss!
    What's even more annoying: There is no practical way to expand memory on WindowsPhone. SD-card-management is absolutely buggy and crumpled. First, it only let's you store pictures and music (and maps), but no apps or documents. Bummer. But then the OS seems to constantly mount and unmount the SD-card, so that phones with SD get horribly laggy.
    Microsoft, that's pure genius: Fuck up the internal memory Fuck up the only way to add external memory Take AGES to react on thes issues. If Microsoft wants to compete on the mobile market, they should step up the pace. And by that, I mean REALLY speed up.
  • Never had that mount/remount issue (sounds hardware in nature to me) but losing 25% of your space definitely isn't fun.
  • Not sure if it's really the OS remounting the SD, but haveing a memory card in the phone seems to slow down the overall reaction speed. Escpecially taking photos gets noticably laggy, with a delay of over two seconds for the first picture. After that, pictures