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

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.