If your WhatsApp conversations are anything like my Facebook ones, they’re probably stuffed with piles of GIFs, pictures, and videos. This normally isn’t a big deal, because all this content gets stored on a server somewhere — out of sight, out of mind.
But on WhatsApp, everything in your conversations is stored on your device. Since it’s not a cloud messaging service, you should check your phone from time to time to make sure your many files aren’t eating up valuable storage space.
WhatsApp is making this process a lot easier by introducing a storage manager feature to the app, but you’ll have to grab the new WhatsApp beta to try it out. This means it’s only really applicable for Android users, but I wouldn’t dawdle. You might be shocked at how much space you’re wasting thanks to all the files from your various WhatsApp chats.
To get started, hit up the Google Play Store and enroll yourself in the WhatsApp beta. You can always leave later if you’d rather go back to a stable app, and this shouldn’t impact your existing conversations or settings — not unless WhatsApp really screws up something in one of its beta tests. (I’d make sure to back up your conversations just in case before going from beta back to regular.)
Once you’re enrolled in the beta, make sure you use the Play Store app to update WhatsApp to the latest version of the app. Launch WhatsApp, and tap on the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner. From there, tap on Settings, and then tap on the “Storage and data usage” option. Finally, tap on “Manage storage.”
If you see a storage bar, you’re using the new interface for the feature that makes it much easier to clean up your WhatsApp storage than before. (If you don’t see it, WhatsApp probably hasn’t activated this feature for your beta account yet. Hang tight, and check back later to see if it appears.)
Below that, you’ll see a few lists depending on how you’ve been using WhatsApp, including your conversations (and how much space the files within them are taking up), as well as sections highlighting forwarded files you’ve received, and any gigantic files that are within spitting distance of the app’s 100MB limit. You won’t see the last two in my above screenshot, as I’m not a heavy WhatsApp user, but you can see a better example in this post from WABetaInfo.
Tap into any of these sections, and you’ll get a list of all the applicable files. You can sort these by newest/oldest/largest by tapping on the filter icon in the upper-right. Otherwise, long-press on individual files to select them (or use the handy “Select all” toggle), and you can favourite them using the little star icon or delete them using the trash can.
There’s no “recycle bin,” “recently deleted,” or anything like that, so you get one shot at this. And, of course, make sure you go through your favourite Android photo- or file-browsing app once you’re done to delete any copies of your own content that remains on your phone.
Going forward, you can also use the “Media auto-download” settings — found at the bottom of WhatsApp’s Storage and data usage screen — to ensure the app isn’t downloading anything in the background and filling up your storage whenever your chatty friends upload files to your conversations. Turn everything off, and you’ll be able to dictate what gets put on your device (and when).