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How to use the Google Pixel's Smart Storage feature

Google has made it really easy to free up space on your Pixel phone.

Josh Miller/CNET
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No matter how much storage your Pixel phone ($426 at Amazon) has, odds are you'll eventually have to free up storage space on your device.

It's never fun to have to pick through apps or photos and videos to decide what stays and what goes, but Google is making it easier than ever to do with its Smart Storage feature.

You can let Smart Storage do its own thing, periodically running in the background, or you can manually trigger a sweep of your phone's storage to clear space on demand. Here's how to set up and use both methods.

Automatic cleanup

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To access Smart Storage, open the Settings app, then tap on Storage > Manage Storage.

Here you can enable or disable Smart Storage. When triggered automatically, Smart Storage will only remove photos and videos previously backed up to Google Photos.

Don't worry -- you won't lose access to the content. You can still redownload it should you want to view or share it again.

It's important to tailor how often you want Smart Storage to remove photos and videos from your device. Tap on the option and select from 30, 60, or 90 days.

Going one step further

Left: Google Pixel Smart Storage results. Right: Nexus 6P results on Android 7.1 Nougat beta.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

In the Smart Storage settings, there's an option titled Free up space now. You can use this tool to manually force your device to clear photos and videos, plus downloaded files and apps you haven't opened in the last 90 days.

Of course, my Pixel shows a blank listing for all categories because I haven't had it long enough to accumulate a lot of junk. However, I ran this feature on my test Nexus 6P running Android 7.1, and it found nearly 4 GB worth of items I don't use and downloads I no longer need.

Check the boxes next to the category, or each individual app and file you want to remove, and then tap on the Free up button.