Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

How to fix the HTC local storage/memory issue with Titanium Backup

So I have an HTC Desire. The reason I have this phone is that it was the only one in white and silver out at the time, and all my favourite things are white or silver (with occasional traces of blue)! For a more detailed description of my personal device path please see my personal device convergance (rise of the superphone) post.

Anyway, the main issue with my phone is an HTC bug where it thinks apps in local memory are double their actual size but when you move them to SD card you only regain half that space. This means that you quite rapidly run out of space if you are a power user! However I’d already rooted by HTC which afforded me some flexibilities but despite this I was running out, an my phone had become almost unusable: Below ~20MB free local storage it became unreliable, below ~10MB apps could not longer sync and I was getting other wierd issues like it no longer ringing and being unable to reboot into recovery mode.

Reinstalling with Titanium Backup

I decided to try wiping and reinstalling my phone, which as it turns out was not the right solution but it did help and educate me a lot! First step was to pay for and install the Pro version of Titanium Backup. I don’t care if you’re a lover of free apps – if there is no other app that you pay for you should pay for this as a power user. It is superb, as you shall see. Personally I liken it to my motorbike leathers. I have a £40k motorbike that can do 215mph. I therefore spend at least £1k on protective gear. I could skimp and spend a few hundred, but really? The same with your phone – a £200 device that in a crash would hurt you deserves £5 spent on some good protective gear!

So, to the steps:

  1. Plug into the power but I advise via a mains adaptor so your computer doesn’t try to mount the SD card as a USB drive.
  2. Do a full backup. Most of the functionality in Titanium Backup (TB) is slightly hidden – to do any backups or reinstalls on the spot press <menu> then click on “Batch”. You want the “Backup all user apps + system data”.
  3. Also backup your text messages with SMS Backup & Restore – TB does do it but some people have reported issues, so go for “belt and braces” if, like me, your text messages are important to you!
  4. Turn off your phone.
  5. Remove the SD card (I do this purely to be safe since the next step is a brown pants moment!)
  6. Reboot into the bootloader by powering on holding <power> and <volume-down> together (on HTC)
  7. Navigate to “Wipe data” then “Delete all user data” and select it (with thebutton)
  8. Reboot your phone!

You will now come back to your default CyanogenMOD install (or whatever). Note that on mine the home key stops working at this point. Panic not, it should come back again and you can use “Back” to get to the home screen again.

If you had integrated TB into the ROM (see below) it will already be there, but irritatingly you still have to re-download the PRO version from the market (at no extra cost) to access the features, which means logging into Google etc etc.

I suspect I’m doing something wrong here. Let me know if there is a way to integrate the paid version into the ROM!

Now to reinstall:

  1. Open Titaniun Backup, now with its PRO key
  2. Press <menu>then go to “Preferences”
  3. Scroll down to “Restore backups to..” and select it1
  4. Change it to “Original location” if it is not already selected
  5. Go back to the TB main screen
  6. Press <menu> again then go to “Batch”
  7. Scroll down to “Restore” and press “Run” for “Restore all apps with data”

Tip: when trying to do either a backup or restore of everything in TB you generally want the option that has the largest number by it!

Titanium backup – notes & niggles

If you did the above without secting the “Restore to original location” you may find it has frozen. Before someone pointed out that option to me 1 I went through a nightmarish process of doing half restores, force-stopping TB, moving some across to the SD card, and then carrying on.

However, in the process of moving all my apps back to SD card (where they already were, but for some reason they were not recognised after the wipe) I ended up in almost the same place, albeit with 24MB free rather than 12MB so a bit of an improvement. If you bypass that by reinstalling them straight to SD card (where they already were – not sure why you need that step at all to be honest) you should get more space in theory, but even using TB properly I’m still not seeing that improvement – only the 24MB free. I suspect TB reinstalls to SD card by first installing to local storage.

TB is not perfect though. It has a weird bug if you put contact shortcuts on the home screen – see image (note the difference in name for the one I’ve selected!). It has got the entries confused, though if you go to the contact then it does work. If you call them directly, it calls the wrong person. Probably an ID vs. name confusion. I’m emailing them about this.

It also did not restore my widgets and the settings of them, which is the one bit I really wanted to be saved – it takes me aages to configure all the damn things! Power Control Plus and CalenGoo are particularly fiddley to reconfigure each time. Hardly cataclysmic failings though.

Key steps / discoveries

You can actually acomplish quite a lot wihtout having to do all the above it transpires (ie. a full reinstall), and I’m not entirely convinced it gains you all that much! Some useful discoveries / key steps along to freeing up space that you should definitely do:

  1. Titanium Backup <menu> “Overview of app storage usage” for a much more clear list of who are the top offenders in terms of using local storage.
  2. Move everythingyou can do the SD card. If you have a small one stop being cheap and get a bigger one – they are super cheap and portable between phones. Rather than moving apps individually from the Titanium Backup Batch list use “Move user apps to SD card”. Note that if you move apps with widgets to the SD card the widget will not work unless it is a good one like PowerAmp (separate widget app).
  3. From same menu you can “Integrate sys Dalvik into ROM” and create an update.zip with Titanium embedded as a system application (requires reflashing) – seemed to save a bit of storage.
  4. Definitely periodically use the “Clear Dalvik cache” option.
  5. Clear caches. “1Tap Cleaner” (app) is good for clearing caches and histories though did not help with dialler storage (no idea why that uses 4MB!). Not sure how much it gains you over Titanium Backup though (which has a “clear caches” option under the batches).
  6. Delete any default apps via the terminal if you’re feeling brave (see my “Rooting my HTC”post).
  7. If you don’t have K9 Mail, get it, ditch the default client (see above) and get it – you can have it entirely on the SD card (there is an option to have it use the SD card for storage).

In summary, I think I could have fixed it without a reinstall, just by using Titanium Backup to clean out all the crap and generally tidy up. In theory it should be possible to reinstall and leave apps on the SD card but they were not recognised by default and I had to reinstall them in effect. If someone knows a better way to tranfser apps on SD card between phones or instances of phones, let me know.

It should be noted that I’ve by no means fixed this problem. I’ve only managed to scrounge a few extra MB and can’t really use local-storage heavy apps like Facebook and Google+ (neither have the options to store their data on SD card). However all I’m tyring to do is nurse another month or two service from my clearly dying HTC Desire since from April I will have the choice of two white/silver, dual-core Ice Cream Sandwich phones; the Samsung Galaxy SII White or the HTC Sensation Ice White. 😀


  1. Thanks to @Adagis for pointing out that feature!

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