I'm using Google Photos and I love the automatic backup and free-space feature. Lately (from the day I got a SD card into the phone, which could be meaningful) I see google photos is backing them up but NOT freing space automatically.

I try to free space from the menu, it says "24 photos to be deleted" (but I got thousands of photos) and then it says an error occurred while deleting those 24.

You can find the screenshots here: https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipNEwrDRm6gO0D0LrW9YgnI1RA_Ddz-3NvbuZzxTAPy2hLolpUd4MC_x-YwQEyua4A?key=Nlo4WkI0WmxhdWNhUFlEVXE5TGZ1cU9UVXVfZ2ZB

A friend suggested that probably since I got the SD the phone is saving the photos in the external memory. From there, Google Photos can backup them but can't delete them (don't know why). I went into settings -> memory -> default memory, changed to "External memory" and rebooted the phone. Still Google Photos can't delete them, I get the same "24 photos to be deleted"/"can't delete them" message.

Did this ever happen to you? How did you manage to solve the issue?

Thank you Marco

3 Answers 3


The SD card on Android is by default mounted in read-only mode: Google Photos can copy photos from the SD card to the server but it cannot edit, create or delete files on the SD card.

To allow Google Photos access read-write to the SD card, follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Photos > Side navigation drawer > Device folders > Open a folder that is located on the SD card
  2. Try deleting an image in that folder by long pressing on it and then pressing the bin icon in the toolbar.
  3. A prompt titled "Give Google Photos access to your SD card?" - allow it.
  4. A prompt with a message saying "Grant Photos access to your data, including photos and videos, on ?" - allow it.
  5. The photo will be deleted.

This method was tested on my Samsung Galaxy Tab A.

  • 4
    I can delete it in that way with the app, no problem.. However the clean up feature still doesn't automatically pick up sd card files.
    – Climax
    Jul 31, 2018 at 19:40

Did this ever happen to you? How did you manage to solve the issue?

I am having the same issue on my Samsung Galaxy S7.

The Google Photos app won't "free up space" with photos on the SD card. You can manually remove photos from the SD card within the Google Photos app but make sure you pick the "Delete from device" option on the special menu (not the trash can) and they will still be removed from you device but still be backed up in the cloud.

If you have concerns, someone wrote test case here: Google Photos Help: Free up space on SD card

What I chose to do was to connect my phone to my Windows PC and delete all of the videos older than 6 months, since videos were taking the most space. It was easier for me to do this than to select in the phone app.

I do wish the Google would get the "free up space" feature working in their app on their OS, and until then they should clearly explain the limitation in the app.


Click on storage in your phone then click on SD card. On the next screen click on the 3 dots on the side and it will take you to another screen that says "format" and "format system." Click on format and it will tell you that you need to format before you can use the SD card. After you click on it and wait a couple seconds you'll be able to use it. Dumb system that isn't explained but I figured this out just clicking around.

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