What Hap­pens When You Clear Data of an Android App: Pop­u­lar Apps Explained

Mehvish

Typically, if you face any issue with an Android app on your phone or tablet, you must have been told to clear its cache or data. When you press the Clear data button, you will be greeted by the message that it will delete your account and files. Now that could jolt anyone. And one would be curious to know what happens if they clear data of any Android app?

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We shall try to answer all your questions in this post. We will explain the after-effects of clearing data for popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Google Play Store, Contacts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more.

Let’s get started with how to clear data followed by aftereffects of clearing data.

How to Clear Data of an App on Android

You will find the options to Clear cache and Clear data inside the app info settings for each app. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Open Settings on your phone and go to Apps or Installed app or Apps & notifications.

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Step 2: Tap on the app whose data you want to clear. Let’s say WhatsApp.

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Step 3: Tap on Storage followed by Clear data or Clear storage, depending on the available option.

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What Happens When You Clear Data

When an app is installed, a data directory of the app is created on your phone. The directory or the folder contains account details, customizations made to the app settings, and offline files.

When you clear data or storage of an app, it deletes the data associated with that app. And when that happens, your app will behave like a freshly installed one. You will have to log in again, grant necessary permissions, change notification settings, and similar things. That holds true across all the apps.

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In other words, clearing data is equivalent to resetting an app. Think of clearing data as the combined process of uninstalling and re-installing the app, except for downloading the app again. Since clearing data removes the app cache, some apps such as the Gallery app will take some time to load.

Clearing data will not delete the app updates. When you open the app after clearing its data, you will see the latest version that was previously installed on your phone.

Similarly, clearing data will not delete any of your accounts. You will only be logged out from most of the apps. For instance, if you clear data for the Twitter app, your account will still be active. You just need to log in again. So make sure you know your account username and password before you press the Clear data button.

Clearing data is different from resetting app preferences on Android as it removes the data in some apps besides resetting app settings. That’s not the case with resetting app preferences, which mainly restores settings from all apps to their original values.

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Now that you know the basics of clearing data let’s check what happens by clearing data for popular apps.

What Happens When You Clear Data of Android Launcher

Clearing data of an Android launcher will delete the customizations you have made to your home screen, app drawer, and other features through that launcher. I use Nova Launcher, and if I clear its data, I will have to set up everything from the start such as home screen, folders, gestures, appearances, notification badge type, etc., as if I Installed the Nova app for the first time on my phone.

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You can save your customizations from launchers by creating a backup from launcher settings before clearing its data. Clearing data will not remove the backup files. However, we would suggest saving it to the cloud if the app lets you do that.

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What Happens When You Clear Data of Google Play Store and Play Services

Google Play Store often irks users due to various issues such as waiting for a download, white screen issue, download pending, etc. At such times, clearing its data can be a godsend gift.

When you clear data for Google Play Store, the apps on your phone and their data will remain intact. Even your subscriptions will remain unaffected as they are linked with your Google account. Only the settings inside the Play Store, such as app download preferences, theme, auto-download, etc., will be reset including the Play Store search history.

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You won’t be logged out from Play Store since it uses a Google account, which appears in Settings > Accounts. Clearing Play Store data or any other Google app’s data will not delete or unlink the Google account.

Similarly, Google Play Services is also notorious for errors like won’t update, Play Services has stopped, etc. To fix them, you can clear its data. Clearing data for Play Services will not affect any of your personal data or the data associated with any app.

What Happens When You Clear Data of Phone, Contacts, and Messages App

When it comes to the Phone app, one is worried about history and contacts. Clearing data of the Phone app will not delete your call history or contacts. But, as obvious, any customizations made to the app settings will be reset.

Similarly, clearing data for the pre-installed Contacts app or a third-party contacts app will not affect your contacts – both local and synced. That said, we strongly suggest you to take a local backup of your contacts and sync them to Google or any other backup service before your clear its data to avoid any unnecessary damages. In case you accidentally delete your Google contacts, find out how to restore deleted contacts from Google.

Note: Clearing data for the Contacts Storage system app in Settings > Apps will delete your contacts.

Even messages are untouched when you clear data for the Messages app on your phone. Only the app settings such as notifications will be reset.

What Happens When You Clear Data for Camera and Gallery

Clearing data for the Camera app will only reset its settings such as front camera picture size, HDR, gridlines, etc. Similarly, for the Gallery app too, only settings such as sort mode, themes, etc., will be changed. Your photos and videos will not be deleted by clearing the data of either app.

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What Happens When You Clear Data for Google Photos

Google Photos is a gallery app besides being a photo storage tool. So clearing its data or uninstalling the app will not delete any of your pictures or videos. After clearing the data, the app may take some time to rebuild the thumbnail database. So be patient.

Tip: If you want to free space on your phone, use the Free up space feature of Google Photos.

What Happens When You Clear Data of WhatsApp

When you clear WhatsApp data, you will need to verify your WhatsApp account again, just as you did when you installed it on your phone. Make sure you have access to the same number that was registered with WhatsApp. And yes, your chats will be deleted by clearing its data. However, you can restore WhatsApp messages from your local backup or Google Drive.

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Other things that are reset include customization settings such as WhatsApp wallpaper, font size, and storage usage.

Things that remain unaffected by clearing WhatsApp data include your profile picture, privacy settings, blocked contacts, and previous local backups. You won’t be removed from your WhatsApp groups. They will appear again when you register WhatsApp but without the previous chat history. Your downloaded media files, such as images, videos, etc., can still be accessed through other supported apps such as the gallery.

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Tip: Find out what happens you uninstall WhatsApp and delete WhatsApp account.

What Happens When You Clear Data for Instagram and Facebook

Many users worry that clearing data for Instagram and Facebook apps will delete their accounts. However, that’s not true. You will only be logged out from your accounts on these apps by clearing data. That’s because the data from such social media apps is stored in the cloud and not on your phone. The same goes for apps like Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

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Your activity or data such as photos, comments, posts, groups, messages, stories, etc., on these social media websites will not be deleted. Even the media downloaded on your phone from these apps will still be available. For instance, if you save your story from Instagram on your phone, you can still see it inside Gallery. After clearing data, re-enter your account details to view the data in these apps.

Tip: Find out what happens when you uninstall Instagram from the phone.

What Happens When You Clear Data for Facebook Messenger and Gmail

WhatsApp stores data only on your phone (if it’s not backed up). However, Facebook Messenger, Gmail, and similar apps sync them to the cloud storage. So even if you clear data or uninstall the app, your messages or contacts will not be deleted.

However, you will be logged out. After signing in again, you can view your messages. If you don’t want to sign in, you can access the messages or the mails from their website. Any customizations made to the apps such as theme, chat heads, notification settings, etc., will be reset.

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Tip: Know what happens by uninstalling Facebook or Messenger.

What Happens When You Clear Data for Cloud Storage Services (Google Drive, OneDrive) Apps

The apps for cloud storage services such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc., save your files in the cloud. So clearing data for them on your Android phone will not delete the files associated with these services. You will be logged out from the app after clearing the data. Signing in again will bring back the files.

What Happens When You Clear Data for YouTube

You must be familiar by now that clearing data for the YouTube app will not delete your account and published videos. Even your playlists, watch and search history do not get affected. They are tied to your Google account. However, the offline videos that you had downloaded will be removed along with customization settings made in the app such as autoplay, download settings, and more.

What Happens When You Clear Data in Shopping Apps

Don’t worry. Clearing data for any shopping app will not cancel your order or delete your wish list. Sure, you will be logged out but signing in again will restore your orders, past purchases, payments, and other information.

What Happens When You Clear Cache of an Android App

The cache holds the temporary data for your apps so that the data can be accessed quickly when the app needs it later without downloading it again. For instance, when you open Facebook, your phone will save seen data like profile pictures, images, etc., as the cached data. Next time, when you open the app again, it will check the cached data first and show you the same. Thus, saving data and other phone resources, since it’s not downloading them again. At the same time, the app will check if there has been any change to Facebook's actual data. If anything has been modified, you will see the new data.

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Now when you clear the cache for the app, it only removes those temporary files, without affecting any of your personal data such as messages, pictures, accounts, files, etc. Generally, Android manages the cached data on its own. So you don’t have to clear it manually. However, if an app is facing an issue, you can try clearing the cache.

Is It Okay to Clear Data of Apps

As you have seen above, the final result of clearing data depends on the app. The above examples depict generic behavior. Some apps may behave differently.

So you should clear data for an app only if clearing cache or other solutions don’t work, and resetting the phone is the ultimate option. It comes handy in circumstances where an app doesn’t provide a built-in log out option. Instead of uninstalling the app, one can clear data and log in again. Clearing data also helps in freeing up space in many apps.

Next up: If clearing data also didn't resolve your issue, the last step is to factory reset your phone. Find out what happens when you format your phone.


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Mehvish

Written By

Mehvish

Mehvish is a computer engineer by profession. Her love for Android made her develop the first app for Kashmir. Known as Dial Kashmir, she won the prestigious Nari Shakti award from the President of India for the same. She has been writing about technology for 3+ years and also has her own Wikipedia page.