Fire TVs now automatically uninstall apps to free up space thanks to new App Offload feature

Just as I revealed last month, Amazon has been working on a new Fire TV feature to ease the annoyance of running out of storage space on its streaming devices. That feature is now starting to roll out to Fire TV devices. The update being pushed out adds a new capability called App Offloading, which helps to free precious device storage space in a new way that is far less inconvenient than uninstalling an app altogether.

Ever since the first Fire TV debuted in 2014, completely uninstalling an app has been the only way to free up internal storage space on the device. While you could also try clearing the temporary cache files of your apps, that just kicks the problem down the road because cache files will, usually, return. Uninstalling an app removes it for good but is inconvenient if you ever want to use the app again because you’ll need to reconfigure the app every time it’s reinstalled, such as needing to log back into accounts and change app settings. The new App Offload feature is a middle-ground solution that removes some of the app’s data to free up some storage space but leaves some data behind to make using the app again after reinstalling it a lot easier.

Fire TV apps take up storage spaces in three primary ways. First, there’s Application data, which is the actual app that is downloaded from the Amazon Appstore. Then there’s User data, which holds all the changes you’ve made to the app, such as your login credentials. Lastly, there’s Cache data, which are temporary files, like image thumbnails and video previews, which the app stores to make using the app a smoother experience. Cache data can be removed at any time with no negative effects to the app’s functionality, since the app will just redownload the data again as needed. The app can’t function at all without its Application data and removing an app’s User data is, essentially, equivalent to resetting the app because all of your changes and accounts are removed.

When you uninstall an app, all three data types are removed. If you use the new App Offloading feature, only the app’s Application and Cache data are removed, leaving your User data in place. This means that, should you reinstall the app in the future, all of your changes, including your account credentials, should be present. While offloading an app doesn’t free up as much space as uninstalling an app, it is a far more convenient option if you know you’ll be reinstalling the app in the future. Exactly how much storage space remains used by an offloaded app will differ from app to app.

Automatic app offloading is turned on by default once the feature arrives on your Fire TV device. This means that, should your Fire TV start to run low on storage space, it will automatically offload apps for you and preserve the user data of those apps, should you choose to reinstall them. Amazon says that automatic offloading will only remove apps that haven’t been used in the last 60 days. If you prefer to handle app offloading yourself, you can turn off the automatic option under Settings > Applications or under Settings > My Fire TV > About > Storage. Both setting locations achieve the same thing.

You can manually offload an app by selecting the app under Settings > Applications > Manage Installed Applications and selecting the Offload option. Doing so will display how much storage space will be freed up before asking you to confirm that you want the app offloaded.

Alternatively, you can highlight an app on the Fire TV home screen or in the Fire TV’s app grid and press the menu button to see an Offload option in the lower right corner of the screen. While offloading an app in this manner is slightly quicker and still asks for confirmation, it does not display how much storage space will be freed up. To see that you’ll need to offload the app from the Settings menu.

When an app is offloaded, it remains in your list of apps but has a small cloud icon in the upper right corner of the app icon. This cloud icon appears both in the app grid and in the Fire TV settings for the app listing. Strangely, the cloud icon does not appear on the Fire TV home screen so if an offloaded app is in your navigation bar or your recent app list, there is no indication that the app has been offloaded.

Strangely, there is no option to reinstall an offloaded app when you select it from the Fire TV settings menu. Only the option to fully uninstall the app, which deletes your user data, is present. If you want to reinstall an offloaded app, you must select it from your app grid or the Amazon Appstore app. Trying to launch an app that has been offloaded will immediately begin reinstalling the app and will launch the app, with your user data in place, as soon as the app has finished installing.

One, unfortunate, limitation of the new App Offload feature is that it cannot be used on Fire TVs that have Kids profiles. If you have or add a Kid profile on your Fire TV, the app offloading options will be completely removed. While the new auto offload option does remain under settings with a Kids profile present, this might be a bug because having a Kids profile causes all the manual offloading options to disappear. Lastly, app offloading will not be coming to older Fire TVs running Fire OS 5, which includes the 1st & 2nd-gen Fire TV box and the 1st & 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick. The feature is rolling out now and will likely be available on most compatible devices in the coming weeks.

34 comments
  1. Dave says:

    If it’s anything like it’s “recently used apps” list it will mysteriously start removing sideloaded apps first.

    • Sideloaded cannot be offloaded and, therefore, will never be removed because the offload feature would have no way to reinstall the apps since they can’t be downloaded from the Amazon Appstore.

      • Eric says:

        Not true, at least with the Fire Cube. All the apps it removed on its own with no warning were side loaded and several were definitely recently used.

  2. Eric says:

    My Fire Cube did this a couple months ago. All the apps it uninstalled are not available in the Amazon store. The cube is now in my junk drawer. Onn box just as good.

  3. Chime says:

    While this is good-news, there are certainly sports-and-movie
    items which have no un-install option.
    Almost every day I hide Squash-and-NBA but they come back again.
    Another time I will discuss VoiceView accessibility

    • Carolyn Nash says:

      My recent watched app is now gone from the home page. I like this app cause it list all the channels I watch, I really want this back.

  4. HG says:

    My Fire Stick Lite alerted me to this change yesterday when I turned it on. And then I discovered it had offloaded an app I used within the last couple weeks. It looks like it offloaded about 10 other apps, most of which I haven’t used in a while, but it seems arbitrary which ones it offloaded and which it didn’t. There are plenty of other apps it could have picked rather than one I actually use.

    I now have 1.29 GB free out of 5.35 GB. I don’t know what it considers “low on space”, since I don’t know what I had before. I guess I can turn it off if it keeps offloading apps I use.

    • Thanks for the info. That definitely sounds like an unintended bug. I expect most advanced users will turn the auto offload option off and manage things themselves.

      • Skel40 says:

        I don’t have the offload feature yet on my 4K Max (karat), I think it would be troublesome for those that have the updating in the background lowering storage while installing a “system components” update or an entirely new Fire OS package which could range 500mb-600mb with all of the caching going on making the user not know what to do while those updates that install are inside the system

  5. KG says:

    Just wish they would let you uninstall all the needless bloatware apps they put on it.

  6. Alexander Edwards says:

    How about just adding a decent amount more space.A whole lot more sense. Instead of the measly 4gb how about 10gb

    • wlion1 says:

      All FireTV units should have a minimum of 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM.

    • Dusty says:

      Bingo!! When I buy digital musical equipment I can get up to 40 to 80 GB of storage space.. ‍♂️
      Why can’t they do this, or won’t they do this with smart tvs?

  7. wlion1 says:

    Why can USB Storage be used to expand the space. It does not work well, as some apps will not run properly from a USB Drive. For example Plex crashes when ran off USB Storage.

    • Yeah, I think USB storage is more trouble than it’s worth for most people. Especially your average non-techy person. The way USB storage works today with so few apps being movable, and only partially moveable at that, I just don’t recommend it anymore.

  8. c ag says:

    will it do this for Amazon Kids, Amazon Live Shopping, Amazon Photos… 25,35,40 MB

  9. Doug says:

    Given the currently useless way USB storage is integrated, it would make more sense to use THAT as the “offload” destination. Let me tag an app, then offload all of its data to USB. It’ll still run, but maybe not be upgradable. To upgrade, you’d simply move it back to internal storage, run the update, then offload back to USB.

  10. Energyx says:

    Isn’t this what Roku has always done? Seems about a decade late

  11. Dusty says:

    The better option would just be to add more storage space to the TVs themselves… it’s the joke the amount of memory space you get on a brand new TV, compared to other devices you can buy out there especially in the music accessory business you can get up to 40-80 gigs of memory on quite a few things..
    I don’t understand why they can’t do this to Smart TVs? It’s a joke! Leave my apps alone and just add more space to your devices!!

  12. Allang31 says:

    Will this offload my vpn? I use Nordvpn.
    Even though it is always running when
    I sort managed apps by Recency it says it
    is “not used for more than 120 days.

  13. Tricia Page says:

    I just tried to access my fire stick not a firetv though. It came up with the notice about the sour offload. It will not let me continue. It will not allow me to any further. What am I doing to not be about to go to settings to disable? Please advise

  14. Ujn Hunter says:

    The fact that this is turned ON by Default is a MAJOR misstep. Especially since it seems to be uninstalling Apps on people. Trash move Amazon.

    • Steve says:

      Over the top ridicoulous experience with this forced auto offload feature. The Amazon folks in the User Experience space obviously were asleep at the wheel with this one. Why would anyone want to be forced to install what was previously installed? Just a massive brain fart on behalf of Amazon.

  15. Tracey Wallace says:

    This just happened to me last night. Thanks to Brian, I was expecting it. I appreciate the heads up about these situations. I am not gifted in the tech world like my 9 yr old. However, the less stress the better!

  16. Cynthia Amoriello says:

    What do i do if tv locked after this feature is on it? Can’t even click on continue

  17. Kravimir says:

    I wasn’t able to “click” the continue button either. I was able to close it by pressing the live TV guide button on the remote and then the home button.

  18. opp says:

    all becuase they think 8gb or even 16 gb is a lot of space…

  19. Henry Gehman says:

    I have disabled the Offload feature on my new Fire Cube gen3 after it eliminated Tivimate, Downloader and Livenettv. All sideloaded. Now it groups together 3 recently used apps and ask me to kill them.
    The Cube has 16 gigs (13 available) of storage but Amazon keeps maxing out my storage even when I only have 790mb of apps total. Even after I removed apps it didn’t change the free space.
    This is the third device this has happened on over almost one year.
    I do a factory reset and the problem just comes back after a week.

    Does Amazon have a list of “bad” apps or accounts that it wants to disrupt?
    Customer service swears that Amazon doesn’t have the ability to mess with my apps or my storage.
    Does this happen to any one else?

  20. Sam says:

    There is so many things that are wrong with the firestick. How can I begin. Why did it take 3 years to add 8 more gigs to it a $5 flash drive has 32.why is there no kids proof for deleting apps.either you lock them out of all apps which is crazy. Or they have full run. My 6 year old deleted my kodi. And why do you force all that junk down our throat? No one uses all that bloat wear. The Steve jobs syndrome(no one will delete my apps or install app I don’t authorize) OK Mr jobs then I will never buy your product. That is like selling some a car and telling them which radio station they can listen to.. Keep your junk. We are building our own “cool sticks” better than fire sticks. You can do whatever you want with them. It blank canvas Your ego will cost you profits.

  21. Carolyn says:

    It off loaded all my recent app from home page. Now I have to review through Apple store. I really don’t don’t like that. Like it on my home page all together the channels I watch

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