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How to fix Photoshop Error: Scratch disks are full

Have you encountered a message on Adobe Photoshop saying, “Scratch disks are full,” and you’re wondering what it means? Many Photoshop users have reported encountering this error message. 

In this article, you’ll learn why Photoshop would tell you that “Scratch disks are full,” what it means and how to fix the issue.
Photoshop Error: Scratch disks are full

What is ‘Scratch disks are full?’

What is ‘Scratch disks are full?
When Photoshop is running, it uses a scratch disk for temporary storage. This is space in the disk drive or an SSD that Photoshop uses to store parts of your documents and their history panel states, which don’t fit in your PC’s RAM memory. 

By default, Adobe Photoshop uses the computer’s hard drive on which the operating system is installed as its primary scratch disk. 

Sometimes, users report that when trying to perform an action in Adobe Photoshop, they get an error message that reads, "Could not complete your request because the scratch disk is full."

Read on to understand why this error occurs, and how you can fix it?

How much scratch disk space do you need?

There is no standard scratch disk space for all users. The scratch space you need depends on how much you edit documents on Photoshop and the number of temporary files you leave being in the memory.

If you only make small changes, a minimum of 1.5 GB scratch disk space would suit you well for Photoshop (with default patterns, preferences, brushes, etc.). You may also need a disk space that is twice the size of all the files that you’ve opened at the same time.

If you’re a ‘heavy’ Photoshop user who makes large changes to dense pixel layers (i.e. using several filters on complex background images) you may need larger disk spaces, usually many times more than the original file sizes. 

Note: Having hundreds of brushes or patterns loaded significantly increases the needed scratch space for your Photoshop app to launch successfully. To avoid running the OS hard drive out of space, Photoshop usually reserves 6 GB of space on boot drives and 1 GB on non-boot drives. 

What causes Scratch disks are full error?

Photoshop often creates numerous temporary files when you’re working with large elements. When both the drive and the scratch disk run out of space, Photoshop might not work properly. This is why the photoshop error might not be a problem with your computer. 

When both your computer’s RAM and the scratch disk become full with temporary files, you’ll get the “Scratch Disk is full” error. This error might also deter you from creating other new files.

However, other causes of the scratch disks are full may include the following:

  • Viruses or Malware infection.
  • Photoshop misconfiguration, e.g., setting the blank page/image resolution to unreasonable figures like 1920×1080 inches instead of pixels.
  • Improper PC shut down.

How to fix Photoshop Error: Scratch disks are full

Use the following solutions to fix Photoshop Error: Scratch disks are full and continue using your Photoshop successfully: 

Fix #1: Free up additional disk space

If you get the 'Scratch disk full' error message, it often means that your drive (or drives) utilized for scratch disks are out of available space or running low on space.

You may need to free up additional hard drive space. To do this you’ll need to:

  • Delete unnecessary temporary files from the scratch disk, or,
  • Move your files from the scratch disk and take them to another storage location.

If you’re not sure about which drive Photoshop uses as a scratch disk, check it out using the following path:

Open Photoshop app > go to Edit > Preferences > Scratch disks.

Usually, you’ll find that the scratch disks is in the Local disk C:/ drive. Once you notice the location, confirm whether the storage drive has at least 40 GB of free space. If the disk space is less than this figure, access your drive and remove unwanted files until you have freed enough space. 

You can also use an automatic disk cleaner. 

Fix #2: Specify the appropriate drive for the scratch disk

By default, Photoshop selects only the OS drive for the scratch disk. However, if you have more than one drive on your PC or more than one partition, ensure you select the fastest drives for the scratch disks. The drive you choose should also be having the most free space to accommodate the scratch disks. 

In addition, to resolve the 'scratch disks are full' issue, you can select additional drives to use as scratch disks locations. See How to adjust scratch disk preferences here below.

Fix #3: Adjust scratch disk preferences 

Note: If the Photoshop 2019 app, or earlier, on your device cannot launch because the scratch disks are full, you can set a new scratch disk by:

  1. On macOS, hold down the Cmd + Option keys during the launch.
  2. On Windows, hold down the Ctrl + Alt keys during launch.

Alternatively, you can tweak your Photoshop’s app scratch disk settings through the following steps:

  1. Launch Photoshop and go to Preferences > Scratch Disks.
    1. On Windows, choose Edit > Preferences > Scratch Disks.
    2. On macOS, choose Photoshop > Preferences > Scratch Disks .
  2. In the Preferences dialog, you’ll need to deselect or select the active check box to disable or enable a scratch disk. 
  3. Now, click the arrow buttons to change the scratch disk order.
  4. Click OK to apply the changes.
  5. Now, restart Photoshop and see if the error is still occurring.

Fix #3: Reset the Photoshop preferences

Rarely system or Photoshop can crash. When the system or Photoshop crashes, it can get Photoshop’s preference file corrupted, affecting Photoshop’s handling of scratch disks. 

To resolve the “scratch disks are full” error, in this case, you may need to reset Photoshop’s preferences and then reconfigure the scratch disk preferences. See Reset Photoshop preferences.

Fix #4: Disable Photoshop auto-recovery saving

Usually, in case of an unexpected exit from the Photoshop app (e..g because of a crash or Computer reboot), Photoshop attempts to auto-recover your document by default. This can cause the “scratch disks are full” error on Photoshop.

You can disable the auto-recovery to reduce the size of temporary files in the scratch disks and save more memory space. Note that you’ll be risking having no recovery option.

In Windows:

  1. Launch the Photoshop app.
  2. Go to Edit > Preferences > File Handling > Automatically Save Recovery Information Every [N Minutes].
  3. Disable the process. 

In Mac

  1. Launch the Photoshop app.
  2. Go to Photoshop > Preferences > File Handling > Automatically Save Recovery Information Every [N Minutes]

Fix 5: Clear the Photoshop cache 

Another reason for the “Scratch disks are full” Photoshop error is Photoshop cache. Clearing the cache can resolve the error. You can delete temporary files from the Photoshop app by:

  • In Windows: Go to Edit > Purge > All
  • In Mac: got to Photoshop CC > Purge > All 

Bottom Line

The “Scratch disks are full” Photoshop error can give you an unpleasant experience with Photoshop. If you have a fast solid-state disk drive (SSD), use it as the scratch disk. We recommend against using the same hard disk drive (HDD) that has your computer’s OS installed in it or where the Photoshop files you edit are stored. Additionally, avoid a removable drive or a network.

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