Troubleshoot scratch disk full errors in Photoshop

Learn how to quickly resolve scratch disk full error in Photoshop.

If you encounter a 'Scratch disk full' error, it often means that your hard drive (or drives) used as scratch disk is (are) running out of storage space required to perform a task.

Issue: 'scratch disks are full' error

Error, "Could not initialize Photoshop because the scratch disks are full"
Error, "Could not initialize Photoshop because the scratch disks are full"

Solution

To troubleshoot scratch disk full errors, do one or more actions listed below:

Free up additional disk space

Note:

It is recommended to have minimum 20 GB of free space on your OS hard drive while working with Photoshop. Additional free space may be required based on the file type you're working with.

Free up additional hard drive space by deleting unnecessary files from the scratch disk, or by moving your files off the scratch disk to another storage location.

For example, if your assigned scratch disk on your Windows machine is drive C:\, you can simply clean up and delete the files you no longer need. You can also move your files to a new location on your machine, let's say drive D:\. This will clear some space on your drive C:\ and you can continue using it as your scratch disk.

Similarly, if your assigned scratch disk on your macOS machine is Macintosh HD, you can simply clean up and delete the files you no longer need. You can also move your files to an external drive, if required.

For more information on how to free up space on your machines, check out:

macOS

Windows: Free up drive space in Windows 10

Specify appropriate drives for scratch disk

By default, Photoshop uses your internal OS drive as the scratch disk. If you have more than one drive or partition, make sure to select the fastest drives with maximum free space as your scratch disk(s). You can also resolve a 'scratch disk full' condition by selecting additional drives for use as scratch disks.

Hold down the Cmd + Option keys (macOS) or Ctrl + Alt keys (Windows) during app launch and set a new scratch disk for your system under the Scratch Disk Preferences dialog that opens.

Specify appropriate drive for scratch disk
Specify appropriate drive for scratch disk

Note:

Supported drive formats for Scratch Disks

  • macOS: macOS extended
  • Windows: NTFS, exFAT, FAT32

To learn more, see how to Adjust preferences in Photoshop.

Set correct units while creating or resizing your document

Sometimes you might get the 'scratch disk full' error due to discrepancies in the document units. To avoid such instances, set correct units while creating or resizing your document Also, check your unit settings while you're cropping your documents or adjusting the canvas size.

Optimize the space Photoshop uses

  • Disable auto-recovery saving: You can reduce the size of Photoshop's temporary file (scratch) at the risk of having no auto-recovery by disabling the 'Automatically Save Recovery Information' option: Edit (Win) / Photoshop (Mac) > Preferences > File Handling > Automatically Save Recovery Information Every [N Minutes].
  • Limit history states: Photoshop can save up to 1,000 history states; the default number is 50. To reduce that number, go to the Performance preference dialog. In the History & Cache section, set the the number of History States to a lower value.

To learn more about how to fine-tune Photoshop features for optimized performance, see Optimize Photoshop Performance.

Reset Photoshop preferences

On rare occasions when Photoshop or the system crashes, Photoshop’s preference file can get corrupted and this can affect Photoshop’s handling of scratch disks. Resetting Photoshop’s preferences and then reconfiguring the scratch disk preferences may help resolve 'scratch disk full' errors.

To learn more, see Reset preferences in Photoshop.

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