How To Fix Photoshop ‘Scratch Disks Are Full’ Errors

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scratch disks are full

Did you receive a “scratch disks are full” error when attempting to access Photoshop? Don’t worry. This error message is a common problem, and you can easily correct the situation.

Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, you need photo-editing software to make the most of your images. And Adobe Photoshop has been the “world’s best-known photo-editing software” for decades according to photography giants such as Digital Camera World.

Photoshop holds the top position in PC Magazine‘s 2019 list of the best photo editing software. Additionally, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements rank as number two and three. Consequently, you have to go to their fourth choice to find photo editing software designed by someone other than Adobe.

However, Photoshop does have its quirks. For example, it uses massive amounts of memory. And sometimes, this can lead to disastrous results, such as the dreaded “scratch disks are full” error.

What Are Scratch Disks?

Adobe Photoshop requires a working space to store temporary files for your project while the software is running. For example, if Photoshop does not have enough RAM, it uses space on a hard drive as virtual memory.

This hard drive space is called a “scratch disk,” and by default, Photoshop uses the hard drive that contains the operating system. Scratch disks can be set to erase data at regular intervals routinely. However, in most instances, disk management is handled dynamically. That means it occurs when needed.

How Much Space Do Scratch Drives Need?

The amount of space required for scratch drives varies depending on how you use Photoshop. For simple editing tasks, you need a minimum of 1.5 GB of scratch space. For more complex editing, you will need two times the size of the files being edited.

However, complex operations on Photoshop requires the number of saved history states (think stages of edit) times the size of the images being edited.

By default, Photoshop reserves 6 GB of space for boot drives. Additionally, it reserves 1 GB of space on non-boot drives.

Why Did I Receive a “Scratch Disks Are Full” Error?

The most common problem with Photoshop is the “scratch disks are full” error. Users receive the error when attempting to access Photoshop, or when performing actions from within the software.

Scratch disk errors occur when both the scratch disks and the RAM become full with temporary files. However, there are several proven methods available to remove the error.

How Do I Fix “Scratch Disks Are Full” Error Messages?

computer opening photoshop

Receiving “scratch disks are full” error messages can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are several ways to remedy the situation, some easier than others.

Photoshop recommends four methods of correcting “scratch disks are full” errors. Those include freeing up additional disk space, specifying appropriate drives, adjusting preferences, and disabling auto-recovery.

Method One:

“Scratch drives are full” errors typically indicate that the scratch drive, or drives, are out of available space. Accordingly, freeing up space on the drive, or drives, by deleting unnecessary files or by moving files to another disc solves the problem.

How to:

Photoshop does a pretty good job of dynamically deleting its temporary files along the way. However, if it crashes or is otherwise improperly shut down, it will leave large temporary files on the scratch disk.

Additionally, unless you use a dedicated scratch drive for Photoshop, the chances are you have tons of temporary files on your scratch disk. Consequently, deleting temporary files becomes necessary.

Fortunately, there is a lot of available software for cleaning temporary files. For example, CCleaner is a popular option. And, best of all, it’s free.

Method Two: specify appropriate drives

By default, Photoshop selects the drive with your operating system as your scratch disk. However, this might not be the best option if you have more than one drive or partition. If that is the case, you should pick the fastest drive in your system and dedicating it as your scratch drive.

You can also create additional space for scratch files by designating more than one scratch disk.

This is important: you should avoid using the drive where you store your image files as a scratch drive.

Method Three: adjusting Photoshop preferences

Photoshop warns that there are rare instances when Photoshop’s preference file crashes or gets corrupted. Consequently, Photoshop’s handling of scratch disks can be affected.

For that reason, resetting your Photoshop preferences can resolve many “scratch disks are full” errors. The simplest way to reset Photoshop preferences is by using a keyboard shortcut when starting Photoshop.

  • For Windows, press and hold Alt + Control + Shift
  • For Mac OS, press and hold Option + Command + Shift

After that, you will be prompted to delete the current settings, and new preference files engage the next time you open Photoshop.

Increase RAM for Photoshop

You can also improve performance and decrease the likelihood of receiving “scratch disks are full” errors by increasing the amount of RAM allocated to Photoshop. By default, Photoshop uses 70 percent of your system’s available RAM.

  • Firstly, go to the preferences dialog box in Photoshop by pressing preferences > performance.
  • Secondly, increase the RAM in the “Let Photoshop Use” box by five percent.
  • Thirdly, restart Photoshop to enable the changes.
  • Lastly, repeat the process as necessary. However, Photoshops recommend not exceeding 85 percent of your system’s available RAM.

Method Four: disabling auto-recovery saving

computer with photoshop open

Photoshop attempts to auto-recover images in the event of an unexpected exit, crash, or system reboot. However, that increases Photoshop’s temporary files.

You can disable this function, using the following methods. However, this method comes with the risk of no longer having auto-recovery.

  • For Windows: press Edit > Preferences> File Handling > Automatically Save Recovery Information Every [N Minutes]
  • For Mac OS: press Photoshop > Preferences> File Handling > Automatically Save Recovery Information Every [N Minutes]

How Do I Avoid “Scratch Disks Are Full” Errors in the Future?

There are four sure-fire ways to decrease the likelihood of receiving scratch disk errors in the future.

  1. Purchase a solid-state drive (SSD) and dedicate it solely to act as a scratch drive.
  2. Increase the amount of memory/RAM for your entire system.
  3. Periodically defragment your drives because Photoshop requires contiguous, unfragmented space on your scratch drive disks.
  4. Keep at least 10 to 15 percent of your disk space free for any drives used as scratch disks.

What We Learned Today

We hope you enjoyed our article about “scratch disks are full” errors. We covered a lot of technical information which can be confusing. Accordingly, you might consider bookmarking this article for future reference.

Now we would like to know your thoughts. Using the comments, below, share your experiences with Photoshop and scratch drive errors in particular. And, please share your favorite Photoshop tips and tricks.

Featured image created by the author, used with permission, all rights reserved.

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