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Fixing Photoshop Scratch Disk Full Error on Mac

by Matt

Have you ever encountered the “Scratch disks are full” when editing your photos in Photoshop? It can be a very frustrating interruption to your workflow. Who would like to troubleshoot during an editing session?

In this article, we’ll talk about the effective solutions you can try to fix this error fast. Read on to learn more about the details.

What Does “Scratch Disk Full” Mean?

Intense applications like Photoshop require their own working space that is usually called cache memory or virtual memory. This is where they store temporary project files. When Photoshop is running, and there is not enough space on RAM to perform a task, the program uses a part of hard drive space or a scratch disk as virtual memory. 

When you are editing large images, Photoshop creates tons of temp files for your project and eats up a lot of the system’s space. Photoshop can access the scratch disk faster than RAM, and that results in increased performance. 

But, as temporary files build up on your hard drive, there’s less storage space left for your scratch disk. When you encounter the scratch disk full error, it may mean that temporary files from old projects occupy too much of your disk space. Actually, it’s the most common reason for this issue. But there are other reasons as well, for example, limited RAM that is allowed for this program. 

Keep in mind that you can assign different scratch disks to a particular hard drive according to your preferences. And if you have an alternative drive, we don’t recommend that you select the system drive for that purpose. 

What Troubleshooting Steps Can You Do?

So what are your options to resolve the issue? You can clear your scratch disk manually, and we’ll discuss the possible solutions below.

Clear Photoshop Cache

Emptying Photoshop cache is a good place to start. Although Photoshop automatically deletes the cache files, when you close the program, some files can be missed. You can easily get rid of these items using an in-built Photoshop tool.

  • Launch the program and click on the Edit menu button. 
  • Select Purge. You can choose from several options to clear caches: Histories, Clipboard, Video Cache, All. 
  • You can select a specific cache you’d like to clear or select All to clear all Photoshop caches. Caches that have already been removed are greyed out.
  • Click the OK button to confirm your action.  

Remove Photoshop Temp Files

Photoshop temp files are stored as a backup for the situation when your program or computer crashes, and they are not deleted once you complete a project. So these junk files can be kept on your Mac and take up lots of storage space.

What should you do to remove them? First of all, you should save all your images to avoid deleting something you’ll miss by accident. Then, you need to open the Finder window, and search for Photoshop files that have the extension “.tmp.”  You should delete any folders that begin with “pst”. Don’t forget to empty the Trash bin. 

Clear Disk Space

It is recommended to have 20GB of space to create a scratch disk, so you may need to clear the disk space on your HDD or SSD when you see the error message. This action can also help increase your machine’s performance. An alternative option is transferring files to cloud solutions or external drives.

You free up some disk space if you choose About This Mac in the Apple menu and click on Storage. Then you should use the Manage Button to optimize storage space. We recommend you delete larger files that you don’t need, old caches, videos, and items in the Downloads folder. This process can take significant time, you so can use a good Mac cleaner app to save time.

Change Scraqtch Disk Location

You can take advantage of this solution if you have several drives on your Mac. You need to launch Photoshop and select Preferences in the menu. Then, you need to click the Scratch Disks option in the menu that opens up. Tick a different, more spacious drive to select it as a scratch disk. Press OK and restart the program. 

If you can’t open Photoshop, you may press the Command key and the Option key when launching the program.  

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