When you are editing a picture in Photoshop, and encounter the scratch disks full error, it can be very annoying because troubleshooting during the editing session is the last thing you would want to do.

In this article, we’ll explain what this error message means and how to fix the issue.

What Is a Scratch Disk?

What Is a Scratch Disk?

Intensive programs like Photoshop need some working space – virtual memory or cache memory to store temporary files. Scratch disk space is used when there is not enough RAM to complete a specific process-heavy task, for example, editing photos and videos with multiple edits and layers.

When you regularly work with large images, Photoshop creates a huge amount of temporary files that occupy a lot of your disk space. Keep in mind that temporary files can build up on your drive without leaving any evidence that they exist. If you often force-quit Photoshop, your system may store tons of temporary files, saved for you, just in case.

Excessive temporary files are the most common reason why you see the scratch disk error message on your Mac. But there are other reasons as well:

  • You are running out of free space on your hard drive or SSD
  • Limited RAM is only available for Photoshop
  • The partition Photoshop uses is too full.

How to Fix the “Scratch Disks Are Full” Error

When this type of error occurs, Photoshop either crashes or doesn’t load at all. So what can you do to solve this issue quickly and get back to work on your project? Here are some tips on how to clear your scratch disk.

Clear Photoshop Cache

You can delete specific Photoshop caches, using an in-built tool that deals with cache memory. This method will allow you to clean up the video cache, histories, clipboard, or all of these files. Just follow these steps.

  • First, launch Photoshop and press the Edit menu button.
  • Hover over Purge. You’ll see 4 different options – All, Undo, Histories, Clipboard. If some items are greyed out, it means these caches have already been cleared.
  • Choose the specific item you want to remove or choose All to delete all caches.
  • Make sure you won’t lose any important data and click OK to confirm.

Delete Temporary Files

You can manually delete Photoshop’s own temporary files from Finder. It takes time and requires more effort to search and find them, but it is worth doing because this way, you can get some valuable space.

You need to open Finder and search for files with the extension .tmp. Photoshop files always begin with “pst”, so you should delete any file that matches these parameters. Right-click on the files you want to get rid of and move them to Trash.

Clear Your Disk Space

Check out your storage space to find out if it’s possible to delete some files or documents that you don’t need any more. You can do it by opening the Apple menu and choosing the option About This Mac. Then you should go to Storage and take a look at the bars.

Find out what each color represents and look at the contents to determine if anything can be removed. A good idea is to transfer important items to external storage media or cloud storage solutions if you have an account on any of them.

Other options to free some disk space include clearing browser caches, removing duplicated files, clearing the Downloads folder, emptying Trash, deleting old or large files. This process can be rather time-consuming, so you can use a good Mac cleaner app to do it automatically.

Free Up RAM

RAM shortage can stop Photoshop, so you should find out what is using most of your Mac’s resources. You can do it using Activity Monitor. Open it, then choose Finder. Go to Applications and select Utilities. You’ll see a list of processes, and the most intensive one will be listed first. Select the app or process that you don’t want running and press the “X” button to quit it.

Change Location of Your Scratch Disk

If the same scratch disk problems persist, you may use an external hard drive or SSD as a scratch drive. Here is how you can change your scratch disk on Mac.

  • Open Photoshop and in the menu bar, choose Preferences.
  • Select Scratch disk and tick the drive in the checkbox to use it as a new scratch disk.
  • Press the OK button to save the changes.

After you have completed these steps, you need to restart Photoshop once again.

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