Jul 31, How to Fix the "Scratch Disk Full" Error Message!

You May Have Run into the “Scratch Disk Full” Error Message… Here Are Some Tips on What It Is and How to Fix It!

Creative process and workflow

Each videographer, video editor, graphic artist, photographer etc. has their own creative process and personal workflow routine they use to achieve their finished product…

 It is sometimes hard enough to figure out how you’re going to translate the concept you have in your head to the finished product and then how to go about the workflow steps to bring it to life…. And once you have started this creative process few things are more frustrating than when your computer breaks down, doesn’t respond or gives you error messages that you don’t readily know how to handle.

* Just like the driver who “just wants to get to where he’s going” … it’s upsetting when you have a flat tire! The “Scratch Disk Full” error message is one of those… especially if you don’t have a clue as to why you’re getting this message.

Luckily… You don’t have to be a computer genius to fix it. You just need to know what this error message really means, what are the simple steps that will , in most cases, handle it and… Some bigger picture tips on how you can emulate the Pros and set up your equipment to be the fast, powerful and reliable tools they should be… That way… you can worry about creating your masterpiece… and not about having to be a computer scientist!

What Is a Scratch Disk?

What is a scratch disk?

Okay… So first of all what is a scratch disk anyway? Adobe Systems Inc. defines it as: “Any drive, or partition of a drive, with free memory”.

* Let’s take this definition a little bit further… It is space (a designated virtual memory area) on your computer’s drive (or drives) that has been reserved by your graphics, photo or video editing program and will be used as a temporary work and storage area for that program’s working files as needed by that program.

Normally, by default, your graphics, photo or video editing program will use your primary drive (the drive on which the operating system is installed) as your primary scratch file. However, most graphic arts programs will give you the ability to decide where you want the scratch space located.

Graphic arts programs usually give you the ability (through their Options  or Preferences  tab) to set up the primary and/or additional scratch disks on drives other than the primary drive. A scratch space can be set up on actual physical primary drives (hard drives, SSDs etc.) or partition(s) (volumes) on a primary drive or… Set up on secondary drives (storage drives), for example a fast USB drive.

* A key point to remember… when you’re setting up a scratch space (virtual memory area) is that you want to set it up on a drive that has, and will continue to have, plenty of space.

How Is a Scratch Disk Used?

How is a scratch disk used?

The scratch disk resource is used by your graphics, photo or video editing program when there is not enough space in the system RAM to hold the information needed to perform a certain process or function.

The scratch file virtual memory area can also store data for quick retrieval that is not needed at the moment but may be needed at some point during the process. It is a “virtual memory” space and operates on same principles as any other virtual memory. The major difference is that this virtual memory space has been set up by the graphics, photo or video editing program itself for the work being done by that program.

Your computer operating system, of course, sets up virtual memory space as needed for the work the operating system is doing. In both cases, program processes and computer operating system processes can be speeded up by installing as much RAM (physical memory) as possible in your computer.

* The more physical memory (RAM) the computer has to work with the less need there is for processing data through the slower virtual memory.

Error Message: Scratch Disk Full… What You Can Do…

Scratch disk full error message

If you’re getting the error message: “Scratch Disk Full “… It means that the drive that you’re using for your scratch space does not have the room needed for the temporary files that your program wants to deposit there.

The primary thing that needs to be done here is that you need to free-up disk space. Here are two things you can try…

Create More Disk Space on Your Drive

You can free-up disk space on your drive by deleting old, unneeded or unwanted files and programs. If you have (and believe me you should have!) a good utility program that cleans up temporary and other unneeded files then use it to clean these files out and recover more disk space. It is a good practice to do this regularly, whether you’re getting error messages are not, as it keeps your drive “healthy”and uncluttered. If you do this regularly you will normally find that your computer stays responsive and stable.

Defragment Your Hard Drive

Defragment your drive, if you have a hard drive. Scratch disks normally need contiguous (adjoining or adjacent) space to create their temporary folders. If a large enough contiguous space is not available you can get the “Scratch Disk Full” error message as the program, seeing that it does not have enough contiguous space to create it’s files, sees the drive as “full”.

Note: defragmenting does not apply to solid-state drives. On these types of drives if you’re getting a “scratch disk full” error message… it means that you have no more room on that drive. You’ll need to move or delete files in that case.

The more longer-term solution is to create your scratch files on a large and separate secondary drive, such as a second hard disk in your computer, or a removable solid-state drive, such as a flash drive or SSD that is plugged into your USB or FireWire port. But, just a warning, make doubly sure that, if you’re creating a scratch space on a drive that plugs into your computer, that it is a fast drive connected to a fast computer port… If not, you’ll grow old trying to finish a project!

Tips for Best Scratch Disk Performance!

Tips for Best scratch disk performance

Here are some tips that may help you avoid the “Scratch Disk Full” error message.

Create Your Scratch Files on a Secondary Drive

* It is best that you do not have the “scratch disk” space located on the same physical drive as your operating system.

If you create the scratch space on the same drive that your operating system is on it will be more subject to the higher priority given to system resources. Your operating system is first in line for a variety of commands and processes that need to be carried out (and quite rightly so) but, this generally slows down the access to the resources your graphics, photo or video editing program needs to carry out the commands you’re giving it when you are creating your project.

Scratch files created on a secondary drive will give your program a little faster and more reliable response to your commands as there should be less chance of the “bottlenecking” that can occur when the system carries out those commands.

Solid-State Drives and Scratch Disks

* Solid-state drives and devices such as flash drives, are fine to use.

If you have a solid-state drive as your primary then just use that as your scratch space. It will be as fast as any other secondary drive that you can use as the seek times (the time it takes to find the physical location of a piece of data on a disk) will be comparable with any other drive that you could use.

Just make sure however, if you need to use a plug-in USB or FireWire drive that it has fast read/write times. Meaning… Make sure that the read/write times are faster than your hard drive (if that’s what you have as your primary drive). If the read/write times are slow then you’ll get very slow program responses, mysterious glitches etc. and (by experience) working on your project can become “painful”! Believe me!

Keep Your Hard Drive Defragmented

* Defragmenting your hard drives regularly is an excellent practice to ensure that your drive seek times are as fast as they can be. Note: solid-state drives do not need to be defragmented.

Scratch disks normally need contiguous (adjoining or adjacent) drive space to properly create their temporary files.

If you’re using a hard drive then this is just one more reason to keep that drive defragmented as, even though you have enough space on your hard drive, you can still get a “Scratch Disk Full” error message as the program won’t find enough “contiguous” drive space to create the temporary files needed.

RAID Disks

* RAID Disks/Disk Array setups are very good options as places to set up your scratch disks. This is what the Pros do and it works very well.

Invest in a Larger Drive

* Of course, the best solution, if you’re getting a “Drive full” type error messages is, to invest in a larger drive.

Even the very large drives are still fairly inexpensive.

Also, they can be installed quickly and easily. They are are good solution if you find that you’ve accumulated a lot of files that you don’t particularly want to get rid of.

For Further Information on Program Optimization See:

So… Use the above Information to Ensure That Any Scratch Disk Problems Will Be a Thing of the Past!

Have fun…!  Dan (Editor)

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