Photoshop Scratch Disk Full on Mac? 6 Ways to Clear It

Edwin Parker
By Edwin Parker 11 Min Read
11 Min Read
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Mac computers are pretty awesome, aren’t they? They’re sleek, powerful, and can do a ton of cool stuff. But even these high-tech beauties aren’t perfect. Just like any other gadget, they can run into some hiccups, especially with hardware and software. A big part of these problems? It’s all about how Mac manages its memory.

Imagine every time you open an app on your Mac, it’s like the app is baking a cake but leaves all the dirty bowls and spoons in the kitchen. These are your temporary files and cache. They start to take up space, or in computer terms, they eat up your RAM. And when there’s too much of this clutter, your Mac starts to slow down. It’s like trying to bake in a kitchen filled with dirty dishes!

One specific issue you might have noticed is when you’re using Photoshop. It suddenly tells you that the ‘scratch disk is full’. Annoying, right?

But hey, don’t stress! If you’re facing this exact problem, we’ve got your back. We’re going to show you how to clean up all that digital mess in Photoshop and your scratch disk on a Mac.

Before we roll up our sleeves and get to cleaning, let’s first understand what a scratch disk really is. Plus, we’ll dig into why your Mac keeps telling you it’s full. This way, you’ll not only fix the problem but also understand why it happened in the first place. Let’s get started!

What is a scratch disk?

Okay, let’s talk about this thing called a scratch disk. It sounds a bit techy, but it’s actually quite simple. Think of a scratch disk as a virtual workbench that apps like Photoshop use when they need extra space. It’s like having an extra table to work on when your desk is overflowing with stuff. This scratch disk gives Photoshop some breathing room to handle big projects that need more space than what your computer’s main memory (RAM) can offer.

What are the reasons for the “photoshop scratch disk full Mac” error

Ever wondered why Photoshop on your Mac keeps complaining about a full scratch disk? Here are some key reasons:

  1. Temporary File Takeover: Just like our homes get cluttered with stuff over time, Photoshop’s workspace gets filled with temporary files. These are like little digital footprints of all your Photoshop projects.
  2. No Room in the Inn: Sometimes, the scratch disk itself runs out of space. It’s like trying to add more to an already full storage unit.
  3. Full Disk Partition: Photoshop might be using a specific part of your Mac’s storage (a partition) for its scratch disk. If that particular section is full, Photoshop will have a hard time finding space to work.
  4. RAM Running Low: Photoshop also needs a certain amount of your Mac’s RAM to function smoothly. If it doesn’t get enough, it starts to struggle, leading to the scratch disk error.
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What to do when Photoshop shows scratch disks are full on Mac

Below are the quick and simple fixes that you can try your hands at when Photoshop shows scratch disks are full on Mac.

1. Clear Photoshop Cache

One of the first things you can do when Photoshop cries about a full scratch disk is to clean up its cache. Think of this as emptying the trash can in your digital Photoshop workspace. It’s pretty straightforward. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open Photoshop – Fire up your Photoshop app.
  2. Head to ‘Edit’ – Look at the top of the screen where the menu bar is, and click on ‘Edit’.
  3. Find ‘Purge’ – Now, move your mouse over the option that says ‘Purge’. You’ll see a few choices pop up.
  4. Choose What to Delete – You’ll get options like histories, clipboards, video cache, etc. Think of these like different types of clutter in your Photoshop room. You can choose to clear out specific types or just go for the big clean by selecting ‘All’. This will clear every type of cache in Photoshop.

2. Scrape away Photoshop temp files from Mac

If clearing the cache didn’t solve the problem, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and tackle the temporary files. These temp files are like leftovers from your Photoshop projects. Over time, they can really pile up and clog your system, leading to the ‘scratch disk is full’ message. Here’s how to get rid of them:

  1. Search for “pst” Files: Start by finding files with the “.pst” extension. These are often hidden in various folders, so a thorough search might be needed.
  2. Look for “.tmp” Strings: After you locate the “.pst” files, keep an eye out for strings with the “.tmp” extension. These are the temporary files that Photoshop creates and sometimes forgets to clean up.
  3. Find ‘Photoshop Temp’: Now, use the search function to look for “Photoshop Temp”. This will help you scan the hard drive for any related temporary files.
  4. Delete the Temp Files: Once you have a list of these temporary files, it’s time to delete them. But be careful! Make sure they are indeed Photoshop temp files before you delete them. You don’t want to accidentally remove something important to your Mac’s system.
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3. Clear and optimize the disk space

If you’re still seeing the ‘scratch disk is full’ message in Photoshop, it might be time to look beyond Photoshop and into your Mac’s overall disk space. Sometimes, the solution lies in giving your whole system a bit of breathing room. Here’s a step-by-step guide to clear and optimize your Mac’s disk space:

  1. Head to the Apple Menu: Click on the Apple logo at the top left corner of your screen. This is where your journey begins.
  2. Explore ‘About This Mac’: From the drop-down menu, select ‘About This Mac’. This opens a window that tells you all about your Mac’s current state.
  3. Check Out the Storage Tab: In the ‘About This Mac’ window, you’ll find a tab labeled ‘Storage. Click on it to see how your disk space is being used.
  4. Manage Your Storage: Here comes the important part. On the Storage screen, you’ll see a ‘Manage’ button. Clicking this button opens up a new world of options to help you free up disk space.

4. Change the scratch disk

Sometimes, the best solution is to simply switch the scratch disk to a different location. This can be like giving Photoshop a new room to work in. Here’s how to change the scratch disk in Photoshop:

  1. Open Photoshop Settings: Start Photoshop and head to the menu. Look for ‘Preferences’.
  2. Select ‘Scratch Disk’: In the Preferences menu, you’ll find an option labeled ‘Scratch Disk’. This is where you can manage Photoshop’s extra storage space.
  3. Adjust Scratch Disk Settings: You’ll see a list of drives that can be used as scratch disks. Check the box next to a drive to add it as a scratch disk, or uncheck to remove it.
  4. Restart Photoshop: After making your changes, click ‘OK’ and restart Photoshop. This will apply your new scratch disk settings.

5. Clean RAM in terminal

If you’re still facing issues, it might be due to insufficient RAM. Photoshop needs enough RAM to function smoothly. Here’s how to free up RAM space on your Mac:

  1. Open Terminal: Go to your Launchpad and find the Terminal app. This is where you can enter commands directly into your Mac’s system.
  2. Run the ‘Purge’ Command: In Terminal, type or paste sudo purge. This command helps to clear out inactive memory and free up RAM.
  3. Enter Your Password: You’ll be prompted to enter your Mac’s password. This is a security measure. Once you enter it, the command will run.

In Conclusion

So there you have it! When Photoshop throws a ‘scratch disk full’ curveball at you on your Mac, you now have a toolbox of fixes to try out. We’ve walked through clearing caches, tidying up temp files, optimizing your Mac’s storage, switching up scratch disks, and even freeing up RAM.

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Did these solutions help you get back on track with your Photoshop projects? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below to let us know if this guide was helpful, or if there are other tech challenges you’re facing. Your feedback is invaluable in helping us create content that truly makes a difference.

And remember, for more tech updates and solutions like these, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and bookmark us. We’re always here to help you navigate the tech world with ease and confidence. Happy Photoshopping, and here’s to smooth, uninterrupted creativity on your Mac!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when Photoshop says "scratch disk full" on a Mac?

When Photoshop says "scratch disk full," it means that the computer's hard drive or designated scratch disk is running low on free space, preventing Photoshop from swapping out information to it as needed.

How do I clear the scratch disk on my Mac?

There are several ways to clear the scratch disk on a Mac, including deleting temporary files, deleting unused apps and files, creating a larger scratch disk, and optimizing the computer's storage settings.

Can I use an external hard drive as a scratch disk for Photoshop on my Mac?

Yes, you can use an external hard drive as a scratch disk for Photoshop on a Mac. To do this, connect the hard drive to the Mac, open Photoshop, and then go to Edit > Preferences > Scratch Disks. Choose the external hard drive as the primary scratch disk and then click OK.

Will clearing the scratch disk on my Mac delete any of my Photoshop files or projects?

No, clearing the scratch disk on a Mac will not delete any Photoshop files or projects. However, it's always a good idea to back up your files before making any significant changes to your computer's storage settings.

How often should I clear the scratch disk on my Mac?

The frequency with which you should clear your Mac's scratch disk depends on how often you use Photoshop and how large your projects typically are. As a general guideline, it's a good idea to clear the scratch disk regularly to prevent it from filling up and slowing down your computer.

Can I automate the process of clearing my Mac's scratch disk?

Yes, you can use software like CleanMyMac X or Disk Doctor to automate the process of clearing your Mac's scratch disk. These programs scan your computer for files that can be safely deleted and then clear them out automatically.
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