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In Data Management Last updated: August 4, 2023
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Is your Photoshop working at a slow speed? Read this article until the end to find the perfect solution.

When working on image-heavy projects in Photoshop, you may have noticed that the program sometimes slows down or becomes less fast. The use of scratch files is likely to blame for these problems. In Photoshop, a “scratch disk” is a special place on your computer’s hard drive where data can be stored temporarily when the RAM isn’t enough to do the editing job.

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Photoshop needs many resources to run smoothly because it is a powerful and feature-rich picture editing program.

Even though having a lot of RAM is essential for quickly accessing data, there are times when it can get too full, like when working with big image files or doing editing tasks that use a lot of memory. When this happens, Photoshop uses “scratch disks” to give the computer more “virtual memory.”

Introduction to Scratch Disk in Photoshop

There are two main ways to use the scratch drive. First, when the Random Access Memory (RAM) is complete, Photoshop moves some data from the RAM to the scratch disk to make room for ongoing jobs. This action is called “swapping.” Photoshop may use the scratch disk often when you use effects, use more than one layer, or use tools with a lot of memory.

In the second situation, some temporary files are made. As you work on your projects, Photoshop automatically makes temporary files to store your back history, the items on the clipboard, and other temporary information related to your editing session. The scratch disk is where these files are kept until you stop the app or remove them yourself.

A woman sitting in front of a computer screen.

The scratch disk is essential to Photoshop’s smooth operation but can also be a double-edged sword if used incorrectly. As you work on many projects, these temporary files can add up and take up a lot of room on your hard drive. When the scratch disk is almost entire or broken up, it can significantly affect how well Photoshop works, causing slow response times and even application crashes.

In the following parts, we’ll discuss why cleaning Photoshop’s scratch disks is essential and show you how to do it step-by-step. Also, we’ll give you helpful tips on managing scratch disk space so that Photoshop works at its best. This will help you avoid annoying slowdowns and improve your creative process.

Importance of Cleaning Scratch Disks in Photoshop

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Properly managing and regularly clearing scratch disks in Photoshop is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and ensuring a seamless editing experience. Let’s delve into the key reasons why cleaning scratch disks is essential.

Enhanced Performance and Responsiveness

When the scratch disk contains excessive temporary files, it can lead to fragmentation and inefficient data retrieval. This can significantly slow down Photoshop’s performance, causing delays in executing commands, applying filters, and navigating complex projects. Cleaning the scratch disk frees up valuable space and allows Photoshop to function with improved responsiveness.

Preventing Application Crashes

A whole or fragmented scratch disk increases the risk of application crashes. When Photoshop cannot promptly access the required temporary data from the scratch disk, it may lead to errors or even force the software to shut down unexpectedly. Regularly clearing scratch disks reduces the likelihood of encountering such crashes, ensuring a more stable editing environment.

Avoiding Data Loss and Corruption

In a system or software crash, temporary files stored on the scratch disk may become corrupted. If these files are critical to your ongoing project, you risk losing valuable work. Cleaning the scratch disks minimizes data loss and safeguards your creative efforts from unforeseen technical mishaps.

A blue button with the word data loss on it.

Efficient Utilization of Multiple Scratch Disks

Photoshop allows users to assign multiple scratch disks, significantly improving performance, especially on systems with limited RAM. However, the overall performance gain can be compromised if these additional scratch disks are cluttered with unnecessary temporary files.

Regularly cleaning all designated scratch disks ensures that each one operates optimally, distributing the workload efficiently across multiple drives.

Creating Adequate Space for Complex Projects

When working on high-resolution images, multi-layered compositions, or intricate 3D designs, Photoshop demands substantial scratch disk space to manage the extensive temporary data. Keeping the scratch disks clean ensures enough room to accommodate the large temporary files generated during memory-intensive tasks, facilitating the smooth editing of complex projects.

Maintaining Privacy and Security

Temporary files stored on the scratch disk may contain sensitive information from your editing sessions. Cleaning the scratch disks enhances performance and helps protect your privacy by erasing these temporary files and preventing unauthorized access to potentially confidential data.

A person holding a tablet with the word privacy on it.

Avoiding Performance Bottlenecks

When the scratch disk is nearly complete, it becomes a performance bottleneck, hindering Photoshop’s ability to function optimally. By regularly monitoring and cleaning the scratch disks, you eliminate this bottleneck and enable Photoshop to operate at its full potential, enabling you to work more efficiently.

How Photoshop Uses Scratch Disks?

Photoshop’s ability to handle big, memory-intensive projects and avoid speed problems caused by RAM is based on its use of scratch files. If you know how Photoshop uses scratch files, you’ll know how important it is to manage them well. Here’s a complete description of how scratch disks help Photoshop work best.

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Managing the virtual memory

Photoshop uses virtual memory to deal with memory needs bigger than actual RAM. When the amount of data being handled is more than what RAM can hold, Photoshop moves some of the data to the scratch disk, which makes virtual memory space. This is sometimes called “paging” or “swapping.”

For example, the RAM may be full if you work on a big-picture file or use many high-resolution levels. Then, Photoshop moves the data used the least often from the RAM to the scratch disk. This frees up room in the RAM for jobs that are still going on. When that information is needed again, Photoshop moves it from the scratch disk back into the RAM.

Storing files for a short time

Photoshop makes several temporary files to support the clipboard actions and other temporary data during editing. As you work on your project, these temporary files are made in real-time to help keep track of your changes. Photoshop saves temporary files on the scratch disk instead of writing and rewriting them to the hard drive, which would slow down performance.

When you use scratch disks to store temporary files, your working session stays the same even after you close Photoshop. These temporary files store essential information about your work, so you can pick up where you left off when you start the same project again.

Support for more than one scratch disk

Users can set up multiple scratch files in Photoshop, significantly improving speed, especially when working with a small amount of RAM. By spreading the work of virtual memory across multiple actual drives, Photoshop is better able to retrieve data. The software handles these scratch files smartly and uses them together to improve speed.

When you choose multiple scratch disks, Photoshop tries to use the one that can read and write data the fastest. This ensures that the data movement between RAM and the scratch disk happens quickly, reducing slowdowns.

Setting the order of the scratch disk

Users of Photoshop have the choice to change how they use scratch files. You can put the scratch disks in any order you want, with the top disk being the best option for storing temporary files and paging.

Prioritization is beneficial when one of the scratch disks is much faster than the others. By putting the fastest scratch disk at the top of the list, you can ensure that the most frequently viewed temporary data is saved on the fastest drive, improving total speed.

Clear Scratch Disks in Photoshop

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Clearing scratch disks in Photoshop is a straightforward process that can help improve the software’s performance and free up valuable disk space. Follow this step-by-step guide to clear scratch disks in Photoshop.

Step 1 – Save and Close Projects

Before you begin, save any ongoing projects in Photoshop, and close them. Also, ensure that you have saved your work in any other applications you might be using.

Step 2 – Launch Photoshop Preferences

Open Adobe Photoshop on your computer.

On a Windows PC, go to the “Edit” menu in the top menu bar, then select “Preferences.”

On a Mac, go to the “Photoshop” menu, then select “Preferences.”

Step 3: Access Scratch Disk Settings

In the Preferences window that appears, you will find a section labeled “Scratch Disks.”

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Photoshop displays all available hard drives on your system, and the primary scratch disk (usually the drive where the software is installed) is selected by default.

Step 4 – Add Additional Scratch Disks (Optional)

If your computer has multiple hard drives, you can enhance Photoshop’s performance by utilizing additional scratch disks. To add more scratch disks, check the boxes next to the drives you want to use.

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Photoshop will use the scratch disks in the order they appear in the list. The software will first try to write temporary files to the first scratch disk and then move on to the subsequent ones as needed. To prioritize scratch disks, arrange them in the preferred order using the arrow buttons on the right.

Step 5 – Clear Scratch Disks

Click the “Purge” button next to each scratch disk to clear the scratch disks.

Adobe photoshop cs6 - how to create adobe adobe ado.

A confirmation dialog box may appear, warning you that purging the scratch disk will delete all the temporary files stored on the selected disk(s). If you are sure that you want to proceed, click “OK.”

Step 6 – Reboot Photoshop

After clearing the scratch disks, close the Photoshop application.

Restart Photoshop to apply the changes.

Step 7 – Verify Scratch Disk Space

Once Photoshop restarts, you can revisit the Performance Preferences to verify that the scratch disks are cleared, and the disk space has been freed.

Note: It’s important to remember that clearing scratch disks permanently delete all the temporary files. While this action can enhance Photoshop’s performance, it also means that any unsaved changes or temporary data related to your current projects will be lost. Therefore, saving your work is essential before clearing the scratch disks.

By following these steps to clear scratch disks in Photoshop and managing them regularly, you can ensure that Photoshop operates optimally, providing you with a smoother and more efficient editing experience, especially when working on memory-intensive projects.

Tips for Managing Scratch Disk Space

Managing scratch disk space is crucial for maintaining optimal performance in Photoshop and ensuring a seamless editing experience. Here are some detailed tips to help you effectively manage scratch disk space:

Allocate Multiple Scratch Disks

Assign multiple scratch disks, preferably on different physical drives. This allows Photoshop to distribute the workload, reducing the risk of performance bottlenecks.

Choose High-Speed Drives

Designate fast drives, such as Solid State Drives (SSDs), as scratch disks. SSDs offer faster read and write speeds, resulting in improved performance.

Prioritize Scratch Disks

Arrange scratch disks in the order of preference. Photoshop will use the first scratch disk for temporary file storage and paging, moving on to others only when necessary.

Avoid Using System Drive

Refrain from designating your system drive (the drive where the operating system is installed) as a scratch disk. This drive is busy with system processes and may lead to conflicts with Photoshop operations.

Monitor Scratch Disk Space

Regularly check the available space on your designated scratch disks. Running out of space can cause performance issues and errors in Photoshop.

Clear Scratch Disks Regularly

Develop a habit of clearing scratch disks periodically. Before starting a new intensive project, or when you notice a decline in Photoshop’s performance, clear the scratch disks to free up space.

Set a Default Scratch Disk

Select a primary scratch disk with sufficient space and keep it designated as the default. This ensures that Photoshop always has a designated location for temporary files.

Limit History States

Reduce the number of history states to lower the amount of temporary data generated. Fewer history states mean smaller temporary file sizes, conserving scratch disk space.

Optimize Photoshop Settings

Adjust Photoshop settings to use less scratch disk space. For example, reduce the cache levels for images and limit the number of cache file sizes.

Regularly Defragment Scratch Disks (Traditional HDDs only)

If using traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) as scratch disks, defragment them regularly to optimize disk space and improve read/write speeds.

Following these tips, you can effectively manage scratch disk space in Photoshop, ensuring smoother performance and a more enjoyable creative workflow.


Managing scratch disk space is crucial for optimizing Adobe Photoshop‘s performance. The scratch disk serves as virtual memory, storing temporary data and providing additional RAM when needed. Regularly clearing scratch disks enhances Photoshop’s responsiveness, prevents crashes, and safeguards against data loss.

Users can improve performance by allocating multiple scratch disks, prioritizing high-speed drives like SSDs, and avoiding using the system drive. Monitoring scratch disk space and setting a default scratch disk is essential for efficient operation. Limiting history states and optimizing Photoshop settings also reduce temporary data generation.

By following these tips and periodically clearing scratch disks, users can ensure a seamless editing experience, allowing them to focus on creativity without disruptions or slowdowns in Photoshop.

Next, read HDD vs. SSD – Which one should you choose?

  • Dhruv Parmar
    Dhruv is a senior content writer at Geekflare with proficiency in every niche. He mainly focuses on technology, product reviews, crypto, blockchain, and how-to articles. Other than these niches, he also likes to write about freelancing,… read more
  • Narendra Mohan Mittal

    Narendra Mohan Mittal is a Senior Digital Branding Strategist and Content Editor with over 12 years of versatile experience. He holds an M-Tech (Gold Medalist) and B-Tech (Gold Medalist) in Computer Science & Engineering.

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