Microsoft’s “Disk Full” Error Workaround

Article contributed by Beth Rosengard

Microsoft has come up with a workaround to the “Disk Full” error that occurs sometimes when trying to save a Word document. This is an obscure bug (which is why it took Microsoft so long to find its cause). The bug occurs only sometimes and in a very specific set of circumstances. It affects both Microsoft Word 2001 and Word X and, unfortunately, Word 2004 as well. (We're not sure that it isn't a different bug in Word 2004 but the fact is that you can still occasionally get "Disk Full" errors in this version.) For more about the “Disk Full” bug and the detective work required to nail it down, see Rick Schaut’s Anatomy of a Software Bug [Lene Fredborg, 4-Feb-2019: Removed outdated link to].

Brief explanation

The error is caused by having too many temporary files open, which is in turn caused by Word trying to maintain the stack (or list) of Undo actions available. Workaround #1 explains how to avoid the error when working with a particular type of document layout. Workaround #2 applies regardless of the type of document: It wipes out the temporary files and, consequently, the stack of Undo actions so that Word is able to perform the save without error.

Note:  As stated above, this error occurs less frequently in Word 2004. Microsoft raised the limit on open files in Word 2004, and put in a work-around that automatically senses the problem and offers to clear the Undo Stack for you. So it is rare that you will see the problem in Word 2004, and if you do, the fixes described here won't work.

In Word 2004, it is far more likely that the disk (or folder you are trying to write to) actually is full, or that you really do have too many files open!

Workaround #1

If you’re working on a document that has headers and footers with page fields in them, do your editing in Normal view, and you’ll likely never hit the “Disk is full” error on save.

Workaround #2

You must have Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) installed in order for this workaround to activate. If you have never installed VBA, you will find it in the Value Pack on your Office X or Office 2001 installation CD. After installing it, you will need to re-apply all Updaters appropriate to your version of Office.

  1. Clicking on the following link will download the fix to your computer:
  2. Install the template by dragging it into your Applications: Microsoft Office (2001 or X): Office: Startup: Word folder.  You should now see “Disk Full Error?” on your File Menu in Word, just below the various Save options.  If you do not, you will have to perform a few extra steps as follows:
  3. Go to the Tools menu: Templates & Add-Ins.  You should see in the Global Templates & Add-Ins box.  Make sure it is checked.
  4. If does not appear in the Global Templates & Add-Ins box, click on Add, navigate to the template (in the Office: Startup: Word folder), and double click on it.  It will now appear in the Global Templates & Add-Ins box where you need to check it to enable it.

With the template properly installed, if you ever try to save a Word document and get the “disk full” error, just go to the File menu in Word, click on “Disk Full Error?” and you will be prompted to allow Word to close all temporary files. You will also be reminded to perform any desired Undo actions since they will no longer be available after running the fix.

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