Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Can't Save Edited Document.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 9, 2020)
David has a large Word file, approximately 6.3 MB in size. If he tries to edit it and save it, he always gets the reply that "The disk is too full or too many files are open." Neither situation is true. If David tries to save it without altering it, there is no error response, but it also appears that the document isn't really saved anew (insofar as its Date Modified property isn't updated). He's tried chopping it up into smaller files and saving those, but whatever he does he gets the same error response.
There are a few things you should try to help narrow down the problem. First, get out of Word and do a search (using Windows tools) to locate any temporary files that may be created by Word or by other programs. You want to get rid of these; they are intended to be temporary, after all.
Look for anything ending with a TMP file extension or anything that starts with a dollar sign ($). Anything with the TMP extension can be deleted outright; anything that starts with a dollar sign can be deleted if it appears that the file is simply a Word document with the dollar sign added as a prefix. You can find more information about Word's use of temporary files at this page in the Knowledge Base:
After getting rid of the temporary files, run the Disk Cleanup app (Windows Disk Cleanup in earlier versions of Windows). In newer versions of Windows, type "disk cleanup" (without the quotes) in the search box to the right of the task bar. In earlier versions of Windows, you can find this by navigating (using the Start menu) to All Programs | Accessories | System Tools. This program will get rid of a lot of other non-essential files and could improve the responsiveness of your system.
You'll also want to make sure that Word features that add to document complexity are turned off. For instance, if you've used Word's versioning capabilities with the file, turn them off. If you've turned on AutoSave, turn it off. If you've used Track Changes, then turn it off and resolve all the changes in the document. Then use Save As to save out the document under a new file name.
If you still can't save your edited document, then there is a good chance that the document is corrupted in some way. Corruption can happen without provocation or purpose, particularly with heavily edited documents and with complex documents.
If you suspect corruption, a good thing to do is to try opening the document using the Open and Repair option. First, however, you should make a copy of the document outside of Word. Then use Open and Repair to try to open the copy. Open and Repair is an option available on many of the newer versions of Word; just select the document in the Open dialog box and then click the down-arrow next to the Open button. You can then select Open and Repair.
It is also a good idea to do your file work (whether with Open and Repair or otherwise) on a local hard drive. Don't do it over a network connection, as the connection itself could add complexity or problems that make it harder to solve what is happening.
If you are still having problems, then you'll need to resort to some older, tried-and-true methods to resolve any corruption issues. Load the original file (not the copy you used Open and Repair with) and use Save As to save the document in different formats. For instance, try to save it in RTF format. You can then reload the RTF file and save it back out as a Word document. Your formatting and other document elements should be preserved, but the "round trip" through RTF ends up clearing out any corruption that may have occurred.
If the problem still exists, it could be related to a more complex problem, such as a bad image or a bad link to an object. In this case, the best approach is to slowly copy pieces of your document from the old document to a new one. Just open both the old document and a new, blank document, and start copying parts from old to new. Don't copy over any section breaks; leave those in the old document. (You can always add them later in the new document.) Make sure, as well, that you only copy over pieces of the document that contain no more than a single object, such as a graphic or embedded sound file.
After copying each piece to the new document, save your changes. If you get an error during saving, then you know that the last piece you tried to paste actually contained the problem object, link, or whatever. Go back to the saved version of the new document and rebuild or skip over the problem piece.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9564) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Can't Save Edited Document.
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