Word 2008: “Unable to Save: Disk Full or Too Many Files are Open”

January 26, 2009

word-iconWord’s infamous “Unable to Save: Disk Full or Too Many Files are Open” error apparently still hasn’t resolved , as of the latest version of Office 2008 (v12.1.5).

It popped up today at a clients office when one of the staff was attempting to save a .doc to her desktop. Saving to a new location produced the same result. So did trying to save it as a .docx file.

Fortunately, there’s a fairly painless work-around: save the file as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) document. Then close & re-launch Word & open the .rtf file & re-save it as a Word document. Unless you have some exotic formatting, everything should look identical.

It’s important to note that this is more of a bug then a genuine error & doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with having too many files open. And while it occurs most often when trying to save files to network shares, apparently local saves are not entirely exempt either.

Details on the causes of the error, as found on word.mvps.org, can be found below. It’s a bit old & focused on saving to servers but the general principles (& problems) seem to apply for local saves, too.

Here’s a  link to a short thread on the subject from Mactopia’s Office For Mac forums.

Can’t Save or Re-Save


The error message you see “Unable to Save: Disk Full or Too Many Files Are Open” is a generic “Sorry I am unable to save” message, and it can be caused by anything that prevents Word from obtaining an acknowledgement of completing its write to disk, including userID permissioning errors, failed network connections, more than about 9 documents open at once, inability to store or release its lock file on the server, or even the reason stated!

However, the cause we are most familiar with on the Mac is due to bugs in the transport between OS X and the file server. Apple and Microsoft introduced changes to overcome a security hole a few months ago, which caused the data stream between the client and server to be authenticated more strictly, and this has exposed errors which have been there forever.

The issue is with the way Word “streams” a file to or from storage. The problems are not exposed in other applications, because they do not attempt to open multiple connections with the file server.


One work-around that is partially successful is to set the Word>Preferences>Save to ensure that Fast Saves is OFF and Always Make Backup is ON. This doesn’t cure the problem, but on some kinds of servers, it raises the number of saves you get before you see the problem to around 60 saves, which is more than most users do on a single document.

When a user gets this error, they will find that if they attempt to save the document in RTF format to their local disk, they will usually succeed, thus preserving their work. (Italics are mine).

Until this bug is finally fixed, users can use Finder to copy their document from the server to their local disk, work on it there, then use Finder to copy it back again. Word must be quit, not just minimized, when you copy the document back to the server.  The bug won’t strike if both the file and its attached template are on a local drive.

Other than that, all you can do is keep your server and client patches up to the latest released levels and keep hoping: just like the rest of us.


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