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TechNote #64: Last modified: 11/1/16

"The disk is full" or "We can't open" Error Message in Microsoft Word

The information in this document applies to:

MathType 6 and later (Win & Mac)

Microsoft Word 2002 & later (Win)
Microsoft Word 2008 & later (Mac)


When trying to save Microsoft Word documents, some users receive the following error messages (Word 2010):

"disk full" error 

followed by... 

"disk full" error

Or perhaps you see this message (Word 2013):

These messages are displayed despite plenty of available free space on the hard drive. The exact error message or messages may vary by version of Microsoft Word and platform.


This error message indicates the embedding information for some of the graphics in your Microsoft Word document has been corrupted. Since Word cannot correctly save the file, it displays its default error message for file save failure. This problem occurs in Microsoft Word with many types of embedded graphics and is not specific to MathType graphics.

Determine if this error message is accurate before proceeding! Before reading further, verify that you have at least 10% available free space on your hard drive. Having 20% free is preferable.


In order to save your document, you must delete or repair the graphics with corrupt embedding information in your document. There are a number of methods available. This notice covers the following:

  1. Microsoft's Technical Notices about the "Disk Full" Error
  2. How to Quickly Repair Your Document
  3. How to Identify Corrupted Graphics
  4. How to Repair A Graphic Manually
  5. How to Prevent the "Disk Full Error"
  6. Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles about Corrupt Word Documents
  7. Getting This Problem Addressed by Microsoft

Microsoft's Technical Notices about the "Disk Full" Error

Microsoft discusses this problem on their website and provides a solution, but a simpler solution is available for MathType users below. Microsoft does not have an article specifically addressing every version of Word. The article linked here, while mentioning Word 2002 (Office XP) should apply for most Windows versions of Word.

Microsoft recommends locating and deleting those graphics which have corrupt embedding information. If a graphic created by a program other than MathType has corrupt embedding information, you must either delete the object and recreate it or contact the manufacturer of the application and see if they have any suggestions for dealing with this problem.

How to Quickly Repair Your Document

MathType provides an add-in for Microsoft Word that is automatically added to Word when MathType is installed. This add-in makes it easier to use MathType with Microsoft Word. The add-in adds a MathType menu to Microsoft Word, which includes the Convert Equations command.

Before using this method, please consider if your document contains other kinds of embedded graphics from other applications. If it does, you should verify that they are all okay before repairing your MathType equations using this method or Word may crash.

If you are using MathType for Windows or Macintosh, do the following to repair the embedding information for all the equations in your document:

  1. Choose Convert Equations from the MathType menu or ribbon tab of Microsoft Word.
  2. Select a Range of "Whole Document".
  3. Make sure that the "MathType or Equation Editor Equations" box is checked. It does not matter if the other boxes are checked or not.
  4. Choose to Convert Equations to "MathType Equations (OLE Objects)".
  5. Click "Convert".
  6. You should be able to save your Word document. If you cannot, you document contains graphics which cannot be repaired. Identify them per the above instructions, delete them, and recreate them.

How to Identify Corrupted Graphics

In order to be able to save the document, you must first locate the graphic with corrupt embedding information using Word's Update Fields command and either repair or delete it.

  1. In Word, choose Select All from Word's Edit menu to select the whole document.
  2. Press the F9 key to Update Fields. (some Mac OS X configurations override this F9 shortcut.)
  3. After the fields have been updated, Word will indicate if there were any problems with the update on its status bar in the lower left corner for a few seconds. If there were any errors, you will see the message, "One or more of the fields in the selection could not be updated".
  4. After you see this message, one or more of the equations in your document will have been replaced by the bolded message: 
Error! Object cannot be created from editing field codes.
  1. You can locate them in your document by choosing Find from the Edit menu of Word and searching for "Error!" (without the quotes).

  2. This appears for each equation which has corrupt embedding information. You may have more than one equation with corrupt embedding information.
  3. Choose Undo from the Edit menu of Word to undo the Update Fields and return the object back to its original state. If the object is a MathType object, you can attempt to repair it (see following section). If another kind of graphic has corrupted embedding information, you should delete the graphic or contact the manufacturer of the application that created it.

How to Repair a Graphic Manually

Although the embedding information for a graphic may be corrupt, the formatting information needed by MathType to create the equation is usually still intact and you can salvage the equation. To see if the equation can be repaired, try the following:

  1. Single-click on the equation to select it. Do not open the equation in MathType.
  2. Choose Cut from the Edit menu of Word to move the equation to the Windows clipboard.
  3. Without moving the cursor in your Word document, choose to insert a new equation into the same position in your Word document. An empty MathType window will open.
  4. Choose Paste from the Edit menu to paste the equation from the Clipboard into the empty window.
  5. If the equation reappears, you can simply close the window and the equation will be embedded in your document with new embedding information in the same position.
  6. If you get a message that says, "Clipboard contains no equation data" or no equation appears in the window, the equation is too damaged to repair and you will need to recreate it.

How to Prevent the "Disk Full Error"

Do Not Copy Equations and Paste Them Directly into the Same Word Document

Often, users may have an elaborate equation and would like to add a second equation to their document which is slightly different. Rather than creating the minor variation or the original from scratch, they copy the original equation that they have created, paste it elsewhere in the document, then double-click on it to edit it. This practice is strongly associated with the occurrence of the "Disk Full" error, but an alternate method is available which will not require completely recreating equations.

If you are copying and pasting equations within documents, rather than pasting copied equations directly into Word, do the following

  1. Open the equation you want to copy into MathType and copy it using standard copy methods.
  2. Insert a new MathType equation where you want the duplicate inserted.
  3. Paste the equation directly into the MathType window.
  4. Make any desired changes to the equation.
  5. Close MathType and return to your Word document.

Using this method will reduce the frequency of the "Disk Full" error or eliminate it altogether. If you have copied and pasted equations directly into a Word document before switching to this method, you may still experience the "Disk Full" error in that document, but you can address it as explained above.

Repair Frequently-used Source Documents and Templates which Include Equations

Many Word users use templates or are in the habit of opening old documents and revising or copying from them to create new documents, rather than starting from a new, blank document. To reduce the incidence of this problem, use the quick repair method to repair any document or template containing equations that you frequently use as a source for new document content.

Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles about Corrupt Word Documents

You may get the "Disk Full" error if your document is severely corrupted. Microsoft suggests methods for salvaging corrupt Word documents in their online Knowledge Base. If the methods outlined in this document are insufficient to address the "Disk Full" error, follow Microsoft's more general recommendations.

Word 2007 and later for Windows
Word 2008 and 2011 for Mac
Word 2008 for Mac
Word 2003 for Windows
Word 2002 for Windows

Getting This Problem Addressed by Microsoft

It's important for Microsoft’s customers to report their experience of this problem so that Microsoft can appreciate how widespread it is and appreciate the need to devote their programming resources toward resolving it. We’ve reported the details of this issue, including sample documents to Microsoft, and we encourage all users who experience this problem to do the same.

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