Can’t Save Your File In Illustrator? Get 14 Easy Solutions

In this guide, you will learn why your Illustrator just won’t save your file and various ways you can use to solve this issue.

an unknown error has occurred – adobe illustrator won't save

As a creator, you already know how saving files in Adobe Illustrator is as simple as going to File > Save As… and File > Save.

But who knows, after battling hours, tears, and sweat on creating your best work, Illustrator won’t save your file.

Being a seasoned graphic designer who has been creating tons of designs and assets with Illustrator for more than 20 years, I am embarrassed to say I’ve encountered this situation countless times.

Those days, I just wanted to cry. There wasn’t a real-time help desk, although I’ve been a loyal Adobe subscription customer for years. No rescue team, no hero, nada!

Worst of all, every time I tried saving a file, the only message I got was An unknown error has occurredand nothing else.

There were also times when Illustrator kept crashing when saving, or returning a message: “Illustrator is unable to save this document due to some unexpected errors“.

An unknown error has occurred message – Illustrator won't save file

It is not fun when you can’t save a file that you could have been on time to deliver, and now you are fighting against time. I felt extremely defeated and wanted to quit.

If this is you, don’t worry, you are not alone. Over time, the great news is I’ve discovered several ways to have Illustrator finally save my file all the time.

Whether you get unexpected errors or Illustrator crashes left, right, and center, you are in the right place. So let’s dive in!

Why Illustrator Is Not Saving Your File

I know you want to fix this right now. But as much as I am frustrated over Illustrator not giving me any clue as to what is causing it not to save, I must say that this issue could be due to any of these various reasons.

1. Corrupted Files

A corrupted file can prevent Illustrator from saving your work properly. This may occur due to unexpected software crashes, power outages, or hardware issues.

2. Insufficient Disk Space

Lack of available disk space on your computer can also prevent Illustrator from saving your file. When the application doesn’t have enough space to save your work, it will fail to do so.

3. Incorrect File Format

If you are attempting to save your file in an incompatible or unsupported format, Illustrator may not save it.

4. Incompatible Software Version

Sometimes, saving issues can occur if your version of Illustrator is incompatible with your file.

5. Outdated Software Version

Have you just updated your Windows or MacOS? If you have, your Illustrator version may not be compatible with the updated operating system.

6. Permissions Issues

Lastly, issues with file and folder permissions can prevent Illustrator from saving your work. This usually occurs when you don’t have the necessary permissions to write to the destination folder.

What You Can Do If You Can’t Save Your Illustrator File

If you can’t save your Illustrator file, the first thing is to force quit Illustrator, go to Creative Cloud to update the app and reopen your file and save it again. Otherwise, read on to troubleshoot with other methods.

an unknown error has occurred – adobe illustrator won't save

Meantime, I believe you are facing one of these issues when trying to save your Illustrator file in vain:

  1. Illustrator keeps crashing
  2. illustrator freezes when saving
  3. Due to some unexpected errors
  4. An unknown error has occurred
  5. Error 5000
  6. No error messages and nothing is happening

Here are the methods and steps you can take to resolve them:

Method 1: Clear Disk Space

Insufficient disk space can cause saving errors. If your Illustrator file includes various assets like vector shapes, brushes, text, raster images, and effects, chances are, that the size of the file can be huge.

It’s best to always make sure the directory you are saving your Illustrator file in has sufficient disk space to store it. You can do the following to clear disk space:

  1. Delete unnecessary files and empty the trash or recycle bin.
  2. Uninstall unused applications.
  3. Perform a disk cleanup using built-in tools or third-party software.

Method 2: Select Disks With Enough Space

Your Illustrator is not saving, possibly because your file-saving location may not have enough space. Here are the steps to fix this:

Step 1: Plug-ins & Scratch Disk

Go to the top menu bar and select Illustrator > Preferences > Plug-ins & Scratch Disk.

Illustrator > Preferences > Plugins & Scratch Disk – Illustrator won't save

Step 2: Change the Scratch Disk

In the Preferences dialog box, go to the Scratch Disks sections. Then, in the Primary and Secondary fields, click the downward arrows and change the disks in the drop-down menus. Then, click the OK button.

change Primary and Secondary Scratch Disk – illustrator won't save

Try saving your file.

Method 3: Save To Cloud

If you aren’t able to clear your hard disk space, try choosing another location in the cloud to save your file. Here are some platforms you can use to save your files without taking up any disk space in your computer:

  1. Dropbox
  2. Box
  3. Google Drive
  4. iCloud
  5. OneDrive

Method 4: Update Illustrator Version

Incompatibility between your Illustrator version and the file can cause saving errors. Try updating Illustrator to the latest version by following these steps:

Step 1: Quit all Adobe apps

Before updating your Illustrator app, make sure to close other Adobe apps, such as Photoshop, Indesign, Adobe XD, etc.

Step 2: Update Illustrator

Open Creative Cloud and navigate to the Updates section. Click on the Update button to start the updating process and follow the instructions given.

update adobe illustrator app on creative cloud desktop app – illustrator won't save

Method 5: Adjust Permissions to Resolve Error 5000

If permission issues are preventing you from saving your file, you may see an error message such as this: “Illustrator can’t save the illustration you don’t have access privileges”.

Can't save the illlustration. You do not have enough access privileges. ID: –5000

In this case, you will have to adjust the necessary permissions for the destination folder.

Consult your operating system’s help documentation (Mac or Windows) for instructions on how to modify folder permissions.

Method 6: Reset Illustrator Preferences

Corrupted preferences can sometimes cause saving issues. It can be tough to identify which are the ones. Resetting the preferences allow the settings to be changed to the default version. Here are the steps to reset Illustrator preferences:

Step 1: Reset Preferences

First, quit your Illustrator app by going to Illustrator > Quit.

quit illustrator - Illustrator won't save

Then while re-launching Illustrator, press and hold Command + Option + Shift for Mac at the same time.

keyboard shortcut command option shift mac reset preferences - Illustrator won't save

Or Ctrl + Alt + Shift for Windows.

keyboard shortcut ctrl alt shift windows reset preferences

This will reset the preferences to their default settings.

Step 2: Quit and Reopen Illustrator

Quit Illustrator, then re-launch Illustrator and open your file. Try saving your file again.

Method 7: Save As Another Format

I’ve tried saving my Illustrator file in another format, and when open the newly saved format file and save it as .ai, it worked well. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Save As…

Go to File > Save As…

Step 2: Save the File As Another Format

Select the file format you prefer other than Adobe Illustrator (ai). Here are other formats you can save as before saving the file as .ai format:

  1. Illustrator EPS (eps)
  2. Adobe PDF (pdf)
  3. SVG (svg)
Save as PDF, EPS, SVG formats in Adobe Illustrator

If you were to export your file as raster image files like .png and .jpeg, your text will be embedded the next time you open the file in .ai. Hence, I won’t recommend that you save to such formats.

Method 8: Use Post-Script Format

Sometimes, saving your file as Post-Script first can help to eventually save it successfully in .ai format. Here are the steps to do that:

Step 1: Open the Print Dialog Box

Go to File in the top menu and select File > Print.

select file > print from top menu bar – illustrator won't save

Set your preferred options in the Print dialog box, or leave them as the default settings.

Step 2: Save as PostScript File

In the Printer drop-down menu, select Adobe Postscript File and click the Save button.

save as postscript – illustrator won't save

In the Print to File dialog box, name your file and make sure it ends with the .ps extension. Click the OK or Save button.

save .ps postscript format illustrator file – adobe illustrator won't save

Step 3: Open the PostScript File with Illustrator

Go to the folder directory where you’ve saved the PostScript file. Open it with Illustrator and now try to save it in .ai format.

Method 9: Transfer Contents to A New File

Your Illustrator won’t save possibly because of the file or document that got corrupted as you were working on it. It may not be due to the Illustrator app or your content. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Clean Up the File

Manually audit the elements, items, objects, text, and all assets you have on your file by removing anything that is not necessary.

Clean up the rest of your contents by selecting Object > Path > Clean Up….

Clean up Adobe illustrator files – illustrator won't save

Select all options in the Clean Up dialog box.

clean up dialog box – illustrator won't save

Step 2: Paste Remembers Layers

Open the Layers panel by selecting Window > Layers and click on the menu link in the top right-hand corner of the Layers panel.

Select Paste Remembers Layers in the drop-down menu.

select paste remembers layers from layers panel options menu – illustrator won't save

Step 3: Copy Content

Go to your artboard, and select all content using keyboard shortcuts Command + A on Mac.

select all keyboard shortcut command + A – illustrator won't save

Or Ctrl + A on Windows.

select all keyboard shortcut ctrl + A

Then, select Edit > Copy to copy your content.

select edit > copy to copy content from Illustrator – illustrator won't save

Step 4: Paste Content in New File

Start a new file by going to File > New.

start a new file on illustrator – illustrator won't save

Paste your copied content in the same position on the new file by going to the top menu and selecting Edit > Paste in Front.

paste in front – illustrator won't save

Now, try saving your new file as .ai.

Method 10: Remove Corrupted Items

Sometimes, the reason why won’t your Illustrator file save is due to the properties of the elements or items you have in your artwork. In this case, you will have to remove them so that Illustrator will save your file. Here are the ways to do that:

Step 1: Check for Corrupted Assets

Delete each item one at a time and test if Illustrator saves your file successfully after the item is removed. Undo the action and delete the next item if Illustrator still can’t save your file.

Step 2: Check for Corrupted Colors

If removing the items on the artwork doesn’t work, open the Swatches panel, remove all custom colors, and save the file.

Step 3: Check For Corrupted Fonts

If removing colors don’t work, transfer all content to a new document as a backup. Then, in the original file, convert all text to outlines or paths. Try saving your file this time.

If this works, it means the fonts can’t be used for some reason. Undo the Create Outlines action and change your fonts.

Method 11: Rename the File

One workaround is to rename the file. With the original file opened up, go to File > Save As…

Save as file in Adobe Illustrator – illustrator won't save

In the Save As dialog box, change the name in the Save As field. This method may help to refresh the file and remove the issue.

change file name – illustrator won't save

Method 12: Update Operating System and Graphic Card Drivers

Sometimes, all you need to do is to update your computer’s operating system. This will ensure your computer is cleaned up with some bugs fixed and graphic card drivers updated.

If you are using Mac like me, click the Apple logo on the top left-hand corner of the screen. Select About this Mac.

about this mac – illustrator won't save

A dialog box opens. Click on the Software Update… button.

software update button in mac os

A Software Update dialog box opens up. Click on the Upgrade Now button to update your operating system.

upgrade now mac os – illustrator won't save

If you are updating Windows, select Start Windows > Settings > Windows Update.

After updating your operating system, restart your computer and try saving your Illustrator file.

Method 13: Uncheck Save In Background

The feature to Save in Background is meant to allow your file to save while you carry on working on your designs in the same file.

This can help you save loads of time because you don’t have to wait for the saving process to complete before moving on to the next design task in the same file. However, this may also cause Illustrator not to save your file.

Here’s what you have to do:

Step 1: Preferences

Open Preferences and go to the File Handling section by selecting Illustrator > Preferences > File Handling in the top menu bar.

illustrator > preferences > file handing – illustrator won't save

Step 2: Uncheck Save in Background

In the File Handling section of the Preferences dialog box, uncheck Save in Background and click the OK button.

uncheck save in background – illustrator won't save

Quit Illustrator and restart it before working on your file. Try saving it to see if this works, otherwise, try the next method.

Method 14: Recreate File

I would use this as the last resort. If you are not able to identify which item or element in your original file is the culprit causing the Illustrator saving issues, it’s best to recreate the same design. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Copy Content

Tile your original Illustrator file to occupy one half of your screen and a fresh new file on the other half of the screen.

In the original file, select one item and copy it by selecting Edit > Copy, then click on your new file once and paste the item by selecting Edit > Paste in Place.

Step 2: Save New File

For each item you copy and paste, save the new file. In other words, you will attempt to save the new file every time a paste action is done.

Repeat for all other items.

Preventing Future Saving Issues

With your Illustrator working well to save your file, the next thing is to prevent these issues from happening again. Or at least make sure you are ready to face such issues if they do happen. Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Schedule a regular date and time to check if your Illustrator version is up-to-date and also compatible with your operating system.
  2. Make sure to save your file as many times as possible.
  3. Back up your files regularly so that if unexpected errors and crashes or saving issues were to arise, you don’t have to redo your designs from scratch!
  4. Use compatible file formats to avoid incompatibility issues between Illustrator and other graphics programs.


Can I recover unsaved work in Illustrator?

Yes, Illustrator has an auto-recovery feature that may help you recover unsaved work. Look for a temporary or recovery file in the default recovery folder or search for files with the “.tmp” extension.

Can I Work On My Illustrator File While It’s Being Saved?

It’s best not to work on your Illustrator file while it’s being saved, as this can cause issues or even corrupt your file.

But if you want to do so, you can do that by going to Preferences > File Handling and checking the option, Save in Background.

Restart your Illustrator and you can work on your Illustrator file while it’s saving in the background.

Can I Save My Illustrator File Directly To A Cloud Storage Service?

Yes, you can save your file directly to a cloud storage service like Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive, provided you have the necessary permissions and an active internet connection.

Why Does Illustrator Keep Crashing When Saving?

There are several reasons why your Illustrator keeps crashing when saving. Here are the most common reasons:

1. Insufficient System Resources

When your computer lacks the necessary system resources (RAM, CPU, or GPU) to run Illustrator smoothly, it can lead to crashes while saving. This issue is more likely to occur when working on large or complex files that require substantial resources.

2. Outdated or Incompatible Software

Outdated or incompatible versions of Illustrator or other Adobe software can cause conflicts and crashes during the saving process. Additionally, outdated drivers, especially for your GPU, can lead to Illustrator crashes.

3. Corrupted Preferences or Plugins

Corrupted preferences or third-party plugins can cause Illustrator to crash when saving. Incompatible or outdated plugins may not function correctly, leading to instability and crashes.

4. Corrupted Files

Working with corrupted files can cause Illustrator to become unstable and crash during the saving process. This issue can occur due to unexpected software crashes, power outages, or hardware issues.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, encountering issues when Adobe Illustrator doesn’t save your work can be both frustrating and time-consuming.

However, by understanding the common causes behind these problems, such as corrupted files, insufficient system resources, incompatible software versions, incorrect file formats, and permission issues, you can take the necessary steps to resolve them.

Furthermore, by actively applying best practices and preventative measures, such as keeping your software updated, saving your work regularly, creating backups, and using compatible file formats, you can minimize the chances of experiencing saving issues in the future.

This will allow you to focus on your creative work in Illustrator without the constant worry of losing your progress.

Before You Go…

Fixing Illustrator to save your file is important yet it’s just one of the basic steps. Knowing how to save your assets such as brushes is also key to productivity.

Read my next article to learn how to reuse your brushes over again without reinventing the wheel…

How To Save Brushes In Illustrator [3 Easy Steps]

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