How To Troubleshoot Issues Related to the Media Cache in After Effects?

After Effects empowers you to craft stunning visuals, but a hidden gremlin can lurk within – the media cache. While essential for smooth playback, the cache can sometimes malfunction, leading to frustrating issues. Fear not, fellow creatives! This comprehensive guide equips you with the knowledge to troubleshoot common media cache problems in After Effects.

Understanding the Media Cache

The media cache acts as a temporary storage for processed video and audio previews of your project's elements. These previews include video frames, effects applied to footage, and pre-rendered compositions. By readily accessing cached previews, After Effects offers smoother playback during editing, saving you render times.

Signs of a Troubled Cache

Here are some telltale signs that your media cache might be causing issues:

  • Playback Stuttering: After Effects playback becomes jerky or laggy, even on a powerful computer.
  • Missing Previews: Cached previews are unavailable, forcing After Effects to re-render frames, slowing down your workflow.
  • Project Startup Issues: After Effects takes significantly longer to launch, potentially due to a massive or corrupted cache.
  • Error Messages: You encounter error messages related to the media cache during project launch or playback.

Let's delve into specific problems and their solutions:

1. Outdated or Corrupted Cache:

  • Symptoms: Playback stuttering, missing previews, or error messages.
  • Solution: Clear the media cache. After Effects offers two options:
    • Empty Disk Cache: Deletes all cached video previews.
    • Clean Database & Cache: Performs a more thorough cleanup, including project information and thumbnails. Location: Access these options by navigating to Edit > Preferences (Windows) or After Effects > Preferences (Mac) and selecting the Media and Disk Cache tab.

2. Insufficient Disk Space:

  • Symptoms: Error messages about low disk space, sluggish performance overall.
  • Solution: Free up disk space by:
    • Clearing the cache: As mentioned earlier.
    • Moving the cache location: Consider setting a custom location on a different drive with ample storage space. (Refer to the After Effects documentation for specific instructions).

3. Conflicting Cache Location:

  • Symptoms: Missing previews or playback issues, especially when collaborating on projects.
  • Solution: Ensure everyone working on the project uses the same media cache location. Project collaborators might need to manually point After Effects to the correct location on their systems.

4. Cache Size Mismanagement:

  • Symptoms: Slow project startup or sluggish performance due to a bloated cache.
  • Solution: Implement cache management strategies:
    • Selective Preview Generation: Utilize smart previews and region-specific pre-rendering instead of pre-rendering entire compositions.
    • Regular Cache Clearing: Develop a habit of clearing the cache periodically, especially after project milestones.

5. Third-Party Plugin Conflicts (Less Common):

  • Symptoms: Cache-related issues coincide with the installation of a new plugin.
  • Solution: Disable the plugin temporarily to see if the issue persists. If so, consider contacting the plugin developer for support or explore alternative plugins.

Advanced Troubleshooting Tips

For more complex cache issues, consider these additional steps:

  • Restart After Effects: A simple restart can often resolve temporary glitches related to the cache.
  • Check for After Effects Updates: Ensure you're running the latest version of After Effects, as updates might address known cache bugs.
  • Repair After Effects Installation (Windows Only): In rare cases, a corrupted After Effects installation might be causing cache problems. The Windows Control Panel offers an option to repair the installation.


The media cache, while crucial for performance, can sometimes become a source of frustration. By understanding common cache-related issues and their solutions, you can effectively troubleshoot problems in After Effects. Remember, a well-maintained cache is a happy cache, leading to a smoother and more enjoyable creative experience!

Read more