As I understand it, when creating a new illustrator file the default is to store a a PDF document inside it so that other applications such as InDesign can show a visual representation of the file when linking. (Create PDF Compatible File)

The problem is that having this default option ON makes "ai" files that are enormous. In my case so big Illustrator runs out of memory when attempting to open them. I crete 400DPI ANSI E (34"x44") posters full of effects and images and with the PDF compatibility on the files can be 200MB. I created one poster whose file size is 1.7 GB and it only has a bunch of vector graphics of insignificant size and about 12 placed (linked) photos. Nothing out of the ordinary. I can confirm that if I re-save one of my other 200MB files without the PDF compatibility option on the size drops down to 15MB or less. Unfortunately, I do have a few files which Illustrator fails to open. (Runs out of memory - 12gb ram, solid state HD, 6 core i7-980X Extreme Edition)

The question is; Can I remove the PDF file from the Illustrator file in attempts to open the ai file itself?

  • Possibly a long shot, but have you tried importing to InkScape?
    – ocodo
    Nov 9, 2012 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


You either turn PDF compatibility on or off when saving a file. There's no method to "dump" the PDF portion upon opening a file.

If PDf compatibility was on when the file was saved, then the PDF format is embedded within the document and can't be removed unless you re-save the document with PDF compatibility off.

Regardless of whether PDF compatibility is on or off, the Illustrator files will open just fine in Illustrator itself.

  • Thanks for the reply. The files will not open at all if they are too large. Nov 6, 2012 at 2:05
  • What errors do you get, if any? And what version of Illustrator?
    – Scott
    Nov 6, 2012 at 2:07
  • Out of memory. An error raised by AI not windows. CS5 Nov 6, 2012 at 2:08
  • 1
    You can try opening the files with Acrobat and re-saving. You may lose the .ai portion of the file this way however (what you lose depends on PDF version).
    – Scott
    Nov 6, 2012 at 2:10
  • Good idea! I will try that tomorrow when I am back at work. Thanks. I have exported a press quality PDF before I closed the file for the last time before i wasn't able to open it and tried converting that to AI but as expected all effects are lost and raster are hacked up to strips. Nov 6, 2012 at 2:29

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