How to Fix iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed

In this age where content is king and video is queen, having a handy video editor is a must. And for Mac users, they don’t have to worry because there’s iMovie. This simple but amazing video editing software helps users cut video clips and make them into one cohesive project. And it’s free for Mac users.

iMovie is considered a nonlinear editor. This is a type of software that, which means you can use it to cut and edit media files, including videos, music, and graphics, without changing the original files. It’s a great video editing tool for beginners and it is so easy to use.

Unfortunately, just like any other software, iMovie is far from perfect. One of the common iMovie errors encountered by users is the “iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed” error.

What Is iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed?

This problem occurs when the videos that you have created or edited on the iMovie app simply refuse to be saved or exported from your device.

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The exact message says:
“Exporting (filename) has failed.
The operation couldn’t be completed.
( Error -1.)

This error can occur not only on Macs but also on other Apple devices that have the iMovie app installed. When this message pops up, the user can only click the OK button, which simply closes the dialog box.

This causes the user to lose what he or she has done, which can be frustrating. All of the you spent editing the video have become useless.

What Causes iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed?

When you get this error message, it doesn’t exactly say what happened or what caused it. And because the cause is not immediately apparent, iMovie users are having a hard time resolving the issue.

The main reason why this happens is that the original file you are editing is corrupted. macOS has a very strict requirement when it comes to file corruption. You won’t be able to change, copy, run, or modify corrupted files and apps. This is why corrupted media files won’t be saved or exported using iMovie.

An outdated iMovie app or macOS might also be preventing your project from being saved or exported. If you haven’t installed system and app updates for some time, it might be a good time to check the Mac App Store and install them.

Solutions for “iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed” Error

Getting this iMovie error can be frustrating because it means that all your progress will be lost. Fortunately, there are several solutions you can try to fix this issue. But before you do so, make sure to back up your media files to avoid losing everything. You should also determine whether the problem is unique to that project alone by trying to export other files. If you can export other files without any error, then the problem lies with that specific file. But if the error appears when exporting other projects, then it has something to do with the iMovie app itself.

Here are the steps you can take to resolve the “iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed” error.

1. Restart your Mac.

The easiest way to deal with this iMovie error, and other errors for that matter, is to reboot your device. This should be the first thing that you do when you encounter any issues with your Mac. A simple restart allows macOS to restart all of its processes and reload all resources that might have encountered a glitch previously.

Before you restart your Mac, save all your progress on the iMovie app first to avoid losing your work. You might not be able to save the output itself, but you can save all your work on iMovie. Now press the power button or click Apple menu > Restart.

2. Update the iMovie app.

You might come across this problem if you are running an outdated version of the iMovie app. Compatibility issues with macOS will prevent iMovie from functioning correctly, resulting in performance issues with the app.

Make sure you are running the latest version of the iMovie app to prevent errors when editing or exporting videos from the app. To do this:

  1. Click on Apple menu > Apple Store.
  2. Click on the Updates tab.
  3. Apple Store automatically scans for any updates available to all your apps.
  4. Press the Update button located next to iMovie to install the update.
  5. Restart your Mac and try to export the video once again.

3. Delete corrupted files.

If you’re running the latest iMovie version when you got this error, then you probably have corrupted files on your Mac. You can easily delete problematic files using a Mac cleaner that will scour every inch of your system for possible issues.

4. Update macOS.

Aside from updating iMovie, you should also check if you have system updates you need to install. To update your Mac, click Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update. If you see any pending update, click the Update Now button.

5. Boot into Safe Mode.

If you’re having trouble accessing the iMovie app, try booting into Safe Mode to clear system caches that might be affecting the performance of iMovie. This is also useful when a third-party app is interfering with the export of your iMovie project.

6. Rename the file being exported.

Check your file name for special characters and symbols because iMovie does not allow them. Rename your project if possible.

7. Check your settings.

Sometimes the H.264 codec is causing trouble when you export using “Best Quality”. To fix this, you need to edit your export settings by going to iMovie > Share. Export the project using QuickTime and then click Options > Settings.

Edit the following settings:

  • Compression Type – MPEG-4 Video
  • Key Frames – Auto
  • Date Rate – Auto
  • Compressor Quality – High

8. Reset the NVRAM or PRAM.

Resetting your NVRAM or PRAM is used to reset some system preferences settings that might be causing iMovie to malfunction. To reset your NVRAM, follow the steps below:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the Power button, then press Option + Command + P + R keys on your keyboard.
  3. Hold them for 20 seconds.
  4. Reboot normally and try to use export your iMovie project to see if the error message has been fixed.


The steps above should help you fix the “iMovie Won’t Export: The Operation Couldn’t Be Completed” error. If they don’t work, you might need to contact Apple support so they can provide specific instructions for your problem.

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