I have an array of 41,400 elements of type char, which I am trying to put in program memory on a Mega2560. It should have 256KB of flash memory, but when I try to compile my sketch, it says the size of the array is too large. Each char is one byte, so this array should be 41,400 bytes. I'm at a loss as to how this can be too big.

I have also tried using an array of byte variables (should be the same thing) with no success. This is the only variable going into program memory.

Here is the relevant line:

const char Array[] PROGMEM = {0,19,21,25,27,27,27,29,24, ... };

I have included avr/pgmspace.h

Thanks in advance for any help.

  • What is the exact error message? May 21, 2016 at 19:49
  • I included <avr/pgmspace.h> (that part of my question didn't display as I expected).
    – yigiped
    May 21, 2016 at 19:51
  • The error message is: error: size of variable 'Array' is too large
    – yigiped
    May 21, 2016 at 19:51
  • It seems AVR GCC limits the size of variables to 32K. Did you try with an array of 32767 chars, I guess it should work. If you try with 32768 chars, then it should show the error message.
    – jfpoilpret
    May 21, 2016 at 20:05
  • I have just proved that in experimentation. 32767 is the limit for a progmem array.
    – Majenko
    May 21, 2016 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


The limitation here is the data type of the index of the array. That is int, and on an 8-bit system an int can hold a value in the range -32768 to 32767.

That means the biggest index number an array can have is 32767.

That limit cannot be changed. You're stuck with it.

However, there are some tricks you can use to expand it. One is to use a larger data type than char and pack your data into it. For instance, using unsigned int as your data type will give you a maximum of 32767 16-bit values. Each one can hold two bytes. That gives you a total capacity of 65534 bytes.

Using unsigned long (32 bits) would double that again.

It is then up to you to work out how to get to the individual bytes. Using the pgm_read_byte_*() function you may not see any difference. After all the start address is just an address regardless of type. Of course, you have to watch out for any differences in endianness when you have packed your initial data into the array...

  • Or an array of arrays. Or an array of structs. There's many ways of skinning this cat. But when it comes to reading it's just seen as a block of raw memory with no inherent type.
    – Majenko
    May 21, 2016 at 23:15
  • Agree, there is many different ways of doing this. Choose the easiest for you :). I gave you +1.
    – Darko
    May 21, 2016 at 23:22
  • This makes sense. Thanks for the suggestions on workarounds.
    – yigiped
    May 22, 2016 at 4:29

You cannot have more than 32767 elements in one array. The reason is explained nicely by Majenko.

Solution for your problem is very simple, because you need only 41400 elements:

class MyArray
  static char array1[30000] = {...};
  static char array2[11400] = {...}; // rest

    char get(long index)
      return index > 30000 ? array2[index - 30000] : array1[index];

    char operator[] (long index)
      return get(index);

So you can use two arrays and depending of the index choose which one to use. I think it is faster than using array of ints, because you need to have division (by two, so it can be only shift right by one) and than again shifting to get the char. Also it is easier to use because for ints you need first to pack values (two values in one int).

This is just example code, fit it to your needs.

  • 1
    You're not putting the arrays in PROGMEM. And when they are, you can't access them like that - you need pgm_read_byte_near() etc.
    – Majenko
    May 21, 2016 at 23:23

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