All of my work suddenly lost after update [Dropbox failure to sync to macOS]

I have no idea what just happened. I recently updated to MacOS Sonoma, and also updated both the iOS and macOS versions of Scrivener (3.3.3, 15931). Yesterday I saw something strange—my Dropbox folder with the Scrivener projects had been renamed to “Scrivener - Conflicted Copy,” with a new, empty Scrivener folder there as well. The projects (about 20 of them) had also been renamed ‘conflicted copy,’ but they were all still there and seemed to be OK, so I changed the names back to their originals and moved them into the new Scrivener folder. This morning I did some work on them and all seemed well.

But then tonight I went to do some work and to my horror discovered that EVERYTHING in most of my projects has disappeared. Some of the projects will open, but every document inside is blank. Others won’t even open, giving me an error saying “The document could not be opened. The project seems to be of an older format, but no binder.scrivproj file could be found inside it.” I did a ‘show package contents’ on those, and the inside is completely empty, no files whatsoever. I also get a similar error if I try to open them on the iOS version.

Fortunately I have backups of the files (though I lost quite a bit of editing I did this morning), and they seem to be opening just fine, so I’m assuming it has something to do with the Dropbox sync. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.

You are correct, this is a Dropbox issue. More information and what to do about it can be found here:

Well, that’s the weird part. I’ve always kept my files available locally, and have been using Scrivener with Dropbox for years without problem. The only thing I can figure is that somehow during the Sonoma update, my Dropbox settings got messed up? I checked the Scrivener folder, and it’s still set to ‘make available offline,’ because I’ve always kept the whole Apps folder that way. I can’t figure out what caused the change. Or what made my whole Scrivener folder become ‘conflicted’ in the first place. I’m going to replace the files in it with a backup copy and see what happens, and just keep a closer eye on it.

There have definitely been some cases in the past where Mac OS updates led to strange Dropbox behavior. There have also been cases where Mac OS updates automatically enabled iCloud, leading to strange results.

The larger point, though, is that the interaction between your computer and the Dropbox (or iCloud) server is out of Scrivener’s control. Scrivener saves to the local hard drive, and expects to read its data from the local hard drive. If a project is saved correctly when you close it, and then is damaged or unavailable when you try to open it again, some third party software is almost certainly responsible.

Yes, it isn’t Scrivener’s fault. I believe I’ve found the root of the problem. Somehow after the update to Sonoma, Dropbox started storing everything only on the cloud whether I asked it to or not. Even though all my settings were correct, my documents were still being removed from my local hard drive. I reinstalled Dropbox and started from scratch again, and so far it seems to be working. Fingers crossed.

Idle speculation: Depending on what OS you upgraded from the upgrade might have spanned a certain security change in how MacOS allows apps like Dropbox to operate. The result of that change was that one’s Dropbox folder has to be in a prescribed container down in the users Library folder, instead of it just being any old folder you bless on your harddrive. When encountered, Dropbox moves (copies?) your old Dropbox folder to this special location. My recollection is that when this change happened I had to reassert my keep-it-local preference for my dropbox stuff.

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