computer crashed--novel draft lost?

I moved a draft of my novel into my Scrivener free trial, then a few days later my computer crashed (no cause and effect implied). I did a lot of organizational work on the novel in Scrivener. Is there any way I can get that back? Does the free trial save work somewhere off the user’s laptop?

I do still have the novel in Word, so I am not totally screwed. But I’d rather not have to redo the organizational work if I can avoid it.


All your Scrivener work will be on that local drive, unless you specified otherwise in backup settings or during a “save as” operation.

  • The live project’s location (wherever you told it to place it or let it default to, likely in your account’s Documents folder). Ex: C:\Users\yourusername\Documents
  • Automatic backups location (wherever you told it to place them or let them default to, likely the following). Ex: C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local \Scrivener\Scrivener\Backups
  • Manual Back Up > Back Up To location (wherever you told it to place them or let them default to). Sorry, I don’t know the default for that.

The live project would be in the form of a file system folder, having a project name, ending in “.scriv”.
Depending on settings, automatic or “back up to” backups would either be in that folder form (containing multiple subfolders and files) or in a single physical compressed .zip file (which one has to extract/decompress back into folder form before can access it using Scrivener).

So, unless you set it or told it on occasion to save/backup somewhere off the laptop, any/all of those are on the laptop’s local drive.

If that drive hasn’t been wiped or reloaded, there’s a reasonable chance the material is still there. and can be recovered. Someone experienced in the matter can likely do one of the following.

  • Physically remove the hard drive from the laptop, attach it to another computer, search for the materials (.scriv folder or .zip file) in the locations discussed above, and copy the material off.
  • If the laptop still works electronically, possibly boot the laptop off a recovery CD/DVD or USB thumb/flash/hard/SSD recovery utility drive and do the same.

In the extreme case that the drive is bad, there are data recovery businesses that recover material from dead drives, but that is presumably costly.

If you can get the material back, make additional copies of it immediately using File Explorer and save them somewhere else off-machine, then you’ll then have to see if Scrivener can open it. If it is in single physical compressed .zip file form, you’ll need to extract/decompress that back into .scriv folder form first. Once in .scriv folder form, use Scrivener to open the .scrivx file inside the folder.

If it opens, you’re good.

If it doesn’t, post back to the forums or directly email Literature & Latte for assistance in salvaging. Scrivener projects are basically databases, implemented as a folder containing subfolders and files. There is a searches.indexes file down in there that ties meaningful folder/document names within Scrivener to the underlying collection of .rtf document files that make up a project. One can poke through those, though that can prove tedious.

If nothing else,regardless of the writing or other app one is using, the lesson here is to routinely make backups, both locally and off-machine, and to verify periodically that they are being produced and can actually be recovered from. Off-machine meaning CD, DVD, USB thumb/flash drive, external drive, DropBox cloud storage, etc.

Hope that is of some assistance.