conflicting messages about backup location

Hi Forum,
I recently updated to Mojave 10.14.2 on a new Mac, which also involved re-installing Scrivener 3. I’ve ended up in this rabbit hole starting with an error message that said my project was not in a recommended save location because of being stored inside its own backups folder .

I suspect I’m mixing up syncing and backing up, because I did my new setup with the idea that my ipad needed find the backups in DropBox. But looking at my old Mac, I see that the backup files are buried deep in userdata - library - etc stored on my laptop. So now I’m confused about what I should be doing.

Maybe the question simply formed is this: will the default backup place in Scrivener still allow for syncing on my ipad ?

Gotta love Scrivener when the writing experience is purring along, but then stuff like this happens & all the joy of getting back to work evaporates. So thanks in advance for any advice you might offer.

I am having the same problem with the same error message on Mojave on my Macbook Air. I have just bought and installed Scrivener and somehow it is backing up to the wrong spot. I tried to change the back up location but Scrivener won’t let me. There was an option to reset to “Defaults”, but when I select that, a message indicates that the action cannot be undone if you select that option, so I didn’t do it. I can see that the current back up location is “My Documents”, which is in icloud. So I understand the error message - ie not wanting to work in the same location as the back up - BUT then how do you change the back up location and where should the backup location be?Thanks!

Helps? … tion-error

Slàinte mhòr.

The backup location is set in the Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups pane. More information about this error message here: … tion-error

Synchronization with Dropbox and iOS Scrivener is a completely separate task from backing up your project. More information about synchronization here: … g-with-ios


Ok, this really helps. But just to clarify: both backup and sync should be stored on Dropbox, just in different folders? Before my new Mac, I believe the backups were on the laptop itself, something set by default on Scrivener. (I backup to TimeMachine and Backblaze and an external drive just in case though.)

You can, but you shouldn’t. That’s an “all your eggs in one basket” scenario. If something bad happens to your Dropbox folder or account, you’ve lost everything and will need to recover from TimeMachine or Backblaze. Doable, but more painful than simply keeping your zipped backups somewhere besides DropBox.

Based on your fairly comprehensive backup strategy, I’d keep your live projects on DropBox for syncing purposes and keep your zipped backups somewhere locally on your Mac. I prefer not to use the default location, i.e., buried deep in the userdata - library, but in a more obvious folder called Scrivener Backups located within my Writing folder.


Now I’m really confused. I established a new backup folder in “documents” on my laptop. Next I created a test project. It asked where I wanted it saved - the default was the documents folder I’d just created. But when I hit return to start the project, I got the error message about the “not recommended location.” If this was so, why would Scrivener set the default save place as a folder that would create conflict and generate this error message?

Hi Pommette1789,

I think you’re stumbling over the meaning of the word “backup”, so let’s get some terminology straight.

In Scrivenerese, “project” or “Live project” or “Live project data” or “Live project files” refers to the folder that contains the documents and other supporting folders and files for a Scrivener project. This is what you’re creating when you create a new project, This is what you’re editing when you are working in Scrivener. Your live project data. Since you want to sync your Mac with your iPad, you must store your live project data in the same DropBox folder that your iPad points to. So with your Test 3 project above, you should have saved it to the same DropBox folder that your iPad points to.

For purposes of this discussion, the word “Backups” in Scrivener, always refers to the zipped backups that Scrivener creates. Don’t use the term for anything else, and I think your confusion goes away. You created a a new backup folder in “documents” on your laptop. Now you need to point Scrivener to that folder, by going to Preferences and pointing the Backup Location to your new backup folder.

Does that help?

I am a relatively new Dropbox user, but the above doesn’t sound like the way Dropbox has worked for me (4 PCs synching Scriv projects via DB).

My live project on any of my 4 PCs is stored on that PC’s hard drive in the Dropbox folder the app I downloaded from Dropbox sets up. So if I start a new project, I save it to the Dropbox folder on that PC’s hard drive.

When I change the live project on any of the 4 machines, the changed files are uploaded to the Dropbox server and distributed from there to the other 3 PCs. That keeps the live project updated on all 4 PCs, but each one has a copy on its own hard drive.

I will say I see how people get in trouble with this because there have been times when I noticed that the update from the PC I made changes on the the others is pretty slow. I’m careful to check and for the most part only do real work on one laptop, so it’s not a concern, but if I switched around from one device to another a lot, I’d be a paranoid checker.

So I have backups going to Documents>Backup and live projects saved in Dropbox>Projects, both on the hard drives of my PCs.

I know my attitude isn’t shared by many, but I would never use Dropbox if it meant having live projects stored in the cloud. It’s like subscription software, not for me.

A copy of the project is stored on the hard drive of the local machine, AND on the Dropbox server in the cloud, AND on any device synchronized with that particular folder. The purpose of synchronization is to manage the uploads and downloads so that all of the copies are identical, OR so that only the one currently being edited is different from the version on the server. A conflict arises if two (or more) copies are different from the version on the server and from each other, and therefore it’s necessary to determine which changes are “correct.”

With iOS Scrivener specifically, the user designates a folder, typically Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener, and only that folder is visible to and synchronized with iOS Scrivener. This differs from the Mac/PC situation in three ways: first, because iOS devices don’t have a true file system, each application has its own data area; second, because someone might not want to dump their entire Dropbox account to a relatively space-constrained device; and third, because iOS devices don’t multitask, and so synchronization can’t occur in background and has to be explicitly invoked.


I’m not sure whether you’re misspeaking here or I’m misunderstanding what you mean, but any data you keep in your desktop DropBox folder is getting synced to the DropBox cloud, which means, of course, that your live projects are being stored in the cloud.

In your particular example, 5x synced copies of each of your live projects exist, 4x on your PCs, and 1x in the cloud.

This seems to conflict with your statement. What am I missing?

ETA: Sorry, just noticed that Katherine made the same point! :blush:

It is a while since I used a Mac without the utility Default Folder X installed (, so I hope I’m not misremembering. So if my memory serves me correctly, it is not Scrivener that is taking you to that folder, it is the operating system, which is merely returning you to the last folder used by the program. It is not meant to be the “default folder”. I think this is one of the reasons why people end up saving in less than ideal places (and it is certainly the reason why I have “lost” files in the past, and the reason why I use Default Folder X). The operating system just returns you to the place you were before, which may not be a good place to save stuff. Default Folder X saves me a lot of pain …

Yes, I guess I was misspeaking in that I meant I wouldn’t’ use a system where my live project was only stored in the cloud. Is Google Docs that way? Never investigated. And those super-cheap laptops that only work when connected to the internet and won’t run Scriv?

So long as the project is on my hard drive and saves there immediately, I don’t care that a copy of it is on the Dropbox server.

Katherine’s explanation of how the iPad system has to be different was interesting, and while there’s that never say never thing, I doubt it will ever apply to me. I like my laptops and don’t work from anywhere but home so the allure of a super-light device just isn’t there for me.

Thanks everyone, and especially Jim regarding terminology. In my slow noodling over the past few days, I was coming to this conclusion without fully realizing it, so the clarification helps! :smiley:

One other thing though: I know you set up the backup location through preferences. When and where does setting up a Save location occur? I’m thinking it’s the first time you set up the project. But then how do you change this if it’s not in a good location?



The most fool-proof way is to open the project in Scrivener and use the File->Save As menu to relocate it. Then delete the original project so you don’t accidentally edit it when you meant to edit the one in the new location.

Alternately, close scrivener and move the project file to where you want it in the Finder. You’d then double-click on it to open it in Scrivener (the recent files menu can’t keep track of moved projects). In this way, Scrivener projects on your Mac are just like any other document.

I believe that a bit of organisation is worthwhile, and multiple ways to find things are worth having, particularly when computer hard drives are so large and can have so many sub-folders. My approach to this is that I the first thing I see when I launch the computer is my root folder, in which I have an alias to the Scrivener projects folder. (I turn my computer off every evening.)

I also make liberal use of the Finder sidebar, including a variety of saved searches for things I want to find in a hurry. I have a tag for urgent files, and another for those that are merely “in progress”, which are at the head of the sidebar. Below those is a saved search for recent docs. You get the idea – I should be able to find important stuff pretty quickly using this method. I could have a saved search in the sidebar for .scriv files, which would allow me to find them wherever they are on the hard drive with a single click. You get the picture. I hate losing things … A lot of people seem to launch the program they want to use, then look for the file. I look for the file, then launch the program.