Half my project is missing!

I have many projects that I will often leave for months on end while working on other things. I recently opened a project I haven’t touched in a little over a year to find that half of it is just gone. I don’t just delete projects, instead I copy the sections I still want to keep and then move the rest into a folder just in case I change my mind later or want to use in something else. The project I have just opened has two very different versions of the same outline, and I’ve been developing them as separate universes, so they each have their own main folder under the same project name. One folder is now completely empty, which had roughly twice the content the other folder has. Then I opened another project that I had almost forgotten about and half of that one is gone as well. I have no idea how long parts have been missing. I checked the Trash folders but those are all empty, I checked my computer trash folder but I empty it almost as soon as I put stuff in it and I have no clue how to recover anything I deleted manually. I don’t know what else to try. I find this very concerning that this happened to two of my projects and I’m now half afraid to open my main project.

Are you using Scrivener 1 or Scrivener 3 for Windows?

In the Scrivener 1 for Windows manual, the process for safely accessing backups is outlined in Section 6.11.4 of the manual.

If you are using Scrivener 3 for Windows, then please refer to Section 5.2.3 for the steps to safely access your backups. The Scrivener manual can be accessed in PDF from Scrivener’s Help menu.

In case you are unable to access the manual, the steps to retrieve a backup are as follows:

  1. Please open Scrivener 3 and go to File > Options > Backup (or Tools > Options > Backup or if you’re using Scrivener 1) and then click the ‘Open backup folder…’ button.
  2. You will see a list of zip files ending in ‘.bak’ followed by a number. Please use Ctrl+Click to select the backups that have the same name as your project that is missing its words.
  3. Once you have selected all of its backups, please use a right-click on one of those highlighted files and then select “Copy.”
  4. Please go to your PC’s Desktop and right-click on the desktop. Then, please select “New” and “Folder” to create a temporary save location for these copies of the backups.
  5. Please double-click on that folder to open it.
  6. Then, please right-click and select “Paste” to put the backups into this temporary folder. This will prevent them from being overwritten when you open and close the project.
  7. Now please organize the ZIP files in this folder by date modified. Locate the backup dated just before your data loss happened.
  8. Right click over the zip file and select ‘Extract All’, then ‘Extract’ to unzip the file and you will see a folder with a .scriv extension and your project name. This is your project folder.
  9. Double click to open the unzipped folder and launch the project by double clicking the file inside with the Scrivener icon and the same name as your project folder and look for your missing work.
  10. If it’s there, you can use this as your active project. If it is not, you will then repeat Steps 8 and 9 to see if you can locate the missing material in the next-newest copy of your project.
  11. Once you find the missing material, you can delete or rename the corrupted version to avoid confusion. Then, you can use Scrivener’s File > Save As command to rename this file and choose its new save location to where the old, corrupted version of the project used to be stored.

In addition, this is a good time to review where and how your main, working projects are stored as well as reviewing backups for each project so that you know you have good copies of those in case of emergency.

We have a Knowledge Base article with tips for keeping projects organized, and you might find its tips and suggestions helpful.

I try to review it a couple of times a year as a reminder to confirm that I have good copies of my working projects and good backups of each, as well as to confirm that I know where everything is saved.

No backups ?
Did you look everywhere ? Research folder, or even your own binder’s documents in case you moved your big “half of the book” folder there by accident ?

Clicking on your “draft” folder, you can then use this menu item to expand all of your folders :

Or, if you remember a not so ordinary word - or group of words - from the part of your project that is now missing, click :

Then Alt+Click the magnifier glass (see my arrow) and adjust the search to those settings.

and search for your word / group of words.


If you are in luck, one of the missing documents will appear in the search result, leading you to where the rest also is.


Besides all the other excellent suggestions you’re getting here, I read something in another thread just now which might help, be something to consider:


The discussion is about using Save As, rather than Save, and you can see that this is often done mistakenly, and with results that aren’t understood.

If this happened to be your case, you could have been making your additional inputs to the project in a different copy than the one you’re looking in now. So you’d need to find that…

May not be your issue, but you can consider it.


It happened again. Since the last time this happened I have been making sure to save before closing. Last night after closing I had updated the most used page and when I opened it today my folders were in tact, and the document names were within those folders, but they were blank. After clicking on each document they have mostly come back, but the most used one is completely blank. I immediately opened the backups folder, copied everything there into another folder, and then tried to open my most recent backup, but something is corrupted and the same document is completely blank, which is the one I have the most stuff in. This is my outline, for lack of a better word. It’s not an actual outline as there is way more detail, but I use this document as a blueprint.

When I first opened it today there was a popup saying something about the search index and it might be running slow. I tried restoring it in one of the copied backups in Tools - Save and Rebuild Search Index. There was a window that appeared for a split second and then vanished and other than that I have no idea what it did. My older backups are blank.

This is the second time this has happened within six months. What is the point of investing time into using this resource if it can’t be relied on to save when I click save and if backup files can’t be accessed without getting corrupted?

Are your project folders and backup folders on a cloud-sync location, and if so, have you set the cloud syncing to be “offline” or “online”?

As @rms suggested, this is probably not a Scrivener issue. Almost all instances of this sort of behavior are traceable to other software, particularly “cloud” services that are handling the files in a way that you don’t expect.

I don’t have automatic syncing set up, I’ve been doing it manually once a month. I moved recently and haven’t yet unearthed my external hard drive that I use for backups. If I can’t find it within the next week or so I may buy another.

perhaps lack of automatic syncing is the root cause. just a hunch.

It sounds as if you have been doing all the wise things, actually, especially in preserving your backups. If you haven’t yet, I’d copy all of those to an extra safe-away folder, to keep ones that would be overwritten.

Now, the difficulties you’re having seem to suggest these things:

  • that there is a basic corruption in your problem project, perhaps out of the original difficulties you had
  • possible, but not necessarily, is that something in your laptop/pc made this corruption, ether by cloud/anti-virus issues, or in a bad moment as Windows machines sometimes have, if Microsoft has vastly reduced these.

Thus what I’d suggest, is to send a zip of the whole project folder to Support, along with a note referencing with a link this thread. And of course tell t/em the particular document/s still blank, that you can’t seem to get back.

I think support can easily determine the situation, and may be able to get your writings back. Those should be in unharmed .rtf files, spread among code-named folders within the project. That’s Scrivener’s deep safety, if they didn’t somehow get overwritten this time.

I’m hoping support can return you a fully healthy project folder, and go from there.

If you or a friend are inclined, it would be possible to search out and find the needed .rtf file, if it still has the text in it. In that case, I would think myself to create a new project, add each document in its proper place, each time copying the text from what you can get from the injured project. It sounds that most documents are easily present for you to do this, and then there is the possibility of finding that .rtf file (or files) intact, to get the rest of it.

Best fortune, I always think :), and crossed fingers you find it…

Unfortunately, this is not true. If the listing in the Binder is present, but the file appears empty, the most likely reason is that the .RTF file containing the actual content is missing. If – as often happens – the file is present on a cloud server, it can be recovered by convincing the cloud server to download it to the local system. (And the Support team can certainly help figure out how to do that.) But we usually won’t be able to recover anything useful from the project as it exists on the local system.

(With Scrivener 1 projects, it was possible for content inside the project to get “detached” from the Binder index. But that behavior had slightly different symptoms and is largely prevented by the Scrivener 3 project format.)

Thanks, Katherine – I’d pretty carefully considered such possibilities, but as your wording indicates, there’s always a chance, and perhaps especially with a mystery failure like this.

Mainly, though, I thought it healthy for our friend @ChaosGoat to get in touch with a zip attached to Support, as they can rapidly determine the situation, especially if there might be some text fragment(s) possible to search for, to locate that .rtf.

They’d then be in best position to handle any escalation like asking to be sent through backup zips. Or indeed, to say all resident text seems visible and accounted for.

It’s a tough problem; nice if Scrivener’s great safety features could save it. Otherwise, some nice, fully relaxed sessions of writer’s memory and re-creation are probably the thing…

Best to both,