HELP! The entire contents of my project has disappeared

I am literally hoping to finish writing my thesis today - I just opened my project and it looked fine, and then suddenly the entire contents of the project started disappearing until the whole thing was empty.

I literally have no idea how this happened. My actions just before it happened were

  1. I duplicated some stuff and moved it to a drafts folder,
  2. I did a ‘save as’ and saved my project under a different name.

Now when I try to open my backups I get a ‘location access’ error message: File is not writeable: access denied. Auto-saves need write permission to your project’. I also have a back up on a memory key which also gives me this message if I try to open it.

I have no idea what to do! Please help me!!!

ps. I am panicking a lot less now as I have realised the individual RTFs for each of my scrivener documents are still accessible and I don’t seem to have lost any data at all. I’m still baffled by the sudden disappearance of everything from my project and the fact that I still can’t open any of my backed up copies of my thesis ‘project’. My other projects open fine - I’m wondering whether it’s something to do with the length, or if I imported a document it really didn’t like?

Is it worth reinstalling scrivener? I am nervous about touching it in case my precious RTFs disappear!

First, I’d make a copy of the project’s .scriv folder while the project is closed in Scrivener, so you can have another separate copy of your RTFs and not panic about doing further things with the project in sorting this out. I wouldn’t worry at the moment about reinstalling Scrivener, although if you did it wouldn’t affect your stored project data, since that’s not saved as part of the program; it doesn’t get removed from your computer by uninstalling, the same way a .doc file won’t get wiped just by uninstalling Word. You just use the program to open the file, but it’s still there either way.

So working back to front, the problem with accessing the backups is just that they’re stored in zipped archives, which are read-only. You need to extract the project from the archive in order to open it in Scrivener. Either right-click the zipped file and choose “Extract All” or double-click to open it, then drag out the contained .scriv folder. Once it’s extracted, you’ll be able to open it in Scrivener as normal. If you haven’t already, before doing further work with the project, copy all the backups pertaining to it to another location. That way you won’t end up overwriting them or mixing them up with new auto-backups of the project in a corrupted state. (You can also temporarily disable the auto-backups by turning off the setting in the Backup tab of Tools > Options; just be sure to re-enable it once you’re done sorting things out.)

Regarding the project whose text isn’t showing, given that the contents are all still there in the underlying RRTF files, it sounds like this is a problem with the files not being able to load. In some cases if there is a problem with the RTF encoding, the RTF inspector in Scrivener will refuse to load it because it could potentially cause the program to crash. That should pop up a warning message about it, though, which it sounds like you’re not seeing. It’s possible also that the RTF inspector itself crashed or got buggy, so it’s refusing to load everything, and I guess it could be so disrupted that it’s not even throwing the error. You can try renaming the rtfi.exe file within the Scrivener installation directory to prevent it running, and see if that allows your project to load. Before that though I’d try just rebooting the computer and seeing if that cleans things up enough to allow the files to load.

You also mentioned doing a Save As, so I’m wondering if there was a problem at that point which caused the files to not copy correctly–so perhaps you’ve actually got two copies of the project now, the original and the newly Saved As version, and the RTFs you’ve found are from the original, but the new copy is missing those files from them not having copied properly. There was a bug in an earlier version of Scrivener that could cause the Save As to not properly copy all the files when overwriting an existing project, so you might see something like this. That’s been fixed, though, so if you’re up to date with 1.5.7 this would be something different going on. You might want to try using the Windows search to look for any extra copies of your project, though, in case it is a problem of partials.