How to keep your projects safe (Windows)

Warning: There is nothing new or special in this post.
It is just that we keep forgetting what we know, right?..
So, please take this as a kind (hopefully totally unneeded) reminder :slight_smile:

The Windows version of Scrivener works by placing everything on your project under a XXXXXX.scriv folder (where “XXXXXX” is whatever you decided to call it.

Files and folders reside on disks. These pieces of hardware (or “equipment” for the non-IS people) are very much fallible in the case of external devices, such as: USB pens, data cards also called SD among other varieties, CD and DVD.
Even your main hard disk is subject to problems (the software may corrupt the files or the file structure, the power supply may create havoc on your computer, memory errors can ruin a disk in no time, and so on). Most of the time, human actions may cause the problem (for example: taking out the USB pen without properly doing it in Windows or Mac, interrupting or aborting a copy in progress, shutting down or letting your PC go to sleep in the middle of the operation, having problems with Scrivener, and so on.

Whichever the case, once files in your project become corrupted you’re in for a lot of frustration.

This little article will try not only to make you aware of the potential risks (which I just did), but also help you create a great routine to ensure your peace of mind.

FIRST POINT. You should VERY frequently backup your project. Seems simple, right? Well, nothing is farthest from truth. Because you simply will not do it until you develop the habit!..

Make it a point!

So, first advice: Create the habit!.. DON’T ever even consider to start your day’s work without making positively sure that:

  1. You have done a backup prior to start working.
  2. That backup is tried and tested to work!
  3. You NEVER, EVER, work directly from the backup! Although you will have to make sure that the backup is valid and you can open and browse through it, just close it after you are sure that it is OK.

Complementary advice and explanations:

  1. You choose when to back up. I suggest first thing in the morning, usually while you take your breakfast. With this you will not waste time and impatience will not be a strong factor to compromise the result. But many people also prefer to do it at the end of the work session - only this requires a bit more discipline (you tend to be tired, fed up and more prone to error in this scenario) but it has one advantage: if something happens to your computer in the period of inactivity before the next day’s work, you’re on the safe side…

Remember to close Scrivener before the backup! Files must not be in use or the backup may abort!

HOW do you go about this backup thing?..

a) Make sure that your destination disk has ample space free!
b) If it is a removable disk make sure it has been properly written and finally only remove it from your computer after the copy process is completed, the quality of the backup is checked, Scrivener is closed and then following the proper ejection procedure - normally: from the Devices and Printers tab in the Start Menu (sometimes you can find the icon in the “Notification Area” too) choose the Eject or Remove Device option and then only remove the device when it says it is safe. If you close the Explorer and any other application using the device and it still says it is busy, please leave it alone until you shut down (NOT Sleep or Hibernate) - wait until the PC shuts down completely and only then remove it.

  1. How do you check the validity of a backup?..
    This is a 2-step process. First step is that you are not backing up rubbish: your project must be working OK before you switch off Scrivener and have Scrivener save your project(s).
    Second step is only possible if you do not compress the files (ZIP file or whatever). More space on the backup disk, yes, but less risk of problems. AND you can do a little trick: Open the project from the backup! Browse through it, see if it seems OK, but do not make any changes. All you want is peace of mind: to be sure you will be able to revert to that point in time without… surprises.

  2. The third piece of advice is obvious: if you change the backup and it goes into problems… now you lose the original AND the backup. A backup is SACRED. Until you have at least other two versions saved… don’t touch it! It might well be your salvation.


  1. Generations.

The best way to backup is to save your work through (at least) 3 generations, or, putting it another way: Do not overwrite your most recent backups - until they are really old. I suggest the last 3 days of work as a minimum - but seven or more will not hurt!

How to create generations?.. EASY. RENAME the backup to XXXXXX YYYYMMDD.scriv

XXXXXX is whathever you called it originally, and the date is better used as Year Month Day, because it sorts nicely!.. The Month Day Year order so dear to Saxons and the Day Month Year order used by Europeans are not good, because they will not sort chronologically, mixing everything up.

  1. Milestones.

Sometimes, you decide to do a new arrangement or add in a lot of stuff that you either want to try or want to adopt. This causes the need to set up a checkpoint, a special version that marks the last time it was used. You might need to recover it, or simply to refer back to it in the future!..
Your backup copy will then probably be best kept for a long time (until you feel it is safe to discard).
My advice is to rename the original project in the backup this way: XXXXXX YYYYMMDD Before ZZZZZZ,scriv (where XXXXXX is the name, and ZZZZZZ is a short name of the radical change you made). This will be very useful, of course.

  1. More on Backups.

Due to the Widows Scrivener Projects being just Folders, a simple copy is all that is needed.

The only important considerations, besides making sure that the copy was successful (not interrupted, all files having been closed before the copy, and the media used being in good state and properly removed) are the naming (for identification!) and the testing (opening to see if usable, then closing without saving) and finally storing the external media in a safe location, protected from dust and magnetic interference.


Just a little reminder: You work on your novel 8 hours a day… Then, disaster strikes! It could be a PC or disk gone to the dogs, stolen, or even a catastrophic change that you have done inadvertently. Your work is ruined.
If you backed up yesterday, or just before starting, the most work you can lose is 8 hours.

And now add another lost day for each day that you failed to back up!.. See?..

Questions, etc, please feel free to post them.

I would just add a strong recommendation for some form of automated off-site backup, too. This is the backup you hope to never need, but it’s the one that will save your bacon in case of theft, fire, or other disasters that take out both your computer and your locally stored backups.

There are lots of companies that offer offsite backup services. Whichever one you choose, be sure to TEST THE RESTORE PROCEDURE before you actually need it. It’s very depressing to have to tell people that no, we can’t help them recover their project because the backup software didn’t backup, say, the subfolder containing all their actual writing. :frowning: