Import brings files, deletes content

I’m a new Scrivener user, but thus far the number of posts in here re: lost work when importing is scaring me. Today I tried to import docs from a Scrivener folder kept on my PC to my laptop (using a flash drive) and when I did the import, all I got were a bunch of blank numbered docs. All the content and doc names were missing.

I tried starting a brand new project just to see if there was some conflict between the two drafts I was working on, and imported the docs into that - same problem. Even worse, when I moved the numbered docs to Trash (since there was nothing in them) and emptied the Trash, my original docs - the one on my flash drive - were ALSO deleted! How is that even possible?

I keep seeing answers on the forum that say things like, “Scrivener isn’t really saving your files” or “Don’t back your files up with Scrivener because it’s not really backing up.” I’m not a novice PC user - what in the sam hill is going on here? I’d like to figure it out because right now, I don’t trust Scrivener not to just zap all my hard work right into space.

Thanks ahead of time for any help you can offer.

To be clear, in case I have misunderstood what’s gone on:

  1. You have Scrivener & a project on your PC.
  2. You have copied that project to a flash drive.

This is where it becomes a bit fuzzy for me:
3) You have ‘imported’ the project from the flash drive to Scrivener on your laptop.

How did you do the “Import”? You can just copy the project folder and open the project on a new machine, there shouldn’t be any ‘importing’ required.

For example:

I have a project called ‘Good Book’ with 100 scenes in it. Scrivener creates a folder called “Good Book.scriv”. Inside this folder is a whole bunch of folders that I shouldn’t touch, and also a single file called “Good Book.scrivx”. I want to work on this project on my laptop. To do so I will:

a) Close the project if I have it open in Scrivener on my PC
b) Copy the entire “Good Book.scriv” folder to my flash drive.
c) Copy the entire “Good Book.scriv” folder from my flash drive to my laptop.
d) Double click on the “Good Book.scrivx” file within the “Good Book.scriv” folder (the one I have copied to my laptop). This should open the project in Scrivener.

There are other ways to do this. For example if I have Dropbox installed on both PC and Laptop I can keep the Project in my Dropbox folder and as long as I practice good syncing etiquette I’ll be fine (only open the project on one at a time, give Dropbox time to sync before opening on the other/working offline). Or I can keep the project folder on the USB key and work directly off of it (by opening the copy on the key rather than copying it).

It’s also a good idea to setup auto-backups no matter how you decide to work (I’ve never had to use one personally, but if I ever did, I’d be darn glad they’re there).

Let’s deal with this in two pieces. Apologies if the following is undiplomatic or unprofessional. (To be clear, I do not work for Literature & Latte. I did do PC/network deployment and support for over twenty years, before retiring. You may detect a touch of burnout and crankiness in the following.)


I can partially recreate what you may have encountered, if you attempted to do the import via File > Import > Files and browsed into another project’s .scriv/files/docs subfolder and selected the .rtf files located there. Specifically, those files importing with numeric names (these are the correct physical names they actually have down in the source project folder system).

But their text comes in and subsequently moving them to Trash within the receiving project and then emptying Trash does not result in deletion of the original source .rtf files in the source project.

File > Import > Files is probably more appropriate for importing files produced by other apps, not folders and files produced by Scrivener.

In addition to the procedure suggested by nemesishaven, two ways probably more appropriate for bringing in material from another Scrivener project, which will retain meaningful folder/item names and such:

  • File > Import > Scrivener Project and browsing to and selecting/opening that project’s .scriv folder (not files down inside it… Scrivener handles that).
  • Open both the target and source projects in Scrivener, place the two Scrivener instances next to each other and drag and drop binder folders/items from one project to the other.

Try one or both of those and see how that works.

As far as Scrivener deleting source files over in another project… theoretically possible, but very very unlikely. There’s no reason deleting, particularly without prompted knowledge and approval of the user, would be coded in an import. And that is something that has rarely if ever been reported in the forums. You most likely ran into or unintentionally did something else, but didn’t realize it.

A Scrivener project is a database implemented as a folder (name ending in .scriv) containing multiple subfolders and files at the Windows file system level. The logical/conceptual view that one sees within Scrivener differs, of necessity, from the underlying implementation in the Windows file system. Best to deal with them at the project level from within Scrivener rather than getting down inside the project folder via Windows File Explorer, other than for the purposes of launching a project from Windows (rather than from inside Scrivener) by clicking on the project index file (name ends in .scrivx). (The same holds true for the Mac version, except that the Mac OS hides the contents of the project folder and presents it as a single object, unless one goes out of their way to instruct it to show the contents.) If copying or backing up out in Windows, rather than from inside Scrivener, deal with it as a whole (the .scriv project folder), rather than subfolders and files down inside the project folder.

Scrivener is not Word. Like Word, or any other app, it has a learning curve. It may resonate with and work for you, it may not. This is best determined during the free trial period, rather than after purchase.


As with other apps out there from other vendors, the majority of folks using Scrivener are out there using the app without major issues.

You are seeing what tech support folks routinely encounter regardless of app or vendor… snap diagnoses and leaps to judgement and frustration and self righteous accusation by a minority of both inexperienced and experienced users that, while constituting a starting point, often prove to be incorrect or incomplete, and often fail to account for issues outside of Scrivener and Scrivener’s control… such as certain problematic antivirus apps and inadequate or incorrect procedures when dealing with assuring backups, unreliable external storage, storing projects on Internet cloud storage, etc.

Skim support forums for most any popular app and you’ll see similar.

Deal with just the issue you encountered. You might email tech support directly, per

Take other postings with a grain of salt and keep in mind that they may be incorrect/incomplete or that you may be reading something into them that isn’t actually there, sparked by your concern about what you encountered.

I hope that is of some assistance. If not, my apologies.

I had two different versions of the same project and was trying to just bring in scene documents from one to the other. Having gone through the tutorial, I thought I HAD to import docs rather than dragging and dropping them. That seemed to work fine.

I still don’t understand what happened though, to all my docs. I had even made a copy/test folder before trying the import, and the docs after I dragged them to the Trash in one project, were gone in all of them. Ah well. I do have the original at home on my PC. I will from now on, use the drag and drop method and avoid Importing altogether. Thanks for the help everyone.