Possibly Lost Everything

For several years I’ve saved my writing to a security USB drive. Naturally, I have had multiple backups locally and online. As fate would have it my encrypted drive started showing signs of failure so I immediately pulled everything from it before it went completely. I took a bit of a writing break, bought myself a Windows Surface and then recently took to writing again. To my surprise all of my files, no matter where they are, appear vacant, even localized the scrivener backups.
What appears when they open are a list of chapters but each chapter is empty, even the cover.

I can contact Carbonite, my online backup solution, to see if they can deliver a months old or even older revision of my thumb drive, but before do I, before I rely on them, I would like to understand what happened. I know the contents weren’t encrypted when I removed them from the drive.

Is there a recovery tool? Are not newer revisions of scrivener backward compatible?

Well, without any response I took the long path and contacted my online backup. Fortunately, I was able to recover almost all of what I had.

I’d still appreciate knowing what happened and if there are tools to repair or recover my scrivener files.

To understand what’s going on on your drives, it would probably be helpful to gather some more information. What do you see when you look at your files in a file explorer: Does “vacant” mean all files have a size of 0 bytes? Scrivener stores your actual writing in rtf files in the Files/Docs folder of each project. Do you see any files there, and can you open them (on most Windows computers, clicking on them will open Word or a similar program)?

Did you have the issues with Scrivener files only, or also with other files that are unrelated to Scrivener? Are those files that Scrivener wrote directly to a given data storage, or files that were “pulled” (by you or the backup program) to other drives?

From your original description, it sounds like you only grabbed the .scrivx files from within the .scriv project folders of your projects.

The .scrivx file is like a library’s card catalogue–it’s just a listing of the books in the library, with a few facts about each book. If you want to move the library, you have to move more than the card catalogue, which is what you may have done by only saving off the .scrivx file.

When you go to retrieve your projects, you need the .scriv folder and all of its contents, including all sub-folders and their contents. That’s where your writing is stored.

Hello and thanks for responding.
I’ve been using scrivener for quite a few years (perhaps 7) and I’ve used 3 different security USB drives over that span.
By vacant I mean I can see the chapters listed in the binder but there is no content in the writing window. The odd part is the scrivx files list between 14kb and 530kb on various projects, none are zero (which I’d have expected). I have Word documents and rtf on the USB, some in the same folders which do have visible content, but they are odd notes and some segments I’ve set aside to revisit.

I suspect that whatever the quirk was it was replicated to my online backup via auto-sync when the device was attached to my system.

The issue is naggingly perplexing because I’m an experienced IT professional and this simply makes no sense. As a matter of routine I have 3 backups of everything I write and change out my hardware (including my USB drives) fairly regularly, usually when I come across good deals on quality items.

Fortunately Carbonite saved my work. I’m really trying to avoid whatever I may have done that caused this circumstance so I can avoid it in the future.

Thank you for your response. I have my USB drive set to fully sync with my Carbonite when I insert it into my desktop and login. The contents of the entire drive is copied each time it sync’s, not just my writing folders. Truly, I wish the matter where that straight forward so I don’t have to keep examining all my hardware and software until something explains what happened. Fortunately, I managed to recover pretty much everything from my Carbonite online backup.

Valuable information - and I feel for you. I only lost a couple of pages while converting two projects to the newest beta last month, and I can recover all of that from backups as well, but the sys admin in my head desperately wants to know where the data went to make sure it won’t happen again (and possibly go unnoticed next time).

Unfortunately, it seems like I might never find out.

This was several years ago, but I helped one user who found that his projects were being backed up to Carbonite, but NOT saved locally. The Carbonite software was somehow interfering with the local save.

If that’s the case here, it should be fairly easy to reproduce.

As a rule, we don’t recommend working directly from USB drives, as they are known to be both slower and less reliable. Rather, we would recommend a two-step operation, copying the project to/from the USB drive to local storage before working on it.


I’ve heard this so often, that I have a question. Because I’ve really tried this approach, but on the three machines I work on, it simply led to chaos, and it is hard for me to see how, with a setup of several older and sometimes offline computers, it could NOT lead to chaos (read: different versions of projects on different computers).

If everyone thinks it’s so important to not work off an USB drive, maybe you can come up with something that would actually make it possible. Like a “safe” mode where Scrivener creates this working copy by itself, and either syncs with the USB drive in the background or when the user exits the program. Just an idea, of course.

If you’re going to transfer a project between computers by manual means – as opposed to a synchronization service like Dropbox – it’s essential to have a clear naming convention that tells you which version is which. That’s true whether you’re using USB drives, email, or copying back and forth from iDevices.

Here’s what I’d do:

  • On Computer A, create MyProject.scriv. When done, use the Save As command to create MyProject9Oct19.scriv, and copy this project to the USB drive.

  • On Computer B, copy MyProject9Oct19.scriv to local storage. When done, use the Save As command to create MyProject10Oct19.scriv, and copy this project to the USB drive.

  • Back on Computer A, copy MyProject10Oct19.scriv to local storage. When done, use the Save As command to create a project named MyProject11Oct19.scriv, and copy this project to the USB drive.

  • Repeat.

(I’m not familiar with the available automation tools for Windows, so I don’t know how easy it would be to automate this duplicate and copy step. It’s not a hard task, though.)

The USB drive now contains:
All three are current as of the time the copy was made. That is, you edited MyProject10Oct19.scriv on Computer A, so the Computer A version is different (newer) than the USB version. This means that the USB drive contains the complete version history, but the individual computers don’t.

If you want a backup of the USB drive’s version history, put it in a separate folder from the working projects, and DON’T TOUCH IT,

If you need to revert to an older version, copy from the USB drive to local storage, in a separate folder. Once you’ve confirmed that this really is the version you want, rename it to something like MyProjectFork.scriv, and start a new version history from there.

Be liberal with metadata, notes to yourself, or whatever other information you can put internal to the project (a README file at the top of the Binder?) to help you keep track.


I’ve never worked from a hard disk. In fact, on my laptop, desktop or now on my surface where scrivener is installed you won’t find any of my writing files. I never had had hardware failure or slowness using any of the USB drives, security or otherwise, to house my writings. The drive in question this time tests perfectly and shows no bad sectors or degradation in throughput (USB 3.1) when bench tested for 48 consecutive hours. All of my hardware, no matter what it is, are solid performance driven machines as a matter of occupational consequence and they are all meticulously well maintained (too frugal to buy new hardware of the caliber I prefer unnecessarily).

I’ve concluded, after exhaustive testing, that the hardware wasn’t the culprit here. While I cannot explain it yet, something in the software cocktail I use must be the reason things ended up as they are. Whatever it was I dodged a bullet because of my backup strategy - A USB backup folder and a fail safe folder on my local hard drive which automatically backups up to an online location anytime the contents changes. I borderline on ridiculous with my precautions.

My software: Scrivener (obviously), Avast AV free edition, and AES 256 bit encryption (excessive I know, but the price was good). Office 365 isn’t on my Surface, which is uses strictly for writing, so I didn’t include it.

I will figure this out eventually and I’ll post what I think it was so others can avoid what I experienced.

Me too…glad you’re okay now! I’m no IT pro, but I’m no newbie either, and I’ve never seen anything remotely like Scrivener, in terms of convoluted saving/backup. All I’d like to be able to do is access the same project on desktop and laptop, and it’s a nightmare. Also, I recently lost “everything”…my whole project. Fortunately I found ONE backup that contained everything, so I’m okay. But the last time I used Scrivener (4-5 years ago) the whole exasperating system made me so nervous that I kept separate text files of everything I wrote, on MS Word. At least I knew I could recreate the project if need be, and most importantly, I had the text. I think I’m going to start doing that again; I can’t take the heartache/uncertainty of fearing I could lose everything.

Katherine above listed her process, but it’s wayyyy too complicated for an old fart like me…geez Louise…sorry to sound like a big whiner, but Scrivener is the LEAST intuitive software I have ever seen in 30 years of computer use. Sheesh. But…when it’s working, man, I just love it.

To be clear, that’s not “my” process. It’s the process I would use if I were unable/unwilling to use a service like Dropbox.

My actual process is to put the projects I want to synchronize in the appropriate Dropbox folder. Works fine. So well that I’m always surprised when other people describe it as convoluted or unreliable.


I wouldn’t go that far. I find Scrivener very helpful in a variety of ways. If you want access to your work on a laptop or desktop (or even on a desktop contained on a USB drive) you COULD use a Microsoft based email address (live.com, msn.com, hotmail.com, outlook.com, etc) to acquire a free 5Gb of online storage from Onedrive which you can access everywhere. In fairness, I’ve never tried opening a project from Onedrive or any online service, but I do use on online backup solution (carbonite) and have tucked some files on Onedrive and other places.

Hi Katherine, fair enough. I know you wouldn’t go through such a process in the normal course of working. I should have clarified: generally when I’m working on my laptop, I’m offline…out in the woods, in a park, etc, so I can’t do Dropbox for that. I haven’t used Dropbox in years; Google Drive does everything I need…but if you think Dropbox is a much better bet for Scrivener files (GD doesn’t work well with it, in my experience), and, if one can access DB files offline, then I’d consider it for sure. btw I say convoluted and non-intuitive, because everything else I do I can stick on a flash drive and open easily anywhere else. Scrivener is the only program I’ve ever had this difficulty with. Honestly, I’m not looking to whine about it; I just want to be able to access my project in both places!

Yes, Dropbox allows you to work offline. Just make sure to install the Dropbox software on all affected machines.

Yes, there are known issues with Google Drive and Scrivener projects. Google Drive doesn’t appear to handle Scrivener’s frequent saves correctly, which can lead to unrecoverable data corruption.

The flash drive solution should work as well. As I said in your other thread, I’d need more information about exactly what you’re doing to understand what the issue is.


What’s that got to do with anything? :open_mouth:
If you are offline, you can’t access any cloud service. But Dropbox is just a folder on your hard drive, named Dropbox, which the Dropbox app will synchronize with the Db server when you get online.

Like Katherine, I’ve never lost any writing, and I am often going back and forth between three Macs and two iDevices. So I honestly don’t understand how you manage to get things screwed up.

Hey Lunk, if you’re going to be an ass, don’t bother responding, okay? I wouldn’t post if it wasn’t a real problem that I’m trying to solve. I had a sudden “everything’s gone” situation just like the OP, for no rhyme or reason, and when you spend hours and hours only to lose your project, it’s no small thing. And, I’ve had a lot of frustration just trying to open a project on a different device. As far as “what it has to do with,” is that I can’t use a cloud service while I’m out in the woods, DUH. So I need another solution, unless, like I asked, Dropbox will make files/folders available offline. I don’t know that; which is why I asked.

I celebrate your brilliance in working on multiple devices without any issues; I’d like the same!

Yes, Dropbox allows you to work offline. Just make sure to install the Dropbox software on all affected machines.

Yes, there are known issues with Google Drive and Scrivener projects. Google Drive doesn’t appear to handle Scrivener’s frequent saves correctly, which can lead to unrecoverable data corruption.

The flash drive solution should work as well. As I said in your other thread, I’d need more information about exactly what you’re doing to understand what the issue is.

Thank you for this. What I do is exactly this: I “backup to…” a flash drive. I take the flash drive with me and insert it into my laptop, open Scrivener, and ask it open an “existing project” and direct it to the flash drive. (It won’t do it.) Or, I open the project folder on the flash drive and double click on the project file…won’t do it.

This is what I do on every single other program I’ve ever used, but obviously with Scrivener it’s different and I’m doing something wrong. Please tell me how to do this properly, and I’ll be happy and sail off into the sunset.

I know it’s probably pointing out the obvious, but backing up and saving are two different things. When you select the Back up To command, it is most likely zipping the project – Scrivener won’t open a zipped project. That might be part of the issue? I can’t otherwise help, as I don’t use flashdrives for moving projects.

The point (poorly) made above about Dropbox and working offline is that Dropbox actually works from a folder on your hardrive. So when you open a project but are working offline, that project is still saved to your hardrive. Once you are reconnected to the internet, Dropbox will then start syncing the project with its servers. So, you can work on your project offline, remembering only to be sure that all your changes have been synced after you return to coverage and before you open the project on another device. Does that make sense? The main caveat is that you have to have the latest version downloaded to your computer/device before you go into the woods or otherwise offline.