Project on USB - working between computers

Hi All,

I work on my projects on a USB stick so I can work on either of my two computers. I am concerned - because I feel pretty sure I have lost changes at least once - that there is an issue with the backups or something when moving between the two computers. It might just be that I did something silly like make changes to an older copy or something, but I don’t think that was the case.

So, there are LOTS of threads and pieces of information out there about doing this if your backup location is something like dropbox etc. But mine is not.

To avoid any kind of problem using this method should I make my backup location on the same USB as the project files? I just really don’t want to end up trying to edit a file I have done a bunch of work on with my one computer only to have it lost if the file tries to synch up with an older backup on the other computer.

Am I worrying about nothing? Or is there something I should do to prevent the problem - please note that I won’t use a cloud source for this because I am sometimes, even often, working without an internet connection.

Thanks in advance!

The typical way this would happen is if your ‘backup’ is accomplished via the File->Save As menu. To avoid that possibility, switch to using File->Back Up->Back Up To… and choose the ZIP compression option. I suggest also using the option that inserts the date and time into the filename. By using ZIP compression, you can’t accidentally edit your backups instead of your ‘live’ project.

While you’re at it, on each computer, go to Tools->Options->Backup, and adjust those settings to NOT use your USB drive, but to make sure the ZIP compression is on, that you’re using the date & time stamps in the file name (why isn’t the default!?) and maybe adjust it to keep more backups than 5 before clearing out old ones. Make note of the folder they’re set to go to on each computer. This is a safeguard against losing your thumb drive along with all of your backups; it might be inconvenient to get copies of these automatically generated backup files from both computers, but at least it will be possible to get to them.

If you do that, then I don’t think you’ll have any issues. I do suggest that you set your auto-save interval to 10 seconds (Tools->Options->General, I think) or something like that; the typical USB thumb drive is very slow, and might not take well to lots of automatic saves.

Because USB drives are both slower and less reliable, we do not recommend editing your live project directly from a USB drive.


Please describe your situation.

As has been said, Flash drives are slow and unreliable and should not be used for normal storage. One solution would be to setup a backup system, where you backup after work, then restore to the other computer, then repeat. But, this is a very fragile system as sooner or later you’ll forget to backup or restore and end up with new stuff on both computers. You will have a mess. You will lose stuff.

If both computers are in the same building/house, then you could use a NAS Drive and save to it through your network. In other words, work from a network drive. Alternatively, if you do 95% of your work on one computer and only occasionally on the other, then you could simply copy and paste the new stuff from the auxiliary computer over from Evernote or whatever.

If you do lots of work, within Scrivener on two computers that cannot be networked, then you’ll need to either use DropBox or force yourself into a rigid protocol carefully designed to keep you from making mistakes. I am not sure this last option is realistic.

There is no issue with the backups. I’ve been hanging out here daily for nearly 4 years–don’t judge me! :slight_smile: --and I’ve never seen a post on Scrivener not generating a correct backup. You messed up somehow.

The thing is, in this case, there is no “synch up” done by Scrivener. It’s all down to whether you manage your Scrivener project folders correctly.

Based on your comments that you’ve already had an issue, yes, I believe you should be.

(bolded for emphasis by me)

Steve sums it up well. I moved projects between two PC’s for about a year using a USB drive.This isn’t rocket science, but it does require that you be very disciplined. A good approach is to begin with the assumption that someday you’ll misplace or lose the USB drive, and develop a strategy to ensure if that happens you don’t lose any work.

You would also be very wise to follow all of Rdale’s recommendations closely, he nailed the things that I was going to suggest.

Can someone elaborate a bit more?

I have now saved my current MS using backup with date and time to my downstairs computer.

I also copied the file (above) onto a flash drive ( I did not backup to the flash drive directly although I think I could have done that)–(1) Is copying the file onto the flash the right thing to do?

(2) Then can I carry the flash drive upstairs and copy the file onto upstairs computer and will that file then be transported onto the upstairs computer scrivener software for me to work on further?

I have gotten an error message saying I might lose work if the MS is open on another computer. (3) How do I deal with that?

Thanks in advance for the help.

PS- I dont mind copying to dropbox as well but dont want to rely on dropbox- I want a physical version to carry up and downstairs.
(4) Can I also use sync up each time I finish a work session as an additional guard against losing work or will that mess up the process described by RDale?

1 and 2) NO! The project is the whole .scriv folder, not only the .scrivx file.

  1. Make sure you close the project before copying it to the flash drive. To be completely safe, close the project, close Scrivener, then copy to the Flash Drive.

  2. What do you mean by “sync up”?

Let each computer make a backup to a folder on its own HD on project close (this is set in Tools, Options, Backup). That way you have the live project on both machines and backups on both machines. You also have a fresh copy of the project on the flash drive.

My suggestion, ditch the thumb drive, they are slow, easy to misplace etc. Get a 2.5” SSD drive or better yet, M2 drive. They are readily available these days though you probably have to buy the drive and enclosure separately on eBay or similar in the case of the m2.

They both work just like an external hard drive except faster and more robust. Bit bulkier, yes, but faster and in my experience more reliable than thumb drives. Even a 1tb unit is very reasonably priced these days and you can store plenty of other stuff you might want share between them, or even backups - but not the Scrivener backups if you are saving your WIP to the drive.

Thank you NoHope and Lunk! I am not able to get the SSD drive you suggest right now and I want to forge ahead with writing.

That is what I meant. I am copying the folders icons/icons/settings/snapshots and the project file on to the flash drive. My question was do I use the computers copying function (as I would do any other file) or use backup part of scrivener to transfer to flash drive.

Once I have carried the flash upstairs to upstairs laptop, do I copy the files onto the upstairs laptop?

Thanks- good suggestion if I wont lose the project on the first computer if I close it down before saving.

I mean if I save to dropbox or to google cloud.

Im not sure I understand this advice.

Others may have different advice, however if you Really, absolutely, etc, are stuck with the usb stick for now my suggestion would be to work as follows. Note, This does require keeping CLOSE Documentation of your actions, perhaps on a notes application you keep open on each computer.

Have your save to location for your project on your local hard drive.

When you are ready to close your project, do manual Save, followed by a Save As to your thumb drive with a unique name say [project_name]2304 (todays date). Ensure all drive activity is complete before using the eject drive function.

Also ensure you have set backup on close Project, with it set to zip backup (it’s harder to accidentally open a zip project).

Then insert the thumb drive in the second computer when you are ready to work on it.

Immediately on opening the project, do a save as [project_name] to that computers normal project save to location. It will overwrite the last saved project.

Continue to work on the project.

When you are ready to close, do a save, then a save as to the thumb drive [project_name]date (and an a,b etc if you are doing multiple saves on the same date)

Working this way means you are not copying projects and potentially screwing up, BUT, you must scrupulously document the file names to make certain you don’t mix them up and overwrite later work. If something goes wrong, whatever you do, do not start opening projects looking for the latest. Sit down with your notes and carefully decide which is your latest save, and which us your latest zip backup. Protect Them all costs. With what you think is the latest save Copy and rename the entire .scriv folder (don’t open it and copy any internal files/folders - just copy the entire .scriv) so you have a saved version of it before you then open it and check. There’s a whole similar process To opening the zip backups.

There is a MUCH simpler solution if both computers gave internet access. Get a Dropbox account, set it up on both computers and simply point to that local Dropbox folder as your save location. Then all you gave to do us make certain the sync has finished before closing down each computer and that you only ever have the project open on one computer at a time.

I know which solution I’d use… Dropbox wins every time. Note you CANNOT do that with any other cloud service.

To No Hope- thanks you for the advice. Very helpful if depressing!

I do worry about having everything on one site like dropbox in case of a dropbox fail or a hack.

Using Dropbox means that you have everything on three computers. Upstairs, downstairs and on the Dropbox server.

The safest way to use a usb stick is neither ’Save as’ or copying, but to do a manual ’Backup to…’ and ticking Zip in the backup settings under Tools → Options. You should look at those settings anyhow, so you know where your backups are saved and how many and zipped or not.

Scrivener makes backup copies, to make sure you don’t lose everything if the live working project gets corrupted.

I don’t mean to be rude but it seems to me that you’re missing some basic understanding of both Scrivener, computers and cloud services. When I started using Scrivener I read two basic books about Scrivener, to get a better understanding, and also did the interactive tutorial built into Scrivener. Maybe you should do something similar?

The absolute simplest thing to do is this:

  1. Put your live project in the Dropbox folder on one computer (after you’ve installed the dropbox software on that computer).
  2. Install the dropbox software on your other computers (using the same account and password, of course), and let those computers get their copies of the project synced up.
  3. Work on that copy, being sure to follow the advice here: … c-services
  4. On each computer, go to Scrivener’s Tools->Options->Backup settings, and be sure you know where Scrivener’s automatic backups are going, or move them to a more “visible” folder. Be sure to change the options to add the date & time to the backup filenames. I suggest having Scrivener .zip compress them too.

That way, even if Dropbox goes haywire and deletes the active copy of your project, your most recent backups are still available where you last worked on your project. You may have to gather copies of all of a project’s backups to be sure you are recovering from the latest version, but those backups will absolutely be safe from anything done by Dropbox.

Thank you so much. I had been coming to a solution very much like this but it really helps to have it laid out like this. I am very appreciative.

However, I strongly recommend having at least one backup that is outside of Dropbox. Storing Scrivener’s automatic backups to the local system, for example.

Dropbox is pretty good, but it isn’t perfect. An accidental or malicious deletion on one system will propagate to all the others.


Hi lyceemoliere,

Also, see this post I wrote a couple of years ago for another user, that discusses Scriv’s zipped backups and syncing best practices. Everything I wrote then is still applicable now.


It’s essentially the same advice you’ve already received from rdale and kewms, with some additional tips.


Thanks again. I had decided to do that but I appreciate knowing the perspective of someone with more experience in the software.

Thank you-