"Rebuilding Search Indexes" & failure to make backup

This is my first ever post. First, let me say that I switched to macs 3 years ago because of Scrivener. This software really has made the writing process so much easier. In fact, I can count over two dozen writers who’ve switched to Scrivener after I introduced it to them. I even gave a short seminar on Scrivener at a well-known writer’s colony in the US, so much interest having been expressed. I can’t rave enough.

Now near the end of a 220,000 word novel, I’ve hit a problem, two in fact, though I dare say they’re related, having presented at the same time.

  1. When I fire it up, Scrivener informs me that it’s rebuilding the search indexes, taking minutes to do so. And this happens every time I start Scrivener.

  2. On closing, it informs me after evidently attempting to backup (I see the tickertape chevrons) that it is unable to backup.

Why is Scrivener doing this now and how can I fix it? Any help would be very much appreciated. (I’m using the version 2.2)


First, many thanks for recommending Scrivener to others, and for having got so many users to switch to using it - much appreciated! And thanks for giving a seminar on it as well, that’s fantastic.

Regarding your problem, if Scrivener is rebuilding the search indexes every time it opens, this generally means that it is not closing properly. Because the search indexes file can be large, Scrivener only ever saves it when you close the project. This is safe to do, because everything in the search indexes file is a duplicate of text elsewhere - it’s a plain text representation of all the text in the project used only for search purposes, both in Scrivener and by Spotlight. So, if that file doesn’t save, it can easily be rebuilt from the text in the project (which is autosaved throughout).

So the question here is, what is it that is preventing the project from closing properly. Are you receiving any notifications that Scrivener has crashed at all?

It may indeed be related to the backup problem, so to check that, could you please go the Backup pane of the Preferences and check what file path is set for backups? If that file path no longer exists - for instance, because you’ve moved some files around or copied the preferences to a different computer - it might just be that Scrivener is trying to backup to a folder that isn’t there. So, make sure the backups folder path is valid.

Even if the backup path isn’t valid, though, that shouldn’t cause the project to close improperly. How large is this project in megabytes? Would it be possible to zip it up and send it to us for testing at mac.support AT literatureandlatte DOT com?

Thanks and all the best,

Thanks for the swift response.
The file is 488 MB in size. For a while I had the various research materials only linked to Scrivener rather than fully imported, in order to speed up the loading process. Yesterday, I imported them all, thinking that possibly the source of the problems might lie there (having searched this forum for anything that might provide a clue). Didn’t make a difference (other than increasing the project size).

I haven’t received any notifications that Scrivener is closing.

I’ve checked and re-checked and the backup path is valid. But I did wonder about that too (before posting here) and so I set up a new backup folder and set the file path to that new folder etc but that didn’t do the trick either.

The message I get on closing (and failing to make backup), by the way, says:
“A backup could not be created at [path]
The project could not be copied to the specified location. Please check that you have enough free disk space and the correct permissions.”

I have plenty of disk space (a third free) and I can’t imagine how I might not have the correct permissions.

I should add too that for the past month I’ve been writing and using an applescript to automate compiling and opening up the word doc and formatting it, such as introducing sections, formatting footnotes etc. It interfaces with Scrivener through GUI Scripting of course. But in so far as it does interact with Scrivener, it does so in a very limited way. That said, I’m no techie by any stretch, so what the hey do I know? Maybe that has something to do with my woes.

I’ve re-installed Scrivener (after saving the prefs file) but that doesn’t seem to help.

I hope you won’t be affronted but I’m reluctant to send the project file; nothing to do with you as you must know but, well, you must deal with writers all the time.

Thanks again.

This may be a little premature but I didn’t want you wasting time unnecessarily. The problem now appears to have righted itself. I do seem to have lost somehow my three compile formats, although in the new ‘custom’ format there appear to be retained the settings of the one I was using before the troubles began.
The re-indexing on startup seems to have stopped and on checking the relevant path it seems the backing up is working.

Anyhow, I’ll let you know if the problem reappears.

Thanks very much.


No problem about not sending the project, I totally understand. I’m glad things seem to have righted themselves, but as a precaution I would recommend making a copy of the project on an external disk, along with any other important files on your machine, as this may be indicative of a hard drive problem. I don’t want to alarm you - it’s very probably not a hard drive problem at all, but seeing as files now seem to have disappeared from Application Support (where compile presets are saved) and the disk just seems to be refusing to allow Scrivener to save the project as a backup, it is worth bearing in mind. I’d then try the following:

  1. Go to Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities) and run a permissions repair.

  2. Run a hardware test: support.apple.com/kb/HT1509 This will tell you for sure if there is anything wrong on your hard disk. If that is all good, then at least you can rest easy and know that nothing really horrible is going on.

Thanks and all the best,