Scrivener crashed and I am now missing a month of work

Hey folks,
Scrivener crashed on my laptop, and when I opened it, I discovered that I am now missing all the work I have done since my last backup in May. This is very distressing. Any help to offer? I tried going to Preferences>Backup, but all I see is the May backup.

I feel for you.

My hunch is the Scrivener project files are there, but you may not have access using your normal method to open? How are you trying to open the files? Looking at the “recent” list, or using Menu: File - > Open to browse to the Scrivener project file? Try the latter, or perhaps use Finder to find the project package? A crash might have prevented Scrivener from updating the “recent” list.

Do you have any idea why the default automatic backups created by Scrivener are not available? I have mine set to take automatic backups on “open” and “close”, saving 25 copies as Zip. Use Finder to inspect what is there.

Also, you should have the default “auto save” on 2 seconds of keyboard inactivity turn “on”? Should be, and if not please turn back on.

What about your TimeMachine system backups? Can you simply restore from there?


I am not a Mac user, I’ll only ask this one question because it might help others help you:

Are your documents devoid of text, or completely gone from the binder?

Best wishes.

Gone from the binder. Thank you, Vincent!

  1. I understand you to have indicated that you used the button in Scriv backup settings to go to the folder where Scriv is backing up projects, and the last project backup there is from May? This is surprising, since Scriv typically wants to backup projects whenever you close them (for example) unless you altered the pref settings on that.

  2. Since Scriv writes changes to file during your idle moments during use, your actual writing is not gone. At worst, Scriv’s index of what text files are there has gotten munged a bit in the crash.

  3. Open your trouble project from the Finder — to make sure you are looking at your master project, not some orphaned duplicate or some backup copy.

  4. One way things might seem to disappear from the Binder is if the Binder pane is in some other mode — like it is showing you a subset of your binder items b/c it is showing project search results or a saved Collection (or your binder may be hoisted whatever that is exactly).

  5. If you are in the (bad) habit of opening your project via the Recents menu, it is possible that at some point you opened and started editing a backup of your project rather then the master. There are several ways that this could result in the apparent phenomena you are experiencing.

  6. Needless to say, I hope you have a good practice of regularly backing up your computer generally, so you will at the least be able to retrieve a copy of your project from a recent general backup — if it comes to that. If you do not have a general backup strategy, it is time that you do!


Thank you for this answer. It has made me realize that I have more to learn about Scrivener, and I need to get in the habit of backing things up more than one a month. I tried all the things you suggested, but it looks as though my most recent version is well and truly gone.
Fortunately, I sent a PDF version to a friend recently, so at least I can manually go back and add those changes. So I haven’t lost quite as much work as I first thought, although some is still gone.
I made the settings changes you suggested and will be more proactive. Thank you!

No, unfortunately it looks as though the file is well and truly gone. I have definitely learned my lesson from this one!

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Here is how I go about my projects’ backups and overall peace of mind.
(Note: this method is over the top. But my philosophy regarding backups of projects I poured so much time into is: there is no such thing as “too much”.)
Hope it helps for the future.
You have my sympathy.

And here is my backup practice:

  1. I have Scrivener set to backup projects when I close them (or explicitly hit Save), and have the zip setting turned on. You can increase the number of backup copies Scrivener maintains if you want more reach-back-ability. While I may certainly leave very active projects open for days, I do an explicit Save at the end of my session in such cases, so in effect, I get a backup at the end of every session.

  2. I maintain two backups of my computer onto external hard drives.
    One is a Time Machine backup which I just do every time my Mac prompts me to (10 days, I think). But once you have set up a Time Machine backup, your Mac will automatically make /internal backups/ of your changed files, so you can recover things from yesterday etc even if you haven’t made a hard-drive backup for some days. Super handy! Time Machine backups are cumulative backups, so you can go back multiple backup sessions if a lost item was multiple backups ago.
    With the other backup drive I use software to make a clone backup – so I have a bootable external hard-drive that is a clone of my internal hard-drive – just in case.

This said:
It would seem a bit quick to be giving up by my impression.
The fact that your documents are missing from the binder, could easily mean that you are simply viewing the wrong version of your project.
Not at all meaning the up-to-date one ain’t somewhere else to be found.

I’d run a thorough HD search.

ALSO… This:

…the missing documents’ text should still be in the project’s folder. (If looking in the right one – not to neglect.) Even though no longer referenced to, in the binder.

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I think we’re all very sympathetic, @Lauralareine :frowning: .

A good backup strategy (and forgive me if you’re already doing this, or something similar) which would also allow you to get at Scrivener project files themselves as well as any backups would be:

TimeMachine - essential.

Then a good reliable external drive - say from these people if you’re in the US; equivalents elsewhere, of course. With Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper wherever you are.

Good luck!

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That is a true pity … I’m still having a hard time understanding how a simple application crash can wipe out a working project AND any automated Scrivener backups (and routine backup “saves” you may (hopefully!) created along the way–unless of course you chose to turn off backups from their “default ON” position. I can get the macOS crashed and perhaps messed with the disk, but … are you sure all gone?

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What happens when you:

  1. invoke Spotlight (e.g. Cmnd + Spacebar) to see where any Scrivener documents that have survived are located.
  2. enter .scriv (that’s a period/full stop at the beginning); don’t press Return
  3. single-click in the ensuing results on ‘Search in Finder’

do you see any of your project files - perhaps in the Documents folder; or anywhere on ‘This Mac’?

Please ignore and forgive if you’re already familiar with and/or have done any of this :slight_smile: !

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No kidding!!!

I close Scrivener and get a backup every time I walk away from my desk. I set the number of zip backups to infinity, but ten is probably enough.

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