Sync between computers

I have Scrivener installed on my desktop and my notebook. Sometimes I work on my desktop, sometimes on my notebook. How do all of you keep your project(s) synchronized between machines?

What I do is this: I have an app called Second Copy. Among its functions is “synchronize.” What that does is examine all of the folders/files in a specified location on both machines and determines which of those is “current” (as in, most recently modified). It will then copy the “current” file from one computer to the other. If you’ve selected “sync deletions,” if you’ve deleted a file from one computer, it will delete it from the other. A safeguard: You can configure the profile to save the file being replaced to a specified location so you recover it if it was deleted in error. In addition, you can set it to allow you to review the proposed deletions and moves before they are actually performed.

I created such a profile to synchronize all subfolders and files in .scriv folder.

Are there any other ways that you use?


I use DropBox to sync between machines, as do many posters in this forum. Dropbox typically works flawlessly, as long as you have good internet connectivity and allow the syncing process to finish on all sides.

Is this something you just started to use to sync Scrivener, or have you been doing it for a long while?

If you’ve just started using it, be very careful, and make sure you make frequent zipped backups of your project. One of the most ‘popular’ issues that posters raise in these forums are projects that have been broken due to incorrect syncing. If you don’t have a recent zipped backup handy, it is a major PITA to rebuild a Scrivener project after it’s been botched due to a syncing issue. Sometimes data is lost permanently. So make sure you have good zipped backups in place (change the Scriv default from 5 to 25) and monitor the process very carefully, until you are quite sure it works well with Scrivener.

Or you can just move to a free Dropbox account. :sunglasses:


Best practices for using Scrivener with cloud services can be found here:

Please read it before using any synchronization service.

I’ve been using Second Copy for a while, without problems so far. But I think I’ll look into the DropBox or OneDrive method.

Thanks much.

Thanks for the info. I’ll give it a try.

I am using FreeFileSync for a similar purpose. But I haven’t used it on Scrivener projects yet. But it seems to be very similar to Second Copy from what you @KJIsaacson is describing. It helps me keep various directories stay in sync, including some on DropBox and OneDrive. Very widely configurable!

I’m not familiar with Second Copy, but I have used FreeFileSync to do folder backups, sending the backups to usb drives as well as directly to another computer. It is reliable and I think it would probably work with Scrivener.

If I wanted to frequently alternate between computers with the same Scrivener project, I think I would prefer to keep the full project on a portable USB drive, and swap that drive between computers which would be able to access the identical project, rather than introducing cloud transfers into the equation.

Either approach requires care and diligence, and awareness of where things are and exactly what you are doing. But using a portable drive eliminates any chance that different “versions” of the project, each of them subject to the subtle syncing glitches that seem to just always come with cloud services.

Running the project from an external USB drive might be slightly slower in opening projects and accessing individual files, building scrivenings, etc. But probably not noticeable. And project backups could still be made to the local computer, and not to the portable drive. Speed shouldn’t be an issue.

My main Scrivener project currently has only about 125 binder items, but on the drive its .scriv folder contains nearly 500 individual files distributed into 177 different sub folders. That’s a lot to keep in syncand trust to dropbox, google drive, wifi connections, etc.

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In this thread from 2018, @kewms states L&L does not recommend working off of live projects from USB, due to USB speed and reliability challenges. Perhaps that recommendation has changed since then.

Alternatively, transferring zipped backups between PCs via USB but working on the live project from the PC hard disk is a great and safe solution, which I used for a couple of years, prior to moving to Dropbox.


I’m reading that 2018 thread now. Interesting.

I think the key to all of this is to understand each step of whatever method you use, why it’s being done, the correct order to do them, etc, and more generally to have a good understanding of how Scrivener and the relevant computer functions work, including how to navigate your file system, consistent naming conventions, time stamps, etc.

I haven’t used Dropbox in some time and currently use Google Drive and the little “Backup and Sync by Google” applet for necessary syncing between devices. It’s generally reliable, but it sometimes just loses the beat, without notice, and needs to be reset, with “conflicted” copies dealt with manually. I’ve never put a Scrivener project on either or Dropbox. I use google drive mostly as the location for things like portable applications and utilities I want to have on all devices. So that’s were I run things like Notepad++, Keypass, AHK – things I need to have everywhere, in the same relative locations, with the same settings, and that aren’t nearly as dynamic as a Scrivener project. The bigger a Scriv project gets, the more it seems it would feel like a high wire act to regularly pass it through a cloud service. So many threads here are about Dropbox, hard to separate the “user error” from the “nature of the beast.”


Well said. Fully agree.

Of the syncing services I’ve used with my PCs over the last few years:

  1. Dropbox has by far been the best. No glitches whatsoever, syncing small to large 100k+ word projects – that is, when I just let it run. Recently I’ve taken to turning my laptop wif off and on on again to decrease distractions, and sometimes it takes Dropbox a minute or two to start syncing again.

  2. OneDrive (the version built into Win10) is very reasonable these days. At this point I would probably trust it with syncing Scriv projects, and I do keep seldom-used reference or historic projects on OneDrive.

  3. Google Drive is just not dependable enough for anything but relatively static stuff. I never know whether it’s actually syncing or not. As some point I may migrate away from it.

  4. iCloud for Windows was abysmal. I’ve turned it off.

The challenge is, as you say, understanding each step of whatever method is chosen. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we’ve seen a rash of posters lately who’ve just jumped into syncing, without fully understanding the processes involved and the inherent risks, and who don’t have any kind of backup in place. It seems like every day there’s a new post along the lines of “lost ten years of work” “my binder’s empty” “Scrivener ate my novel” and frequently it comes down to syncing mistakes and lack of backups.


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EXACTLY. Where we really seem to find people being angry is that they expect they can just pick up stuff and use it without acquiring any understanding of the technologies underneath. One doesn’t have to be an IT expert, but a few minutes learning “this is generally how X works, and these are its pros and cons” will go a long way to helping one minimize trouble with ANY application, not just Scrivener.

To this excellent advice I would add: know what backups are available to you, and how to access them in an emergency. Almost all “lost work” events can be prevented or at least minimized with a good backup strategy.

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Thanks for all of the responses and advice.

Yes, the Second Copy approach works well. The only downside I see is if I grab my notebook and leave, having forgotten to sync with my desktop (on which I made recent changes) before going. I used to pay for GoToMyPC, which would allow me to connect to my desktop remotely, but that app became to expensive and I haven’t found a suitable replacement yet.

Having the project sync’d to OneDrive would allow me to access the current version of the project on my notebook even if I forgot to sync before leaving.

I believe I have the required understanding to sync properly with OneDrive. Seems to me the important thing is to make sure I close the project completely and allow it to sync before trying to access it from the other computer. Is that it in a nutshell?

And, as a backup (figuratively and literally), I habitually copy the entire scriv folder/subfolders to an external hard drive in my house. In addition, through Carbonite, all of my documents/files are routinely backed up to a remote location. So if I screw up with the syncing, there’s always a pretty current version of the project in at least two other locations.

Again, many thanks!

Yes, that about covers it.

It might be better to copy your Scrivener backups, which are copies of your projects created when you close them. But if Carbonite is tracking Scrivener’s backups folder, then I’d say that’s sufficient; just be sure you know how to find it (or do like I do, and relocate it to a place I can more easily find).

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@KJIsaacson Scrivener’s zipped backups have been mentioned a few times already, but I want to emphasize that these are the simplest and fastest way of recovering a Scrivener project in the event of a calamity. If you haven’t reviewed your backup settings, I suggest you do so. File > Options > Backup. Increase the “Retain” setting to something greater than the default 5x.

Why are the zipped backups better than the entire scriv folder/subfolders? What’s the difference as far as info/data in each of them?

A Scrivener-made backup contains the entire contents of the .scriv folder. The advantages are:

  1. Scrivener can be configured to make these automatically, with no intervention on your part. You don’t have to remember to do it.

  2. A ZIP backup specifically is a single file, and can be safely emailed, copied, uploaded/downloaded, etc. without worrying about whether the transfer will maintain the integrity of the project.

  3. For Scrivener’s automatic backups, the storage location can be recovered via Scrivener’s Preferences → Backups pane. This means that if you need to restore a project, you don’t need to remember where you put the backup copies, you just open the Preferences pane and go there.

Don’t dismiss the importance of this last step. Under stress, people tend to forget important details like this. I’ve helped more than one person who was desperately scouring their computer for the backup they were sure they made … but didn’t think to look for Scrivener’s automatic backups. Remember that, almost by definition, you’ll never need to recover a backup when you aren’t stressed out.


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Katherine (and all the others who have replied in this thread), thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and thoughts. All very helpful.