time machine restore

I’ll try to be thorough but brief. here’s the situation:

  1. my powerbook G4 had to go to the hospital today, and I probably won’t have it back until Friday.

  2. Just before things went phlooey, Time Machine did a backup.

  3. I got my daughter’s macbook, hooked up the external drive with the TM backup on it, found the .scriv document I needed, and dragged it to her desktop.

  4. Downloaded Scrivener onto her computer. I had to do this as a trial copy because my serial number is somewhere in the guts of the TM backup, and I have no idea how to locate it.

  5. Opened Scrivener.

  6. Opened the .scriv file. At first it looked like everything was there, and I was very relieved that I could get back to work. But it turns out that of the thirty or so documents in the binder, only a few of them actually have any content. Most are just empty – though they should not be.

Any ideas? Suggestions? I’m trying not to panic.

Thanks for your help.

This is a concern that I mentioned briefly before in another thread. Time Machine makes a backup every hour by checking to see if anything on the system has changed. If you are working in a Scrivener project while it does this check, then it will detect an updated file and back up the open Scrivener project. Restoring such a copy of the project would be like moving an open project from one disk to another. The results can be what you are looking at.

What you need to do is go “back in time” until a time when you know the project file was closed, and restore from there.

I am not sure if this is the problem, but I have a feeling this might be it.

Thanks, Amber. I had a hazy idea that it might be something like this.

I should note that I’m not using the TM interface to restore the old file – the mac I’m on right now hasn’t been upgraded to Leopard yet. It’s possible that on a Leopard machine the retrieval might work without a problem.

It could be that I’ll get my own computer back with everything intact on the hard disc, but I can’t bank on that. Fortunately I backed up the .scriv file yesterday by exporting it as an rtf file, and that I was able to grab.

Because of Scrivener’s package-style format, I recommend using Scrivener’s Backup To feature regularly rather than relying entirely on other backup solutions. Similar problems to this have happened with other backup systems. What has happened is that it hasn’t copied all of the files in the scrivener project - as Amber says, it only seems to have restored the most recent files.

Ah, yes. You only got partial parts of the project then. But the above concerns will still be applicable even when using TM, unless you restore from a time where you know for certain the project was closed. Restoring an open project could result in a corrupted project.

I second Keith’s advice. Make liberal use of the Backup To… function in Scrivener, with the zip function turned on. Making backups it as simple as {Cmd-Shift-S / Return} once you have the location set up, since it automatically appends the time and date.

Time Machine is great for file formats where the saved copy is a full version (like a text file, or a JPEG), but for file formats that are “incomplete” until closed, and are being auto-saved every two seconds, it can be much more risky to rely upon.

Unfortunately, Scrivener is not the only program that saves its data in a package. When almost all of one’s significant data is contained in such packages, the “Backup to zip” option is likely to be unreliable. You’ll forget to use it at the worst possible moment. Having an automated backup solution that will actually work is essential.

I’m still using Tiger and therefore don’t have Time Machine available. Instead, I run a daily automated offsite backup (BackJack), scheduled to run during the time of day when I’m least likely to have lots of files open. I also run a weekly external hard disk backup (SuperDuper) at times when I can simply shut everything down and go away for a while.


Katherine – I like the idea of Blackjack, but $15 a month is really more than I can invest. I do keep all my crucial files in one place and whenever I think of it, I upload them to my server space.

Of course that kind of approach is a recipe for disaster, but I haven’t come across a better solution yet.

You can probably use Automator and/or iCal to run an automagical upload. I’m not enough of an Automator guru to explain how off the top of my head, but the tool has pretty decent documentation.


I use Backup (in addition to Time Machine) to backup my .scriv files to .Mac. I’ve set it up to backup at a time that I’m usually not writing (and Scrivener is closed) - 9pm.

There’s also Chronosync (which recently had a Leopard update) and I use that to backup to a separate hard drive.

Yes, I’m paranoid. Since I started using computers back in the day when they were not exactly, um, reliable, I also print out my day’s work.

Good luck with finding a solution that works for you.