Tips for 100% backup?

I read many good critics about Scrivener but also some that were not so good, mainly about that people wrote all day and their work wasn’t backed up.

Before I start with Scrivener, can you give me tips how to avoid that work gets lost?

Hi Prisilla,

Scrivener offers excellent backup tools. It is unfortunate that so many people only think about backups until after it is too late. You are wise to learn from their mistake and prepare yourself, so that in the event something bad happens to your hard drive or to your Scrivener project, you can recover your precious writing with minimal loss.

Have a look at section 7.11 “Backing Up Your Work” and Appendix B9 “Backup” and B12 “Saving” in the Scrivener manual. (With Scrivener, “Backup” and “Saving” are completely different things.) Only a few pages, and it may make the difference between losing a few hours vs. a few months of work if you have a disk or project error.

Also, check out the following posts for additional backup ideas: … 0&p=210011

Do a search of the forum on “backup” or “lost” , and you’ll get an idea of what happens to folks who haven’t figured out their backup process prior to trouble.

Here’s how I have Scrivener configured.

Scrivener creates a zipped backup when I close it. If you are the kind of person who leaves Scrivener open for days at a time and you have that setting, then you won’t be taking backups on a regular basis. You should either change that process and close it periodically, or do a “Backup Up Now” periodically.

Scrivener stores my zipped backups to my OneDrive folder, so they automatically go to the cloud. This is important, because if you store your zipped backups to your hard drive and your hard drive crashes, the backups won’t do you any good, because they’ll be trashed along with your data.

Finally, I have Scrivener set to Retain All Backup Files. This is also important.

(Side Note: If you have small projects, then no worries about Retaining All Backups. But if you have huge projects, then sooner or later you will start to use up your cloud storage. You will need to monitor and delete some of the backups to free up space. One idea is to review your project backups on a monthly basis and delete all but one backup for each a week, for a given project. But it is better for you to control which backups are retained than have it be some arbitrary number.)

I think the Scrivener default is set to retain 5 backups. You will frequently see the following types of posts here in regards to this setting: 1) Poster unfortunately experiences some sort of Scrivener project data corruption; 2) Poster opens and closes Scrivener many times, trying to figure out what is wrong; 3) Poster finally realizes the project data is irretrievably corrupted, and goes searching through their backups to restore their project; 4) Poster had the default setting of retain 5 backups, so the 5 backups they find are only of the corrupted project; leading to the conclusion 5) Poster posts in the forum about how many months of work Scrivener has lost them.

Don’t let that be you.

Hope this info is useful to you, and let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks so much for this info, Jim. I appreciate it very much. Will take backup seriously! :slight_smile: Have a nice weekend!


What about 100% back up of Scrivener updates?

When I had to reformat my hard drive recently, I used the CD I requested with my purchase in April 2015 to reload Scrivener and my projects were preserved just fine. However, when I went into Scrivener to open my projects, the dialogue box said: “The project you are trying to open was created or saved using a newer version of Scrivener than the one you are currently using. You will need to update Scrivener to open this file. Try selecting ‘check for updates’ from the Help Menu to look for updates.”

I’m in the New Project screen that opens when I click on the icon. There is no Help Menu that I can find. I’ve completely backed up my computer including program files, so could you please tell me what files I would need to transfer to my clean system to have Scrivener run up to date? In other words, what file extensions would I be looking for? Thank you so much!

Hi Kathy,

I’m a little confused about the sequence of events in your post, but if you go to the Scrivener product page you can always download the latest version. You may need your product registration info.

See Appendix B in the user manual for how to set up Scrivener to automatically check for updates. It’s under Startup Options.

Hope that helps,

@Kathy: You can also create any blank project(from the New Project Wizard), and navigate to the Help > Update menu. I personally prefer downloading and installing via the full installer, but this also works.

I think I might be in this situation that Jim described:

“1) Poster unfortunately experiences some sort of Scrivener project data corruption; 2) Poster opens and closes Scrivener many times, trying to figure out what is wrong; 3) Poster finally realizes the project data is irretrievably corrupted, and goes searching through their backups to restore their project; 4) Poster had the default setting of retain 5 backups, so the 5 backups they find are only of the corrupted project; leading to the conclusion 5) Poster posts in the forum about how many months of work Scrivener has lost them.”

Yesterday, I lost a whole piece I was working on when my laptop shut down (the power source was faulty, unbeknownst to me at the time). All of my attempts to troubleshoot and to capture what seems to have been lost on Scrivener have failed.

I have gone through all of the suggestions for backup retrieval, to no avail. Now I am terrified of doing another thing for fear I make it worse, in the event that there may still be a possibility of re-capturing the lost work, so I’m just sitting here panicking. Yes, I had it set to the 5 backups. I don’t know if the other “fail safe measures” were in place. I actually thought I was following safety/backup protocols already, unaware that other advanced technical measures were required.

I am on a Lenovo T440s. I was using Scrivener version 1.9.6 (I think?). My operating system is Windows 7.


First thing you should do is copy those 5 zipped backup files to another folder. Once you’ve preserved them by moving them out of the backup folder location, Scrivener can’t overwrite them.

If one of those zipped backup files was created before you had your power issue, then you are golden. Extract the files out of the zipped folder and double-click on the .scrivx file to launch Scrivener.

If those zipped backup files were all created after you had your power issue, then they won’t help you in recovering your project. But the likely damage to your project is that your .scrivx file was corrupted. Hopefully though, most of your actually writing data is still intact, in the various .rtf files that Scrivener stores, but you may need to create a new project and then copy/paste the text from those .rtf files into the new project.

Somewhere, maybe in the Scrivener user guide or in a post here, there is some info on how to locate those .rtf files to rebuild the project. I am at work so cannot research it, but if you can’t find that info, then perhaps an email to L&L Windows Support team would give you more details than I can provide at this time.

Hope that helps,

Forgive me if this seems a touch redundant:

  1. Given the capacity of today’s hard drives, there’s no reason to limit the number of Scrivener project backup copies to less than 25. This is very easy “insurance” to limit chances of over-writing backup copies.

  2. In backup preferences, set compress backups as zip files (obvious, to save space); and set ‘use date’ in file names. This helps identify backups prior to the power failure disaster, computer crash, etc. (Your computer date setting is correct, right? :wink: )

  3. Dropbox, as great as it is, is NOT a true backup facility. Files in Dropbox are overwritten as soon as the file in your computer folder changes. Corrupt the computer folder version; and the Dropbox version becomes corrupted. And this happens to every copy in Dropbox folders on your other linked computers. Thus, backup files on Dropbox are a convenience for access between computers, but they’re not secure from unwanted change.

  4. To ensure virtually all of a hard-working session is preserved while I’m working I’ve set my backup preferences to “back up with each manual save.” I rely on the “autosave” feature of Scrivener to write my work during each pause (I change that from 2 seconds to a longer value, i.e., 10 or 15 seconds, to avoid constant Dropbox activity. Yes, my working project files reside in Dropbox). When I take a long work pause, I do a manual save. That forces a new updated backup file.

  5. MOST IMPORTANT! Maintain a copy of the backup files folder on an external drive. Drag 'n drop is our friend. If my computer dies, and Dropbox goes south, I’ve still got all of my irreplaceable project work safely backed up in a separate location.

  6. Develop a “belt and suspenders” frame of mind. Some folks consider backup storage “on premises” as being unsafe, in case of theft, fire, or other disaster. (I do use an off-site free cloud storage service,, for just that reason. It’s in France, as close as I’ll ever get to Paris! :laughing: )

Thank you Jim and Graybyrd. I will follow the steps & protocols you have laid out here. The closest I have come so far to retrieving the critical file (the one that cannot be recreated) is finding a damaged .rtf document. When viewed within Notepad, you can actually SEE the content right there, staring back at you – the first few lines of the document – within the window that lists all of the files, which (I think?) means it is mapping to (or mirroring?) something on my hard drive (but what or where, I don’t know). It may be that this is as far as the process will allow. I don’t know. But thank you for replying to my post.

@MBsolomon - Take a look at Appendix G in the manual, it describes the “Project Bundle Format” - what is in all of those Scrivener project folders. Hopefully that helps in your search for your data. Best of Luck!

@Graybyrd - I agree with everything you wrote. My feeling is, if I can nudge people into doing #1 & #2, even if only to DropBox, that’s a huge improvement over 5 backups to a folder on their local hard drive - baby steps in the right direction!

While I have to agree that Dropbox falls short of a true backup solution, you can recover older versions of files*, and can also recover deleted** ones in the web interface from up to 30 days in the past–even if you’re only using the free account. If you pay for the “extended version history” option, you can restore from up to a year in the past.***


Have you ever actually tried to do this for a Scrivener project? Since a Scrivener project consists of potentially hundreds of files, each of which will have its own Dropbox history and none of which have easily human-readable names, I would say this is too tedious to attempt except in cases of extreme emergency. Much better to pre-empt the issue by configuring a true backup capability.


Hi Katherine,

The context was zipped backups, so not as complex a scenario as a Scrivener project.


What Jim said, but also: Large swathes of people do not do ANY backup because they just keep procrastinating until a disaster occurs. It would be great if everyone was willing to research backup solutions and come up with really good solution. Let’s not discourage people from doing something that makes recovery possible, even if it’s difficult.

One other thing: a deleted project folder can be restored in one go. I did it with a test project I had deleted a couple of weeks ago, just to see if it could be done. Worked without a hitch. Recovering a different version of an existing project, however… that would probably be difficult to nearly impossible to get right, but at least the data would be there to be recovered, instead of merely gone forever.

It would be doable if you knew which specific file(s) had changed, because you could get the internal file name from the .scrivx file and then restore just that component. Or you might know that you worked on X group of files in June, and Y group of files in July, and make an educated guess about what to restore on that basis. If you needed to restore the whole thing back to an arbitrary date, though? Nearly impossible.

To Jim’s comment, yes, this is another argument in favor of making ZIP backups.


I do agree most positively with the goal of promoting a safe and reliable backup process, easy, intuitive, and nearly bulletproof. The basic goal: KISS. Simple and intuitive enough to encourage its everyday use with assured reliability.

To that end, I’m of the opinion that the built-in Scrivener compressed backup system with auto-named, dated files is the answer. To be most effective, 1) the “automatic” backup feature should be enabled; 2) backup on “project save” and “backup on project close” should be checked; 3) number of backups retained set at “25”; and 4) backup storage location set to a dedicated thumb drive that is ejected and kept safely set away when projects are closed. (16 GB? 32GB? 64GB? Or a separate thumb drive for each major project?}

This approach should work for Mac, Win or Linux users equally well. I favor the thumb drive approach because it reduces possible loss due to internal drive failure, it satisfies the approach of using an external, separate drive, and it promotes conscious, deliberate, procedural backups in a visible, simple, tangible way.

Now to figure out how to avoid misplacing that thumb drive! (At my age, the memory is an “iffy” thing!)

Not sure thumb drives as your sole location (setting it as the destination) for backups are the way to go. On the mac, there’s a program called Chronosync that can mirror the set of files in a folder on your hard drive with a thumb drive that’s just been plugged in, and you can make it eject the thumb drive once that syncronization copy is complete.

Perhaps there’s a similar utility for Windows that can keep two folders (one on your hard drive, one on a thumb drive) in sync? Seems like there was something built-in to Windows at one point called “Briefcase”. Or look for backup software that can target individual folders and send the contents of those folders to an external drive for a unidirectional mirror of your backup files.

I can understand the hesitancy about the USB thumb drive, but the goal is KISS* for the less sophisticated user. Simple, direct, and tangible. By tangible, I mean, right there in the palm of one’s hand, without searching menus and arcane file paths and confusing locations. Recall, the idea is to make it easy. Also, I’ve never experienced a failure with the double handful of thumb drives littering my desk for the last several years; also, convenient pouches are available for protection and carrying them

Formatted as FAT32, they are universal between Mac, Win & Linux. (Unless something has changed with the latest Mac/Win10 OS?) And it’s ridiculously easy to copy the thumb contents to a second location, if desired: either to a separate drive or a dropbox folder.

Point in fact: my wife has been faithful in using this method. It’s so easy and visible that she has become quite conscientious in making regular backups of her artwork, embroidery patterns, sewing files, etc. She’s not lost a thumb drive backup file over the last couple of years (yet… )

Is there some inherent thumb drive problem of which I’m not aware?

*KISS: keep it simple, sir!

I would recommend using several thumb drives and rotating them, and don’t allow any of them to get too full.

While they use similar technology to SSDs, they’re a much more cost-driven product. This means that they may not have the same lifetime and load-balancing algorithms that SSDs do. Using several drives reduces the load on any single one, while leaving some free space makes it easier for the drive to work around any bad sectors that may develop.

I definitely agree with your point that the best backup is the one you actually use.