Transferring my Scrivener work from my 2104 Macbook Air to my new Macbook Air

Apologies if I’ve missed the answer to this somewhere. I may have missed a small but vital step!

I have Scrivener 3 for macOS, purchased in 2019.

The Scrivener App looks like it has been transferred over to my new Macbook Air automatically with the set-up migration, but it appears to be ‘empty’, ie the writing content of my book has not transferred over.

Many thanks for advice!

Why Apple’s Migration Assistant didn’t do the job is a mystery. I just did same from a very old MacBook (c 2011) to a new MacBook Air and the Migration Assistant (via WiFi) did the job correctly, far as I can tell, with no fiddling by me.

I’d suggest you go to the old machine (from 2104, really?) and find your Scrivener projects in the file system. With Finder, copy the files to a USB Stick, USB drive, memory stick, or whatever you have, then on the new machine copy from that into the new machine.

Also check, what other stuff might be missing

… to quote Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”

I just transferred everything from my 2015 Intel MacBook Air to my brand-new M1 MacBook Air. The Apple Migration Assistant transferred all my apps and data perfectly.

What didn’t transfer was the list of projects in the Recent Projects menu. That’s because it’s not Scrivener data – it’s MacOS data listing only projects you’ve recently opened–on your current machine. Since you’ve opened no projects on your new machine, the list is empty.


If you habitually use the Favorite Projects menu, all the links to projects are broken, not because the projects are gone, but because they’re not in the physical place on the hard drive (SSD?) that Scrivener expects.

So try this:

  1. Choose “Find all projects in Spotlight” from the File menu. You should see a window like the one in the screenshot below.
  2. option-click on the sort icon (shown below).
  3. Choose “Date last opened”.

Now you should have a list of all Scrivener projects on your machine, in roughly the order you last worked on them. Double click on the one you want to work on now, and it will open in Scrivener, and MacOS will add it to the Recent Projects menu as well.

If you use the Favorites menu, before you start this, choose “clear favorites”. Add each project to Favorites again the first time you open it.

Hope this helps!


Thank you very much for this advice rms. I will add this to the various ways I am trying - luckily it’s not a long book!

On reflection I suspect @Silverdragon ’s idea is the best to look at first. That did not occur to me but It is hard to understand how the Apple Migration Assistant would miss things. Use Finder to go see to confirm the Scrivener files are in fact on the new machine. no need to depend on the “Recents” list.

Will do. Thank you very much.

Dear Silverdragon,

Thank you so much for this very helpful advice. I followed it and I did find some of my work had arrived in the new laptop - marvellous. However a large chunk wasn’t carried over, mysteriously!

The thing I didn’t mention is that I had stopped writing the book in 2020, which meant I couldn’t really remember my processes, and it was in fact all a bit of a mess.

I then tried using Dropbox to transfer the rest, but I seemed to have problems with the document format.

Finally it suddenly occurred to me simply to cut and paste the chapters into a Google Doc in Google Drive. Which I did with no trouble at all, and bingo I now have all available when `I open my new laptop, and I can put it back in Scrivener at my leisure! I shouldn’t have wasted yours and rms’s time. But thanks you very much anyway.

Old laptop can now be scrubbed and donated. Phew.

Very best of luck with your writing projects.

1 Like

Just follow up because you were so kind to reply to my query…I followed the various routes and finally just cut and pasted the chapters into a GoogleDoc, which was means it is now all available on the new laptop! I explained the boring saga to Silverdragon below!

Wishing you very good writing. Thank you again.

For future reference, going by way of Google Docs is definitely doing this the hard way.

We recommend installing a new copy of Scrivener from a fresh download if you are changing systems. The installation files include some machine-specific information, plus a fresh install ensures that you have the latest version.

For your data, the Migration Assistant usually does a pretty good job, and should simply replicate your old directory structure on the new machine. If it doesn’t, using Scrivener’s File → Backup → Backup To command on the old machine allows you to create a ZIP file, which you can transfer to the new machine by any convenient method.

It’s always a good idea to make sure you know exactly where your data is stored and how to access it via Finder. As you discovered, Scrivener’s Recent Projects list is not reliable across machines. It can also create confusion if a project is moved, if you have more than one version, and so on.

Humm. Using Google like that seems risky. Heed @kewms’s advice. Also sounds like your use of Dropbox is odd. All risking data loss. Beware.

Along with your shiny new hardware, perhaps take a step back and review how your software is setup. Know where your Scrivener project “packages” are stored. My hunch is that they are there–use Finder to check. Check that you have a good location for your automatic Scrivener backups and that they are automatically created. Further, check that you have system backups setup and running routinely and regularly–preferably automatically, e.g. TimeMachine and/or others.

With a new MacBook Air, Apple will probably offer to give you a free 1/2 hour introduction on any topic related to the Mac that you want. At least they did for my recent purchase and my wife took advantage of that offer and learned things beyond what I’m able to teach her. :wink:. While they won’t get into Scrivener, they will be able to help you with backups or anything else Mac-related if you need that help.

1 Like