Understanding Scrivener Backups

I need some insight into the way backups work for Scrivener so that I can decide how to set up the way I want mine to work for me. (I use Windows)
I create my own trail of backups by manually doing a File/Save As/My Backup Folder/filename_date
whenever I feel that a new one is needed.
And I understand that I can set the backup frequency and folder location for automatic and manually forced backups that Scrivener will do for me.

What I want to know for the Scrivener setup is:

  1. Why is there a Backups folder in the .scriv database directory with no files in it? Is that the default directory unless you specify another? Since each project has one I’m assuming to leave it alone and not use it for backups, but is something not working right?
  2. When you have multiple projects open at the same time, Scrivener backs up all projects to the location specified in the setup, not project specific locations. So if I change the location in ProjB, then ProjA and ProjC have their backup location changed as well. Is this correct? If so, then unless you work on only one project at a time and change the location of backups each time you work with a different project, then all projects will have their backup files in the same place all together, correct?
  3. So, is the concept to have one giant Scrivener backup folder for all projects? Or am I missing anything else?
  4. Does anyone have a method for handling this concept? I’m thinking that after I finish with a project completely that I should move all associated backup files from the giant Scrivener backup folder to a project specific backup folder, so the Scrivener folder specified doesn’t get so massive with files.


The Save As command creates a new version of the project AND continues work in the new copy. If you don’t realize this, you can very easily misplace work: you added something to the new copy, then open the old copy.

A better choice might be the Backup → Backup To command, which works just like any other backup except it goes to the location you specify.

I’m not seeing any such folder on my system. I definitely would NOT recommend using it for backups, and I’d be a little worried about where it might be coming from.

Correct. The location set in the Tools → Options → Backup pane (Scrivener → Preferences → Backups on the Mac) is a Scrivener-wide option. As noted above, you can make additional manual backups to any location you like.

Scrivener doesn’t care. It really depends on how many backups you like to keep, how many projects you have, and how much disk space you have. Personally, I just leave them in place, but go through and purge old backups every so often.


Thanks Katherine!
I realized after my post, when I did a “Save As”, that it didn’t just duplicate another project but immediately put me into the new one and begin backing up my backup as well - not what I wanted. I’m new but finally learning the program enough to realize what was happening.
The “Backup” option might be just what I am needing and looking for to accomplish what I am trying to do - perfect! I will give it a try and hopefully this solves my dilemma. At least now I have a better understanding of how this whole process works and how to manage the backups.

Be aware that the default setting for backups limits it to keeping 25 per project in the backup directory. This means that when it backs up a project the 26th time, the first backup is overwritten. This might not be a problem for you. It isn’t for a lot of people. I’m the kind of guy that wants to have every possible change saved forever. I’ve got more storage space than I can shake a stick at and having unlimited backups isn’t a worry, especially when all I have is text documents and the backups aren’t more than a few megabytes in size each.

To change from the default, open Options, click Backup, and click the drop-down menu next to Retain backup files. Select Keep all backup files and click OK. Again, you might not need this, and you might have graphics/media-heavy projects whose backups take up huge amounts of space. If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to switch the setting.

Hi Mishkish,

I strongly recommend you read section 7.11 “Backing Up Your Work” and Appendix B9 “Backup” and B12 “Saving” in the Scrivener manual. Only a few pages.

I have Scrivener configured to create a backup when I open it and when I close it, and when I press CTL+S. I also have it set to Retain All Backup Files.

Finally, Scrivener zips my backups and stores them on my OneDrive folder, so they automatically go to the cloud and I can share with other machines.

Hope this info is useful to you.

Thanks everyone!
I now understand how the backups work which is important for me. I am one of those types that likes to keep a trail of all of my changes “just in case” so I needed to understand it to make sure that I had it set up to happen that way. Scrivener is now making that trail for me but I also make my own from time to time so success. I appreciate the help and advice!

If you want to keep a “trail of your changes”, you might like to explore the use of Snapshots too.


Mr X

Are they giving you some sort of bounty on every user you get to use snapshots? :slight_smile:

I wish! It’s just that people tend to think of backups when they want to preserve a version of where they’re at when they’re writing. But snapshots are more efficient, since they exist within the same project window, whereas with a backup you have to go to Finder/Windows Explorer, unzip the backup, open it and then, if necessary, drag’n’drop the older version into the version of the project you’re working on.

And I don’t understand why people should want Scrivener to backup their project on project close and on project open … nothing will have happened to the project while it is closed, so the “project open” backup will be the same as the one taken when the project was last closed.

I have my projects backing up when I close them, and I don’t leave Scrivener or my computer running for days on end. I shut down at the end of each day and boot up again the next morning. My backups go into the cloud, currently iCloud Disk as I have 50 GB of data space on that, and they propagate to each of my machines. And for this one, my main work machine, I do a bootable backup of the HD to an external drive every weekend. Active projects are in Cubbies, so they propagate to all my machines too.

But each to his/her own. :slight_smile:

Mr X

Lack of confidence, I think. They don’t quite understand what’s going on under the hood, and if backups are good, more backups are better. A lot of people don’t understand how to look at their workflow as a use case.

Pretty much what I do with OneDrive – Scriv backs up to a OneDrive-protected folder on close. While I do leave my machines running a lot, I don’t leave Scriv open. This always gives me my current session from OneDrive in a safe single-file fashion. I extract that backup to the local machine’s working folders (NOT synced), do my work, then close up. Just by reading the backup filename, timestamp and hostname tell me where the latest version resides.