What is Your Backup Strategy?

Because Scrivener is not a cloud-based product, I realized it might be useful to share our different backup strategies and best practices with each other. This is a variation of what I posted in another thread. Please post your backup strategy for our shared learning. This is mine (best practice + actual):

NB. I distinguish syncing of my current project files from backups (these are always zip files).
NB2. I am only listing free solutions from reputable providers. There are excellent paid solutions available which others can note as this post is intended to be a no cost backup workflow solution.
NB3. I don’t care what solutions you use and I am not promoting ones listed here. DYOR.

Step 1: Create a new folder only for Scrivener backups on your local drive. This must be different than where your main project files are saved. Never combine these. Under Settings > Backup you can then select that newly created backup folder. I select all the options (e.g. Manual save; increase last 5 saves to 10; select the date addition to the file name; select compressed zip options). Now test it. Is it correctly creating that backup zip file in your backup folder every time you meet a condition in your backup settings (e.g. close project, open project, manual save)? Good.

Step 2: Now that you have confirmed your local desktop/laptop backup folder is created and working, I suggest you set up something like Google Drive or another preferred cloud provider to sync your new local backup folder instantly. For example, if you are saving the most recent 10 copies of your project in your new local backup folder, it will mirror them on your Google Drive project backup folder immediately. Now test it to ensure it is syncing backup zips correctly every time your project saves when you have told it to backup. NB. RISK: both will only save your last 10 syncs. This is only short-term backup. If you make an error (e.g. accidentally erase some content) and don’t notice it until after 10 syncs ago, you have lost work, depending on your cloud service. See next step.

Step 3: Look and you will notice that the Google Drive folder automatically sends the oldest copies to its Google Trash so the local backup and cloud backup folder are always identical (sync) with the newest 10 zips. Google Drive keeps them for 30 days in Trash (backup) so you now have that as a third disaster recovery option in an emergency. Local. Google Drive. Google Drive trash. NB. This now gives you 30 days of protection. RISK: If you make an error such as erasing content more than 30 days ago, you have lost content if you’re actively working on your project daily.

Step 4: Finally, if it is an important project (PhD thesis; legal briefs; your latest best selling novel and you don’t want to lose your agent and breach your contract with your publisher) it’s good to backup a scheduled manual backup of your most recent backup file (e.g. once a week, month, or your preferred schedule) into an offline Long Term Backup folder on a USB drive or other local drive. Now you have separate weekly snapshots, for example. This is your offline, long-term backup. Store it safely somewhere, away from water, fire, possible theft, tampering, your kids overwriting it, it being thrown out during spring cleaning, losing it. A fireproof safe or safety deposit boxes are good strategies, depending on your schedule.

I use a similar system but I am currently experimenting with a few additions that I may eventually cull: 1. My main project folder actually sits in Dropbox so it can sync between instances of Scrivener. This isn’t a backup; it’s the original file, and Scrivener requires it to use automatic syncing with the iOS app. 2. My local backup folder actually sits in iCloud so it’s not only accessible locally. Google Drive then stores my mirrored backup zips, as described. 3. Finally, I have a final step for Long Term Backups snap shots on a standard schedule that I am currently experimenting with. The first experiment is a simple weekly manual save of my most recent backup into a Scrivener Long-Term Backup folder on Google Drive. My second experiment is an automated once a day snapshot (I may move this to weekly or monthly depending on storage allotment) into an iDrive free tier 2GB account. I’m not sure which I will settle on or if I will abandon both for a usb drive.

My backup strategy borrows from a 3-2-1 backup strategy. Here is an ARTICLE that describes it compared to a couple of other backup strategies.

You will see my backup strategy does a few things as per 3-2-1, as a result:

  1. My Long-term backups are always separately maintained from my short-term backups (which max out at 30 days when you factor in Google Drive Trash)
  2. The Long-Term Backup and Short-Term backup are maintained separately from my Scrivener project sync files.
  3. I have multiple backups (short-term: local/iCloud > Google Drive (Backup folder and Trash to 30 day max) + Long-Term Backups).
  4. I have backups on multiple platforms: Sync: Dropbox (required, as noted); Short-term backup: Local/iCloud, Google Drive; Long-Term Backup: iDrive (or USB drive offline, which I think is an excellent best practice.). NB. I think people overlook this multiple platforms step but it really is one of the most important ones if you get locked out of an account, a service shutters or has a catastrophic failure, or if zombies cause the collapse of The Internets and you are now writing long-hand from a local backup that is solar-powered.

My current solution is a bit overkill and I plan to scale it back a bit. Personally, I don’t like iCloud because it seems to sit in the cloud and not on my local drive, but it’s working. I have to keep the Dropbox for project syncing. I know I will keep the Google Drive backups. I may replace the iDrive with a weekly or monthly save to a USB drive (remember: I am protected for 30 days on Google so I don’t really need anything more than monthly snapshots for a Long-Term backup strategy. If I do move to a USB drive, I will likely use Time Machine, instead.)

This may seem like a lot to maintain but it’s really not. It’s all automated with the iDrive long-term backup approach. All you have to do is get in the habit of routinely checking that your local project folder, local project backup folder, and synced cloud backup folder are saving in unison which takes 10 seconds.

Hope this has been helpful to some users. Interested to see everyone else’s backup approach!



  • set backups folder to be ~/backups/scrivener. Set to automatically backup on open and close, keeping 25 copies.
  • use TimeMachine to backup entire system to NAS and 2 external drives, including ~/backups/scrivener on a continuous basis. Also backup ~/backups/scrivener (and other important folders) to a NAS using “CarbonCopyCloner (CCC)” as it is important to me.
  • use BackBlaze to make continuous full backups of system, including ~/backups/scrivener for the purpose of an offsite backup
  • I do not direct backup to any cloud sync service (Dropbox, Google, iCloud) because it’s unreliable and risky … any flaw in the local copy or the server copy instantly syncs to other copies, and “poof”, the backup is destroyed.
  • about once a quarter I test restores (sample) from all backup locations.
  • I endorse the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy which is documented in so many places on the internet.

If you would like an automatic offsite backup, I would recommend using a backup service, such as Carbonite or BackBlaze, over a synchronization service like Google Drive or iCloud.

The difference is that a backup service will not overwrite your data. It might delete it, for instance subject to the storage limits of your account, but if it has it at all, it has exactly what was in the backup when it was created.

I would also recommend making sure that all critical data is backed up, not just Scrivener. That means research materials and image libraries, but also things like contracts, invoices, and other correspondence.


I agree. Understanding the difference between syncing and backup and their relationship to one another is critical. Google Drive, One Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox can’t be true backup services until they have scheduling and decouple synchronization (with auto-erase features) from backups. You can see I am blending syncing and backup of my zips to ensure I have limited risk in short and long-terms.

I actually don’t like the backup scheduling of iDrive, which is limited to hours>daily>weekly which you then keep permanently. These services often upsell you on storage amounts so efficient backup schedules that limit storage aren’t part of their business model.

I would prefer the following combined approach:
-hourly for first 24 hours
-daily for first week
-weekly for first month
-monthly for first year
-yearly indefinitely

I understand Time Machine can employ a similar, not identical, approach if you use TimeMachineEditor. Since I’m on a laptop, Time Machine isn’t ideal. I had a NAS drive fail previously and lost data so I am wary of that solution but it is a good solution if you employ dual hard drives so you have redundancy. Right now, different cloud platforms are acting as my redundancy.

Timemachine for my Macbook is ideal. i just plug in my little samsung ssd and let it rip while I work away. easy.

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@rms I like your backup approach. Local machine x25 copies, local NAS, online backup via BackBlaze. May I ask why you use both CarbonCopyCloner and Time Machine? CCC simply seems like a more sophisticated version of Time Machine and both are to a NAS. Is it simply to have local NAS redundancy?

Very interesting, @JQ - thanks for posting your backup strategy. Hopefully it inspires someone to improve their own strategy. :nerd_face:

I use a slightly different approach, in that I manage more control over when backups are deleted than you do; however, in the end I believe you and I achieve similar results.

My live projects are kept in Dropbox folder, the zipped backups on OneDrive.

My Scriv backup settings are the same as yours, except I “keep all backup files”, as I want full control over when zipped backups get deleted.

I regularly take Ctrl+S manual saves throughout my writing day. At the end of every writing day, I copy the last zipped backup into a separate archive folder for that month. At the end of the month, I clear out the zipped backups from the Scriv backup folder, while permanently retaining the monthly archive folder.

A few times a week I back up my PC to a USB external hard drive.

Every month or two I swap the external hard drive with an off-site backup.

So what I end up with is:

  • Live projects on Dropbox
  • Zipped backup files from every writing day in OneDrive
  • A local external hard drive (with backups up to 2-3 days old)
  • An offsite external hard drive (with backups up to 2 months old)

This mitigates the most likely/highest risk issues I would experience in my world (hard drive failure; wildfire burning down the house). It more or less conforms to the 3-2-1 strategy. I can live with this level risk and I don’t find the process arduous.


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Similar strategy as everyone has suggested but involve a whole hard drive to cloud backup. I currently use Carbonite for 70 a year to backup 2 + terabytes to cloud, which of course includes my zipped daily backups and live project folder. When current contract expires will probably switch to similar service IDrive which allow multiple computer backup for one price. (Anybody use it an their experience)
Live Project in folder on Desktop of computer and when using labtop as well
Zipped backups on google One drive. Used Dropbox, but expensive beyond free 2 gig package. One drive has a 2 dollar a month 100 gig package which is my sweet spot.
Daily backup of active novel project daily to USB and as go delete occasional backups as progress when no issues.
Offsite backup is Carbonite. I consider it my digital life insurance. I have a lifetime of photos on computer, music, health records, tax info, etc besides Scrivener.
The other setting that should be mentioned is the project autoshutdown option. File>Options>General see option under startup to shut down project automatically after xx minutes (max 300). If have option in backup to save project on close, this triggers the automatic save if walk away from computer and forget to.
Aside if backup project on close, not sure why would backup project on open as there would be no data change between last save and when open the project again.
I am enjoying everyone’s thoughts.


Both the autoshutdown and the backup on open options are especially useful if you synchronize a project across multiple devices. iOS Scrivener puts its changes in a designated “Mobile” folder, from whence they are integrated into the rest of the project by Mac/PC Scrivener. The backup on open takes place before this integration.

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Backup on open and close if you’re working in collaboration with a partner.


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OKAY. Controversial opinion alert!

I think there is a lot of noise in the conversation about backups — much of it generated by the companies providing back up services — which confuses the issue and tricks people into buying services they just don’t need.

Firstly, back up services are EXPENSIVE, especially when you consider that, unlike other things you might choose to spend your money on, they give you absolutely no pleasure. You can’t edit your manuscript any faster. You don’t get any additional compile functionality. They have no nutritional value, and don’t taste nice (unlike, say, a pack of six Curly Wurlys).

Secondly, most people are being conned into thinking that their data is worth being backed up. A couple of photos from your wedding…? Sure, make sure you’ve got a copy of those somewhere safe. But twelve photos of the Egg McMuffin you had for lunch from different angles… well, that can probably be consigned to history, especially since you’ve posted the three best shots on your Instagram account already. The reality is for most of us, myself included, data is kept simply because we think storage is cheap (it isn’t), and deleting it takes effort (it does)… but honestly hardly any of it is worth preserving. The rare bits that are… we’ve already done something with, like post to Instagram or print and put on the wall, or convert to an ebook and publish.

Thirdly, despite the conventional narrative, where backup services claim to be protecting you against accidental deletion when sync services don’t… the opposite is actually true. Backblaze is a back up of your computer. If you delete a file, after 30 days that file will be lost forever. Get a Backblaze backup of an external hard drive and if you don’t plug that hard drive in for 30 days they delete that back up. But, store those files in Dropbox and set them as online only and you get a genuine extra copy that is backed up and stays there.

So, yeah. Having a back up plan for the 3 or 4 folders that are genuinely important and irreplaceable is useful. A system-wide backup plan is both a false sense of security and delusional self-importance.

Any way, that’s my opinion and you won’t change my m…

Oh f#$% my computer just crashed!
I’ve f#%ing lost everything!



I hear you, but for me I have 200 gigs of music and 160 gigs of photos, some digitalized childhood photos of my parents and kids and I have a grandson. I can’t eat him like a hamburger, but most pictures of him are precious. I have tax data, software backups, manuals, etc. Backup of your data for one year is about 70 dollars or so . Insurance. Do you have car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. 70 dollars is about the price of nice meal for two at a restaurant for one night in the northeast. So everyone has an opinion and everyone decides how much risk you are willing to tolerate. I prefer automatic backup that circumvents my inherent procrastination.
I don’t hate you for a different opinion, but the last three lines seem like shove off kinda of feel and unneeded.
PS . you won’t change my mind

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But the last three lines are the joke. {sigh}

You’re confusing assurance with insurance. I have home insurance because if my house burned down I’d miss my house and need to buy another one and wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Assurance is the 1TB of backed up files I have offsite.

Although now I think about it… how often do I look at any of the things in that backup. How arrogant I must be to think my every thought and creative impulse must be safeguarded forever.

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CarbonCopyCloner (CCC) is not at all the same as TimeMachine.

TimeMachine backups directed a) Synology NAS (4TB allocated), and b) two external USB drives (2TB each). Due to its nature the TimeMachine backups go back with versions from many months ago. The USB versions are so that if I have a computer crash (which I have had a few over the years) or a new computer (those too!), restore old to new is pretty simple and no need to hook up to the networked NAS. Simple. I also use Time Machine to get back previous versions of files (or now missing files) to fix my blunders. Happens.

CCC is a powerful sync program and dare I say probably less sophisticated than TimeMachine. I have CCC running for not only to do a daily copy from iMac to ~/Backups on the NAS, but also to sync files on my iMac and the two MacBooks we have around here. NAS has plenty of space so I backup very important stuff. It does a good job of mounting remote file systems relatively reliably–seems better on that front than Chronosync which has more settings but currently not in use, but I like it. CCC (and Chronosync) are analogous to “rsync” which is in ubiquitous use around the world and available in macOS. I do not rely on CCC for old versions of stuff.

BackBlaze is for the real emergency of theft, fire, or whatever. No more than that.

As none of the above software has any noticable impact on the performance of my machine while I’m using it, I frankly do not care about the redundancy.

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Thanks. I see CCC comparing itself to Time Machine as a more sophisticated solution and reviews doing this, as well, so appreciate your insight.

Redundancy is important when purposeful, and if you suffer no performance or cost penalty, makes sense. I always want some measure of redundancy in my workflow.

There was an earlier comment about syncing risking overwrite. I agree. In the Scrivener backup settings I select the add date/time to file name option to remove overwrites to mitigate this exact risk. Google then syncs my last 10 copies automatically moving the oldest to Trash. It’s the Trash that provides the 30 day max backup before auto delete, similar to BackBlaze’s 30 day delete. The long-term solution (currently daily iDrive and manual weekly copy to a distinct folder/usb) is the handoff to the next stage, with the benefit of redundancy. It’s the long-term strategy I am actively adjusting as I explore CCC and Time Machine.

My Scrivener files live in a DropBox folder. My Scrivener backups go into an iCloud folder. And finally, the catch-all for everything, my entire machine is also continuously backed up to BackBlaze. I have Scrivener set to save all backups (so it doesn’t rotate around a set number, it keeps everything).

This setup means I have all my files in at least three cloud services at any given time, and of course, iCloud is also syncing my .scriv files between my various Macs.

I once lost a novel, many years ago. Never again (touch wood!). I don’t trust singular cloud services (remember when Microsoft OneDrive started deleting folks files?), and god forbid a housefire or anything like that. Data storage these days is inexpensive, so ensuring all of the above is just automatic saves me from forgetting to backup or fat fingers deleting something I need.

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Sadly, the New Year has brought a virtual flood of tea-drowned and otherwise deceased computers to our support queue, and with it the tears of many writers who are only now discovering the inadequacy of their backup strategy.

Wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes, which is why I am boosting this thread.
And as an added bonus tip, suggestions for backing up iOS Scrivener: