How to set up Backups in Scrivener

I’ve talked about Scrivener before, and how much I love it. It is truly the best software for writing of any kind, especially creative writing. I don’t claim to be an expert on Scrivener, but I have been using it for some time now, and have had the time to pick up a few things. These tips are for the Windows version.

One of the best Scrivener features is the auto-saving and backup options. Be default, Scrivener saves every 2-3 seconds when you pause your typing. Barring any problems that may corrupt the files, this means that any changes that you do during a writing session will be saved. This doesn’t preclude backing up, either automatic or manual. I usually open my Scrivener project in the morning and close it at the end of day, and have it set up for auto back ups at closing. I can do a manual backup at any time.

Let’s talk about manual back ups. These are independent from the auto-back ups and you can have them pointed at any directory you want. You will find them here:


Once you click on that, a pop-up box shows up:


You can then click on ‘browse’ and choose the directory where you want this back-up saved to. I have these backups saved to an external drive where I keep all of my personal files (as an extra precaution in case something happens to my C drive). The backups are saved as ZIP files, and I will explain more about that below.

Now, for the automatic backup. As the name says, these backups are automatic and you don’t have to think about them. This is where you can find them:


After you click ‘Options’, this pop-up box shows up:



By default, Scrivener saves your work every time you close a project, keeping five copies of these. Also by default, this is where you will find these auto backups:


If you don’t know where to find the backup files, Scrivener helps with that and all you have to do is click on the bar that says ‘Open backup folder’.

As you can see from my screenshot of my current project, I have my auto backups set to keep the latest ten copies (you can save up to the 25 most recent), and pointed at another external drive, a different one from where the manual backups are saved to. This is because I had problems with my C drive years ago (another computer, not the one I currently use), and when the C drive is corrupted then your backups would be to.

You will find your backups organized by chronological order, with a time stamp. And, as mentioned above, your backups will be in a ZIP format. I checked with Scrivener Windows Support, and it’s very important that you don’t try to recover your project from the original location where it’s saved (the backup folder). These files are zipped to protect the contents, and by definition, ZIP files are read-only. This means you have to unzip the file before you recover it. According to Scrivener support, copy the ZIP file to a new location on your hard drive (anywhere will do), then unzip it. To unzip it, DO NOT double-click the file. In Windows, double-clicking a zip file navigates into the file while it is still zipped, which isn’t what you want. Instead, right-click the file and select “Extract All.” Once it is extracted, you should be able to open the unzipped copy without any trouble.

They also mention to not use 7zip to unzip the backups. That particular utility has a bug that makes it incompatible with Scrivener’s zip files. However, this isn’t a problem with any other unzipping utility, including
the “Extract All” utility built into Windows (which I described above).

In addition to these measures, I also have an account with an offsite online backup service, Backblaze. For a nominal yearly fee, Backblaze continually saves everything in my computer, including any external drives. It’s extra peace of mind.

What I mentioned here is just an overview on how to set up the backups in Scrivener. For extra reading on Scrivener backups, with a lot more details, I recommend this blog post by R. Dale Guthrie.

And if you like to use Dropbox, these blog posts are helpful as well: Daniel Gardina, and Kromey.

If you have any questions that you can’t find an answer for on the internet, don’t hesitate to contact Scrivener Support for Windows, or find them on Facebook.

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Lucinda Whitney

author of contemporary romance