Scrivener Backups & Snapshots Strategies Pt. 1

Photo courtesy stockarch via Morguefile.

One subject that should be important to all writers is that of backing up data. I’ve worked in IT for a while and one of our mantras is that you are only as good as your last backup. Even that statement doesn’t encompass it all because you’re last backup may not be good it should be: your last good backup. While Scrivener makes it easy to backup, thinking about a few strategies can help you avoid a headache if your computer crashes or some other event affects your home.

For writing purposes and Scrivener, this is relatively easy to address. There are several ways to backup data, one being backing up your entire project aside from where it currently exists and the other being snapshots that allow you to revert easily back to a prior state. That sounds the same but they are actually different. Today, I’ll address the backup issues with a few strategy tips.

By default, Scrivener backs up a project to a pre-defined folder on your computer each time you close the project. That works for each project so that all changes are preserved as the most current version of your work. This is important should something happen to the actual project, you can recover from the backed-up version to the last time you closed your work.

Photo courtesy stockarch via Morguefile.

You can also back-up manually by clicking File, sliding down to Back-up and choosing Back-up now from the fly-out menu. There are other choices such as where to back-up and excluding a project from back-up.

Additionally, you can edit the options of the automatic settings by clicking on Tools, sliding down the menu and clicking Options to open the Options window. On the left menu, choose Backup to see the options. You can change the default folder location for backups to be written (a little more on this later) and click to see the contents of the folder. This latter choice is good to find a backup and copy – only if needed – back to where your original project was before it was lost or damaged. You can choose how many recent versions to keep (more means using more disk space). The check-box options are self-explanatory but do think about what you are turning on and off. I highly suggest you keep the automatic backup turned on.

As to location where backups are written, this will be to a drive on your computer or one that is attached. Since automatic backups are turned on, I personally do things a little differently. I keep my current project folders in my Dropbox folder which is synced to the cloud. This way I have access to my current work from another computer should I change computers. I used this when I transferred to a new laptop several months ago and let Dropbox sync all the data to my new one including my Scrivener projects. It means I have an off-site backup of my work which can be important should catastrophe strike your home or computer in some way. An off-site copy is very useful to have.

However, my backups write to a static folder on my computer that’s actually the default choice used during the Scrivener application installation. Why do I do this? Well, I already have my active, current data on Dropbox and I want the backup in a separate location. What happens if I lose data on my computer? I have what I need to keep writing in my Dropbox. However, if I lose data in Dropbox for some reason, I have it locally in backup on my computer so it’s easily reached. Remember, with Dropbox, even if I have no internet connection, my projects are still available, they just aren’t synced to the cloud. It’s good to verify that your computer syncs to your cloud provider regularly. However, running my backups and current projects this way creates a multiple layer of redundancy for my data. Remember that bit about being as good as your last good backup? I have multiple ways to achieve that goal.

That’s how backups work. Now here’s a few tips to consider about your backups:

  1. Know how and where you’re backing up your writing data by checking Scrivener or any other software you are using.
  2. Have a strategy and make sure it’s working properly, meaning you should at least know that the date of the backup is as recent as possible. Mine is today if I go check. Also, if you rely on Scrivener via the cloud make sure to close the project regularly, if not daily to trigger the auto-backup or run it manually.
  3. Try to have some sort of off-site (away from your home) copy that’s as current as possible.
  4. Try to have multiple layers of redundancy because, well, unexpected things happen.
  5. Verify regularly that your local (on your computer or external drive) and off-site (cloud or other service) backup is actually capturing your latest data. You might actually test your strategy from another computer or by opening backup copies with Scrivener from an alternate folder. (make sure you don’t work in the wrong location afterward though). Remember that Scrivener, by default, writes to zip files so you must unzip the latest file to see the contents. Remember that view contents button I mentioned earlier, use that to view your Scrivener backups at the specified folder.

One final thought, you don’t have to work your strategy like mine. However, mine is set-up for a rather easy process that meets all the goals. Because I’m working with and syncing to the cloud regularly, I know my data is getting backed up but I can check it quickly for the latest version. It also allows me to keep copies in more than one location which is extra peace of mind about my data.

Scrivener has a great backup function built into the application, just for writers to use quickly and easily. This feature, and many others, are important reason for using Scrivener. That’s all for backups today. I’ll be back in a few weeks to discuss using snapshots in Scrivener. What is your backup strategy with Scrivener or any other writing application? Do you know that your chosen backup strategy works? Please leave your answers and thoughts in the comments section.

P.H. Solomon

49 thoughts on “Scrivener Backups & Snapshots Strategies Pt. 1

  1. As a new subscriber to the blog, I missed this original post but visited to read before following up with your new post on snapshots. What useful advice, thank you! I was already using Carbonite for all my files and have found it works well, but I have now also set up a dedicated Dropbox for Scrivener.

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  2. I have never managed the sync with Dropbox successfully. I use IPad and PC. I usually just email the iPad drafts to myself and pick them up there. So your idea of doing a trial is a great one. Thanks.

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  4. Great post, P. H.! I, like you, have spent time in the IT trenches, and due to a couple ill-timed “oh, crap, I thought I backed that up” instances, I have multiple backups, as you do. I don’t use Dropbox, though (I never liked how Dropbox synced from only one folder). I back up not only Scrivener, but other programs as well to OneDrive using GoodSync, which is flexible enough to back up from my computer to a number of cloud drives, as well as to an external drive. I sync to my OneDrive, then have Scrivener store its backups on an SD card I keep in my computer (works great when switching to a new computer!), plus I try to do monthly backups (the usual incremental ones) to an external drive. I might have to learn to like DropBox, though, if I decide to use the Scrivener app for my iPad.

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  5. I’ve been fortunate not to have lost crucial pieces of writing, but I always do backups. I use Dropbox as well as the hard drive of my PC. Also have an external 1 terabyte hard drive. I’ve heard horror stories of people losing valuable documents or pieces of writing.

    Great post, P.H. And like Staci, I look forward to your post on Snapshots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joan. Good job on backups. I’ve heard a few from other writers about losing hard work. I truly don’t worry with Scrivener but with other software I have lost some data when it acted up during the day. I’ve never even had that problem with Scrivener.


  6. Great post! I learned the hard way about backing up when I lost almost an entire book I wrote and ended up with only the first chapter. Worked out well in the long run, but never again! I haven’t used Scrivener, yet, but I want to try it. Good advice for backing up…I also email my books to myself so I have a copy in my email at all times and can work for more than one computer, too. I’ve tried putting stuff on external hard-drives, but haven’t had a lot of luck with that. Might need to update the ones I have…

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  7. I’ve been burned too many times and lost far too much data to be lax about backups. I now use both Carbonite and iDrive for offsite backups. I also use Google Drive for certain files. All this in addition to my local hard drive.

    I love that you’re discussing back ups, particularly as they relate to Scrivener. I’m looking forward to your discussion of snapshots. I know they exist, but I’ve always been afraid to use them. Instead I’ve been copying scenes, saving them in an un-compiled folder, and creating new ones. I know that’s inefficient, but I worry if I do the snapshot wrong, or if it fails, I won’t be able to get the original content back. I can’t wait to see your post on that; maybe I’ll actually start giving that a try.

    Great post today, P. H.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Backups are so critical. I don’t use Scrivener–yet–but I do multiple backups with any project I’m working on. I have an external flash drive I carry off site, I back up to the hard drive of my local computer, and I also backup to Dropbox.

    I do need to check Dropbox. My laptop syncs to it, but I usually manually back up my main computer. For some reason I can’t get the sync working. This is a good reminder to make sure the latest copy of my work is saved there!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Good post, PH! I back up to Dropbox also. Being married to my own personal Inspector Gadget, I also have an external drive where Scrivener… and everything else is backed up daily… even though I hope I never need it! LOL! Thanks! 😉

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