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Tech Tuesday: Automatic Backups with Scrivener 2.x

After my computer fiasco last week, I figured Scrivener’s automatic backup feature was a timely topic. The key here is that you need a place to store your backup files. I suggest something offsite like Dropbox (free), but you could use an external hard drive if you have one hooked to your network.

A few general notes:

— You can only choose one location for all of your files. I was maintaining my Scrivener files along with other project-related files in a hierarchy that matched the one on my Mac. With automatic backup you lose that.

— If you want to back up to two locations (something I highly recommend), you’ll have to do one of them manually. Or use another automated service like Time Machine, Carbonite, or CrashPlan.

— Automatic backup applies to all projects unless you specifically exclude them (see below).

— By default, Scrivener already performs an automatic backup when you close a file, but it saves to a location on your hard drive. No good if you do something stupid, like drop your computer on the tile floor at your kids’ swim practice. *ahem* Once you set up the back up as shown below, this default location is changed.

Changing Automatic Backup Preferences

  1. From the Scrivener menu, select Preferences. (Windows users go to Tools—>Options).
  2. Choose Backup.
  3. Make sure the box next to Turn on automatic backups is checked.
  4. I recommend you choose to Back up on project close. If you do it on open, you’ll risk losing the most recent changes. If you do it on every time you manually save, you might never get any work done (though I use this also because I don't close my projects very often).
  5. I strongly suggest choosing Compress automatic backups as zip files. Yes, it’s slower, but zipping the files makes for smoother Internet transfers, and helps protect the project from corruption.
  6. If you check to Use date in backup file names, Scrivener will include a date and time stamp. I have this turned on so I can quickly tell which file is most recent.
  7. Choose how many versions to keep before overwriting the oldest one. Up to you and how much space you have.
  8. Click the Choose… button and select your backup drive.

Exclude a Project From Automatic Backup

If a file is so large that it takes too long to back up, you can exclude it from automatic backup. But make sure you take care of it manually!

  1. Open the project you wish to exclude.
  2. Choose File—>Back Up—>Exclude From Automatic Backups.

Restoring a Project From a Backup File

  1. Find the backed up file in Finder or Windows Explorer.
    For automatically backed up files, the easiest way is to go to Scrivener—>Preferences (Tools—>Options in Windows), click on the Backup tab, and click Open Backup Folder. This will open a window in the folder where your backups are currently being stored.
    Manually backed up files have a .zip extension if you chose to compress them. If not, they’ll have a .scriv extension.Automatically backed up files are called (where # is the version number). The very first backup will not include a version number.
  2. To avoid losing the original backup file, right-click the file and choose Duplicate (Windows users choose Copy). A new version of it with the word “copy” inserted before the extension appears.
  3. Move the copy to the folder where you keep your writing files.
    This will ensure you don’t accidentally start working in the backup folder, which can cause problems with the other backup files.If you’re restoring the file because the original was damaged (or you had made changes you can’t undo), rename the original to something like OLD_filename.scriv to avoid confusion.
  4. Double-click the backup file to unzip it. (Windows users: right-click and choose Extract All. In the Extract window, click in the text box and remove “filename.bak#” from the folder to extract to. If you don’t do this, Windows Explorer saves the file within another folder inside your writing folder. Click Extract.)Depending on the size of the file and the speed of your computer, this might take several minutes.
    Once the file finishes unzipping, you’ll have the backup version (.zip or, and the unzipped version of the file under the original project name (.scriv). (Windows Explorer opens a new window in the folder where you extracted the file.)
  5. Now you can open the .scriv file in Scrivener. (Windows users: Do not remove the .scrivx file from the .scriv folder. You need everything in the .scriv folder to stay together or you'll end up with your project structure and no text.)

Now you just need to remember to close your projects at the end of the day (or use the manual save option). And don’t drop your laptop! Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

[Updated 7/20/17]

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