Backing Up Your Scrivener Project – The Writer's Tech Stop

Backing Up Your Scrivener Project

By Vanessa Kier | Scrivener Tips and Tricks

Sep 27


Check out my YouTube videos at the end of the post.

One of the most important things you can do as a writer is to back up your work. Scrivener makes this easy.

Automatic Save

Scrivener is set to automatically save your work after two seconds of inactivity. The inactivity part is crucial.

I used to use a different writing software. I couldn’t control how often it auto-saved, and it didn’t care if I was typing while it saved. So, if I was writing and it was time for the auto-save, my words would stop appearing on the screen. Then, once the auto-save completed, the words would reappear.

At least, initially.

As my file grew larger, the time needed to auto-save became longer. I would type several sentences before it finished saving. Now, however, my words were not restored at the end of the auto-save process. Those sentences were gone forever!

Furious, I looked for another solution. That’s when I found Scrivener. It waits until I've stopped working for two seconds before auto-saving. As a result, I haven't lost any work.


Does two seconds seem too short? You can set the interval that Scrivener waits before auto-saving.

Scrivener 3 (Mac)

  1. Go to Scrivener>Preferences>Saving.
  2. Choose an interval from the list.

Scrivener 2 (Mac)

  1. Go to Scrivener>Preferences>General.
  2. Choose an interval from the list.

Scrivener 1 (Windows)

  1. Go to Tools>Options>General.
  2. Choose an interval from the list.


You can also manually save the project you’re working in just like any file on your computer. Either use File>Save or use the shortcut CMD + S (Mac) or CTRL + S (Windows).


Once you’re in the backup window, you’ll see a list of options.

The Scrivener Backup Options Screen

Make sure the box is ticked to turn on automatic backups. This should be the default, but it never hurts to check.

When Scrivener Backs Up

You have four options for when automatic backups will be triggered. You can choose all of them if you like. You can: back up on project open, back up on project close, back up every time you manually save, and back up before synching with mobile devices. I like to back up on project close and before synching with mobile.

Because I’ve trained myself to manually save every time I stop to think, no matter what program I’m working in, if I told Scrivener to back up the project every time I manually saved, there’d be too many backups from the same day.

Miscellaneous Options

I have my backups saved as compressed zip files to save space. This is a good option if you’re backing up to an online location, such as Dropbox.

I like to have the date included in my backup file names.

Before choosing how many backups to keep, think about what settings you chose for the frequency of the backup. If you’re backing up every time you manually save, and you manually save multiple times in a day, then if you set Scrivener to only save the four most recent backups, on the fifth manual save Scrivener will overwrite your oldest backup with the new backup. That means you could end up without any backups from the previous day. That might work for you, but I prefer to have backups from a couple of days to choose from should I change my mind about a major change.


You should save your backup files in a physically separate location from your working files. If you work on a desktop or laptop, then keep your backups either online or on an external drive. If you're constantly switching from desktop to laptop to tablet, and keep your working project in Dropbox, then save your backups on one of your computers.

That way, if disaster strikes and either Dropbox goes down or your working computer is destroyed, corrupted, or stolen, you can still access your backups.

If you’re backing up to an external drive, make sure that drive is plugged in when the Scrivener backup starts. And make sure you’re using the same port, such as G:, that you set for the Scrivener backup location.


I’ve only ever had to restore from a backup once or twice when I made substantial changes to a project, had forgotten to take snapshots of the original documents before I changed them, then decided I wanted to return to the previous version. If you need to restore from a backup file, here’s what you do.

NOTE: Backup files all have bak in the title.

Normal Backup


Method 1: Find the backup file in your Finder window. Double-click it to open it.

Method 2: Open the backup file from inside Scrivener using File>Open.


  1. From inside Scrivener, use File>Open.
  2. Navigate to the location where you store your backups.
  3. You will see a bak file folder that ends in .scriv.
  4. Double click on that to reveal its contents.
  5. Find the .scrivx file.
  6. Tell Scrivener to open the .scrivx file.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN SCRIVENER PROJECTS FROM INSIDE WINDOWS EXPLORER. Windows doesn’t know what program to use in order to open Scrivener files. And, at least in my version of Windows 10, Scrivener isn't listed as one of the apps you can assign as a default program for opening a .scrivx file.

Compressed Zip Backups

To open a compressed zip file, you first have to extract the files from inside the zip. Scrivener can’t open a zip file.


  1. Go to your Finder window.
  2. Find the zipped backup file you want to restore from. It will end in .zip.
  3. Double-click the file to unzip it.
  4. The .scriv file will appear in the list.
  5. Move the file to another location so it’s not in the same place as the original zip backup. If you don’t do this, you’ll get a warning from Scrivener (see below). Since the restored file is what you’re intending to be your new working file, I suggest saving it where the original working file was.
Scrivener save location warning message

Windows (I’m using Windows 10. It might be slightly different for older versions.)

  1. Go to Windows Explorer.
  2. Find the backup zip file you want to restore from. It will end in .zip.
  3. Click on the file to highlight it.
  4. A Compressed Folder Tools/Extract tab will appear (see below).
  5. Click on the tab if it doesn't automatically open.
  6. Double-click on Extract to unzip the files.
  7. Tell it to save the files in a different location. Since this restored file is what you’re intending to be your new working file, I suggest saving it where the original working file was.
  8. Once you see that the files have been extracted, go into Scrivener and open the .scrivx file from File>Open.
Screenshot of Windows Explorer


If you ever want to do a backup outside of the regularly triggered backup, go to File>Back Up>Back Up Now. You’ll also have an option here to back up to a different location than your usual backup location.


Scrivener makes it easy to back up your project files. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of this feature so that you’re never in danger of losing work.

Until next time, Happy Writing!


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