Solution: Scrivener files won’t open

In Tech Support by Bronwen2 Comments

I had a wee heart attack earlier this week when my Scrivener project wouldn’t open on my laptop. I bounce between a Mac at work and a PC at home, using Dropbox to keep them synched, and up to now I hadn’t had much of a problem doing so.

I was having trouble Googling for a solution, so now that I’ve found one I’m posting it.

I saved the project at work (Mac), let it sync, and left. I moved on, opened my laptop (Win 8), waited for it to sync, and tried opening the project.

No dice. The mouse would spin a bit, maybe. Sometimes it opened Scrivener itself, but not the project. But on the whole, it told me absolutely nothing. Did nothing.

Commence panicking, right?

But, I found a solution!

My project file actually contained three .scrivx files. I don’t know how this happened, but it’s probably something to do with the synching and resaving.

I have become rather anal about my file names, a byproduct of moving between machines. Any time Scrivener warns me that it’s still open on the other machine, I save a new version. I was working on file TITLE 5-3.scrivx. For some reason, I also had two copies of version 5-1, one marked as being the conflicted copy from my laptop. This has happened before, but it never caused a problem. File 5-2 also had duplicates of the old 5-1 but it opened without any trouble.

The solution? Delete the extra .scrivx files.   

That’s all it took. Honest. I deleted them and BAM, 5-3 opened. No problems whatsoever. Didn’t lose anything.

For the sake of those also trying to find an answer, here’s some of the other stuff I tried and ran into.

Sometimes when I tried opening the file it would warn me that there was no read access for the 5-1 files. I tried manually resetting the read access but it didn’t work.

I tried importing into a clean Scriv project. It told me that it didn’t recognize the project as a Scrivener file.

I tried restoring from a backup only to learn that all my backups were being filed away on the local machine, not within Dropbox. So, my laptop had no access to the work Mac’s backup files. Curses! I have since fixed this. Make sure you know where Scrivener is backing up to!!

Here’s hoping this helps someone and prevents their minor cardiac arrest from becoming a major episode. One thing I’ve learned is that Scrivener files are actually fairly malleable. For instance, I’ve restored individual files to earlier versions (thank you, Dropbox) without a problem.


  1. I already had the heart attack, but had managed to get the project to open on the Mac and had calmed down again. I couldn’t get it to open on the PC, so I Googled ‘Can’t open Scrivener project on PC’ and your old blog was the second result, with exactly my problem. And there it was, a conflicted copy in the same folder as the project. Moved it to my archive folder (I’m a hoarder of files!) and the project opened straight away. Thank you for taking the time to post this solution .

    1. Author

      I’m so glad this was helpful! I’ve gotten a lot of help from Scrivener bloggers over the years and I figured I should pay it forward.

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