Delete online "My Library"

I want to use the sync feature only for group libraries, and not my personal library. I logged in, clicked set up, and immediately unlicked "automatic sync". I then clicked on "Choose Libraries..." and de-selcted "My Library".

Unfortunately, it appears that either (a) all the default options worked faster than I could read, process, and click them to stop, or (b) a PEBCAK error crept in and something synced.

In any case, I now have My Library synced online. I'd like to remove that synced data while retaining the syncing of groups. How do I accomplish that? I don't mind reseting things, or restoring, or any of it, but would love a small guide to the steps involved.
  • Maybe a more specific question is: I see I can delete individual items and collections from "my library" (online), click "sync" from my standalone Zotero, and the same items / collections stay on my standalone Zotero installation. I expect this works since I have the setting for not syncing My Library. All well and good, and can get rid of things that way.

    Before I go hog-wild and delete everything online that way -- what are the side-effects of doing it this way? Should I be wary of syncing to a second computer at some point? (Specifically with the same circumstance -- syncing just the group libraries?)
  • Could we step back:
    Why do you want to delete "My Library" online? Is this privacy related or is it just about storage costs?

    Because if the latter, then metadata syncing is free and you can just disable file sync for "My Library" and use "Purge Storage" to remove files that are already online, so there's no need to delete anything.

    (I'd definitely not delete things in the online library. While yes, that won't sync while you have syncing for "My Library" disabled, it'll cause havoc, e.g., if you ever want to re-enable that or accidentally do so).

  • > Could we step back:
    > Why do you want to delete "My Library" online? Is this privacy related or is it just about storage costs?

    It's the former (privacy + company proprietary), not the latter.

    > (I'd definitely not delete things in the online library. While yes, that won't sync while you have syncing for "My Library" disabled, it'll cause havoc, e.g., if you ever want to re-enable that or accidentally do so).

    That's what I figured -- what is a 'better' way of doing the equivalent? What about creating a new group called "My Private Library", disabling sync, and then moving all the collections and entries there?
  • @dstillman any quick ideas? This should have worked correctly on set-up, shouldn't it?
  • FWIW, it probably should have and I can't discount a user error on the first setup. I don't recall when the first sync kicks in, and when I found the "Choose Libraries..." button.
  • edited March 27, 2020
    There's not really a user-facing way to do this at this point that doesn't jeopardize the local data, since, as adamsmith says, if you deleted the items and synced later, accidentally or otherwise, those deletions would be pulled down and applied to your local library.

    But we can clear the online My Library for you if you confirm that that's what you want to do. If you later want to enable syncing for that library, you'd need to use Replace Online Library in the Sync → Reset pane of the preferences to upload items that had previously been uploaded and hadn't been modified since (since they'll all be marked as already synced).
  • @dstillman Yes, please clear the library. I'll remember to use "replace online library" when / if I want that functionality again. Do you need any other confirmation (or sending an email to

    I'm planning on syncing a second computer of mine with the same setup : sync only the group libraries and not my personal one. Any suggestions on making sure that doesn't inadvertently sync my other computers "My Library"?

    I'm afraid I can't discount the possibility that I was negligent how I set it up the first time, so forgive me if the following suggestion is the way it is supposed to work! If possible, could you review the expected workflow for setting up sync so that the signing in doesn't immediately start a sync? Or maybe it pops up a settings page which guides you through the options one time before syncing once? Or maybe there's an advanced way to set the settings for which things to sync without signing in?

  • OK, I've cleared the contents of your personal library.

    I can't really tell you what happened — even with auto-sync enabled, it shouldn't sync anytime soon after setting it up unless you actually make a change to the library data. You should certainly have time to disable syncing for My Library.
  • Thank you @dstillman for doing that!

    I'm going to take a chance and set it up on another computer.


    So I just went through the process again, using the windows step recorder to make sure I couldn't mis-remember what I did. Lo and behold, you're right. It didn't sync right away, and I unclicked the my library on my other computer from syncing. Only then did I initiate a manual sync, and it pulled down the new group I had created without syncing anything else.

    Looks like I did something stupid the first time around. Sorry for the noise.
  • This same thing just happened for me too. I think there is a bug. First, I was logged in online and My Library was empty. I had one group library that I had just joined.
    In Zotero (; Win10)
    1) preferences > enter login details > set up syncing
    2) uncheck sync automatically (within a few seconds)
    3) choose libraries > uncheck my library and feeds
    4) uncheck file syncing (both options)
    5) ok (close preferences)
    6) from left "library" panel, collapse "My library", right click blank space below "My library" > choose sync
    Sync starts, My library is synced to zotero online.
  • This seems to be really a still recurring problem. I also found my library synced online. Can you please remove this, or provide a permanent solution?
  • No, this is a misunderstanding.

    Avoiding uploading only certain libraries has never been a supported workflow in Zotero — the point of syncing is to make all data available for download from all of your devices.

    The "Libraries to Sync" window determines which libraries are synced automatically and when you click the main Sync button in the toolbar, so that Zotero isn't constantly wasting resources updating libraries you're not actively using.

    Unchecked libraries can still be synced manually if you right-click on the library and choose Sync, which is precisely what @bamelbourne did above. It's possible there could be another situation where an unchecked group is auto-synced by mistake, but we're not aware of any.

    In any case, preventing the uploading of data isn't the point of that feature, and in a future version unchecking a library there will just delete the local version of the library altogether (after prompting), which is closer to how selective-sync options in other programs work and what most people expect, so that will make this irrelevant.

    In the meantime, if you want us to delete your entire My Library online without affecting your local library, we can do that. If you just don't want to use storage space for your personal library, you can purge storage in My Library from your storage settings page.
  • Could you help me to delete my online library? I'm a new user of zotero. In a PC I locally deleted all the duplicates in the library, but the online library keeps sending these duplicates to the local PC, reversing what I have done locally.

  • I just deleted my online library by syncing an empty local library.
  • This will in all likelihood delete your local library once you sync that, so that wasn't a good idea. Make sure you absolutely don't open your actual library until you know exactly what's going on
  • How to avoid the deletion of the local library when sync is on and the online library is empty?
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