installing Zotero on a second computer

I now have a work laptop and a home laptop, and want to use Zotero on both. My main setup is on my work computer, and I have it configured to store my data directory locally but my files (using ZotFile preferences) on my work OneDrive. Good so far.

Now I'm trying to do a clean install of Zotero on my home laptop, but the system is warning me that syncing may overwrite my actual Zotero library with a blank library. It's asking if I want to replace my online library (overwrite it with local data from my home laptop) or reset my file sync history.

I'm not sure what to do now. Can anyone help? Just in case, I've backed up my work laptop's Zotero data directory, including the sqlite files.

  • You should never get that message on a fresh install. Could you walk us through exactly what you did, at what point you're getting the message and the exact text of the error message? If helpful, you can take screenshots, post them to a free image hosting site (, Dropbox, etc.) and link to them.
  • Here's the order of operations from the beginning:
    1. Installed Zotero on my old work computer as a new user. Had files syncing to Dropbox, local data install.
    2. Leaving that job, so moved all my data to an old laptop at home.
    3. Moved that data to the new home laptop when it arrived, installing Zotero there. Wanted to move my files from Dropbox, realized my install couldn't find them even when I thought I moved them correctly. Despaired.
    4. Got new work laptop. Installed Zotero and plug-ins. Managed to resolve the file location problems and got everything set for local data, files on OneDrive.
    5. Realized my new home laptop install would not have had all the file location stuff fixed, so fully uninstalled the program, deleted the local Zotero data folder, then did a clean reinstall.
    6. Disaster. See error message: error.jpg?dl=0
  • Not sure why you think that's disaster: You did exactly what the message says you might have done -- moved (or in your case: removed) the local Zotero database. You have two choices, both should be fine:
    1. Sync and thus populate your library from what's stored on the server or
    2. Find your backed up old database and restore from it (i.e. restore from back-up).

    If you're fully synced, then 1 and 2 are equivalent. If not, then only 2. will get you the full library back

    (I don't fully understand the Dropbox and OneDrive thing but assuming those are just where the files are stored, worst case you can fix it later using Zutilo)
  • I'm so glad it's not a disaster!

    I followed your sync instructions and all is well. After hours of trying to fix all the problems I created, I panicked!

    And, yes, the Dropbox/OneDrive are where my attachments are stored. Between ZotFile and Zutilo I was able to sort that out.
  • I do have one additional question. Snapshots seem to save only to the data directory, so if I added an item on computer A, the snapshot opens fine, but on computer B, it has the empty dot showing the attachment is missing. Any idea what could be causing that? Could it have to do with how I set up ZotFile?
  • ZotFile wouldn't move snapshots, so they'd be in the Zotero storage folder in the data directory. You should be able to just copy that over from the old back-up/computer if you have it.
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