Why has Zotero deleted 4/5s of my loving maintained library?

Over a couple years time, I had accumulated a lot of bibliography in Zotero (2500+items) with a lot of notes and other kind of valuable text. This was in my work PC and I wanted to get this information into my home PC. I tried various techniques such as exporting the library, or copying the storage. None of these techniques brought over all the notes that I wanted.

So I finally bought unlimited storage and after I synched, to my horror, I find I only had a small handful of files left. What happened?
  • I find I only had a small handful of files left.
    Is this on the work PC? How are you checking what you have left?
  • On both My Library online and my work PC. I am not at work today (trying to finish off a research article at home, which is what prompted this) but I have 153 articles in My Library online.
  • I check how many by going to the top - My Library - in Zotero and it tells me how many articles.
  • Hard to say anything without you being able to access the work PC right now.
    I tried various techniques such as exporting the library, or copying the storage.
    Do you still have the "storage" that you copied from your work PC? What exactly did you copy? What files/folders does it contain?
  • the folder storage
  • Well, the bad news is that you didn't copy your whole library, which is the directory above the "storage" directory you copied and includes a zotero.sqlite file (that's where most of your library actually is). The possibly good news is that your data is likely still on your work computer. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do without you being able to access that computer.

    Which instructions did you follow to transfer your library?
  • Probably all the wrong ones. I had done some synching before with the free limited online. I had no problem with that, so I didn't investigate how I should synch, assuming it was the same as before.
  • @Dan, can you check the sync activity on this account?
  • edited October 27, 2014
    Hasn't synced since September 9th/10th (depending on timezone).
  • edited October 27, 2014
    And, in fact, it looks like all 232 items (including child items) in this account were uploaded to the server at that time.
  • It also looks like 9960 items (again including child items) were deleted in your account, most at that same time and a bunch more on 8/19 or 8/20.

    I don't really have any idea what you did, but you (or someone using a copy of Zotero with your login info) definitely deleted those items and then synced. That's not something that Zotero could do on its own.
  • Your best bet is to look for a backup of your Zotero data directory on/from the computer where you last saw your library, either within the data directory or in a full hard drive backup.

    And before doing anything else, you should immediately make a full backup of the entire Zotero data directory on that computer.
  • Correct. Is that a problem?

    Is that making me someone who is crazed and doesn't know what I am talking about?

    I just today uncovered the extent of the destruction when I went to finish something off.
  • Attachments missing, entries missing. And worse, I no longer have access to databases to restore the missing attachments.
  • it's not clear to me what you're saying is "correct"? No one is telling you that you're crazed or don't know what you're talking about. We're just trying to reconstruct what actually happened.
    As Dan and aurimas have said, Zotero doesn't just delete your library.
  • Correct as in, the last time I synched was in September. I could clearly see it wasn't doing what I wanted then.

    As far as I can see, Zotero did delete most of my library, including the attachments.
  • Zotero doesn't "do" anything to your data on its own. If you follow the steps at the links provided by Dan above, you may be able to retrieve a backed up version of your data on your work PC. Otherwise there's not much more we can do on this end.
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