Sync with OneDrive, Dropbox, and other cloud storage services.


I was wondering if there is any way to sync/back-up my data to some sort of cloud storage service? I know directly there isn't, but it seems there is a local database on my computer. If so, is there a way to change the location of that database? I have OneDrive, and the primary way to access and back-up my file is through a folder on my computer. I figured there may be a way to take the Zotero database folder and change it's location to inside the OneDrive folder so that way it could back-up to OneDrive, and be stored on the Zotero server, if that's even how it works. I guess my question should be whether or not Zotero stores/backs-up data on the computers local harddrive as well as on the Zotero servers, or is data only stored in one location? If not, have any ideas or workarounds?

Thank you,

  • Zotero does store data locally and you can change the location in the advanced tab of the preferences:

    However, it is generally strongly discouraged to place the data folder into Dropbox (or any similar sync service), since Dropbox sync (if used between devices) can corrupt the Zotero database. If you're strictly using sync for backup, i.e. you only have one device connected you Dropbox/OneDrive, you should be fine, though.
  • Zotero stores your data on your local hard drive.

    Your data can also, at no cost, be synced with the servers at Zotero. There is no limit to the number of records you are allowed to store there (except the current version of Zotero doesn't run as well with umpteen records). The storage on the Zotero server cloud is reasonably secure unless you are working with highly sensitive encrypted stuff. The sync with the Zotero servers can be set to run automatically.

    Zotero provides 300Mb of additional storage for attachments (PDFs, notes, etc.). Storage beyond that can be purchased at reasonable rates. Attachment storage with Zotero can also be automatic. The really nice feature of Zotero's system is that you can setup groups and share a library.

    You can set up your system to sync your Zotero library with the Zotero server and use Dropbox to store your attachments. I pay for unlimited storage and sync my attachments to Zotero but I also have them on Dropbox for a colleague who refuses to switch to Zotero.

    Please pay attention to adamsmith's last paragraph.

    I strongly recommend also using a separate local drive to serve as part of a backup system. There is very good backup software built into both Windows and Mac OSs. The cost of a 3 terabyte external drive is under US$200. Having the ability to go back to a file as it was a few minutes, an hour, a day, a week, or a month ago is a really good safety net. I've made a mistake and saved over a file causing the loss of much work but for my backup. With the Mac Time Machine, I was able to quickly and easily revert to the file as it was immediately before my foolish careless save.
  • I am testing another way to sync with a cloud service (OneDrive for Business) that does not involve changing the location of the Zotero data folder, and therefore should not run the risk of the Zotero database becoming corrupted. The trick is to use Zotfile to move all attachments to the local cloud storage folder, leaving links to these files as attachments in Zotero rather than the files themselves. This is done by specifying the local cloud storage folder as "custom location" in the Zotfile preferences, then selecting all files in library and selecting Manage Attachments | Rename Attachments in the contextual menu. The main problems I have encountered so far seem to be problems with OneDrive and not with Zotero. On the positive side, I can open OneDrive on my mobile and it will correctly identify in Recent Documents the documents I read most recently using Zotero, which is useful. It seems to work OK overall but OneDrive sync stopped working when I did a batch re-name on all files in the OneDrive folder, so I am currently moving them all out to start it off from scratch. Hope this is helpful, would be interesting to hear if anyone else has tried anything similar with other cloud sync services. By the way the only issue I have with Zotero cloud storage is that I use Zotero for work not for personal use and the company provides OneDrive - hence me trying to see if I can make use of it in the first instance.
  • Yes, that's one of the recommended ways to make that happen. The only two real limitations are that it doesn't work for groups and you can't access attachments via the Zotero website, but if those aren't an issue for you, the method is fine (and widely used).
  • OK, thanks for your comments @adamsmith.
  • I just had my computer updated from Windows 7 to Windows 10 which meant re-intsalling Zotero and ZotFile. I was very pleased to discover that Zotero / Zotfile picked up where they left off smoothly, linking all the documents in my library to their respective attachments in the local OneDrive folder. I'm impressed.
  • Hey all,

    Thank you for your comments. It is pretty neat. Although, I have a stupid question. Once you successfully setup your zotero linked to a network drive on your first computer, how do you import and do the same setup on your laptop? When trying the same steps I have the local copies as file location.

    Thanks in advance :)
  • You sync using Zotero and sync using Dropbox etc., making sure you set relative links up on computer 2 as well.
  • Hi all,

    I've followed @alex.mitrani instructions and used Zotfile to store all my pdf files on OneDrive and that worked well! On my personal computer I have stored the files in the following location 'users/AaronMBP/OneDrive/Research/ZoteroStorage'

    Also, as per @adamsmith instructions, on my work computer I have changed preferences>advanced>files and folders and added the 'linked attachment base directory' to 'users/[my work username]/OneDrive/Research/ZoteroStorage'.

    However, when I try to open an attached pdf on my work computer I receive the following error message 'File not found. The attached file could not be found...'

    I can use the locate button to find/link to the file in my OneDrive folder but the same issue occurs when I am back on my personal computer.

    I thought updating the 'linked attachment base directory' on my work computer was the correct work around but I must be missing something.

    Any help would be much appreciated.
  • You need to set the Linked Attachment Base Directory to the equivalent directory on both computers. When you do that correctly, any attachments with files below the directory you choose will be converted to use relative paths, and after syncing they'll be accessible on other computers with appropriately set base directories.
  • Thank you @dstillman - that did the trick!
  • @dstillman and @aarontimo I am trying to accomplish the same, but am failing. The username on my work PC is different from the username on my personal pc. That is out of my reach to change. So let's say I have /users/bramvroy/OneDrive/literature/ on work and /users/bram/OneDrive/literature on my personal PC. The OneDrive folders sync correctly.

    I also changed the linked attachment base directory to /users/bramvroy/OneDrive/literature/ on the work directory, and to /users/bram/OneDrive/literature on my personal PC. But I get the same issue that the "Attachment file could not be found". I guess I am misunderstanding how the linked attachment base directory works. Can you give an example of how I should go about this in my case? thanks!
  • edited November 15, 2021
    @BramVanroy: It sounds like you set it correctly, but Zotero needs to be able to find the files at the appropriate location on one of the computers in order to set them to use relative paths, and then you need to sync both computers.

    No need to speculate here — the file-not-found message tells you exactly where it's looking for the file. If it shows a path from the other computer, the base directory wasn't set properly on that other computer, and/or you haven't synced that computer and this one since changing the base directory setting.
  • @dstillman Thanks for the prompt reply! The issue was indeed that I hadn't synced the former device. Everything is working splendidly now.
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