Transferring data from one laptop to another

I am a doctoral student at Biola University. I have just bought a new laptop and need to sync the data from my old laptop to the new laptop.

To try and do this, I went into my Zotero account from my old laptop and tried to set up the sync function. It later seemed that the folders from my old laptop seemed to be copied over into my new laptop. However, on further checking, there were many titles of books and articles on my old laptop's collection, that were not in my new laptop's folder.

Can you please advise if I have done the syncing process wrongly? I can always uninstall the Zotero from my new laptop and start all over again, if necessary.
  • @rdtan9494: Both syncing and copying the data directory should be fine — see Transferring a Library.

    If you're seeing different results after syncing, can you take a couple screenshots that show the difference and either upload them somewhere (e.g., Dropbox or Google Drive) and provide a link here or email them to with a link to this thread?
  • @rdtan9494: The email address is just for sending private files. All support happens here.

  • Hi,

    I have tried the suggested methods to transfer my Zotero libraries and database to my new laptop, but to no avail.

    I have tried to use the sync function. However, when I install Zotero on my new laptop and then look at the database on the "new" Zotero, some files are missing. For example, one of my collections in the "old" Zotero had 88 items. When I looked at the Zotero in my new laptop, there were only 17 items.

    I have also tried to copy the data folder, but find difficulties here. I have copied the Zotero folder contents in my old laptop to a thumb drive and then tried to paste these into the new laptop's Zotero. There were no changes. In fact, I deleted all items in the Zotero folder for my new laptop and then tried to paste the old laptop's contents into it, but keep getting error messages. Something like there is a link missing and asking me whether I wanted to restore the old Zotero which I had just deleted.

    Are you able to help me and provide step-by-step instructions to transfer the data and links over to my new laptop? Did I do something wrong like set up the sync wrongly? I had registered an account in Zotero recently and then tried to do the sync, but as I said, some data is missing.

    Thanks and regards,

    Ronald Tan
  • Please don't start new threads for the same issue. I've moved your post to this thread.

    I asked for screenshots above, and you haven't provided those.

    Alternatively, copying the data directory is literally just copying one folder to the correct location, as explained on the page I linked to above. If you're getting an error message, you'd have to say exactly what it is.
  • Hi,

    I have tried again, but with no success. In fact, what I find is that for the version on the web (Zotero server), there only seems to be 17 items for the library that is the most important to me, instead of 88. Therefore, it would seem that the problem might be updating from my old laptop to the Zotero servers. How do I get the screenshots to you?

    I have also tried the other way, of copying the data over to the new laptop. However, again, there was no change. In fact, I have deleted a couple of collections in the new laptop just to see if the problem was with there already being data in the collection in the first place, and not a "blank" collection. It did not work and now I need the data back in my new laptop. Luckily, they are still on my old laptop.

    How do I start all over again correctly and bring over the data from the old laptop? I will continue working from there until this is sorted out. Each time I try to uninstall Zotero and then install again, the re-installed Zotero comes up with the old "incorrect" libraries, which I do not want. Should not the re-installed Zotero be with blank file areas?

    BTW, my old laptop is running on Windows 10, while the new laptop is running on Windows 11. Could that be a problem?
  • Uninstalling or reinstalling Zotero has no effect on your Zotero data. The data you see when you start Zotero is determined entirely by your Zotero data directory. I linked to instructions above for transferring the data directory from one computer to the other.

    I explained above how to share screenshots. But if you're just not seeing your data in both places, see Changes Not Syncing.
  • Hi,

    I have already sent the screenshots to, please advise.

    As I have said earlier, I have deleted a couple of important libraries (collections) out of my new laptop's collections by mistake. Fortunately, they are still on my old laptop. On checking, I discovered that my old laptop's Zotero is currently synced to another account name ( I was trying several account names, just in case that was the problem). Now, if I set the original collection on my old laptop back to the correct sync user name ( I know which one), will it 'reverse sync'? That is, will the sync set up then cause my original collection to lose the two collections that were removed in new laptop?

    Please advise on why there can be a discrepancy on my synching and attempts to move my data over to my new laptop, after seeing the screenshots. Are you able to provide step by step instructions on how to move my data over? As advised earlier, I have tried to follow the steps you have suggested, but to no avail. Maybe there are steps that I did wrongly.

    Ronald Tan
  • edited November 8, 2021
    Library data is tied to a specific account — if you change the account you're syncing with, it will delete all your local data and simply pull down the data from the online library of the new account.

    So pick the account where the data is correct and make sure that's the account you're using in all your Zotero installations as well as the account you're checking online.
  • Thanks. What about the "reverse sync issue" I was talking about? It seems that the online library, will be pulled down to my original account. It will then also mean that I will lose the collections from my old laptop's database, which I cannot afford to happen. This is because I have removed the collections from my new laptop and this change should then be updated in the online library, am I correct?

    How do I resolve this issue? Since I have the old laptop's data synced to a different "user name", do I then create a new account using this "user name" and leave it synced with that, so it will not get lost?

    Do you have a mobile number or chatbot type facility, so that I can contact you direct? I am residing in Singapore and calling a land line will be costly. For a mobile, I can use something like WhatsApp to call.

    Have you taken a look at the screenshots yet?

  • edited November 8, 2021
    Syncing is syncing — it syncs changes, bidirectionally.

    If you made deletions within a given account somewhere else, those would sync to your local computer when you synced that account.

    If you made changes in a different account, those changes are totally separate and irrelevant.

    If you deleted a collection elsewhere, haven't synced yet, and want to preserve it, you can just make a new collection and drag the items into it to create a duplicate collection before syncing.

    If you switch accounts locally, all local data will be deleted before you sync (which Zotero will warn you about), so the state of your local database before switching is irrelevant.

    If there's new data you added to the wrong account, and you mostly want the contents of another account but want to keep that new data, you can export it to Zotero RDF, switch accounts, and import it.

    In general, though, if you're having trouble here, I'd encourage you to ask someone tech-savvy to help you in person (or via screen sharing), using our documentation as a guide, or even posting other questions here. This really isn't complicated stuff — it's just setting up syncing with one single account or copying a single folder — but it's not at all clear what you've done in various accounts or exactly what you're doing when you try to copy the folder, so it's pretty hard for us to help you.
  • Hi,

    Actually, I understood what you were saying and advising clearly and how to transfer the data between laptops. The problem I had was that when I did it, the data remained the same as before in my new laptop and incomplete. I had actually transferred the files from my old laptop's Zotero onto a thumb drive and then later tried to paste it from there to my new laptop, unsuccessfully.

    Anyway, the good news is that, all is good now. I tried one more time to paste the data (libraries etc) from my thumb drive onto my new laptop's Zotero directory. This time, it worked. The data that I require is now transferred successfully onto my new laptop. I don't know what happened before, but never mind, it is now successfully transferred (yay!)

    Thank you for your patience and guidance throughout all this. Should I need your help again, I will add to this thread or start a new one. Have a nice day.

Sign In or Register to comment.