Database corruption (in less than 500 words)

Corruption at a Glance

Everything you do in Papers is read from and written to your Papers database, making this the single most important component of the app (even if you can’t see it!). Despite our best efforts, it is possible that the information stored here will become corrupt and, as a result, Papers will be unable to connect to your library. We understand this sounds like the stuff that nightmares are made of and would like to reassure you that your library can usually be recovered with a touch of troubleshooting.

Is Your Database Really Corrupted?

Sometimes corruption is the easiest word to describe the strange way Papers is behaving, even when your database is not actually corrupted. This means that troubleshooting for corruption may be a lengthy answer to the wrong question. You can be sure your database is corrupted when Papers tell you so:


If you're still unsure, please send us your log files (Papers for Mac; Papers for Windows) and we can have a closer look and let you know if the troubles you are experiencing are the result of corruption.

Troubleshooting Database Corruption

First Port-of-call

The good news is Papers comes with a built-in database repair function that allows you to fix your database with little effort or tech wisdom (please note, this is a Mac-only feature). If Papers can fix your database, it will. If not, please choose the troubleshooting guide below which best matches your current situation.

DEFCON 1: I use Dropbox sync

Dropbox isn’t just a pretty space: by default Dropbox saves earlier versions of your Papers library (as well as a history of all deleted files) for 30 days. This means you can easily take Papers back in time before your database became corrupted.

DEFCON 2: I don't sync, but I have a back up of my library

We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep a backup not only of your Papers library, but also of your entire system. Using your back up, you can take restore your Papers library to a point before your database became corrupted (and finally understand why we are so adamant about keeping a backup).

DEFCON 3: I don't sync and I don't have a back up

Naughty user! Papers actually keeps 2 copies of your database, the local copy (that is corrupted) and a 2nd shared copy that may or may not be in the same condition. Fingers crossed.

DEFCON 4: When all else fails

Even though your database is corrupt, the PDFs stored inside should not be. As a last resort, you can always retrieve your PDFs from the corrupted database and move them into a new Papers library.

Backing Up is the Best Medicine

Users who experience corruption are often left wondering what caused it, where they went wrong, and what they can do to prevent it happening again in the future. The best cure for corruption is to always back up your system, which includes your Papers library. Having a backup makes corruption much less scary: rather than facing massive data loss, you can usually return to your Papers library within minutes.

But you're not the only person working on this. Our team of developers is constantly identifying new sources of corruption and building safeguards against them. This is why it is important to send us your log files and update where available.

Still Stuck?

If you are unable to troubleshoot your corrupted database then please let us know, we're here to help.

Don’t forget to include the following details:

  • Papers version
  • Operating system
  • Backup details
  • Screenshots
  • Any troubleshooting attempts you have made
  • Console Log (Papers for Mac), or OSL Log (Papers for Windows)