FCP X 10.1: Backup and Restore

Posted on by Larry

Another essential element of media management in Final Cut Pro X (v10.1) is backing up libraries and projects.

This is the fourth in a series of four articles on media management in Final Cut Pro X. The others are:

(Footage courtesy of John Putch and “Route 30, Too!”)

There are two types of media, both of which can affect backups:

A library can have managed media, external media or both. Managed media provides the easiest way to work, because all elements are stored in the library. If you are the only editor on a project, this is often the best choice. You select this option during import by checking the Copy files into: [Library] checkbox.

External media is necessary if a team of people need to access the same media at the same time, or if you are reusing media between libraries – say a show open or commonly used stock footage – and you don’t want to take up extra disk space storing the same files over and over. You select this option during import by checking the Leave files in place checkbox.

External media can also be backed-up, just like any other file, but this needs to be done separately from backing up the library.


Libraries can be stored anywhere and named anything the Macintosh file system will support. You can even store libraries on thumb drives, say, to move them from one computer to another. However, the thumb drive isn’t fast enough to allow you to edit the library, simply to transfer it.

Personally, I store all my libraries to external storage, in a folder I’ve named “Final Cut Libraries.” I store all my libraries in that folder because all my projects are small and this helps me keep track of everything. However, this is simply a personal preference, not a requirement of Final Cut.


While a project can use media from more than one library, with those libraries located on one or more hard disks, the project itself can only be stored in one library.

If you edit media from a second library into a project stored in the first library AND that media is managed by the second library, meaning it is stored inside the second library, then that edited media is copied from the second library into the first library. This allows the media to stay managed, but it uses more hard disk space.

If, however, the clip from the second library is linked to the library, meaning it is stored externally, then only the link is copied to the first library. This is another advantage of using external media. When you use linked clips, only the links are copied from one library to another, not the media itself, thus reducing the need for more hard disk space because the links themselves are tiny.


As I discussed in my article on Managing Libraries, a library holds stuff. Specifically, libraries store all the different elements of our edit into a single entity called a “bundle.” A bundle looks like a single file, but it’s actually a “super folder.” The good news is that it is easy to back-up an entire library: just drag the icon from where it is to to where you want it.

But the even-better-news is that if you use Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner or other backup software, the backup software sees inside the bundle and only backs-up the files that have changed. This means that you don’t duplicate files that are already backed-up.

To look inside a bundle, right-mouse click (or Control-click) directly on the library icon and select Show Package Contents.

Inside the bundle we see folders storing media and project files, along with the master database for the library – CurrentVersion.flexolibrary. While we could drag folders out of the library for purposes of back-up, Final Cut provides better options. The reason is that once you open a bundle, it is entirely too easy to move or erase media that Final Cut won’t be able to track. For this reason, I strongly recommend that you stay out of the library folder unless all other options have failed.

NOTE: While we can drag files in or out of the library folder, doing so does not update the library database. Which means that Final Cut won’t be able to track what you are doing. Always use Final Cut to move files into or out of a library in order to keep all databases updated.


With external media, we need to backup both the library bundle, which contains all the files used by Final Cut, plus the external folders where your media is stored. Time Machine can do this automatically, as can other backup utilities.

The key thing to remember is that media is separate from the library, which means you need to back up both the library and all linked external media. This also means you, not Final Cut, need to track which external media folders you are using so you can make sure you are backing up everything you need.


Moving a library is as easy as dragging a file. For example, I started this article on my iMac, then realized I needed to move both the article and the library to my Mac Pro. All I needed to do was transfer the library (“Main Library” in this example) from one computer to the other. All media, events, projects, links and related files moved perfectly and nothing needed to be relinked. (That’s because when I created this project, I chose to store all media inside the library, what FCP calls “Managed Media.”)

Moving libraries is easiest when all your media is inside the library, because no links break and all your media moves at once.

However, if you are using external media and you move the library, but not the associated media, there is a likelihood that the links between the library and your media will break.

To relink media:

Repeat this process until all missing media has been reconnected. Relinking media isn’t difficult, but it is a pain, which is why copying media into the Library is always preferable.


The heart of the library is its database. This tracks every element in your edit – media, events and projects. Built into the latest version of FCP X is an automatic backup of the library database. You control this from Final Cut Pro > Preferences. When the Save library backups checkbox is checked, an automatic backup is made of the library database, but NOT media, every 15 minutes that you are actively working in and making changes to that library.

Backups are stored, by default, in [ Home Directory ] > Movies > Final Cut Pro Backups.

Inside the backup folder, library backups are time-stamped and, as you can see, the actual file sizes are small because only the library database is backed up.


If you suffer a crash and can’t access the current version of the library, select the library you want to restore in the Library Browser, then choose File > Open Library > From Backup. The popup menu shows all the different time-stamped back-ups you can choose from, with the most recent back-up on top.  Select the backup you want to use and click Open.

In the event you can’t even open the library, you have two other options:

  1. If Final Cut is running, select any working library, then choose File > Open Library > From Backup. From the Library Backup window, click the Other button. This displays all the other back-ups stored in your Home Directory. Select the backup you want to open and click Open.
  2. If Final Cut is not running, then from the Library Backups folder in your Home Directory, double-click the library backup you want to open. FCP will open and just that library backup will be displayed.


Sometimes it makes sense to create a new library from existing media. This would allow you to easily share or backup media specifically from that event. The easiest way to do this is to select one or more events in the same library, then choose File > Copy Event to Library > New Library.

In the dialog, indicate if you want to also copy optimized and/or proxy media. If this is a managed library, copying will always copy camera source files.

In this case, I created a new library, called “Third Library,” and copied all my exterior shots into it. Once I verify that all my media made it, I’ll delete the old event. Keep in mind that you can copy events or projects, but not both at the same time. And, if you need to consolidate multiple events from multiple libraries, do it one library at a time.

NOTE: Render files are not moved when copying or moving events or libraries. This is done to save disk space. Render files will be recreated when you reopen your library.


If, instead, you simply want to move an event from one library to another, say to put all your exterior shots in one library, select the events you want to move in one library, then choose File > Move Event to Library > [Library]. Then pick the library you want to move it into.

Here, for example, I moved all my exterior shots from the Main Library to the Second Library. (Remember, I’m just using these library names as examples. You can name a library anything you want.)


Just as we can move events to new or existing libraries, we can do the same with projects. This is useful when we want to send a project from one editor to another, or when we want to create a backup of all the clips used in a project.

NOTE: Here’s an article that talks about Transfer Libraries, which are used for collaboration.

In this example, I want to export the entire project and all related files so that I can archive them.

Option 1: If the project uses external media and you uncheck both these check boxes, only the library, event and project databases will be copied. This is the best option when sharing projects between editors that already have all the media.

Option 2: If the project uses managed media and you uncheck both these check boxes, only the library, event and project databases will be copied, as well as all camera source files.

Option 3: If the project uses both managed and external media, only the managed media will be copied, external media will just copy the links. This means you will need to copy the external files manually.

Option 4: If you check all check boxes, all databases, camera source files and any optimized and/or proxy files will be copied. This is the best option when creating a project archive.

NOTE: Final Cut does not allow you to include only the portions of clips that are used in your project. It copies the entire clip. Apple made this decision so that all camera source files would remain untouched. Creating portions of a clip would require transcoding.



Final Cut Pro X v10.1 provides a number of ways to manage, backup and archive libraries, media and projects. Keep in mind that in order for all databases to remain current, you need to do your media management inside Final Cut Pro X.

However, the latest version of Final Cut makes this easier than ever.


Here are three articles I’ve written that can help you understand media better in Final Cut Pro X:

Apple has also provided additional resources in two white papers:

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57 Responses to FCP X 10.1: Backup and Restore

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  1. reaga says:

    I lost a huge project folder (over 500gb) on my WD External Portable Hard Drive, containing fcpbundle, AE Files, finished and unfinished project. The available drive space shows the folder has not been deleted. any suggestions on how to recover it?

  2. Hey Larry,

    my iMac locked up while I was importing but I didn’t think anything of it, also I was trying the camera archiving feature. So at least I have my media! but the linking is all lost – no reveal in finder etc. I have tried relink/reimport/delete all the working files/new time line tricks. I even moved the project to a new library. I cannot export.
    any ideas? I’m going to re edit from the looks of it.

    • Larry says:


      System errors during importing are never good. It is always best to reimport when that happens to make sure you have good media.

      Given your description, I think reimporting and re-editing are your best option.


  3. Brett says:

    I have three libraries in fcpx at the moment, one open and two closed. To import more media into my open library I need more GB space available on my MacBook Pro. Supposedly, the two closed libraries on backed up in TimeMachine. Can I trash them to make space for more media to be imported?

  4. Brett says:

    Thank you for such a quick response.

  5. Tweed says:

    If a project is complete, and I consolidate and archive the library, will I need to also archive the project’s library backup folder along with it, or can that folder be deleted?

    I want to delete completed projects from my local drives but not clear on whether I will need the library backup folder to restore a library in the future.


  6. Kent says:


    I’ve read all your articles about managing and backing up FCPx10 files & media – they’re really a great set of articles – thanks very much. Excellent clear and helpful writing.

    One thing I’m a little unclear about though . . .

    What’s the difference between “backup” in [ Final Cut Pro > Preferences > General ] where it says “Save library backups”

    and . . .

    from within a library : [ File > Library Properties ]
    where you see “Set Storage locations for library :xyz” and finally you set “Backups”.

    • Larry says:


      You are comparing two different versions of Final Cut.

      Apple moved the preference setting into Library Properties around version 10.2 or so.

      They do the same thing, but not in the same version of the software.


  7. KvB says:

    I am using ChronoSync – and you can easily choose whether to backup whole bundle folder or just files within. There is zizillion other options.
    Very powerful piece of SW. I’m using it just as pure backup, but it can actually Sync more working environment here & there.
    It came to me by chance – once I used TimeMachine crap over network & one day it reports there’s problem with archive – even my network connection was re-established – I can’t get rid that message at all – I started to look around & finally picked ChronoSync – with lifetime licence – was ~$40 or so, but since then I am using updates for free – and it was ~4years ago – I am telling you guys here, because I am very happy with C.S.
    AFAIR – they’ve also some trial version, so you can try & buy later.

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