How do you turn off saving an old copy of a file?

I have been using several versions of Audacity and now I am using 2.0.2 and I still cannot figure out how to stop Audacity from saving an old copy of a file. i.e. when I open up an audio file and maybe make some changes and then re-save it with the same name, Audacity always will save an old copy like this: audiofile-old, audiofile-old1, audiofile-2…etc. Audacity will keep saving old files and adding 1 digit increments to it. How do I turn this off?


We who do this for a living are horrified you would even consider stepping on the original file with changes. I know it’s common, but it’s still dangerous.

“Audacity crashed when I was saving my show and now it won’t open any more. It’s the only recording of my grandmother and it’s really important to the family. Can you help me get it back?”

Not without backups or safety copies, no. You might be able to rescue fragments and odd sections, but most of the show is gone.

It’s against postings like that that Audacity makes safety copies.


Audacity tries to make it difficult for users to accidentally destroy their work.

Audacity does not directly work on audio files, it works in “Projects”. A project may depend on the existence of audio files outside of the project. Audacity does not allow you to overwrite these “dependencies” without making a back-up copy of the original file because overwriting the file would otherwise destroy the project.

See here for more information about Audacity Projects:
See here for more information about dependencies:

If the project is self contained (so there are no dependencies) then you will be able to overwrite the file without a copy of the old version being created. Note that overwriting the file may still not be a good idea because if you mess up the project then you could end up with no backup.

To ensure that Audacity always creates self contained projects, “Edit > Preferences > Import/Export” and enable “make a copy of uncompressed audio files before editing (safer)”

Thanks for the over cautious explanation, but I am an audio professional and I have multiple backups of my audio files, so, to me, this feature is nothing but annoying and clogs up my directories with files I don’t need. Just because fail-safe code is put into the source for people that don’t know how to make backups doesn’t mean that everyone wants or needs that feature. So, now back to my op, basically then, there is no way to turn this off…correct?

Not so. If you could overwrite a dependency the project would be destroyed so the export would fail.

The links that I posted about Projects and Dependencies explain “why” it happens. If you’re not interested in “why” but just want to be able to overwrite files without creating backups, ensure that Audacity always creates self contained projects, “Edit > Preferences > Import/Export” and enable “make a copy of uncompressed audio files before editing (safer)”.

Thanks Steve!

I will try that and see what happens.

What Steve said is correct.

Do you want to vote for some way to clean up the -old* files? I am not sure what an idiot-proof method would be, but possibly it would be included in some future “project manager” utility to delete unwanted projects, and perhaps there could be a preference to clean up -old files not related to a saved project when closing a session.


Sorry I didn’t get back to this thread, but since someone on here brought it to my attention again I thought I would address the concerns in here. I do not need to save the original file. I do not need Audacity to have a built in safety net. I simply need Audacity to NOT save multiple back ups of files. I do not want 10 files of the same thing…001, 002, 003…etc. I am not like everyone else and only have one single copy of the file I am working on. I have multiple backups. So, if for some reason the original file got destroyed nothing is lost. I do understand the purpose that Audacity is trying to accomplish here. You have novices that could and probably would destroy the only copy of a file they had without this safety net. But it should have some way for experienced users to turn it off that do not need it and I am one of those. I do not need this feature.

Thank you for all the responses and again sorry it got on the back burner and I forgot this thread.

I think you have seen how to achieve that multiple times now: Audacity Manual. Set that preference to “Make a copy…”. If when you import a WAV or AIFF you see a warning about importing uncompressed files, leave that dialogue set to “Make a copy…” and turn the warning off.

As pointed out already, if you make your files READ ONLY then you will still get a copy of the original file made.


I know this is a very old post, but I just upgraded to version 2.4.2, and I can’t find that option under Import/Export anymore. Does anyone know what changed? Does it automatically use the safer option now, or is the option hiding somewhere else? I don’t want to get deep into a project, and then find out that I have the wrong setting. Thanks in advance for anyone listening. :slight_smile:

Yes we changed that a wile back - Audacity now asks you if you want to overwrite the file id one of that name already exists:
overwite query.png

Or if you are using Export Multiple there is a flag setting to enable file overwriting - See:

BTW Gale, whose replies you are responding too, sadly died a couple of years ago.


Thank you! So the safest way, other than simply already having backup, is to keep saving as a new file for each modification.

A new backup for each modification is a bit over the top. It’s certainly worth making a backup of the original recording before editing because recording is such a time consuming step. When working on an important job, I generally make a new backup after a couple of hours work, and at the end of each day I make an additional backup onto a different device (an external hard drive) to guard against hardware failure.