How stable are Audacity project files?

I have about 90 episodes of a 30 minute program saved on a personal laptop. I know that audacity projects are made up of lots of smaller files. If I want to move these projects to a different laptop, is there as good a chance as any that everything will move successfully? Maybe the question doesn’t make sense and I’m just overly sensitive from the past when you couldn’t move audacity projects at all.

Related… Over the long haul, we plan on taking bits and pieces from these projects to be repurposed into new content. Should we really be saving these as lossless/compressed versions of the projects as well? I have FLAC versions of the complete projects, but it will be easier in the moment we need pieces to open up some kind of project version.

I’m also planning on backing them all up over a network drive.


Assuming that:
a) You retain both the “.AUP” file and the “_data” folder
b) You retain the original file/folder names
c) You keep the “.AUP” file and “_data” folder together
d) Your hardware works perfectly copying every file (there may be thousands in larger projects)
e) Your storage medium (disk drive or other) works perfectly

then there will be no problem.

The first 3 should not be a problem so long as you are careful, and understand how to manage projects safely (Managing Audacity Projects - Audacity Manual)
The last two items can be a problem, especially if transferring data over a network, or using removable media.

There are a number of ways to make saving projects safer.

Firstly, always keep a WAV or FLAC format backup (Export the project as a WAV of FLAC file). This is not a perfect backup of the project, because it does not store labels, envelopes, or any of the other special features that a project provides, but it is quick and easy to do, and ensures that you have at least got the audio data.

“Save Lossless Copy of Project” File Menu: Save Project - Audacity Manual
A lossless copy of a project is safer than a normal project because the data is condensed down into one WAV file per audio track. So, for example, for a project with 3 audio tracks, the _data folder will contain 3 WAV files, which can be easily tested.

To ensure that the AUP file and _data folder do not get separated, you could create a ZIP archive of the project (or of the lossless copy). This technique wraps the entire project into a single, robust file, which can be easily copied or distributed.

Generating a “checksum” is a good way to verify that a copied file is an exact copy of the original. After making a ZIP archive of a project, you can generate the checksum of the ZIP file, then save that checksum in a text file, along with the ZIP file.
Wikipedia describes “checksums” here: Checksum - Wikipedia
A handy on-line checksum calculator here: WASM File Hash Online Calculator - MD5, SHA1, SHA2 (SHA256), SHA512
There are also many free checksum apps available.

I’d definitely recommend making a ZIP archive (it will also copy across the network much faster than thousands of little files), and I’d definitely recommend checking that the checksum of the copied file matches the original.

It’s good to back up your shows as WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit because they are perfect (uncompressed) quality and everybody on all three platforms can play them. FLAC is good and FLAC is efficient, but how many applications outside of Audacity do you know that can open them? Don’t succumb to the siren call of MP3. MP3 is an end-product and always creates some sound damage.

I believe Projects will open in Audacity anywhere as long as you follow good filename hygiene, the _DATA folder and the AUP file are in the same place or folder and Audacity made them properly in the first place on a stable computer.

There is a caution. Projects are not open-ended. Newer Projects and older ones are different and, as far as I know, incompatible. This was the divide that introduced randomly-named sound files. The manual page may address that.

The most stable archives are WAVs.


I’d say, “all good media players”.
Windows 10 now has built in support for FLAC.
For older versions of Windows you can install the “Direct Show” filters from Xiph: Directshow Filters for Ogg Vorbis, Speex, Theora and FLAC: Home

Some applications that support FLAC (including my favourite Windows audio player, “foobar 2000”) are listed on the Xiph download page: FLAC - Downloads

That just leaves Mac with poor support for FLAC. Unfortunately the XiphQT filter for iTunes no longer works, but VLC player is still available.

I’d say, “all good media players”.

I believe you.

I’ve never used either Projects or FLAC on a paying show.

I’ve never lost a paying show.


Do I understand correctly that each of those tracks will have all settings applied to them such as enveloping, gain, etc? And to muted tracks stay muted?

There are also many free checksum apps available.

This may be a little beyond me now, but thanks for the idea. No chance of this being built into audacity, is there?

Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.

You guys are all amazing. Thank you!

Very old projects (Audacity 1.x) are different to the current Audacity 2.x format, but Audacity is backwardly compatible. That is, Audacity 2.x can open old Audacity 1.x projects. The current Audacity 2.x format projects cannot be opened in (ancient) Audacity 1.x.

On opening an Audacity 1.x project in the current version of Audacity (2.3.2), the project is converted to Audacity 2.x format (after a prompt asking if you want to do this). If you wish to retain the original Audacity 1.x format project (why would you? Audacity 1.x has been obsolete for years), then you would need to save the imported project with a new name so as to avoid overwriting the original 1.x project.