How to be sure project is saved?


Audacity 2.3.3
Windows 7

I find it very frustrating to get those “orphan block” messages upon opening a project that I am working on. I lose a tremendous amount of time with these things.

I suspect it happens because, at the end of a session, I usually click on Save Project, and then Exit. But, I don’t know how to determine how long I need to wait to have assurance that the data is saved. It’s annoying enough when starting, because I usually get a “not responding” message (presumably from Windows), but, it always “comes back alive” after a minute, or so, of loading. When that happens, I know it’s all OK to proceed, But, when saving before exiting, I don’t know how to determine when it is safe to exit.

I would suggest adding a thermometer bar, or something similar, to inform users when it is safe to exit. Or, alternately, disable “exit” until the save is complete. IOW,make data saving like a database transaction-- it is guaranteed to be either 100% or 0% successful.

It isn’t practical to check the project by listening because I record concerts, and typically have several stereo pairs and several spot mics, and I would have to listen to each track completely. My tracks are typically 2 hours long (concerts usually run that long). So, when I get these, I have to start all over.

Is there a “safe harbor” operating procedure that will let me save and exit without losing data?

Thank you.


I’m really not trying to be obnoxious… I would just like to know if there is a way to know when it is safe to exit, after clicking “Save Project”.

How does one know?

Thank you.


Is there a “safe harbor” operating procedure that will let me save and exit without losing data?

I’d recommend exporting to WAV whether you make an AUP project or not.

Because if you try to exit/close Audacity with an unsaved project (technically a “dirty” project) Audacity will warn you and ask if you want to save it before exiting.

This annoys some people - they find the fact that they have to click “No” a bit tiresome - but we regard it as an important safety measure to help folk avoid losing project work.


I’d recommend exporting to WAV whether you make an AUP project or not.

That’s how I do it. That doesn’t work with muli-track shows. There is no multi-track WAV.

You can also Save a Lossless Project. That produces a regular Audacity project with additional super-high quality sound files for each track. There was a recent post from someone who did that and was able to rescue their show even though the actual Project structure failed.

The down side of Lossless is the size. They’re enormous.


“Because if you try to exit/close Audacity with an unsaved project (technically a “dirty” project) Audacity will warn you and ask if you want to save it before exiting.”

This would be great, but I never experienced it. But, I have had orphaned files twice with this current project. I mean, everything is good. It loads. I do a ton of work. I click Save Project, then Exit. The next day I open the project, and have orphan files. I figured I must have Exited too soon.

This has happened twice.

In the past two years, this has happened a couple more times. No problems with any other files associated with any other programs. Just irregular problems with Audacity data.

Thank you for taking the time to respond.



Thank you for the suggestion.

I have plenty of space on the drive I am using for the Audacity projects. I will try your suggestion to use the Lossless option.


P.S. I record with hardware that natively produces 32-bit float data files. I import those files directly into Audacity, and I manipulate them as 32-bit float. So, do I understand you to be saying that saving the files as lossless results in output data that is more accurate than what was input and processed? I’m not sure I understand how the output encoding (or lack thereof) can increase the accuracy over what was input and subsequently processed. Or maybe I am just not properly understanding how Audacity works. Thank you, again.

P.P.S. I love recording 32-bit float. Being freed from having to worry about clipping while recording is more convenient, and saves time. I just started recording this way a few months ago, when I bought some new gear. Before that, I recorded in 24-bit, and, of course, set levels to avoid clipping. I had occasional orphan files with those data files, too.

P.P.P.S. It might have something do to with the length of the files. I THINK I experience it more with longer concerts.

P.P.P.P.S. Is there any way to listen to the orphan files. If I could hear them, maybe I could tell whether they were debris from the “cutting room floor”. If that be the case, I could ignore them and continue on without having to start over.

Compared to a mixed down audio file, yes they are enormous.
Compared to a normal Audacity project, they’re usually about the same size.

Lossless copies are primarily intended for making backups. The main difference between a normal project and a “lossless copy” is that instead of the audio data being thousands of little .AU files, each track is rendered to a perfect quality (lossless) 32-bit float WAV file. File Menu: Save Project - Audacity Manual

when I bought some new gear.

Whose name and model numbers are? This is a constant and historic problem with people doing wild, live recording.

It’s generally not the digital file structure that causes problems. The analog part of the system has very strict limits and that’s what usually creates distortions. The noise volume is here and overload is here. It’s a relatively narrow range and they’re both fixed. Doesn’t matter how many bits you divide it into or their configuration.

I do know of one system that could get around this. One of my favorite show producers claimed he had a new microphone system that made two different recordings at the same time. All he had to do was get the recording volume roughly in the ballpark and the system would do the rest.

Is that what you have?


Compared to a normal Audacity project, they’re usually about the same size.

I saved a project and a lossless project of the same show. The project _DATA folder was 321MB and the lossless was 635MB.



If the project contains a lot of empty “white space”, then the lossless copy can be considerably bigger because the white space is rendered to silent audio. If the project contains no empty white space, the lossless copy will be virtually the same size as a normal saved project.

Also note that a “lossless copy” will dramatically increase in size when opened in Audacity. This is because the 32-bit WAV files are copied to “.AU” blockfiles. “Lossless copy” is intended to be used as a more robust backup than a normal project. This feature will probably disappear when we have a unitary project file format.

The equipment I am now using to record concerts is a Sound Devices MixPre 10ii.

I first started using it a few months ago (before coronavirus-- I have not made any recordings since then, as all concerts have been cancelled).

I need to clarify some confusion that I, alone, have caused…

I even confused myself, by forgetting which projects I was working on recently, and which were historical projects that I revisited to remix and master.

I have NOT had a problem with my most recent recording. That would be the one I created using my new Sound Devices recorder, which I love. It produces native 32-bit float audio, and I am quite happy with it. I think I did have one instance of orphan files, very early in the editing process, and it was trivial to begin again and re-import the original data files.

The problem I am currently describing, that lead me to make my initial post, comes from a project that is over a year old, but that I am currently reworking. I had recorded it on my older Tascam DR-680MKii recorder in 24-bit mode (this was before the new Sound Devices MixPre series ii existed). I have done many projects using that device and Audacity. On irregular occasions (I’d say maybe 5 - 10 times over the past few years), when I attempt to open a project that I saved the previous day (after doing work on the project), I get the orphan file message. Because I don’t know how to identify the damage, and don’t know how to listen to the orphan files, I cannot figure out how to do anything other than to start over. When I have substantial time invested, this is a major issue. But, I do not know what else I can do. Thanks to the earlier suggestion, I will now start saving additional copies using the lossless option.

[ASIDE: I would suggest that Audacity consider offering a configuration option that would save project data in two stages: When saving data, the old data would be retained as a “checkpoint”, and not be overwritten until a new save completes without creating orphan files. Thus, the worst case for data loss would be loss of the current session only.]

Anyway, the problem I am encountering (occasionally and unpredictably encountering orphan files when trying to re-open a project) would appear to me not to be related to the 32-bit float data files created by my new Sound Devices MixPre. You are probably aware of the impeccable reputation and very wide use of Sound Devices gear in the world of professional cinema.

I am happy to provide additional information or clarification, if you, or anyone, desires.

Thank you.


P.S. You mentioned the possibility of recording at two levels. I am familiar with this, but I do not use it.

P.P.S. My data files frequently exceed 1 GiB.

that Audacity consider offering a configuration option that would save project data in two stages:

Audacity is considering offering a project format in one file that doesn’t break.




P.S. While I’m at it, might as well also include a suggestion that I have thought desirable, for many years. Of course, others may not feel so inclined.

How about removing the self-reference to file names (if a reference remains necessary, perhaps a relative path would do). This would permit the renaming or relocation of projects without breaking.

That shouldn’t be a problem once we have the new format. It will be a single file that contains the entire project, so it will be impossible for the audio data to get lost.

Thank you.

A few follow-up questions…

  1. Is it possible to somehow load the orphan files, so I can listen to them to (hopefully) determine whether they are scraps from the “cutting room floor” (for example, snippets of applause, silence between pieces, extemporaneous conductor speaking, etc.), or valuable segments that I never intended to discard? If they really are scraps, I can proceed without starting over.

  2. Do you know if the new format will permit renaming the file and/or moving it to a new location, without breaking the project (due to the path name of the file being included within the file)?

  3. Could it be possible that I might have caused the problems not by premature exit at the end of a session, but by premature resumption of editing after clicking “Save Project” in the middle of a session. I started doing frequent Save Project commands, in an effort to create frequent checkpoints so that my loss would be minimized if Audacity crashed in the middle of a session. I would click Save Project, and then immediately resume editing. Could it have created orphan files if I deleted some audio selections while the Project was being saved? I mean, would Audacity permit me to do an operation, while it was saving, that would destroy the integrity of the project that was being saved?

Thank you for any additional information.


The orphan files are “.au” files in the “_data” folder. They are usually playable in Windows Media Player.

I’m expecting that will be permitted and won’t be a problem.

I don’t like to say that anything is “impossible”, but I’d say that’s highly unlikely and I don’t see how that could cause a problem.

Frequently using “Save Project As” is safer than “Save Project”, and results in a chronological sequence of projects. I often name them with a 3 digit number at the end:

(this does however require a lot of disk space).

Thank you for your helpful additional information.

Your tip about making additional, sequential saves of the complete project is particularly apt. I should have thought of that without having to make additional inquiry to you. I have plenty of space… and I can grab a cup of coffee while the new project saves!

Thanks, again.


“The orphan files are “.au” files in the “_data” folder. They are usually playable in Windows Media Player.”

I tried to play the orphan .au files with Windows Media Player. I got this error message:

“Windows Media Player cannot play the file. The Player might not support the file type or might not support the codec that was used to compress the file.”

Is there any other way to play them?

Thank you.


Foobar2000 (, it’s not open source, but it is free. It’s a lightweight audio player and format converter that supports nearly all audio formats - it’s my favourite audio player for Windows.