Missing mp3 files after closing Audacity

I’ve been doing voiceover work for a course I’m creating. Each slide has been narrated using Audacity (version 2.0.4) on my Windows XP (64-bit) computer. After I narrate the slide, I have exported the mp3 to a folder on the computer. I had to shut down Audacity and restart it, but did not save the project file, since I had saved the mp3 files I needed. When I opened Audacity up to resume, the file which the mp3s were saved in was empty! Every mp3 was gone.

Has anyone else had this issue, and how can I prevent this from happening again? Do I have to save a project file to keep the mp3 files from disappearing, even though I don’t need the project file?

No, that should have worked. What did you call the files – the exact filenames? You can get into serious trouble by using punctuation marks inside a filename. Today is not 10/2/13, it’s 2013-10-02. Dashes and underlines are OK. Slash marks can get you into trouble.

Use the machine search tools if you haven’t already to see if they’re just not misplaced.


If you put periods inside your filenames, that can cause problem, too. Punctuation marks can mean unintended things things to the computer.


Did you see show number one in the folder when you were saving show number two? That’s important.


The names were pretty benign, such as “Intro - Title.mp3”, or “Health Effects.mp3”. Some of them were even more basic, such as “Outline.mp3”. No special characters - just the name, and the type. Every file gone. I’ve been using the same naming criteria that other files have used on the computer before. It’s baffling. I’m currently re-recording now, and will be backing them up to a different hard drive to ensure I don’t have to do another week’s worth of recording.

Also, what is this “show number one”? I was only exporting mp3 files, not saving the entire Audacity project. Is that something I need to do in order to maintain the mp3 files? Does it consider the mp3 files as working files, and if the main file isn’t saved, it deletes them?

Could you see “Intro - Title.mp3” in the folder while you were saving “Health Effects.mp3.”

Do you have Windows set to show you file extensions? Did you call the clips “Health Effects.mp3?” because if you did, then the real clips may be called “Health Effects.mp3.mp3” Audacity automatically puts the .mp3 at the end of the name and then Windows promptly hides it from you.

You can stop it from doing that.

I’m prompted to ask if you installed the Lame software and Exported > MP3? What quality setting did you use and did you have any trouble installing Lame?

Audacity defaults to very good quality Microsoft WAV format. Does that work? We frown frighteningly on doing production directly in MP3. MP3 is a delivery, music player and internet format and causes irrecoverable sound damage. You can’t cleanly re-edit an MP3.

I would totally test this before committing any more production to it. We don’t want to hear that you redid all four hours of work and it did it again.


Yes, I could see every file I had created in that folder. Each one was given the mp3 extensions by the computer, not myself, so no cases of “mp3.mp3”

I realize that the program creates good .wav format files, but since I’m creating literally hundreds of files and the file sizes were quite large, and the exported audio quality was quite acceptable with the mp3 format that I was exporting with the Lame plugin. And no, there were no issues with the Lame install. The program worked quite well when I created a podcast, and when I did other audio clips for another course.

(Also, the work wasn’t four hours’ worth of recording…more like a week’s worth, what with recording, re-takes and editing on the fly).

I don’t see any obvious explanation, and this is not a known problem, in fact I strongly suspect that it is not an Audacity issue, otherwise (with many millions of Audacity users across the globe) I expect that we would have come across it before.

I guess that you did not check to see if the files were present and correct before closing Audacity?
I was bitten by that ONCE, when I accidentally saved to a network drive instead of the local drive, but the network let me down and I lost important work - Now, with anything important I always check before closing Audacity.

It may be worth running a comprehensive health test on your hard drive, just in case there’s a problem there. An unmarked bad sector can cause serious data loss.

The down side of this problem is you seem to be doing everything right. If you were doing something silly we would just tell you to change a setting, but you stumped the band.

Critically inspecting the drive is in order as is running the stand-alone Microsoft Virus Check and then the exhaustive mode of your own virus checker – the one where you can’t use your computer for an hour or so.


Here’s the funny thing - it did appear that it was saved. I had opened the folder on the computer, and was even able to open individual files, which indicates that they were actually present. Regardless, I’ll be copy / pasting all of the output files from here on in, so that I don’t lose more time.

Thanks for your efforts.