Instructions on how to download, install, and use Zotero, a free open source bibliographic management program

Zotero Sync

Zotero's sync feature is an excellent way to create a backup for your research. It also enables you to work on your research at multiple computers. Zotero can store a copy of your library on the Zotero.org server and check it for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer. All your computers must be running the same version of Zotero.

First, set up a (free, of course) Zotero.org user account.


  1. Open Zotero preferences (via the Edit drop down menu) and select the Sync tab.
  2. Enter your Zotero user name and password.
  3. Check the "sync automatically" and "Sync full-text content" boxes.
  4. Check both boxes under File Syncing and choose Zotero storage for My Library. This will sync your PDF attachments as well as citations (more info).
  5. Click the green circular arrow button at the top right corner of the Zotero library.
  6. Zotero will upload your library to the server.

Edit drop down menu

setting up zotero sync

syncing the library

Repeat this configuration on each of your computers. Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others. This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers. 

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.

Plan B: Export Your Library

usb drive

Image credit: Kowalski, E. (2006). Lego usb flashdrive [photograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.

If you're working on a library computer, there's another easy option for taking your Zotero library with you.

Within the Zotero application, select Export Library from the File drop down menu, choose format and select whether you want the notes and/or the files exported, and save the file to your USB drive. On the new computer, open your Zotero application, select Import from the File drop down menu and find your Zotero file to import your references.

import export

When you're done, make sure to export any changes and import the new file onto your computer. The library's computers will erase your data when you log off.