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Zotero Citation Software: Syncing Files

A Guide to Getting Started and Using Zotero

Syncing Files

Quick Steps to Syncing Files w/Zotero

Step 01: Disable Zotero Sync if you do not have nor want a payment plan with Zotero.

Step 02: Make sure that Google Drive for Desktop is installed.

Step 03: Navigate to the "Tools," "Preferences" menu and then select "Advanced" from the list of icons presented.

Step 04: Change the "Base Directory" to a file you have created in Google Drive specifically for Zotero.

Step 05: Change the "Data Directory Location" to "Custom" and select the same folder you created in Google Drive for Zotero.

Step 06: Click "OK" to save the changes.

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Getting Started Syncing Files

This guide will discuss how to use Zotero's sync function that is built into the software. Your files will be stored on Zotero's servers. Zotero charges a fee to use more than the 300MB you get free with your account. If this is something you are willing to pay for, it is very seamless and easy to use. If you are not interested in paying for this, there is a work around using Google Drive. Please go to Sync Files with Google Drive to learn how to use Drive to sync files with Zotero.


If you have just signed up for Zotero, the file sync is automatically turned on. You will need to turn it off if you do not want to pay for Zotero storage as the files will use up the 300MB very quickly. Read on to learn how to do that.

Step 01: Disable Zotero File Syncing

First, if you decide you are not going to use Zotero's sync feature and pay to have your files synced to Zotero's server, you will need to turn off the sync options. 

Click the "Tools" menu option at the top left of the screen in Zotero Stand Alone, and select the "Preferences" option.

Once in the "Preferences" menu, click the "Sync" icon at the top of the popup screen.

The first option in the "Sync" menu is "Zotero Sync Server." This is where you log in to sync your citations to Zotero's server. You want to log in if you want access to your citaions and notes on other computers and via the web.

Underneath that is the "File Syncing" options. There are two check boxes; one for "Sync attachment files in My Library using" and "Synce attachment files in group libraries using Zotero storage Download files." Make sure that both of these options are not selected and the check boxes are unchecked.

Lastly, click the "OK" button at the bottom of the popup menu to save your changes. Zotero will no longer sync files to their server but will still sync notes and citations.

Step 02: Install Google Drive

Before starting Step 02, please make sure you have downloaded Google Drive for Desktop and have properly installed and synced it to your desktop. This is essential for making sure that your Zotero files will actually sync to other computers.

Once you have Google Drive installed, you are ready to continue.

Step 03: Enter into Advanced Preferences Menu

First, open the "Tools" and "Preferences" menu as you did above. This time, instead of clicking "Sync," you want to click "Advanced."

Once in the "Advanced" menu, you will need to click on the middle tab called "Files and Folders" that is displayed below the icons you used to navigate to "Advanced."

Step 04: Change Base Directory

The first thing you will need to change is the "Base Directory." To do this, click the "Choose" button next to the file location.

Now you want to select "Google Drive" from your files. Before clicking "OK" though, we need to make a file in Google Drive for Zotero. To do this, click the "New Folder" option at the top of the window. If you do not see this option, you can right click and select the "New" option and then select "Folder." Name the folder whatever you want, but it is easiest if you name it Zotero. Now select your newly created folder and click the button at the bottom of the window that says "Select Folder."

Step 05: Change Data Directory Location

The next option that needs to be changed is the "Data Directory Location" which is found right below the "Base Directory."

Select the "Custom" option and then click the "Choose" button to the right of the text box. Navigate to the Google Drive folder and select the file you just created. Click the "Select Folder" button and you are all done. 

Syncing Files Video