Saving/Backing Up Your ATLAS.ti Project

June 25, 2014

This article aims to clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about how to best save and back up your ATLAS.ti projects, and provide some easy-to-follow instructions.

First of all; Remember that your ATLAS.ti project consist of your HU file AND your documents as separate entities. This is the case in all versions, including version 7. The HU file does not “contain” your document; it only contains the work you do on your documents, such as the comments you write, all codes and coded segments you create, the quotations, the memos, the families, networks and all relations.

The only exception to this rule would be if you work exclusively with internal documents, for example if you have imported survey data and have added no other documents, or if you work with internal text documents only. In all other cases, the HU file contains references to your primary document files that are stored either in one of the Libraries or externally via links. Even if stored in a library, these document remain external in the sense that they are still separate entities, i.e. they never become a physical part of the HU file.

Thus, as long as you only make sure that your HU file is safe, you are really only saving one part of your project. In case of a computer crash or other disaster, the HU file by itself will be of little use as a backup. Equally, if you want to work on a different computer, it is also not sufficient to only take your HU file along. You need to take both, the HU file AND your documents.

The only way to safely back up your HU file and your documents together is via a Copy Bundle file. (Exception: If you really work with internal documents exclusively, the HU file is indeed sufficient, see above.)

Here is what you need to do in order to fully save your ATLAS.ti project:

Select Project / Save (or Save As…)

Select Project / Save Copy Bundle


Save options


The following window opens:

Create Copy Bundle Window

Create Copy Bundle Window


Click the Create Bundle button.

If you want to exclude documents from the bundle, you can either uncheck individual documents, or set a PD family as a global filter first and then select the option “Apply current PD filter.”

Exclude documents from bundle

Exclude documents from bundle


Recommendation: Create a copy bundle file after each work session as a secure backup. You can overwrite the file each day with the latest version, or keep a few rolling copies.

Copy bundle files can also be used to preserve a project at various stages, e. g., the open coding phase, or the first-cycle or second-cycle coding phase, etc.

If you work with externally linked documents – i.e., you have used the following option: Documents / New / Assign External Documents – you still can move HU file and your documents manually. You may want to consider this option if you work with video files and the size of all files together inflates the size of the copy bundle file (> 2GB).

Unpacking The Copy Bundle File


When To

You need to create and unpack a copy bundle file:

  • When transferring a project to a different computer for the first time.
  • When you work in a team and you want to provide your team members with a copy of the Master project. The team members need to unbundle the file.
  • When you add new data sources to a project and want to work on the second computer (again)
  • When you have edited your data sources and want to work on the second computer (again)
  • When you have lost your project and want to restore it from a copy bundle backup.


How to
This is how you unbundle a copy bundle file:

Either double-click on the file in the Windows Explorer or open ATLAS.ti first and select Project / Unpack Copy Bundle

Select a copy bundle file to unpack and the Unpack Copy Bundle window opens.

Select a copy bundle file to unpack and the Unpack Copy Bundle window opens.


There is one “little” issue that often causes confusion – the color of the box behind the field HU Path:There is one “little” issue that often causes confusion – the color of the box behind the field HU Path:

HU Path setting in the Unpack Copy Bundle window

HU Path setting in the Unpack Copy Bundle window


By default ATLAS.ti lists as HU Path the previous location where the HU file was stored when the copy bundle file was created. In the figure above, it is a path under my user name, Susanne. If you were to open the bundle on your computer, the colored box at the end of the line would probably be red indicating that the path cannot be created. This is also the case if a copy bundle file was created where the HU is stored on a server and you want to unpack it to your local drive.



The simple solution is to click on the file loader icon and select a location that does exist on your computer. Then the box turns green and, voila!, you can click on the Unbundle button and everything is well 🙂




The box remains yellow if the HU file already exists in the selected folder. In Migrate mode, the HU file will be overwritten if the copy bundle file includes a newer version of the HU. In Restore mode, it will be overwritten nonetheless.


One more detail
Now, why does it say: “X number of documents will be excluded as identical files exist?”

The column “Target Location” indicates where the documents will be stored when unpacking the file. <Local Managed> means that they will be upacked into the library.

<HUPATH> or <TBPATH> or an absolute path reference are possible other locations for externally linked files.

More unpacking details

More unpacking details


If the documents already exist at this location, then there is no need to unpack them. And this is why you see the message that 0 documents will be unbundled / or a total of x documents will be excluded.

There is nothing to worry about if you see this message!

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