What is a .blend1 file and why do you (not) need them?

You’re reading this because you have no idea what a blend1 file is...or you’re wondering what is filling up your hard drive.

Short answer: blend1 files are old versions of your file, saved to your working directory. Long answer is a bit, well, longer.

Do you need blend1 files?

Well, you probably don’t

Let me tell you a little story to explain why this is the case.

If you are anything like me, your introduction to Blender would have gone something like this: you start messing around and having a lot of fun figuring things out. At first, you don’t really create anything worth saving but after a while, you have a great idea for a really cool project.  It's going to be the best thing that had ever been created that you don’t hit the save button for hours and hours when suddenly, bam, you lose all your work!

Most likely, you did something that broke your file but you blame Blender anyway. Then, after you've taken a deep breath and calmed down, you discover that Blender can automatically save old versions for you with blend1 files. Yay!

But now after your heartbreaking ordeal, you go overboard. Why not create up to 5 of these backups? You really don’t want to lose anything ever again, right? But get this: all your saved files are now identical because you now have a habit of saving every 4 seconds.

Fast forward a few years and rather than constantly saving over the same file, you work in a much smarter way (which I will explain later).  But alas, you have never kicked this addiction to blend1 save files and your growing collection of full hard drives are proof.  

Does any of that story sound familiar?

What is a blend1 file and how do they work?

Let’s say you’re working on a file called “Cool_project.blend”

Normally, every time you save, this file is directly overwritten.  However, if you have blend1 files enabled before it is overwritten, the old filename extension is renamed to blend1.  And if blend1 already existed, it becomes blend2, and blend2 becomes blend3, etc..all the way up to however many copies you told Blender to keep (the limit is 32 saved versions).

How do you open or restore one of these backups?

Easy. Simply rename the file extension.

Change “Cool_project.blend1” to  “Cool_project.blend” and the old version of your file ready to open.

A Better Way To Work with blend files

Rather than naming your files in a random way and constantly saving over a single file until the project is finished, you should use a naming convention and start incrementing the name when it’s appropriate.

How to choose your naming convention

Having a naming convention will save you a lot of headache in the long run.  There is no ‘correct’ naming convention but I will make 3 strong suggestions.

  1. Be short.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Use a logically placed numeral in the title.

You can evolve your naming convention as your skills and experience grow, but just make sure you are consistent across the same project.  This will make it easier for you to know what’s going on if you ever need to come back to the project months or even years later.  It also makes it easier for someone else to know what’s going on if they ever need to look at the project files.

Here are some examples of bad file names.


Project Cool_like_I_mean _really-really_cool-BEST ONE.blend
Cooler project2_bestest_than-the-last_one_final.blend
Even cooler version of the_first version_final_version3.blend


What!?

Here’s an example of a better naming convention.


Cool_project_01.blend
Cool_project_02.blend
Cool_project_03.blend


Ahhhh, that’s much better.

It’s clean, consistent and so much easier to see which one is the latest version.

Why should you use a logically placed number in your file?

As mentioned, it makes it easier to tell which is the latest version plus Blender has a cool feature that easily lets you increment the number in the file name.

Just press the + button on screen (or the + button on the Keyboard) when saving and it will auto-increment the file number.


When do you increment your file name?

Usually, after you’ve done a fair chunk of work or you are about to do something that might be considered dangerous. That could mean many things, but you should be smart about it.  You need to start taking control of when these save points happen and don’t leave it up to chance.  When you take control of your saved versions like this, there is no need for blend1 files at all.  They are just taking up space on your hard drive.

You might be thinking that by turning off blend1 files you’ll be working without a safety net.

Not true.  You have everything incrementally saved so there is no situation where a blend1 file is going to save you more work.

What if you accidentally close Blender without saving?

Sometimes that can happen or a random crash can occur, but there are two features that can help you there.

 ‘Recover Autosave’ and ‘Recover last session’


Back in the old days, let’s just say that these features were more ornamental than functional.  On the rare occasion, they worked but more often than not they just restored a half-populated file of junk. However, in recent years, I am happy to say that they truly do work every time.



What is the role of Autosave in blend files?

Autosave files differ to the blend1 in 1 keyway.  They are temporary.  By default, Blender will automatically create a backup every 2 minutes and store these to your temporary folder.

These files can be opened when you choose ‘Recover Autosave’.  You can also see the timestamp and the process ID to know what version you want to recover.

These temporary files are cleared out every time you reboot your computer.

How to restore your last Blender session

When you quit Blender, a quit.blend is saved to that same temporary folder.  This file is opened when you choose to restore the last session. Perfect for when you accidentally closed without saving that last update.

Where can you tell Blender to put your temporary files?


As I mentioned above, the default temporary location on your OS is cleared out every time you reboot your computer.  This means it automatically cleans up after you, which is a good thing, but it also means that if you do encounter trouble, don’t think ‘Oh I’ll just go to bed and fix it in the morning’. You should recover the file before you reboot.

So do you really need blend1 files anymore?

Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to rush off and disable blend1s. Early on, they can save your butt when you don't know what you're doing. However, once you’ve got a bit of experience and practice good file management, you shouldn’t ever need a blend1 let alone a blend2 or above.

If you increment your files manually and save blend1 files, you are just filling up your HDD (or your work’s HDDs) with redundancy at that point.


So how do you know if you are ready to kick your blend1 habit?

Let me ask you a question that was put to me many years ago.


When was the last time you needed to use a blend1 file?

If you’re struggling to answer that...it means that you are ready to ditch them forever.



Read: https://cgcookie.com/articles/how-to-organize-your-blender-files

Learn more about Blender data: https://cgcookie.com/course/understanding-blender-data

  • Matt Dickun

    Very helpful tip, thanks.

  • Omar Domenech

    Wayne likes to live riskily calculated dangerously well thought of.

  • Miranda van Elst

    Awesome, I didn't know you could turn it off! I manually delete them every month or so...

  • crew
    Wayne Dixon

    dostovel haha. It aint risky once you get a good workflow. I haven't lost any work in years (touch wood).

    smurfmier1985. I use to do the same until I was specifically told to "Stop filling up the working folder with blend1 files", when I was working on a remote project. That is when I learned you could turn them off. I used to think they were important because it was enabled by default. But sometimes it's good to question things.
    I was asked the same question in the article, that is "When was the last time I needed to use a blend1 file?", my answer was "ummmm.......a couple of years ago......I think...maybe."

  • techworker1

    Excellent, right on target. I backed into this procedure more or less by accident.
    Be sure to use and increment 2 digits ;). I've worked on some things for a month and version numbers got pretty high - but you can periodically zap the oldest chunk.
    Probably I am obsessive, but on really big things I often add a suffix word after the incremented number, to remind me where I was:
    my_project_bak01_animated.blend
    my_project_bak02_keyspolished.blend
    ...
    I have often destroyed things and recovered by backing up a version.
    If I'm trying alternatives and reach a dead-end on the road, I can even back up several versions and march off in a new direction.

  • crew
    Wayne Dixon

    techworker1 - Sounds like you could probably break your project into smaller pieces.
    In most of the projects I work on, we have 1 MASTER copy of an asset, and then the wip versions.
    The master file name does not change and is the version that is linked in to all the relevant scenes and shots etc.
    So if there needs to be an update or fix, the wip version is incremented and tested, then if it's all good, we use "save a copy" to overwrite the master version. If something breaks you can then roll back a version and try again.
    We also try to keep notes in a text file inside the file which keeps track of all the changes. This can give you more information than just adding the suffix to the file name. (most projects I work on don't like prefix or suffix naming convention as they often only mean something to a specific person but numbers are universal)

    It sounds more complicate than it actually is, but I reckon you're on top of finding a way of working that is a good fit for you.

  • Kurt Kellner

    How about using something like Git? Versioning control is actually better to avoid the whole naming conventions and to keep track of changes.

  • Kurt Kellner

    Couldn't edit my comment, but wanted to add this: https://git-lfs.github.com/

  • crew
    Wayne Dixon

    kurt_ek, Git is an option (you can probably tell that workflow in the comment above is exactly that). However Git it is not artist friendly, at all.
    You need everyone on the team to know how to use it. This takes time away from the artists actually doing what they are good at, to learn the command line (or the GUI). Whereas, everyone already knows how to save a file in the program they already use ;)

    Another thing to think about it reusing data from 1 project to another. Like say you've modelled a rock (or whatever) and there was an early version that you want to start from for a totally different project.
    You would have to use git to rollback to that version, save out the data and then fast forward the head again so the project wasn't broken.
    But if you have easy access to this version, no dramas.

    I'm not sure on this, but would it also be a single point of failure?
    What if your master file was corrupted? Would that affect the previous versions that Git stores?
    (I don't know the answer to this)

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