Dropbox Backup FAQs

This article answers frequently asked questions about Dropbox Backup.

Sections in this article:

What is the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage?

Cloud backup makes secure, up-to-date copies of files on your computer that you can access from anywhere you use Dropbox. The files in your backup reflect the files on your computer, so if you delete a file in a backed up folder on your computer, it will also be deleted from your cloud backup.

Cloud backup doesn’t free up space on your computer, or provide you with additional storage space. The Dropbox Backup plan offers unlimited storage to automatically back up one computer to the cloud.

Not using Dropbox yet? See how Dropbox makes it easy to back up and recover your files.

Cloud storage provides additional space you can use to save files and folders online, in the cloud. With cloud storage, your files are available wherever you use Dropbox, plus you can organize your content, sync across devices you’re signed into, and collaborate with others. You can use cloud storage to free up space on your computers and other devices, by making content online-only. Plans like Dropbox Basic, Plus, Family, Professional, Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise provide cloud storage for your personal and business needs.

What is backed up?

You can select which folders are backed up from your computer or external hard drive during setup. To see a complete list of files that are backed up in your Dropbox account:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click the Backups tab.
  3. Click Manage backups
  4. Click View contents.

What is not backed up?

If you choose to back up your computer, you can only back up files and folders from the hard drive with the Dropbox desktop app on it (usually the drive where your operating system is installed). If you have other drives installed, they won’t be included in the backup. 

You can also choose to exclude certain files and folders from your backup by right-clicking them in the Dropbox folder in File Explorer/Finder and selecting Don’t sync to dropbox.com.

Does backing up my computer or external hard drive remove files from my computer or hard drive?

No. The backup process creates a copy of your files in Dropbox Backup but leaves them on your computer or external hard drive as well. If you delete the files from your computer or Dropbox account, they will also be deleted from the other location. Files backed up from your external hard drive can only be deleted directly from the external hard drive.

You can restore deleted files and folders from your backup for up to 30 or 180 days, depending on your plan. When you restore files and folders on dropbox.com, they will be restored on your computer as well.

What types of external hard drives are supported for Dropbox Backup?

You can back up the following types of external hard drives to Dropbox Backup:

  • On Windows:  NTFS, exFAT, FAT32
  • On Mac: HFS+, APFS, exFAT, FAT32

Why are my files not backing up?

Make sure the Dropbox desktop app is installed on your computer, and learn how to: 

I see a ".dbxignore" file in my backup. What is this?

Some external hard drives need to create log files to function. Dropbox ignores these to save space in your backup. To do so, it creates placeholder .dbxignore files that take up less space.

Can I keep my Dropbox folder on the external hard drive I'm backing up?

No, you can't have the Dropbox folder on the external hard drive you'd like to back up. If it is, move it back to your computer's hard drive before backing up your external hard drive.

Why did I receive an error message saying, "There was an issue with your backup"?

If you receive this error message, your files are safe, but there was a technical issue that stopped your backup and created a new one.

The new backup will work the same as the original and will keep all changes made to the drive. The new backup’s name will have “(new)” at the end of it. 

If you’d like to free up Dropbox storage space, you can delete the old backup. Deleting the old backup will not delete any files on your external hard drive.

Folders named ToolKit and FileHistory weren't backed up. Why?

By default, these folders aren’t backed up, as the folder names can create a technical issue.

If you want to back up these folders, you’ll need to rename them.

Why am I experiencing errors while setting up my backup?

If you get an error while setting up your backup, try the following troubleshooting steps before attempting setup again:

  • Close any files or applications that use data in the folders you’d like to back up.
  • Disable any other cloud-storage-provider folders (like iCloud, OneDrive, or Google Backup and Sync) from the folders you’d like to back up  and ensure your files are back in their original folders on your computer.
  • Allow edit permissions on all files and folders you’d like to back up.
  • If the folders you’d like to back up aren’t in their original, default locations, move them back.
  • If the Dropbox folder and the folders you’d like to back up aren’t on the same hard drive, move them to the same hard drive. 
    • For example, if your folders are on an external hard drive, and the Dropbox folder is on your computer’s hard drive, move them to the same hard drive.
  • If you get an error message that references Adobe Creative Cloud, delete the Library folder from your device.

Why don't I see my files after backing up my computer?

Any files that failed to back up to Dropbox will be in a folder called Files on my computer instead.

Note: If you’re on a Mac and don’t see your files in Finder after backup, force quit Finder and relaunch it.

Why am I having issues with an application after backing up my computer?

Restart the application. In particular, we recommend restarting:

  • Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Money
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Safari 
  • If you’re on Windows and using Microsoft Edge, your Microsoft Edge downloads won’t back up to your Downloads folder in Dropbox with this feature. To back up your Microsoft Edge downloads to Dropbox anyway, manually change where your Microsoft Edge files download to Dropbox.

Why can't I move, delete, or rename my folders after backup?

After you back up your computer, you can’t move, delete, or rename the top-level folders you’ve backed up (like “Desktop”, “Documents”, and “Downloads”, or “Mac” and “PC”). However, you can move, delete, and rename the files within them.

Why can't I edit backed up content on dropbox.com?

Dropbox Backup is designed to back up your content in one direction, from your device to the cloud. If you want to edit your content after backing it up to Dropbox Backup, you’ll need to do so in the files or folders on the original device.

Why can't I share backed up content?

Dropbox Backup is designed to back up and protect the content of your device, not to share and collaborate. We prevent sharing so you don’t accidentally give access to your sensitive content. To share files and folders, use one of our cloud storage plans, such as Dropbox Basic, Plus, Family, Professional, Standard, Advanced, or Enterprise.

Note: Sharing backed up files and folders is currently available in the Dropbox mobile app, but we do not recommend doing so.

What if I accidentally delete a backed up file or folder?

You can restore deleted files in your Dropbox account up to 30 days after the deletion date. Read more about how to restore deleted files.

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