How to use computer backup

This feature is available to Dropbox users on Basic, Plus, Family, and Professional plans.

Computer backup lets you back up certain key folders on your computer, such as “Desktop”, “Documents”, and “Downloads”, to Dropbox. Any changes you make to those folders on your computer or in Dropbox will continuously sync to both.

After backup, you can: 

How to set up computer backup

Before setting up computer backup, do the following:

  • Close all open files and applications on your computer.
  • Install the Dropbox desktop application, if you haven’t already.
  • Connect to internet.
  • If any of the folders are already backed up to another cloud storage provider (like iCloud, OneDrive, or Google Backup and Sync), disable those backups. (If you’re not sure how, consult that company’s help center).

To set up computer backup:

  1. Click the Dropbox icon in your system tray (Windows) or menu bar (Mac).
  2. Click your profile picture or initials.
  3. Click Preferences.
  4. Click the Backups tab.
  5. Click Manage backup
  6. Check the folders you’d like to back up.
    • If your work and personal accounts are connected, choose which Dropbox account you’d like to back up your folders to.
  7. Click Next or Set up (depending on your account), and follow the steps. 
    • Mac users: Click OK when prompted to give Dropbox permission to access your folders.

The folders are backed up in the Dropbox folder in your Finder (Mac) or File Explorer (Windows) under “My Mac” or “My PC” appended with the name of your device in parenthesis. They don’t take up any additional space on your computer. Anything you delete from them or dropbox.com will be deleted from both your computer and Dropbox. If any files fail to back up, a shortcut will be created in Dropbox called “Files on my computer” that will take you to their location on your computer.  

Learn how to check syncing status, prioritize which files sync first, or prevent some files from syncing.

Troubleshoot computer backup

If you experience errors during setup

If you get an error while setting up computer 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.
  • Allow edit permissions on all files and folders you’d like to back up.
  • If the Dropbox folder is in one of the folders you’d like to back up, move it back to its original, default location.
  • 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 don’t see your files after turning on computer backup

Any files that failed to backup to Dropbox will be in a folder called “Files on my computer” instead.

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

If you have issues with an application after turning on computer backup

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 sync to your “Downloads” folder in Dropbox with this feature. To sync your Microsoft Edge downloads to Dropbox anyway, manually change where your Microsoft Edge files download to Dropbox.

If your files aren’t syncing as expected

Make sure the Dropbox desktop application is installed on your computer.

You can’t move, delete, rename, or share your folders after backup

After backup, you can’t move, delete, or rename the top-level folders you’ve backed up (like “Desktop”, “Documents”, and “Downloads”, or “My Mac” and “My PC”). However, you can move, delete, and rename the files within them. You won’t be able to share those folders in Dropbox by inviting people to them via email, but you can still share those folders with a link and share any files or folders within them.

Turn off computer backup

Notes:

  • You must have the Dropbox desktop application installed to turn off computer backup. If you already uninstalled the desktop application, reinstall the desktop application to turn off computer backup.
  • Deleting the files or folders in “My PC” or “My Mac” will delete those files from both Dropbox and your computer. 
  • If you no longer have access to the device, you can turn off computer backup by unlinking the device from your Dropbox account.

To turn off computer backup:

  1. Click the Dropbox icon in your system tray (Windows) or menu bar (Mac). 
  2. Click your profile picture or initials.
  3. Click Preferences.
  4. Click the Backups tab.
  5. Click Manage backup
  6. Uncheck the folders you’d like to stop backing up to Dropbox or uncheck My Mac/My PC to turn off backup for all folders at once. 
  7. Click Save.
  8. Choose Keep content in folders on this PC/Mac or Leave content in Dropbox.
    • If you choose Keep content in folders on this PC/Mac, the files and folders you stopped backing up will be returned to their original folders on your computer. 
    • If you choose Leave content in Dropbox, new files you add to those folders will save to their original folders on your computer, but the files and folders you previously backed up to Dropbox with computer backup will remain in your Dropbox account. On your computer, they’ll be accessible by shortcuts, in their original folders, called “My files in Dropbox”. 
      • Note: If you see Set Up instead, it means computer backup is already off.
  9. Click Stop backup.
  10. Click Close.

If you upgrade to Dropbox Business

If you upgrade your account to Dropbox Business after setting up computer backup, you can still use this feature, but back up is stopped. You can set it up again after you upgrade.

How helpful was this article?

We’re sorry to hear that.
Let us know how we can improve:

Thanks for your feedback!
Let us know how this article helped:

Thanks for your feedback!