How to use computer backup

This feature is currently in beta and only available to some Dropbox customers.

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: 

What to know before setup

  • After backup, if you delete the files or folders from dropbox.com or from your computer, they’ll be deleted from both.
  • If you turn off computer backup, new files you add to your computer will go back to saving in your computer’s “Desktop”, “Documents”,and “Downloads” folders. The files and folders you backed up to Dropbox with computer backup will remain in your Dropbox account. On your computer, they’ll be accessible by a shortcut folder called “My files in Dropbox” that will appear in the “Desktop”, “Documents”, and “Downloads” folder that you’re no longer backing up to Dropbox.

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, Sync to Dropbox, 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:

If you don’t see your files after turning on computer backup

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

Mac and Windows users: Look for a folder called “My files in Dropbox” in the location of the missing files. Your files will be in that folder. Double-click to open them in the Dropbox folder on your computer. If you’d prefer to have those files in their original locations, instead of in Dropbox, you can drag-and-drop them back.

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

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 toggle all files to Off
  7. Click Stop anyway.
  8. Click Save.

New files you add to your computer will go back to saving in your computer’s “Desktop”, “Documents”, and“Downloads” folders. The files and folders you backed up to Dropbox with computer backup will remain in your Dropbox account. On your computer, they’ll be accessible by a shortcut folder called “My files in Dropbox” that will appear in the “Desktop”, “Documents”, and “Downloads” folder that you’re no longer backing up to Dropbox.

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.

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