Back up an external hard drive to Dropbox

The Dropbox external drive backup feature is available to Dropbox users on Basic, Plus, Professional, Family, and Dropbox Backup plans.

How external drive backup works

Your external drive backup is stored in your Dropbox account, along with your other files and folders, and shares the same name as your external drive.

You can open a file from your external drive (if it’s connected) or from your backup on dropbox.com. You can also open your backup from the Dropbox folder in File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac). A browser window will open to your backup on dropbox.com.

Changes (like editing, adding, or moving) can’t be made to backup files in Dropbox. If you’d like to make changes to these files, make them on your external drive and re-sync with Dropbox. Re-syncing happens automatically every hour.

Notes:

  • This feature only supports external drives with filesystem type NTFS (Windows) and APFS or HFS+ (Mac).
  • Read Only drives and CDROMs aren’t currently supported.
  • Your drive backup doesn’t take up hard drive space on your computer.

How to back up your external drive

To back up an external hard drive to your Dropbox account:

  1. Open the Dropbox desktop app on your computer.
  2. Connect your external hard drive to your computer. A Dropbox window will appear, prompting a back up of your external hard drive. (This window may take a few seconds to appear).
    • Note: If you're on Windows, you can start your backup by right-clicking the drive in File Explorer and clicking Back up to Dropbox.
  3. Click Start backup to confirm and the backup will start.
    • Note: If you disconnect your drive, the backup will stop. Backup will resume once your drive is plugged in.
  4. Click Close to exit the window.

Pause your external drive backup

You can pause the backup of your external drive’s files without completely stopping Dropbox sync. To do so, right-click on your backup and click Pause Backup.

To resume backup, right-click your backup and click Resume Backup.

Delete your external drive backup

You can delete your external drive backup just like you would delete any folder from your Dropbox account. Deleting your external drive backup only deletes it from Dropbox and not from your external hard drive.

FAQ:

Why are files not syncing to my backup?

If you’re experiencing syncing problems with your backup, visit this syncing troubleshooting article. You can check the sync status of your files in your sync queue.

Is there a storage limit for external drive backup?

Yes. Your backup is limited by the available storage space of your Dropbox account.

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

Some external 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 store my Dropbox folder on the external drive I’m backing up?

No, you can't have the Dropbox folder stored 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.

I received an error message saying “There was an issue with your backup”. What happened?

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 store 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 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 are wanting to backup these folders, you will need to rename them.

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