If Dropbox sync is working correctly, you’ll see the same files on each computer, phone, or tablet you use to access Dropbox (as long as you’ve signed in with the same account on each device). If you’re not seeing the same files, or if sync fails to complete, you're likely experiencing a sync issue.
Before you start:
- In the Dropbox folder on your computer, a green check means a file is fully synced, a circular blue arrow means the file is in the process of syncing, and a red X means the file isn’t synced. This article will only address cases where you’re seeing the red X.
- If you’re seeing a specific error message, check out our list of explanations instead. If you’re seeing a general problem with files not syncing, continue reading.
1. Is Dropbox is installed on your computer?
If Dropbox is installed, you’ll see the icon in your taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac), or your computer’s list of applications. If you don’t see Dropbox in either of these locations, then Dropbox is not installed.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 2.
2. Is Dropbox running?
If Dropbox is installed and running, you’ll see the icon in your taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac), and this icon will be black or show syncing status. If the icon is grey, then Dropbox isn’t running.
- If the tray or menu icon is grey: Either you're not connected to the internet, or else Dropbox isn't set to run at startup. Check that you’re online, and that the Dropbox app is set to run at startup (see documentation for your specific operating system to learn how).
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 3.
3. Are you online?
The Dropbox desktop application can only sync files if your computer is online.
- If your computer isn’t online: Check your computer’s internet connection, and re-connect if needed. (You can still work offline with files in the Dropbox folder on your computer. These files will sync to the Dropbox service the next time your computer is online.)
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 4.
4. Are you using selective sync?
Selective sync is a feature that allows you to select which files sync from dropbox.com to the Dropbox folder on your computer. This saves hard drive space. To see if the files missing from your computer were selectively synced:
- Open your Dropbox desktop app preferences.
- Open the Account tab.
- Click Change Settings...
- Do you see the folder you’re missing, or the folder that contained the files you’re missing? Be sure to check that the folder’s name exactly matches the name on dropbox.com. Does it have a blue checkmark next to it, or a different icon?
- If the box beside your folder has anything other than a blue checkmark, you may be experiencing a selective sync conflict.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 5.
5. Have you restarted your computer?
Sometimes restarting your computer will reset your internet connection and allow Dropbox to sync properly.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 6.
6. Have you restarted the Dropbox desktop app?
Sometimes quitting and relaunching the Dropbox app will restart sync. To do so:
- Click the Dropbox icon in your taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac), and then click your profile picture or initials.
- Click Quit Dropbox.
- Open your applications menu, re-launch Dropbox, and then sign in again (if necessary).
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 7.
7. Are the files in a shared folder?
If the files that aren't syncing are in a shared folder, there are two common reasons: either you’re no longer a member of that shared folder, or else there’s a different version of the file in that folder.
- If you’re missing a shared folder: Check the list of folders you can re-add to your Dropbox.
- If you’re a member of a shared folder but a file is missing or won’t sync: Check that a folder member didn’t drag the file out of the shared folder. It’s also possible that a shared folder member made edits to a copy of the file, rather than the version that’s in the shared folder.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 8.
8. Are you signed in to the same Dropbox account on all your devices?
Sync only works when you’re signed in to the same Dropbox account across your computer, phone, tablet, and dropbox.com.
If the addresses are different (look carefully for typos), then you have multiple accounts and your devices will not sync. To fix this sign out and then sign in again with the correct account.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 9.
9. Have you checked your file names?
If a file name has an incompatible character, it will prevent sync from working. Check some of the common character issues for the file you’re having trouble with:
- Files with the following characters in the titles are incompatible with all operating systems:
- “/” (forward slash) and “\” (back slash)
- Files with the following characters in the titles are incompatible with Windows:
- “<” (less than), “>” (greater than), “:” (colon), “ " ” (quotation mark), “|” (pipe stem), “?” (question mark), “*” (asterisk)
- Certain language-specific characters will not work on some operating systems.
- Macs, Windows computers, and Excel spreadsheets have specific file-name characters limits.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 10.
10. Have you signed out and signed in again?
Sometimes signing out and then signing in again will fix the connection issue. Follow the steps in this article to sign out and sign into your account.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 11.
11. Does your computer have enough hard drive space to sync?
If your computer’s hard drive is low on storage space, then files can’t sync from Dropbox. (Note: this is different than Dropbox storage space.) To check your hard drive space:
If your computer has insufficient hard drive space, you can delete files to free up storage space. Or you can enable selective sync, which backs up files to Dropbox while saving hard drive space.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 12.
12. Do you use security or antivirus software?
The Dropbox desktop app uses the ".dropbox.cache" folder as a temporary location to download your files in small chunks. Sometimes antivirus programs will pick up these partial files as false positives and continuously quarantine them. Dropbox will then continually download the file in an attempt to sync it to your device, which can use extra space.
- Add the Dropbox cache folder to an ignore list on your security/antivirus software. You can also temporarily disable this software. Once synced, you should no longer see these warnings or quarantine messages. Note that unlike other folders in Dropbox, the ".dropbox.cache" folder should have a red X on it. This folder does not need to sync.
If you’re still having trouble, move on to step 13.
13. Do you use system optimization software?
If Dropbox is stuck syncing (with no sync speed in the status of your taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac), but not making any progress, it’s possible an antivirus or system optimization app is interfering with the Dropbox app. If you’re using any of this software, consider adding Dropbox to that app's whitelist. You can also try disabling the antivirus or optimization app and restarting Dropbox.
If whitelisting and restarting don’t work, you can contact the software maker:
None of these steps worked—what do I do next?
If you've tried each of the fixes in this article, and still find that your files or devices aren't syncing, please contact us.