How to use selective sync

This feature is available to all Dropbox users, including those on the free Basic plan.

Selective sync is a feature in the Dropbox desktop app that lets you choose folders to remove from your hard drive so you can save space on your computer. The folders you choose to remove from your hard drive remain stored in your account on dropbox.com.

Note: You can’t remove individual files with selective sync—only folders, and the files and folders inside them.

Selective sync explained

Note: The selective sync settings you choose are unique to each computer and don’t affect the other computers you use with Dropbox.

Selective sync lets you choose which folders you’d like to store on your computer’s hard drive from all of the folders you have stored in your Dropbox account. If you check a folder, that folder and the files and folders inside it are saved to your hard drive. If you uncheck a folder, that folder and the files and folders inside it are removed from your hard drive, and are only stored on dropbox.com.

You can view the sync status of your folders from your desktop app preferences or from the Dropbox folder on your computer:

sync done Local — The folder is saved to your hard drive and dropbox.com

sync progress Syncing/Updating — The folder is updating

Other sync statuses:

sync smartsync online Online-only — Learn more about online-only files in this Smart Sync article

green on white check Mixed — The folder contains files and/or folders that are local and online-only

Choose which folders to store on your hard drive

Note: You must install the Dropbox desktop application to use selective sync. 

To check and uncheck which folders to store on your computer:

  1. Click the Dropbox icon in your system tray (Windows) or menu bar (Mac).
  2. Click your avatar (profile picture or initials).
  3. Click Preferences….
  4. Click the Sync tab.
  5. Under Selective Sync, click Choose folders (Mac) or Selective Sync… (Windows).
  6. Check the folders you’d like saved on your hard drive. Uncheck the folders you’d like removed.
  7. Click Update.

Smart Sync vs. Selective Sync

Note: Smart Sync is only available to Dropbox customers on Plus, Professional, or Business plans.

Smart Sync also helps you save space on your hard drive. Instead of completely removing files and folders, Smart Sync lets you make files and folders online-only so they’re still visible from your computer, even though they’re only stored on dropbox.com. It also has an automatic setting that makes files and folders online-only, based on how you use them.

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