How to use Dropbox Backup

Dropbox Backup provides an easy way to automatically back up important files and folders from your computers and external hard drives so you can ensure that your content is safe and recoverable it if things go wrong. Once your files are backed up with Dropbox Backup, you can access them from dropbox.com/backup/all. If you’re an admin for a team account, learn how to manage Dropbox Backup for your team.

See how Dropbox makes it easy to backup and recover your files.

Sections in this article:

Dropbox Backup features

Back up a computer

With Dropbox Backup, you can easily select which computer files and folders you’d like to back up to the cloud. After the initial backup, any changes you make to files and folders on your computer will automatically reflect in Dropbox Backup as well. 

You can access your backed up files under “Mac” or “PC”, from dropbox.com/backup/all.

Note: If you’re on a Dropbox team account, your Mac or PC folder may be in your team member folder.

Back up an external hard drive

Once you plug in your external hard drive and agree to back it up, your files will get backed up to Dropbox Backup.

After your external hard drive files are backed up, you can access them from dropbox.com/backup/all.

Note: You can’t make changes (like editing, adding, or moving) to files backed up from an external hard drive in Dropbox. If you’d like to make changes to these files, make them directly to the files on your external hard drive. Your backup will update automatically every hour while your external hard drive is plugged in.

Restore your files and folders from a backup

With Dropbox Backup, you can restore your backed up files and folders to a new computer. You can either download your backup as a .zip file or download all your files and folders to the same locations as your previous computer.

How to access Dropbox Backup

On dropbox.com:

  1. Sign in to dropbox.com.
  2. Click the grid icon in the top-left corner.
  3. Click Backup from the list that appears.

On the Dropbox desktop app:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click Backups.
  3. Click Set up or Manage backups.

How to set up your backups

Before setting up a backup, make sure to:

  • Close all open files and applications on your computer.
  • Install the Dropbox desktop app, if you haven’t already.
  • Connect to the internet.
  • Disable any backups you have with other cloud storage providers (like iCloud, OneDrive, or Google Backup and Sync), and ensure your files are back in their original folders on your computer. (If you’re not sure how, consult that company’s help center).

To set up your backups:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click the Backups tab.
  3. Click Set up.
  4. Under Add a backup, select the computer or external hard drive you’d like to back up.
  5. Click Let’s get started (computer) or Back up [drive name] (external hard drive).
  6. Check the boxes next to the folders you’d like to back up.
  7. Click Set up or Back up.
  8. If you’re on a Mac, click OK when prompted to give Dropbox permission to access your folders.

You can use your computer as normal while the back up is in progress. 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.  

How to manage your backups

To manage your backups:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click the Backups tab.
  3. Click Manage backups.
  4. Select the backup you’d like to manage on the left.
    • Click View contents to open a browser window and see all files and folders in that backup.
    • Click View progress to see the live status of that backup.
    • Click View history to see the version history for that backup.
    • Click Prioritize files to open a File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) window and select a file to sync immediately (computer only).
    • Click Skip files to open a File Explorer or Finder window and select a file to exclude from syncing (computer only).
    • Click View deleted files to open a browser window and recover recently deleted files.
    • Click Rewind backup to restore a previous version of your backup.            
      • Note: Dropbox Rewind is not available to users on Dropbox Basic.        
    • Click Change folders to change the folders you’d like to back up (computer only).
    • Click Disable backup to turn off your computer or external hard drive backup.

How to disable your backups

Before disabling a backup, check the following:

To disable your computer backup:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click the Backups tab.
  3. Click Manage backup
  4. Under Adjust settings, click Disable backup.
  5. Click 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 can be found in 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.
  6. Click Disable backup.

To disable your external hard drive backup:

  1. Open your Dropbox desktop preferences.
  2. Click the Backups tab.
  3. Click Manage backup
  4. Under Adjust settings, click Disable backup.
  5. Click Disable to confirm your decision.

How to restore files and folders from a backup

You can easily restore your backed up files and folders to a new computer if things go wrong. There are 2 ways to restore files and folders from a backup. You can either restore your entire computer backup onto a new computer from the Dropbox desktop app, or you can choose to restore only a part of your computer backup or external hard drive backup from dropbox.com/backup/all.

To restore your entire computer backup onto a new computer:

  1. Download the Dropbox desktop app on your new computer.
    • If you have an existing backup, you’ll be prompted to restore from your backup.
    • If you have more than one existing backup, select your preferred backup from the dropdown.
  2. Click Add files.
  3. Click Confirm.
  4. Click OK.

You can use your computer as normal while your restoration completes in the background. Once it’s complete, click OK on the notification that appears.

To only restore a part of your computer backup or any part of your external hard drive backup onto a new computer:

  1. Sign in to dropbox.com
  2. Click the grid icon in the top-left corner.
  3. Click Backup from the menu that appears.
    • Dropbox Backup will open in a new tab.
  4. Click “Mac” or “PC”.
  5. Check the boxes next to the folders you’d like to download.
  6. Click Download.

If you have more questions about Dropbox Backup, see our frequently asked questions.

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