How to migrate data from a server to Dropbox

Updated Jan 26, 2024

This article provides the basic steps for migrating your data from a server to Dropbox.

Before migration

  1. Before getting started, we highly recommend that all members of your team on Mac computers check that they are on the latest version of macOS. Learn more about Dropbox for macOS.
  2. Let your team know about the migration and ask them to avoid changing files during the transition.
  3. Prioritize your files, and consider migrating active files that you use everyday before migrating your archived files.
  4. Consider moving your data in batches. Schedule the migration for overnight, on a weekend, or when your team is less likely to need access to these files.
  5. Make sure that your computer has enough space. Keep in mind that Dropbox keeps a copy of your files on your local hard drive by default.
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  • For team members on Windows or Linux, if your data is on an external drive connected to the server, you can move the Dropbox folder to the same external drive. You can also free up space on your local hard drive after migration with selective sync.
  • Storing your Dropbox folder on an external drive is no longer supported by macOS.

Migrating your data

  1. Install Dropbox on your server computer. Make sure you're accessing the server directly and are not logging in remotely.
  2. Log in to the Dropbox desktop application with your Dropbox team admin account credentials. An empty Dropbox folder will appear on the main drive of your computer.
  3. If your data is on a physically connected external drive and you do not have sufficient space on your internal drive, you can either:
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Note: This is no longer supported on Dropbox for macOS 12.5 or higher. Instead, all content will be online-only by default so no additional space will be taken up on your local drive. Learn more about the expected changes for Dropbox on macOS.

  1. In the Dropbox folder, you can start setting up your folders.
  2. From the server computer, copy or move the folders that you would like to sync to Dropbox into the new folders you created.
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Note: Make sure that you are continuously logged in to the server computer until the migration is complete. Don't log out, change settings, or power off the computer during the migration process. The desktop application only syncs when you're logged in. You can check the sync status at any time using the desktop application.

After migration

  1. Invite users to the shared folders they need. Once your team installs the Dropbox application and logs in, a copy of all the folders you shared will sync to their Dropbox folder. They can open these files just like any other file on their computer. Any changes that a team member makes to files will sync to Dropbox and any other members of the shared folder.
  2. Set shared folder permissions for your users. You can allow your team members to edit or view files in a shared folder.
  3. Remotely sign out of Dropbox if you are done with the initial transfer and do not want to continue using Dropbox on this computer.
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Note: If you choose to continue running Dropbox on this computer, only share folders in this Dropbox folder through the Dropbox application. Using server functionality to share folders within the Dropbox folder through the local network can cause various syncing issues and is not supported.


How can I migrate my data from a server to Dropbox as fast as possible?

Migration speed depends on your internet connection and bandwidth. We recommend that you start the migration process in the evening, or before a weekend, so your team’s work isn’t interrupted.

If you want to migrate as fast as possible, you can increase your bandwidth settings, which allows Dropbox to take up more of your internet bandwidth.

Important: Migrations can take time. File syncing is a complex process that involves several steps behind the scenes:

  • Each file is first hashed and compressed. It's then transferred, encrypted, and stored on our servers.
  • The Dropbox sync status displays an aggregate kB/s speed that includes these different steps.
  • Once your files have been transferred to our servers, any updates or changes to the files sync much faster since we only sync the changes.

What can I do during migration? Can I work on files immediately after they sync to Dropbox?

Every team works a little differently. Some teams find that it makes sense to migrate archived files first. For others, it makes more sense to start with active files. Either way, we recommend that you move your files in batches. When one batch of files finishes uploading, begin another batch.


  • Avoid editing any files in folders that are still being synced to Dropbox or a team member’s computer.
  • At times, Dropbox is unable to sync files that are open in certain applications. If a file is open in another application, close the application and Dropbox will resume sync.
  • When a folder shows a solid green circle with a check mark for all team members you can safely collaborate within that folder. Learn more about sync icons.
  • If you’re on a Mac, you’ll continue to have access to all of your content during the migration. However, edits to your files will only sync to other devices when the migration is complete. After the move is completed, Dropbox will ensure your files are up to date.

Can I replicate my server file structure in Dropbox Standard, Advanced, or Enterprise?

If you have a large amount of data, we recommend that you set up a file structure in your Dropbox Standard, Advanced, or Enterprise account first. Use blank folders and labels as placeholders for your data. After sharing these empty folders with your team, you can start moving data into the folders.

Note: Dropbox doesn't allow you to share a folder that's contained in another shared folder. For more tips on setting up a folder structure, visit this article.

What if I don't have enough space on my local hard drive to sync to Dropbox?

If you don't have enough space on your local hard drive, you have two options:

Use selective sync:

  1. Move folders in batches.
  2. Wait for folders to sync to Dropbox and show a green check mark.
  3. Apply selective sync to select folders.
  4. Repeat this process until you have synced all your files to Dropbox.

Use Dropbox with an external drive.

  1. If the Dropbox application has already been installed and has created a Dropbox folder on the main drive, use the steps in this article.
  2. If you are installing Dropbox for the first time, select Advanced Options and set the location of the Dropbox folder as your external drive.
  3. Once Dropbox creates a folder on your external drive, drag and drop your folders into it.
  4. Consider these suggestions for creating a file structure. Since you are moving the files from one folder to another on the same drive, the contents of the folder will not take up any additional space on either your main drive or this external drive.


  • Storing the Dropbox folder on an external drive is no longer supported on computers running the updated version of Dropbox for macOS 12.5 and higher. Instead, a new Dropbox folder will be created in a secure location on the local drive on your Mac. All content will be online-only by default so no additional space will be taken up on your local drive.
  • When the Dropbox folder is on a external drive, the external drive should be physically connected anytime Dropbox is running. The drive also must be properly formatted for the operating system of the connected device. You can view the system requirements for supported configurations and file systems.
  • The Dropbox folder should not be installed on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive.
  • We strongly recommend against methods that add referenced files (symlinks, junction points, or networked folders) to the Dropbox folder. Using reference files causes high CPU usage, poor syncing performance, permissions issues, and quota usage disparities.
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