How to fix Dropbox not syncing and other issues

Updated Feb 28, 2024
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This article describes a feature available to all customers on Dropbox.

This article covers fixes for Dropbox sync issues and troubleshooting steps. Try the steps below if:

  • Updates to your files aren’t syncing with people you share with
  • Updates to your files aren’t reflecting in your own account on dropbox.com
  • New files added by other people or devices aren’t syncing to your device
  • The number of files syncing seems to be “stuck”
  • You see errors about particular files

Learn more about how Dropbox syncs your files.

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Note: If your device has an unreliable internet connection or a file is very large, it may take longer for Dropbox to sync. You can wait a few minutes for Dropbox to catch up. If that doesn’t work, try the steps below. 

Dropbox is stuck syncing forever, waiting to sync, or not starting

If your Dropbox desktop app is stuck syncing, waiting to sync, or not starting to sync, it may be due to your network settings or firewall:

Errors about low disk space on your computer or hard drive

Dropbox has a few different tools for helping to manage your disk space on your device.

If you want to remove files from your hard drive without deleting them from your Dropbox account, you can make those files online-only or use selective sync to choose which Dropbox folders sync to your hard drive.

If you want to remove files from the Dropbox desktop app and the rest of your Dropbox account, you can either:

  • Delete the file from your Dropbox folder or dropbox.com.
  • Move the file out of your Dropbox folder and into a local folder on your hard drive.

Can’t move, open, or delete a file or folder from the Dropbox folder

If you can’t make changes to a file or folder in your Dropbox folder, the first thing to confirm is whether the file is visible and can be edited on dropbox.com.

Some applications will put restrictions in place that can prevent other applications (like Dropbox) from accessing your files while that other application has them open. This is to prevent conflicts between the two. 

If, after you’ve saved your file or quit the application you’re using, you’re seeing errors about that particular file, or it never seems to finish syncing, you may want to restart your computer in case a crashed or background application is accessing your files in a way that prevents Dropbox from syncing your changes.

If you can’t see and edit your file on dropbox.com, the file may not be properly synced. Try these other troubleshooting steps below to resolve issues with the Dropbox desktop app syncing, starting with checking connectivity:

Files are marked as “up to date” but are not

If either dropbox.com or the desktop app is showing your files as being up to date but changes you’ve made aren’t appearing, it typically means one of two things:

  1. Your desktop app hasn’t yet uploaded the changes to your account on dropbox.com.
  2. Your desktop app hasn’t yet downloaded changes made in your account on dropbox.com.

Usually, this will update automatically and you’ll simply need to wait for the files to finish syncing. If the desktop app doesn’t appear to be syncing, try the following troubleshooting steps:

Learn how to change online-only file settings.

File couldn’t sync due to a hardware issue or file corruption

If Dropbox encounters errors while trying to read or write a file, there may be an issue with your desktop OS or hardware. You can use disk diagnostic and repair utilities to identify and repair errors:

  • Windows: Use Check Disk (chkdsk). 
  • macOS: Use Disk Utility.

How to check for disk errors

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Important:

  • You must have administrator privileges to run chkdsk.
  • Interrupting chkdsk isn’t recommended. 
  • The time it takes to run chkdsk depends on the size and speed of your drive, amount of data stored, and presence of potential errors.

How to run the Check Disk (chkdsk) utility on Windows

  1. Type “cmd” or “command prompt” in your taskbar’s search field. 
  2. Right-click Command Prompt in the Start menu.
  3. Click Run as administrator
  4. Scan for problems by typing “chkdsk” and pressing Enter.
  5. Repair problems by typing “chkdsk /r” and pressing Enter.
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Important:

  • You must have administrator privileges to run Desk Utility.
  • Interrupting Desk Utility isn’t recommended. 
  • The time it takes to run Desk Utility depends on the size and speed of your drive, amount of data stored, and presence of potential errors.

How to run Disk Utility on macOS

  1. Click Launchpad in the Dock and type “Disk Utility” in the search field.
  2. Click the Disk Utility icon (stethoscope on hard drive). 
  3. Select a volume in the left sidebar, and click First Aid
  4. Scan for problems by clicking Run. 
  5. Repair problems by clicking Repair Disk, Verify Disk.
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Note: If the disk health check reports an error, double check your hardware and consider replacing it. You can also try replacing the corrupt file. Try opening the corrupt file to see if everything looks correct. If past edits to the local file were successfully synced to dropbox.com, you can attempt replacing the local file by downloading its online version. Learn how to recover older versions of files.

Folder couldn’t sync because it was blocked by antivirus software

If desktop syncing is blocked because your antivirus software identifies a threat, the following options are available:

  • Delete the file. 
  • Quarantine the file. 
    • Allowing your antivirus software to move the infected file to a secure location on your hard drive isolates the file from the rest of your system.
  • Allow the file to be downloaded normally.
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Important: Exercise caution when overriding your virus scanner. Only allow the file to be downloaded normally if you’re sure the flagged file isn’t a threat.

If the scenarios above don’t match your issue, try the troubleshooting steps below.

Troubleshooting steps

Locate Dropbox

  • On the web
    • On your phone or computer, visit www.dropbox.com.
  • On your computer:
    • You can find Dropbox in the Dropbox folder in File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac).
    • You can click the Dropbox icon in your taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac).
  • On your phone or tablet:

Check your internet connection

  • Check that your device is connected to the internet.
    • You can perform a speed test to learn more about your connection.
  • If your device uses data, connect to Wi-Fi instead.

Reopen or refresh Dropbox

  • If you’re on the Dropbox website, refresh or reload dropbox.com.
  • If you’re using the Dropbox desktop or mobile app, quit and relaunch the app.

Update Dropbox

Depending on your device settings, your device may not update Dropbox automatically.

Uninstall and reinstall the Dropbox desktop app

Make sure Dropbox supports your device

Check our system requirements article to make sure your device and operating system are supported by Dropbox. If they’re not, we recommend updating your device or operating system, or using a different, supported device.

On Mac: give Dropbox full disk access

If you’re on macOS 12 or earlier, follow these steps to set your permissions to give Dropbox full disk access.

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Note: Make sure you’re logged in to dropbox.com before you begin.

  1. On your computer, click the Apple menu (Apple icon) in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences
  3. Click Security & Privacy or Privacy & Security, depending on your operating system.  
  4. Click the Privacy tab. 
  5. In the bottom left corner, click the lock icon next to Click the lock to make changes
  6. Enter your Mac username and password. 
  7. In the menu on the left, scroll down and click Full Disk Access
  8. Check the box next to Dropbox
  9. Click Later.
  10. In the menu on the left, click Accessibility
  11. Check the box next to Dropbox
  12. Click the lock icon again. 
  13. Quit and relaunch the Dropbox desktop app.
If you're on a macOS 13 or later, follow these steps to set your permissions to give Dropbox full disk access.
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Note: Make sure you’re logged in to dropbox.com before you begin.

  1. On your computer, click the Apple menu (Apple icon) in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Click System Settings… 
  3. Click Privacy & Security.
  4. In the Privacy menu, scroll down and click Full Disk Access
  5. Toggle Dropbox to the on position.
  6. Enter your Mac username and password.
  7. Click Later.
  8. Click < next to Full Disk Access to go back to the Privacy menu.
  9. Scroll down and click Accessibility.
  10. Toggle Dropbox to the on position.
  11. Enter your Mac username and password.

Check the date and time on your device

If your device has the incorrect date and time, Dropbox may have trouble syncing your files.

Check your accounts

You can log in to multiple accounts on the same device, so if you’re missing a file that should have synced, make sure you’re on the right account.

Learn how to sign into or out of Dropbox.

Check your sync status

If your files and folders are different across your devices, you can check your sync status. You can also make sure selective sync hasn’t removed folders from your device.

Keep the Dropbox desktop app open

  • If you added a file to the Dropbox folder on your computer, you must keep the Dropbox app running to sync it to the rest of your Dropbox account.
  • Once your files are synced across your devices, you can close the Dropbox desktop app on your computer.

Close your other applications

If you have one of your Dropbox files open in another application, like Microsoft Word, your file might not sync properly. Close all non-Dropbox applications, then close and re-open the file in Dropbox.

Check your file names

Certain special characters, like “*” (asterisk) or “/” (forward slash), aren’t compatible with all devices. Remove any special characters in your filenames.

Learn more about naming your files and folders.

Make sure you’ve saved your file to Dropbox

Search your computer for the file with the search bar in your taskbar (Windows) or Spotlight in your menu bar (Mac). If it’s not in Dropbox or a connected app, it won't sync with Dropbox.

Learn how to manually add files to Dropbox.

Check whether you’ve joined a shared folder

If you edit a file that’s in a shared folder, but the folder is not in your account, the changes you make to the file won’t appear in the folder.

Learn how to join a shared folder.

Make sure others haven’t changed or moved your file

Log in to dropbox.com and check to make sure no one moved, deleted, or renamed your file or folder.

Learn how to recover missing files.

Check the number and size of the files stored in your Dropbox account

The number of files you can store in your Dropbox account is limited by your available storage space. If you run out of space in your account, consider upgrading your plan or deleting files or folders.

Files uploaded through the desktop app or mobile apps must be 2 TB or smaller and files uploaded to dropbox.com must be 50 GB or smaller.

All files uploaded to your Dropbox account must be smaller than the amount of storage space you have. For example, if your account has a storage quota of 2 GB, you can upload one 2 GB file or many files that add up to 2 GB. If you’re over your storage quota, Dropbox will stop syncing.

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Note: Files uploaded through the API must be 350 GB or smaller.

Check your firewall, security, and antivirus settings

Your firewall, antivirus, or security settings can prevent your files from syncing on Dropbox.

Learn how to give Dropbox full permissions.

Check your network restrictions

If you see an error like “can’t establish secure connection”, your network might have special security restrictions.

You may have to enter proxy server information, connect to a LAN (local area network), or manually set the network to allow the “*.dropbox domain.”

Learn more about which domains Dropbox uses.

If none of these fix the problem, check with an admin.

Check your file type

Dropbox can’t sync some kinds of files. These include:

  • Files with certain suffixes, such as files that end in:
    • desktop.ini
    • thumbs.db
    • .ds_store
    • icon\r
    • .dropbox
    • .dropbox.attr
  • Temporary files:
    • These are created by applications like PowerPoint and Word, and often start with a ~$ (a tilde and dollar sign) or .~ (a period and a tilde).
  • Certain types of files and metadata, including: 
  • Suspicious files:
    • If you get an error message that says permission has been denied or that your file has been rejected by the server, Dropbox may have flagged the file as a copyright violation, DMCA violation, or malware.
    • If you suspect this is the problem, contact support.

Troubleshoot your external hard drive

  • If the files you want to sync are on an external hard drive, make sure the external hard drive is connected and recognized by your computer.
  • If your hard drive is connected and recognized but your files won’t sync to Dropbox, move the Dropbox folder back to your computer temporarily to see if the external hard drive is causing the issue.
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Note: Storing the Dropbox folder on an external drive is no longer supported on computers running the updated version of Dropbox for macOS on File Provider.

Make sure your app syncs changes automatically

Some non-Dropbox applications save changes automatically. However, if you edit a file in an application that doesn’t save changes automatically, you’ll need to save your changes manually by re-adding your file.

Learn how to add files to Dropbox.

Check that the file isn’t read-only or locked

If your file is read-only or is locked by a non-Dropbox application, you can’t sync your file to Dropbox. 

If the file has a lock icon on it, it was locked with Dropbox. Learn how to unlock your files.

Update or reinstall non-Dropbox applications

If you use a non-Dropbox application to edit your files, make sure the application is up to date. You can also uninstall and reinstall it, then check to see if your file syncs to Dropbox.

Get more help

If the troubleshooting steps listed above haven’t resolved your sync issue, contact Dropbox Support for further support.

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