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Symlink changes - Mac OS sync desktop to Dropbox broken

Symlink changes - Mac OS sync desktop to Dropbox broken

malikjfernando
Helpful | Level 5

I have tons of working files on my Mac desktop which I need to access on iOS and this worked well with symlink between desktop and dropbox folder. With the recent change where symlinks don't sync folder content, I am stuck.

Mac OS doesn't seem to allow the Desktop folder to be placed in Dropbox folder. Appreciate any tips!

 

 

 

 

10 Replies 10

niazy
Helpful | Level 6
I had the same problem on a new MBP. In my case, I was able to delete the original desktop folder and create the symlink. But the something happens and my link gets deleted and a default Desktop folder is created.

The workaround I found was to 'Lock' the symlink file. Display the file (the Desktop link file in your home) and check the box labeled 'Locked.'

Hth

malikjfernando
Helpful | Level 5

hi thanks - i just can't seem to delete the original Desktop folder. Mac OS Catalina doesn't permit it when i tried. Will check if there is a terminal script

Fiona
Dropbox Staff

Hello everyone!

Symlinks are not supported and will not successfully sync with your Dropbox application the way they use to @malikjfernando. Please check our Dropbox Help center article about this and the workaround to make this work: https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/sync-uploads/symlinks

Here is also another Dropbox Community discussion, were @niazy is being super helpful, providing this workaround (thank you for your participation. Heart) :https://www.dropboxforum.com/t5/Files-folders/Best-practices-for-using-symlinks-symbolic-links/td-p/... 

Hope the workaround offered and the additional info can help. :slight_smile: 


Fiona
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
dropbox.com/support


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jeff1054
Explorer | Level 4

I think that just about all of the functionality that was lost when Dropbox dropped support for symlinks is still available (at least in MacOS), so long as care is taken in where files are actually stored and how the symlinks are created. You can have directories (actually symbolic links) that act like ~/src and ~/bin, but are synced across machines by Dropbox, if you are careful about where the files are actually stored and how the symbolic links are created.

For obvious reasons, Dropbox does not support soft (symbolic) links from inside of Dropbox to elsewhere on the system. This makes sense. Dropbox only syncs files that reside within its own directory structure. Having Dropbox sync files referred to by things like ~/Dropbox/mydir --> ~/mydir is a recipe for disaster.  But things like ~/mydir --> ~/Dropbox/mydir make perfect sense.

The problem is that some of the obvious ways of creating those links do not work. For example, these fail:

% cd /Users/me/Dropbox
% ln -s myfile ~/myfile
% ln -s mydir ~/mydir 
 
The results (~/myfile and ~/mydir) look like perfectly good soft links. But if you try to open ~/myfile or cd into ~/mydir, they fail.
 
Similarly this fails:
 
% cd /Users/me/Dropbox
% ln -s myfile myfile2
% mv myfile2 ~
% ln -s mydir mydir2
% mv mydir2 ~
 
In short, if your current working directory is inside of Dropbox, your soft links are hosed if moved outside Dropbox. The same is true of aliases created by Finder inside of Dropbox.
 
This, however, does work:
 
% cd /Users/me
% ln -s Dropbox/myfile .
% ln -s Dropbox/mydir .
 
The softlinks ~/myfile and ~/mydir can now be followed, both in a shell and by apps like Finder.
 
So, you can have directories (folders) and files that effectively appear in random places in the file heirarchy that are synced by Dropbox.
 
Maybe everybody else already knew this. But I didn't, nor did the support person I talked to at Dropbox. I hope it's helpful.

 

Fiona
Dropbox Staff

Hello @jeff1054

Thanks for posting about symlinks and how they can work in your user case. 

I merged your topic to this one to keep things neat. 

I'd be happy to see you help around like you did today. Your feedback and solutions are always welcome. 

Thanks for joining our Community! :grin:


Fiona
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
dropbox.com/support


Heart Did this post help you? If so, please give it a Like below. 
:white_check_mark: Did this post fix your issue/answer your question? If so please press the 'Accept as Solution' button to help others find it.
:arrows_counterclockwise: Still stuck? Ask me a question! (
Questions asked in the community will likely receive an answer within 4 hours!)

jeff1054
Explorer | Level 4

Fiona

cp -rp $1 ~/Dropbox ; rm -r $1 ; ln -s ~/Dropbox/$1 $1 

Then on other machines:  ln -s ~/Dropbox/$1 $1

And you have come pretty close to recreating the functionality of iCloud Drive. Or at least putting an existing directory tree onto a pretty nice network file system that is accessible when the network is down.  😉

Cheers!

dolphinnolongerneeded
New member | Level 2

The only reason I pay for drop box is so I can Symlink a few key externally created files.   If dropbox will not allow exernally created symlink files then I have no use for dropbox and will cancel my monthly subscription.  Thank you.

numan
Helpful | Level 6

so how do i do this on macs so that my desktop and downloads folder continue to funtion on Mac OS but are all synced across multiplpe macs?

 

This is the ONE KILLER feature I have relied upon and without it I really ahve little use for Dropbox. 

jeff1054
Explorer | Level 4

@numan  I think it might be hard to use it for a Desktop, but don't especially see the need since iCloud syncs that well.  As for as the Downloads folder, you can set a browser to download anywhere you want it to. So just make a folder in Dropbox and use it. There is no need to even worry about soft links from local folders unless you just especially want to have a file like ~/Mydownloads sitting in your home directory.

 

I should say that at this point I have a host of "local" files across several Macs (including things like ~/bin, ~/src and ~/Library/Script Libraries) that are really soft links to Dropbox files. It has become integral to my workflow. Even when doing development work I can sit down at whatever machine I happen to be in front of at the moment and pick up what I was doing pretty seamlessly.

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