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I received an email about changes to symlinks. Any ideas?

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I received an email about changes to symlinks. Any ideas?

Helpful | Level 6

I just received an email saying Dropbox is changing the way it handles Symlinks.  The change states the symlink will now show up as a duplicate folder.  This is a disaster for me.  I use symlink folders to add data from different drives into my Dropbox.  The drive that hosts the main Dropbox folder is not large enough to hold all my files.  I also symlink in folders like my Desktop so that all my computers look the same.  This has been working perfectly for me for years.  

Anyone know when this is going to happen and also will it stay as it is if I don’t upgrade SW?  I suspect this will be a server side change in which case my computers, four of them, are all just going to screw up at some point.

62 Replies 62
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Re: Changes to symlinks

Super User II
Super User II

Dropbox has never provided support for symlinks. When used with Dropbox they cause high CPU utilization and have caused many sync issues and lost files (judging by the posts on these forums). It has never been a good idea to use them with Dropbox.

The only way to properly use them has been to store the original folders within Dropbox and place the symlinks outside of Dropbox in their original location, pointing back to the folders within Dropbox. In this manner Dropbox doesn't follow the symlink and cause the issues mentioned above.

The change to how Dropbox is handling symlinks has already taken place. I don't know if it's dependent on a client software update but if it is, it's just a matter of time before it happens for you as Dropbox updates are automatic.

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Re: Changes to symlinks

Helpful | Level 6

Rich, thank you for replying. 

I have been a customer since July 2009 and have been using Symlinks without an issue since then.  I switched to DropBox when Apples .MAC service got killed. If DropBox doesn't support Symlinks that has never been communicated to me in the 10 years I have been using them and frankly I have never had an issue with them.  I can see potential for issues cross platform but all my systems are OS-X based and have always worked flawlessly with symlinks.

If as you say this has already been changed by DropBox what was the point in them sending me an email to say this is going to change?... This really compounds the egregious nature of how this is being handled.  As my symlinks are still working and my disks have not shut down yet I can only assume it requires an app update.  Which opens another can of worms.

I do not permit apps to auto-update on my computers.  Any app that modifies my system without notification and approval is immediately removed.  So, if your auto-update statement is true, it looks like DropBox just gave me another reason to switch to a different service provider.

While this is a question about my personal accounts, I have two paid accounts plus an unpaid one, I am the CTO of a company that makes significant use of DropBox.  The company use is based on my personal experience of DropBox but this situation has changed my opinion from very positive to extremely negative.  

I have contacted several other providers to ask how they can support my work flow.

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Re: Changes to symlinks

Super User II
Super User II

@paulrbarnard wrote:

If DropBox doesn't support Symlinks that has never been communicated to me ...


"Dropbox has never provided support" meaning they will not assist anyone with symlinks in their Dropbox folder. If you were to contact Dropbox Support, they would require you to remove all symlinks before assisting you.


... and frankly I have never had an issue with them.

Many people have, as evidenced by the many posts on these forums.


If as you say this has already been changed by DropBox what was the point in them sending me an email to say this is going to change?

It could be a phased changed, as they've done in the past with other features. The help article regarding the change lists mid-2019 as the effective date.


So, if your auto-update statement is true ...


The Dropbox app has always automatically updated itself. New versions are released regularly.

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Re: Changes to symlinks

Helpful | Level 6

@paulrbarnard wrote:

I have been a customer since July 2009 and have been using Symlinks without an issue since then. 

This is my exact same scenario, I started using dropbox literally as soon as they registered the dropbox.com domain, which was in 2009.


@paulrbarnard wrote:

While this is a question about my personal accounts, I have two paid accounts plus an unpaid one, I am the CTO of a company that makes significant use of DropBox.  The company use is based on my personal experience of DropBox but this situation has changed my opinion from very positive to extremely negative.  

Again, very similar situation. I have 2 paid personal accounts and am senior software engineer for a company that uses dropbox across the spectrum. All of our servers run linux and then we have mac, android and windows clients.

Symlinks have been an integral part of the disaster recovery plan both for personal and business. Since I setup all the systems, I've used the same pattern everywhere, which is:

  • Fast SSD to run apps on, main dropbox folder lives here
  • Large slow storage for permanent backups
  • Symlinks in dropbox pointing out to the large slow storage mount points

And everything has worked for the last 10 years and everyone was happy and Dropbox long-term backups saved us more than once.

In my case, I got the email about the symlink change 3 days into a 2-week vacation and so didn't know if everything would be lost by the time I got back into the office. 

"Hey, just thought we'd let you know, we're deleting all your backups and all your photos and code from the last 10 years, have a nice vacation punk". Like, what in the actual @#$%.

That this change was forced on users without any timeline is so unnacceptable that it enrages me and completely makes me lose faith in Dropbox for backups. Needless to say I've gone from huge Dropbox advocate to borderline #1 enemy. Replacing all my files with symlinks, TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE at every imaginable level.

Evidently there is a large group of idiots that symlink to files inside their dropbox folder and complain that they have 2 copies of the file in dropbox. This spurred the change.

Complaining aside. Have you found another provider? I'm evaluating Sync.com, pCloud and OneDrive.

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Re: Changes to symlinks

Helpful | Level 6
I changed to OwnCloud. It doesn’t support sim links either but it lets you link in as many different folders as you like. My main need for sim links was to map in folders outside of the single Dropbox folder. With OwnCloud I can link in folders in different locations on different computers. It’s working great. A real plus for me is that it’s free.
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Re: Changes to symlinks

Helpful | Level 6

Do you have an offsite OwnCloud instance? Or are you sync'ing site-to-site? Just curious if you went through a hosting provider.

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Re: Changes to symlinks

Helpful | Level 6
I setup my own server. I’m fortunate to have two locations. The server is running in my office but I have another computer at home which has all the folders synchronised. The server is backed up locally and the full data set also backed up at the second site. Each of the computers I’m sharing across also have their own backups but they don’t all contain the full data set. You can of course use external storage such as AWS and ironically even Dropbox. For my needs it wasn’t a necessity. OwnCloud can extend to full federated operation if you need it as well.
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Behavior of softlinks on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

New member | Level 2
New member | Level 2

Hi -- I have been writing code on my Linux machines both running Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.  I have been using the unsupported soft-link feature very happily for several years, now.  The code is in a complex directory structure, and I soft-link all the source files, so that I don't save .obj files, or .exe files, which take up a lot of space, and don't need to be backed up, but do need to be in the same directory structure as the source files.  This is why it is very difficult or awkward to do without the soft-link feature. 

I recently received an email from you guys saying you stopped supporting this feature 6 months ago!  Not nice to tell me so late!  

But I checked my files, and they have been updating as before.  

Are you planning on doing more disabling?  Are the soft-links going to stop working in the future, or it will continue working as it works today?  If you disable the soft-links, this would be a disaster for me.  

 

David

 

 

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Re: Behavior of softlinks on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

New member | Level 2
New member | Level 2

My dropbox structure relies havily on softlinks as well. Recent email about change in softlink behavior really scares me.

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