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Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

New member | Level 2
New member | Level 2

I have a macbook air with 250gb hard drive. My itunes is 60gb and iphoto 80gb so I keep them on an external hard drive, so how am I meant to be able to use my Dropbox Pro with this?

I can copy itunes to my hard drive and sync it to dropbox to get the files backed up in the cloud, then I can unsync the folder, and delete the files from my hard drive, but that's not a solution for syncing?

Dropbox only seems to work well if you have a large hard drive somewhere on one machine, which many people don't nowadays.

Please help.

78 Replies 78
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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hey Rhett!

You don't necessarily need a big hard drive to use Dropbox.
You are perfectly right, Dropbox natively copies the files locally on your hard drive.
But if you're lacking space on your hard drive, you can tell the software to keep your files only in the cloud (and not locally) with the 'Selective Sync' feature.
You can check here how it works:
https://www.dropbox.com/en/help/175

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Collaborator | Level 8

@Rhett,
remember that the Selective Sync option works well, but if you unselect a folder from your hard drive and then you need to upload a new file on it, you have to download again all the folder locally, put your new file inside it, sync, and deselect again the folder from syncing with your machine. If the files are not so big you can use the web interface to upload them, but if you have to upload huge files there's no way to do it apart from download the entire folder again. I'm waiting for some new features which help users in those cases, e.g. select the folder in your dropbox cloud when you want to upload the file.

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Fabio, and thank you for jumping in!

Another solution to upload a file in a 'selectively synced' folder is to :
- upload it by putting it in your Dropbox folder (at the root for example)
- move it by going on https://www.dropbox.com

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Collaborator | Level 8

Avatar

Thanks Laureline!
I was in contact with your collegues because I was having some issues in uploading files of about 5/10 Gb each to Dropbox. They said that even moving such big files within my Dropbox account through the web interface is not safe, so I'm wondering whether another option will be in the future within the client to do this kind of things.

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi again Fabio!

In this very specific case when you have to upload huge files in a specific folder, you'll have to do follow these instructions (downloading the folder, uploading the file, selectively sync again).

But this is pretty rare and most users usually have much smaller files.

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

New member | Level 2
New member | Level 2

Thanks all for your useful answers.

With selective sync, you would then delete the files from your hard drive? So that might be fine for when you have folders/files to backup on dropbox and then only download or upload manually using the web interface, but it's not useful for any kind of even irregular syncing as you'd have to re-download all the files to your hard drive no?

I also can't see how it works with itunes or iphoto unless the files are physically on your hard drive or an external drive (i have mine on a portable drive), you can't point itunes only to the cloud I don't think.

So I have my itunes and iphoto on an external harddrives, and also for other have tried using MacDropAny with Dropbox, which helps you setup symbolic links so you can sync folders outside of the dropbox root folder. It works great for example with Desktop which on on my laptop harddrive. I also tried it however for an external drive, and tried 2 routes so that when the hard drive was disconnected the symbolic link or the dropbox sync wouldn't think the folder had been deleted. 1. For the first time upload when I couldn't leave the laptop in one place for days to do this, I switched off my wifi to stop the sync, then disconnected the hard drive, and then reconnected it before turning on sync again, but although my dropbox folder on my mac was just showing 1 of each file, dropbox had duplicated each file online as if every time the drive was reconnected it was a new set of files 2. i haven't yet tried putting selective sync on before disconnecting the hard drive, and the reconnecting it and then turning sync back on to continue the sync.

All seems very clumsy! Features like MacDropAny could be usefully built in, and the ability to have all your files online in the cloud and then just a meta list of changes to a folder so you don't have to have files on your hard drive or re-download them all to sync.

Just paid for a year of pro and so disappointed Dropbox is so rigid. :(

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Collaborator | Level 8

@Rhett, syncing with symbolic links among external drives and Dropbox is tricky. I did the same with my iTunes library put on an SD Card, but it didn't work at all. The problem is that everytime you disconnect and then reconnect the drive to your machine, for some reasons Dropbox thinks that the files have been changed, so it keeps re-sync all again and it's annoying. I hope too for some new features which can fix those kind of things.

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

New member | Level 2
New member | Level 2

It's just rubbish, how hard can it be to allow you to sync from a connected external hard drive, and then stop the sync when you disconnect it and then start again when you reconnect it without deleting everything!?!?!? Especially with people having laptops with small hard drives, for stuff you do need to sync but don't want on your hard drive at all selective sync just isn't enough, come on dropbox sort it out!!!!!!! I think we need to start a campaign here, seriously how hard can it be?

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Re: Sync to an external hard drive / How to use my 1TB account when my laptop drive is only 250gb

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hey Rhett

I'm sorry that you find this issue frustrating.
The way External Drive works makes it difficult for Dropbox to sync on them if you disconnect them.
As Fabio told you, if the drive is ever disconnected from the computer while Dropbox is running there is a small chance that the Dropbox software will start deleting files before realizing that the entire drive has been removed.

If you prefer, you can pause the syncing or stop Dropbox from running when you want to disconnect your external hard drive.

People with small hard drive usually use Selective Sync to just sync the folders they need.

However, thank you for your feedback!! It's good to know what features would be helpful for you and how we could improve your experience.

Keep you posted !

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