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Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

Every time I reboot my computer, the DropBox application runs for around 10 minutes, usually saying "indexing". During this time it completely dominates my internal hard drive, slowing down the computer for any other use. To put this into perspective, I have a 27 inch iMac quad i7, 12gb ram, and a 7000 rpm internal Western Digital Caviar Black. I use it for audio and video production. Yet, DropBox on startup can slow this machine down to nearly useless... more so than when playing back 12+ tracks of audio! And here's the real killer... the shared dropbox folders are not on the internal drive! They are on an external thunderbolt drive. My dropbox folder is around 33gb of data.

Can anyone tell me why:

1 - DropBox needs to be so resource intensive, especially right at start up?

2 - More importantly, why it dominates and thrashes my internal hard drive, even when the files are NOT stored on it!

FWIW, I also sync this group of files to a MacBook pro with an SSD, and while the performance is much better, the dropbox app still takes a HUGE amount of time to re-index seemingly everything when I upload a couple new files. Is DropBox just this flakey when you get this many files? If so, I'm going to re-think this whole cloud syncing thing. It's honestly faster to just email or sneaker net shared files on a USB stick, when I factor in all the dead time DropBox creates on my computers.

Thanks for any help!

47 Replies 47

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Dave C.5
Helpful | Level 5

Dropbox when restarting uses a "near perfect match" system to detect if your files have updated since last time it was running, it sounds like on your system this might not be working, as a test I would suggest you cleanly shut dropbox down before restart and see if it performs the same as when you leave it running and shut down.
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It uses your internal drive because it keeps a SQLLite database of all the files your DROPBOX folder has and the current state of those files, so that it knows what you have changed while it isnt running.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

Thanks for the feedback!

Interesting. Yeah, I have tried the clean shut down trick. In fact, I often shut down drop box just so I can get some work done. This issue persists regardless. Also, good to know about the database on the internal drive, although it's unfortunate that I can't tune performance via sync folder location.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

DaveC2
New member | Level 1

What size file count and file size is your dropbox, as 10 minutes of hard access isnt an overly huge volume of disk access even at max performance, it is however significantly higher than the average restart time for the DB app unless your talking in excess of 250,000 files.
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FYI: when DB restarts a "near perfect match" is done with the data it has in its database on your files, any difference in filename/size/dates will cause the DB app to then compare the file content to the index values it has stored, and if they differ then the file is considered a new version.
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That is different from a "perfect match" restart which might happen if the database appeared corrupted or you downgraded to an earlier version of the app or relink. In these restarts EACH and every file is reindexed and compared to the database index values, this of course thrashes the hell out of the disk as it must read every file from start to end.
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Are you just getting high activity on the internal drive where the database is? or also high activity (HIGH!) on the content drive also?

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

What size file count and file size is your dropbox, as 10 minutes of hard access isnt an overly huge volume of disk access even at
max performance, it is however significantly higher than the average restart time for the DB app unless your talking in excess of
250,000 files.

The finder info says 82,065 files.

Are you just getting high activity on the internal drive where the database is? or also high activity (HIGH!) on the content drive also?

Yeah, both drives are thrashed, to the point where trying to also open something like a web browser can take almost 90 seconds! It very much makes the computer nearly unusable for nearly 10 minutes. This happens EVERY TIME I start the computer, without fail. So doing things like updating a driver, etc can turn into long episodes. Even if I quit the Dropbox app, it can cause chattering for another 90 seconds or so while it shuts down.

It seems there is also a file count above which this problem gets exponentially worse. For instance, adding a folder with a lot of files in it (50+) at any time, even when DropBox seems otherwise idle, will cause the app to again thrash the drive. If I add something of around a GB, that can go on for up to an hour! I can't imagine trying to use the full TB. I'm only at bout 35gb and the service has become nearly useless. Things run smooth if I just switch a couple small documents or images now and again, but the whole thing bogs down if I use media of even moderate size.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Server_Align
Collaborator | Level 10

While I cant diagnose what is wrong here, Im attributing your problems in some way to the use of the external drive, I suspect that when dropbox restarts it cant be sure of the content of your dropbox as being the same as it was. It appears that it is performing a "perfect match" check on restart, this would be indicitive of it thinking something has changed in the root level of the dropbox folder, so is reindexing all files below that.
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I would suggest as a test of if this is the case, that you MOVE via the DB app the dropbox folder back onto the internal drive, and then shutdown DB, then restart the machine, and examine if the problem still occurs or not. While this does not fix the problem as you want the folder on the external it will isolate if the use of the external drive (in the fashion you are) is causing the reindex events. From there you can choose to move it back and or examine other options that may come to light.
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I note in your last reply you are saying you get huge thrashing of the drive when you add files also, while DB does perform a index on any file added I have never seen it bog a machine down as you say without that machine performing in some way itself to have caused this.
So i would also suggest that you test adding 50+ files while disabling your anti virus as the thrashing of drives is sometimes caused by a conflict between two programs both trying to scan a file at once, antivirus scans file, sets Db off, DB scans file set antivirus off etc etc untill one of them decideds enough is enough and it stops tripping on the other.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

While I cant diagnose what is wrong here, Im attributing your problems in some way to the use of the external drive, I suspect
that when dropbox restarts it cant be sure of the content of your dropbox as being the same as it was. It appears that it is
performing a "perfect match" check on restart, this would be indicitive of it thinking something has changed in the root level of
the dropbox folder, so is reindexing all files below that.

Good thinking, but the reason I moved the dropbox sync folder to the external drive in the first place was because I was having the same problem when using it off of the internal. Since I started this thread I have moved it back to the internal again, and rebooted. The behavior is exactly the same.

So i would also suggest that you test adding 50+ files while disabling your anti virus as the thrashing of drives is sometimes
caused by a conflict between two programs both trying to scan a file at once, antivirus scans file, sets Db off, DB scans file set
antivirus off etc etc untill one of them decideds enough is enough and it stops tripping on the other.

I don't run antivirus, nor anything else that would disrupt the system in similar ways. As I pointed out in the post at the top, this machine is what I use for producing audio and video, so I keep it as clean and tuned as possible.

Based on what I've learned here in this thread (and thank you for that!), I would give a best guess that there is something amiss with the dropbox database. I've never seen an app thrash my drive like it does... not Ableton Live, not Logic, not Final Cut, not Unity Pro, even under extremely demanding conditions. Nothing else under any circumstances creates as much audible chattering and system slow down. One control factor seems to be that this behavior occurs no matter where the sync files are located, but the dropbox app and database are always on the one drive that is getting hammered.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

... fwiw, here is a contrasting example. I'm currently uploading 15gb of data to an online location (not through dropbox), copying 45 GB of data to an external USB drive, playing audio from an iTunes radio stream, and have several applications open, all sourcing from the internal drive. The drive is silent, and I can open another app (like the browser I am posting this in) without any significant delays. Dropbox is not running at the moment. Yet if I drop more than a few files at once into the dropbox sync folder (when it is running), the hard drive chatters like mad and the system drags to a crawl.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Christopher O.9
New member | Level 1

... and one last thing! For the last week or so I've been running DropBox with finder integration disabled, in the hopes that it would help speed things up. I have seen zero noticeable difference between running with that feature active or not.

Re: Why does DropBox app thrash my hard drive for 10 minutes when I start my computer?

Dave C.
New member | Level 2

As i said I expect you may find it is a conflict between DB and another bit of software running, as this thrashing of a drive is not a regular item of DB. I drop 1000s of files in sometimes and dont get any probkems.
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As for finder integration my understanding is that is essentially totally event driven with no underlying activity besides sync state checks on files which would be an action between the finder thread and the Db thread with potentially a database drive access if sqlLite had not cached up the info.

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