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Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Explorer | Level 4

Jane, what's the latest on this? We have whole buisness running Smart Sync and macs running out of space when they should have plenty! 


Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Collaborator | Level 9

Jane, please can you update everyone? This is madness.


Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Collaborator | Level 9

I've spoken, again, to Dropbox support and they stated the following:

I understand what you are saying and I will pass this to our development team. We need Dropbox users like you to make this a priority and I thank you for that.

I will pass this on to our social media team as well to see if they can provide an update to the issue.


Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Hi all,
I’m a member of the Dropbox Product Support team for the desktop app. I’d like to thank you for your insights and feedback here.
There are 2 main issues being discussed in this thread:
  1. Time Machine snapshots holding on to disk space, this has been covered in this post.
  2. How macOS reports disk usage for online only files. I’m going to look at that. 
So first, with Smart Sync, when you make a file “Online Only”, the Dropbox desktop app replaces the real file with a placeholder file which physically takes up zero bytes on disk. 
However, because the placeholder file is what’s known as a sparse file, it writes the actual file size in its metadata. This gets reported as the file’s logical size
We use sparse files to show users what space the file would take up if it were made “local”.  You can learn more about sparse files here.
When you check your storage on macOS, typically Dropbox files will be grouped in Documents.
This is from my macOS 10.14
As you can see, I have 500GB of total disk space and 88.05GB available.
However, when I hover on the Documents section of the progress bar it tells me I am using 511.59 GB of disk space.
This is not the case, but macOS is calculating these files based on the logical size rather than the physical size.
This inconsistency can become very confusing when you run out of disk space for real. 
MacOS recommends that you click on the Manage button and lists out the files/folders that are taking up the most space. However, when calculating the size, macOS still uses the logical rather than the physical sizeThis makes it difficult to tell which files are actually taking up physical space on disk and hard to take action.
I hope that helps to clarify the cause of this issue.
A potential way to find out what is using the most space on your disk is to run the following command from your terminal (command+space “terminal”):
find ~ -type f -size +1M -exec du -sm {} \; 2>/dev/null | sort -rn |head -20
This command will list the top 20 files using 1 megabyte or more in your home folder.
It will not list any file that you do not have permissions to access.
The output will have 2 columns, the first column will contain the size in megabytes and the second the full path to the file.
I hope you can appreciate that making any changes to how Smart Sync works needs careful consideration, but rest assured we are looking into ways to improve this experience for our Mac users and will let you know as soon as we have an update. 

Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Helpful | Level 6
Hi Rua

Hate to break it to you. But this is simply not the case. If the above were true then Mac OS wouldn’t be reporting errors that the hard drive is full. Instructing is to make more space.

When you have a TB hard drive. All non DBOX files totalling 200 GB all of DBOX set to online only and Mac spitting out hard drive full errors then there is an issue, would you not agree

Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Collaborator | Level 8


Checking the hard drive space via finder ("Get Info" on Macintosh HD), or via Disk Utility, it is easy to see that the system reporting via the "About this Mac" method doesn't correlate. This is known and it is designed that way for some reason or other. That's on Mac

So, yes, there can be some discrepancy between local files and non-local files via Smart Sync. However, the issue does cause the Mac to report low disk space which is the underlying issue. Smart Sync is doing its job of moving files to and from the cloud, but if the system doesn't recognize that files are not present and that the space is actually available, it is useless technology.

On the point of the SnapShots: A file that is synced Online only (grey cloud), shows as it's on the hard drive. If the file is removed/deleted from Dropbox via the browser, it immediately is removed from finder and also from the MacOS tool that is showing it taking up space. As soon as the file is restored, it shows up again on both finder and the tool showing it counting towards storage space.

The snapshot argument implies that there is simply a delay in Mac's reading of the file's presence. In this case, it disappears and re-appears instantaneously when the file is removed from Dropbox entirely or when removed locally via Selective Sync.

So, the argument that this is merely a delay due to time machine's process is seemingly false. .. unless we're misunderstanding your position. In our case, files that have been set to "Online Only" for months still show as taking local space. Those files free up space as soon as they're removed from Dropbox.

So, if we're waiting for the snapshot to refresh or eventually free up space that is simply not happening and there is no delay in Mac representing how much space is being stored.

Simply, the "Documents" folder is showing as taking a large amount of space... "Documents" being where the Dropbox Folder is stored. Whatever method you have employed to trick finder into showing the files from the cloud is no longer successful in tricking the system... but rather, it is causing the system to crash. The only thing that is currently working is using selective sync.

This issue has been going on, in this thread at least, for over 7 months now and this is the best we can expect? A 5-minute call with apple, in which we were able to speak to a live tech within 5 minutes, walked us through the entire logic of checking the actual space being taken up on the hard drive.

So, while you are correct in that the file isn't actually taking up space, the method you are employing is affecting the way the Operating System reads available space, I reiterate, rendering your technology useless.

Smart sync works, but only to move files to and from the cloud. The indexing system, or whatever you'd like to call it, that shows the files stored in Dropbox via finder... that does not work properly. It is causing the operating system to count their size towards the space available on the machine prompting errors from the system related to available space.

We have 5 licenses, each adding files to Dropbox almost daily. Currently, Dropbox for Business is simply an inconvenient external hard-drive as we are forced to use the browser and selective sync to chose which files to have locally and which to keep in the cloud. Considering that this is a business product, it is completely failing to provide the features advertised.


The more important questions at this point are:

  • When does Dropbox expect tp solve this issue?
  • How long have we've been paying for a product that is not being delivered?
  • How do we go about being credited for the length of time that we have been paying for a feature that does not function?
  • Does Dropbox continue to advertise this as a functioning feature for MacOS
  • Has Dropbox acknowledged that their Business Product has this limitation on Macs running APFS? or do they continue to dupe customers into a product that simply does not work?

Two of the most attractive features in your business product... Smart Sync and Phone Support, have both turned out to be completely false. Smart Sync does not work as promised and your phone support is simply a screen to the real techs in an attempt to deliver on a checkbox item that's only there for perceived value and differentiation from other, cheaper products. 


Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Helpful | Level 7


Stop blaming MAC for YOUR issue. I've been on Apple support for hours (which were far more helpful than anyone I talked to at Dropbox) and they confirmed it is NOT a Snapshot issue. Stop [profanity removed by moderation according to the Community Guidelines] everyone around and figure this out.


Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Collaborator | Level 9
Thanks for this response. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that your ignorance is just subconscious. We DONT CARE about the cause of the technical issue. Dropbox either needs to say “we know there is a software issue with Mac users and are working diligently to address this issue”, or “ Dropbox has looked into this software oversight with Mac and decided not to properly address the issue. Users can downgrade to remove Smart Sync and request a refund, or decide to use another service”. This crap about “we’ always looking for ways to improve our experience for Mac users” is a marketing answer. If Dropbox does not properly respond with true answers, all users should be reporting them to the Better Business Bureau and sending letters to Dropbox explaining they have been Unfairly Treated by Deceptive Business Practices via Bait and Switch. There are other services that have figured out how to make it work correctly, so Dropbox needs to as well.

Re: Smart Sync still taking up local space

Experienced Collaborator | Level 11

Hi @Rua,

Thanks for your explanation. Looks like I am not, however, the only one left feeling like the post didn't provide much clarity as to how/if/when Dropbox is going to solve its compatibility issues regarding Smart Sync on Mac OS.

For some clarity, could you maybe simply (yes/no) confirm that

  • Dropbox acknowledges the compatibility issue, and that
  • Dropbox is currently and actively working on FIXING the compatibility issue?

I for one can appreciate fixing can be time consuming, but this issue has been ongoing for almost a year now and the above "solution" (seeing the post has been marked as a solution) doesn't give me much confidence in expecting a real fix any time soon.



2 months of troubleshooting and smart sync still does not work with Mac help

Explorer | Level 4

I submitted a request for support on March 8 and we still have yet to identify a resolution that will allow either of my desktop macs to operate correctly with Smart Sync. I am unable to download any new applications or run the ones I need (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) I'm hoping someone here might be able to assist me in answering a few questions.

According to Dropbox's website, it states, "Apple's operating system macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) uses a new type of file system called APFS...This isn't a behavior specific to Dropbox, but instead the designed behavior of macOS."

1. Should I infer this is also an issue with Mojave? 

2. Does this mean Dropbox does NOT support smart sync with High Sierra or newer updates? For instance, Mac will not change their file system and Dropbox's smart sync feature has yet to work with Mojave on any of my computers.

3. Is there anyone else that has this issue besides me that has gotten it resolved? 

4. Who should I contact about refunds since this issue has never been resolved? Are we getting refunds? 

Thank you to anyone who might be able to provide some insight!

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Smart Sync still taking up local space
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