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Syncing when using symbolic links

Helpful | Level 5

Hello,

I am having an issue concerning dropbox syncing when using symbolic links.

Using Windows 10 and the Dropbox app, recently downloaded / installed so I believe it is fully up to date.

On the "host" machine, rather than copying (and thus duplicating) all files to the Dropbox folder, I create a symbolic link in the Dropbox folder, using the command prompt:

>mklink /d Documents C:\<path_to_real_documents_folder>

This works fine, except that when files in _real_documents_folder  are changed, they do not get "synced" on Dropbox unless I "force" it.  I click the Dropbox icon, the lower left says "Up to date" .  Hover mouse and it changes to "Pause syncing".  I click that, then it says "Syncing paused".  Click again, and it then updates and syncs the files.

The result is that, without remembering to do this, the Dropbox copy never updates, (unless exited and restarted) either by "logging on" through the web site, or on another computer using the app and same login credentials.  If I do remember to do this, everything is fine.

Is there a way to get this to happen automatically?

Thanks.

 

6 Replies

Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

Dropboxer
Dropboxer
Hi Neil, long story short, Dropbox doesn’t support symlinks and never has. 
 
If they do work, it is purely luck, since the majority of the time it creates performance issues, permission failures and data loss.
 
This article describes a little more about what symlinks could do if found in a Dropbox folder.
 
Hope this helps!

Jay
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
https://dropbox.com/support


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Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

Helpful | Level 5

Hi Jay,

Many thanks for the response.

Interesting .... I've not observed any of the issues mentioned in the article your link pointed me to.  The use of symlinks seems to work quite well, except for the "update" bug I originally mentioned.  As long as I remember to "force" the re-sync, everything falls out as I wanted, giving me the ability to "carry things around" from computer to computer without all the aggravation / overhead of copying to USB's etc which ends up duplicating data and creating version control headaches.

After doing some more experimenting, I note that the problem as I've described is apparently uni-directional: Changes made on the "host" machine (the one with the symlinks in the Dropbox folder) need the "forced" update as described.  Changes from other computers as well as from the Dropbox web portal are reflected to the "host" machine vitually instantly, as long as it is online.  That accomplishes exactly what I intended: the ability to "carry work home" and voila, there it is on the office PC instantly.

So far, so good.  But, what I've done thus far is shared only with myself; I've not tried sharing amongst others, simply because thus far I've not needed to.  But I suspect that the same thing would happen.

Just My Humble Opinion, but it would perhaps be good if Dropbox could find a way to "officially" support the use of symlinks.  In the meantime, perhaps I can find some way to "trigger" the app to do the update thing.

Again, thanks for your support.

 

 

 

 

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Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

Super User II

@neilcothran wrote:

The use of symlinks seems to work quite well, except for the "update" bug I originally mentioned.


It's not a bug. When Dropbox is installed, it registers itself with the operating system to be notified of file changes within the Dropbox folder. It doesn't sync files at the other end of a symlink in real-time because the operating system isn't notifying Dropbox of those changes (because it's outside of Dropbox). It does sync when you force it to because Dropbox then scans all of the files in the Dropbox folder for changes, and when it reaches the symlink it follows it to the other end, scans the files and detects the changes.


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Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

Helpful | Level 5
Ha, thanks, understood. It's not a bug, it's a feature! As a long-time programmer myself, I should have realized how badly I misspoke... slightly smiling face

Would be nice if there was a "rescan all" button.. Oh well the work-around works. Just takes three clicks instead of one.

Fantastic product nonetheless!
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Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

Helpful | Level 5

Finally got around to making this post to update....

Ok so my thought was to have a "rescan all" button, and since we dont.....

Workaround is to stop and restart Dropbox app.  So I now have 2 icons on the desktop: one to kill Dropbox and the "normal" one to start it.

The first one has a one-line command:  taskkill.exe /f /im dropbox.exe

Double-click, wait a sec, double-click the "normal" Dropbox app.

Problem solved.

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Re: Syncing when using symbolic links

New member | Level 2

Another update for who still have same problem:
Put the file/folder in your dropbox and make the symlink outside in the original location.

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