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Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

I have been a happy user of Dropbox for years. Until recently . . .

Dropbox recently quit working properly. The latest issue today was that it failed to load the "platform plugin windows." The Dropbox popup suggested that I reinstall Dropbox. So . . . I dutifully reinstalled Dropbox as recommended. However, I do not like to have my Dropbox located in the default . . . Users/User/Dropbox location, but on a separate hard drive.

So as soon as Dropbox opens the first time, it starts syncing to the default location (yes, development team, that needs to be fixed too -- please include an initial inquiry on first startup after install to make sure you are using the directory the user actually wants!).

I paused the syncing, opened the Preferences, went to "Account" and attempted to select a different Location, as ostensibly permitted by the preferences interface. However, when I went to the drive that contains my Dropbox, it refuses to allow me to use that location, because -- wouldn't you know it! -- there is already a Dropbox folder there. Duh! Dropbox told me to reinstall the application, but I don't want to delete everything from my computer and re-sync the entire Dropbox. Of course I already have a folder called "Dropbox". Just let me point to it.

Please, please, fix this ASAP, and don't tell me that this is something you "are aware of and are working on." A decent programmer could solve this issue during his lunch hour.

Bottom line: Dropbox needs to allow the user to specify where they want the Dropbox folder to be or where it already is.

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Super User alumni

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

You should not select the Dropbox folder but the folder you wish Dropbox to be placed in. Then it will be installed in that folder.

If its on a 2nd drive and not in a folder, simply select the Drive in the chooser window.

At least this is what I am thinking based upon your post. I made this same issue at first when trying to move Dropbox all those years ago.

The installer will let you choose the location. It on the last screen before it closes under the advanced settings. Many users myself included think Dropbox was already being installed in the default location at this point in the process but it was still waiting.

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58 Replies
Super User alumni

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

You should not select the Dropbox folder but the folder you wish Dropbox to be placed in. Then it will be installed in that folder.

If its on a 2nd drive and not in a folder, simply select the Drive in the chooser window.

At least this is what I am thinking based upon your post. I made this same issue at first when trying to move Dropbox all those years ago.

The installer will let you choose the location. It on the last screen before it closes under the advanced settings. Many users myself included think Dropbox was already being installed in the default location at this point in the process but it was still waiting.

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Level 5

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

Thanks, Tom.

I have tried it both ways.

  1. When I select the drive, it does not allow me to use the Dropbox folder on the drive. It gives me a popup that says there is already a Dropbox folder on the drive. No other options; no way to tell it to use that folder. Just says you can't use the drive.

  2. When I select the Dropbox folder itself, it will accept that, but then creates a new Dropbox folder under my existing Dropbox folder (c: . . . dropbox/dropbox), and starts re-syncing my entire Dropbox as a subfolder of my already-existing Dropbox.

As soon as Dropbox starts, meaning as soon as I sign into the Dropbox application it immediately starts syncing my cloud Dropbox to the default desktop folder (. . . users/name/dropbox). It is not waiting for any instruction.

I don't recall seeing an advanced settings option when I installed the latest .exe file from dropbox.com today, but I think your suggestion is worth pursuing. Maybe I'll uninstall Dropbox tonight and reinstall and see if there is an advanced settings option during the install that will allow me to point to an existing Dropbox. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll let you know what happens.

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Level 5

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

Thanks, Tom, for encouraging me to try it again. I tried your suggestion and got it to point to the right location. The key, as you mention, is to not let the install process complete, but to click on the Advanced Settings on the last screen and then point it to the right place. If you don't do that, you are up a creek and have to reinstall (and also delete the incorrect Dropbox folder on your drive that it created, etc.), as the app settings do not let you repoint the Dropbox to an pre-existing location for some unfathomable reason.

Note to Dropbox Developers:

The happy, congratulatory "Take Me to My Dropbox!" click button on the congratulations-the-install-is-complete screen should be renamed as follows:

"Warning! Do not click on this button unless you want your Dropbox to be installed in the default location. If you already have Dropbox installed on this computer and it is not in the default location, clicking on this button will prevent you from accessing your existing Dropbox. Furthermore, you will not be able to point the application to your existing Dropbox through any later settings if you click on this button. Instead, you should click on Advanced Settings below. If you have read this warning and still want to click this button, you do so at your own risk."

There, that is more clear.

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Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, Tom & Eric !!!
And yes, this help me out very much !!!

What's Eric suggest is CORRECT !!! it's would be better to develop team to make a note for us (user) as Eric mention in his testimony above.

:Note to Dropbox Developers:
The happy, congratulatory "Take Me to My Dropbox!" click button on the congratulations-the-install-is-complete screen should be renamed as follows:
"Warning! Do not click on this button unless you want your Dropbox to be installed in the default location. If you already have Dropbox installed on this computer and it is not in the default location, clicking on this button will prevent you from accessing your existing Dropbox. Furthermore, you will not be able to point the application to your existing Dropbox through any later settings if you click on this button. Instead, you should click on Advanced Settings below. If you have read this warning and still want to click this button, you do so at your own risk."
There, that is more clear.

Once again, thank you Eric, you make my day brighten again hahaha slightly smiling face

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Level 1

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

Thankyou Tom Eric & Svibly...

 It seems thanks to you guys someone has been doing some programming/clarification of the

Install process. Since March this year when I last tried a reinstall things have improved. Following your advice I used the advanced setting to specify the drive that had the preexisting installation of dropbox which was already G:/Dropbox/Dropbox after it had refused to use my existing settings last time and started deleting redownloading everything. This time it saw the existing installation and started indexing it straight away before I pressed the ok button...? I watched it carefully as I didn't keep a 220Gb backup in case it ran amok. Everything seems to be ok and it is uploading and downloading the the few recently changed files and all the directories seem to be there. The only possible thing to look at is it points out you need to use selective sync during the installation saying "your Dropbox is 220Gb and you only have 10Gb free on the "C:" drive." This is before you choose the location so you don't yet know if you can get it to find, reindex and use the files in the existing installation.

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Level 1

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

It seems I spoke too soon when I said it had found the installation it was just wasting my time checking blank disk space.That It insists on setting up a fresh copy of itself and then dowloading all the files again which when it is 220Gb is no joke. So I read the advice here and used the advanced settings to point this new installation to the existing G:\Dropbox\Dropbox (which it insisted on creating last time as it would not install in existing G:\ Dropbox). And it seemed to have found the existing files and spent 20 hours downloading and syncing files... But then all of a sudden it creates a whole lot of new directories in G:\ Dropbox and starts downloading new files until it runs out of space. To say that in a year and a half of requests and having read hundreds of exactly similar problem requests Dropbox  cannot solve this simple problem of searching for and using the existing installation files shows how poorly the support operation is for this product.

So I have  the above setup and have pointed the new installation to it exactly using your advanced dialog and your advised solution so now what do I do...and dont tell me to manually copy 220Gb of files in several thousand directories from G:\ Dropbox\Dropbox to G:\Dropbox

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Level 5

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

David, sounds like a real painful situation.  I'm not sure I can resolve your issue, but just wanted to see if I understand your current situation.

It sounds like you recently reinstalled Dropbox and pointed it to g:\dropbox\dropbox.  Forgetting the sync feature and cloud backup for a moment, is that the directory where you are keeping all your Dropbox files on your desktop?  In other words, is that the directory where you had all your files prior to your latest install?

I can't quite tell from your last paragraph whether you have reinstalled yet one more time and pointed it this time to g:\dropbox?

There are a couple of possible approaches I can think of.  (And don't completely discount the possibility of "moving" a large number of files.  Given that they are all on the same drive, your file system should just be changing the directory pointer, not actually moving anything.  So even though it sounds like a ton of stuff to move, it might not be that difficult in practice. One drive to another, yes a pain; one directory to another on the same drive, not so much.)

But before going there, I'm trying to make sure I understand (a) where you have your master Dropbox (meaning, which directory are all your files actually located in on your hard drive), and (b) which directory is Dropbox sync trying to point to?


(Finally, and this almost goes without saying and I apologize for repeating the annoying advice you've already hear a hundred times, but there is certainly wisdom in keeping a backup.  In theory Dropbox should be able to recover your entire set of files to an earlier date, depending on your settings, but I've never felt comfortable enough with that option to avoid making my own additional backup.)

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Level 4

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

First, thanks to all the contributors on this thread. As I type this Dropbox is re-indexing 450GB -114k files on my machine. I'd just like to confirm that so far following the advice above seems to be working judging by the first few folders it has finished syncing. Hopefully, I've successfully installed Dropbox in a new user on my machine and connected it to an existing Dropbox folder.

The UI needs to be made a lot clearer, without this thread I doubt I'd have got through. Why can't the UI have an option for existing Dropbox users with folders already installed on their machines? Instead we have to fight with dumb software that tells us there's not enough room for the data, before we've even told it where we want it to keep it/or if it already exists...

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Level 1

Re: Desktop Application Will Not Allow Existing Dropbox Folder to Be Used. Error: "The folder already contains a Dropbox directory."

Thankyou Eric A & Davis A  for taking time to try to help here. I am not a beginner fortunately having been fighting with Windows since version 3 and the DX2 66 back in 1995 so at least I have the advantage of actually backing up to dataDVD everything I am not prepared to lose. It's a mixed blessing though as I can see Dropbox repeating the same mistakes as so many other software companies have since the days of IBM OS2 warp. Considering it's market penetration I am surprised to find this is program is still causing installation problems. It was about 18 years ago that windows introduced an operating system that inspected the disk structure of your PC looking for existing installations of windows. I seem to remember that also had problems at first.I think it searched for a particular marker file left by the previous installation containing an installation history and then gave you options to overwrite, create a new partition etc. It would not allow you to do anything stupid deleting, formatting or erasing things... well not after a couple of years and patches. Given the fact that dropbox is infinitely more complex in it's behavior, encryption and encoding it seems a little strange that such a fundamental point was missed unless it is some aspect of just these factors we are unaware of. Ideally when you install a new installation of dropbox on a computer it would look for a marker file in much the same way dropbox updater does and communicate between the computer and dropbox the installation history and historical & current status of the installation. It would offer intelligent choices like using the currently installed local dropbox or startng a new one on a bigger disk etc. depending on what you were doing and why. There really is only a couple of dozen reasons why anyone is reinstalling so it would not be beyond anyones ability to cater for all possibilities. logical dialog boxes to reassure the user that all is under control and then getting stuck in to reinstalling the application starting with uploading/downloading the newest additions so everything is safely backed up BEFORE checking and indexing 135,000 other files which are already safe in the cloud. Bill Gates once sent a bunch of coders to some mountain lodge somewhere with a bunch of old PC motherboards videocards soundcards and told them not to come back until they could install and update windows flawlessly... rumour has it some are still out there somewhere.

  In my own case the problem was a simple one, reinstalling XP and therefore dropbox but keeping the 220Gb dropbox I already had on drive G:\Dropbox\Dropbox where the last installation put it. Using the new advanced settings enabled me to point it to G:\Dropbox\Dropbox but after spending several hours looking at this installation and indexing files it started a new installation in G:\Dropbox and then promptly stopped as it ran out of room on the disk... announcing to me free up some room or dropbox cannot be installed... like I said Intelligent installation???. In my case I just copied G:\Dropbox\Dropbox to G:\Dropbox and after a couple of minutes and then 24hrs while dropbox indexed following with uploading the 9 important pictures it was up to date. Given that i think dropbox is a genius program especially the way it sync's between Mobile's laptops and shared & work directories this needs a bit of attention. we should not be having this discussion it needs to be press and forget flawless and instant installation with lots of reassuring noises that your stuff is safe whatever you do...

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