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Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Explorer | Level 4

Hi there -

Have tried to go through all the documentation and help files but I'm pretty sure that I've simply misunderstood what Dropbox is/does.

To breifly sumarise I'm a graphic designer who works on Mac. Only software has ever been stored on the Mac hard drive, I keep it completely freed up. I work with very large files which are stored on a 3TB external hard drive to completely free up the computer CPU.

My external 3TB drive currently contains approx 2TB in files for 140,000 files.

I need to work remotely over the next month and rather than carry around a copy of my external drive on a removeable portable drive (as I normally do) I was told Dropbox would be a great solution to access my files on the move.

I chose the individual user "Professional" account model and am currently in the first few days my free trial stage.

What I imagined is a copy of my current external drive always available instantly on the cloud for when I'm travelling that I can automatically or manually sync (changed files only) back to my external drive once I'm back. 

This is what I have done so far:

I downloaded the desktop app and manually copied some of the files from my external drive to the Dropbox folder.

The first thing that I noticed is that everything immediately slowed down considerably and I'm having massive problems with lagging even just trying to write this message!

I checked file info for my Mac and saw that the files that I've copied to dropbox from my external drive have simply been copied back to a "dropbox" file on my Mac CPU and completely filled my Hard Drive! Luckily I'd only copied just over 500GB of the 2TB. I cannot have these files taking up space on my Mac drive – obviously when there are three times more files than I have space for.

I can see that I can point the synced dropbox folder to my LaCie 3TB external (although this comes with its own problems). Will I be able to access everything when I'm on the move with this setting (if my computer and external drive are switched off).

I read that I can also unsync everything (I believe the option is called online only). But will this help?

Is there a way of acheiving what I want (a copy of my external that is instantly accesible on the move or at my main place of work) or should I simply remove Dropbox and cancel out of the plan?

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5 Replies

Re: Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Dropboxer
Hey @deane4work, thanks for the in-depth description of your current needs & configuration! 
 
For starters, it would be interesting to see whether these 500 GB of files have synced to your account online; has this been the case by any chance? If so, then you should be able to remove the local copy using Smart Sync (just as you’ve already mentioned) thus saving up some local space. Please note however that Smart Sync would remove the files locally using a placeholder file for as long as the desktop application is connected to your account online, whereas you should make them locally available as you’re on-the-go. 
 
Now when it comes to your inquiry on whether you could store the Dropbox folder on your external Hard Drive Deane, it would be worth noting that Dropbox works best when hosted on your computer's main internal drive, or on a physically connected external hard drive. If the later is the case with your external Hard Drive, then you could move the Dropbox folder there, however please proceed with caution, as there’s a small—but real—chance that the app will start deleting files if your external drive is disconnected from the computer while Dropbox is running. 
 
Hopefully my message makes your decision-making a bit easier for you & please do let me know if I’ve missed anything along the way, so as to further advise accordingly. Thanks & enjoy the rest of your day until we talk again! 

 


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


 


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Re: Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Explorer | Level 4

Thanks Jane,

for the detailed response. Also thanks to Fiona (although your reply seems to have been moved (or removed).

Before I try what you suggest I have a couple of very quick questions which will determine if I proceed or not. Just finished typing my "quick" questions and, with the BG info, it looks longer than I anticipated slightly smiling face

Some additional background info that might help:

I will be away from my main office, working freelance in another country, for over a month. During this time I need access to all my files in case my direct clients need me to work on them. But I have no idea which files might be needed so I cannot prioritise anything.

I may need to create some new work adding new folders and files.

The warnings about keeping my computer and hard drive switched on worry me the most. While I'm away my computer and the external drive (where the work is stored currently) will not be switched on. Even when I'm working back at my main offices from time to time the external will go into "sleep" mode to conserve energy and disk life.

When I access my cloud files remotely I will be working from my freelance clients' computers (possibly different ones each day) I will need to be quick, I definitely cannot download software to their computers and cannot have my files taking up space on their hard drives.

I simply want to view my files in the cloud as if I had attached a portable hard drive and (if I can't work directly on the files in the cloud) to select and download just the files I want to make changes to (without them all having to "sync") and, once I'm finished, re-upload (overwrite) them to my cloud folder once changed and finally delete all my work from their computer.

Question 1: With this in mind, is it not better to unsync all the files from my computer completely (I believe it's called "offline" status) and not point them at my external at all?

This should clear all the files off of my compter hard drive and give me what I want in terms of a server in the cloud accessable from anywhere but the only drawback would be that there will be no "back-up" physical copy anywhere.

I'll have to replicate the status of the cloud folder manually on my external drive after I return from my travels.

From reading community posts, I believe there is no current option of using dedicated back-up software like SuperDuper (which copies physical drives or folders) that has a "Smart Copy" function that saves heaps of time only coping files that have been added or changed.

Question 2: If the above assumption is correct is there a way using dropbox (or third-party software) to painlessly copy the updated status of the cloud folder to a physical external drive once I get back? Not sync it - just copy it. And will that work the other way around. Copy/update the external to the dropbox folder.

I currently cart a portable 2TB drive around with me when I work remotely and have to manually match it to my external to it on my return. Would be great if that can be done somehow by the software as then I can remove the "human error" aspect … but it's not a deal breaker as long as I can use dropbox as an accesible cloud "external drive" while I'm on the go. 

Sorry about the long reply for two short questions but I think it's better to give you as much detail as possible.

Thanks Jane, so much once again for taking the time to help me.

Kind regards - Deane

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Re: Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Dropboxer
Please accept my apologies for the slight delay in getting back in touch with you @deane4work & thanks for helping me paint a clearer picture; let’s take it from where we’ve left off! 
 

While I'm away my computer and the external drive (where the work is stored currently) will not be switched on.

and, once I'm finished, re-upload (overwrite) them to my cloud folder once changed and finally delete all my work from their computer. 

You should be able to access all the content you’ve synced to your Dropbox account online through the web interface normally as you’re on the go Deane & complete your daily tasks (i.e. download, edit them on your assigned workstation & re-upload those to your account online). This does indeed rule out the possibility that you may be using the external hard-drive during your trip, however you may keep that as an emergency copy. 
 
Q1: In regards to your first question, it would be best if we started off by syncing all your content to your account online. My suggestion would rather entail chopping the files (& sync jobs) in smaller batches (using Selective Sync). Once a directory has been fully synced, then you could remove the local copy from your view temporarily reducing the overall loads of the client & repeat until all your file structure has been reflected correctly across ends. 
 

only coping files that have been added or changed.

(Brief note: That’s exactly how Dropbox works, as long as there’s a physical copy that’s syncing to your account online!)
 
Q2: There has to be a local prototype before the copy, so if you’ve stored that on your account online, then syncing your folder structure to your desktop in one way or another would be the most efficient way to mirror it elsewhere from that point on. 
 
I hope my message above sheds a nit more light; please let me know here if you have any follow-up questions!

 


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


 


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Re: Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Explorer | Level 4
Just lost a really long reply to this on my iPhone when it asked me to log-in and sent a confirmation code to my e-mail. When the page came back up the answer had disappeared 😤

Hi Jane,
Thanks for your attention and sorry that I didn’t reply sooner but I’m now traveling.
My main problem with your solution is that I have still only copied over barely 600Gb (of around 2Tb) and it’s duplicated all the files onto the Dropbox folder in my Users folder on my Mac (see original contact message). I can’t copy much more without completely filling my hard drive.
I’m sure I’ve probably done something wrong (copying too many files at once or dragging and dropping to the app not “uploading”) as this cannot be the usual operational structure.
I can’t do anything more until I return in a couple of weeks (can this case remain open so I don’t have to repeat everything) once I return I’ll try to sort this out. My free trial will be over by then so I’ll let the payment for the first month go through in the understanding that I can cancel out at any time if I can’t get something usable by that time.
Thanks once again for all your help.
Kind regards- Deane
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Re: Using Dropbox with files on an External (Mac) Confused New User Needs Help

Dropboxer
Sure thing @deane4work; please let me know when you’re ready to continue working on that & I’ll do my best to further advise from where we’ve stopped here. 
 
Have a lovely weekend ahead until we talk again Deane!

 


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


 


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