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Dropbox keeps trying to download and sync files set to online only

Dropbox keeps trying to download and sync files set to online only

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

I had this same issue with a particular folder when I first set up my new Windows 10 laptop, but closing and restarting Dropbox seemed to fix it. (Derp.)


Today it randomly started trying to download/sync a few zip files I set to online only. I set them to online only again; then, since my computer has been indexing files for over a week now, decided to exclude my online only folders from being indexed, thinking maybe that was the cause of all the indexing. As soon as I did this, it started trying to download/sync those zip files again! I again set them to online only, exited and restarted Dropbox...but then Dropbox got stuck in a cycle of syncing, syncing, syncing a different, online-only folder. It has 32 files in it and Dropbox kept saying, "Syncing 32 files...31 files...32 files...31 files...32 files..." like it kept starting over and over and over. This laptop has an SSD and the files are small so it should have been almost instantaneous.


I exited Dropbox and restarted my computer this time, to boot. Looking in the Dropbox folder, I see individual files set to online only (including those zip files) are marked with an X but none of the folders are, which puzzles me. Restarting Dropbox now...


Okay, nothing is happening yet (except the endless indexing). Still, what could be causing this? Why does Smart Sync keep trying to sync and download things set to online only and is there a fix if it gets stuck in that syncing loop again?


...Wait, crud, I found another online folder had changed its setting (though not the files' setting) to local. Ugh! Changed it back...Dropbox said it was doing something with a bunch of files but now it's up to date again and the folder is again online only. So weird.


And now the number of indexed items is suddenly a lot different! 92,000 odd! (I believe it was around 205,000 before.)


Dropbox desktop application 109.4.517, Windows 10 Home v.1909, build 18363.1198.

61 Replies 61

Super User II

@Rachel L. wrote:

Why does Smart Sync keep trying to sync and download things set to online only ...

Any process that tries to access a file marked as online-only will cause Dropbox to download the file and mark it as local again. File backups, antivirus/malware scans, browsing a folder in applications with file previews enabled, etc. ANY process that touches a file can cause it.


Basically, Dropbox sees that something is trying to access an online-only file, so it downloads it. This is the expected behavior. Make sure there's nothing else trying to access the files and they'll remain online-only until you open them yourself.

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

Well, I thought deselecting the folders in question for indexing had solved the problem since it hasn't recurred since then, plus the endless indexing stopped (indicating a potential conflict between Windows indexing and Dropbox online-only files)...but today, the three zipped files have randomly started trying to download again. 😕 I marked them as online only yet again, closed and restarted Dropbox, and after a few minutes it AGAIN tried downloading one and I again had to change it to online only. Something keeps changing the setting, but I don't know what.


@Rich "File backups, antivirus/malware scans, browsing a folder in applications with file previews enabled, etc. ANY process that touches a file can cause it."


I checked to see if Windows was again indexing at the time this happened; it didn't seem to be. (For the record, there's no option for me to deselect these particular items for indexing, since they aren't in a folder, but I experienced the same issue previously with items that ARE in a folder, and I excluded that folder from indexing. That folder hasn't tried downloading anything today--yet. I'm wondering if I should try putting these zipped files in an excluded folder, though I don't want it to try downloading them again.)


I wasn't backing up any files, just doing some unrelated things on a website. There was no antivirus scan going on (plus I've never experienced this issue while doing a virus scan), and I wasn't viewing or browsing the files, not even previews or file properties. I didn't even have File Explorer open; Dropbox was running, but I didn't have its folder or app open, either. There's absolutely nothing I'm aware of that could have been trying to access the files, unless Windows was randomly trying to index them, which didn't seem to be the case.


(For the record, the notification I keep getting when this happens is some variant of "Dropbox downloaded this file" or "Dropbox failed to download this file," something like that, with the file name. I think it sometimes also says it's trying to sync those files. I don't know if the "failed" notification is because it's actually failing to download or because I keep switching it back to online only while it's attempting to download.)


I have no idea what could be causing this. 😕

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

Dropbox is randomly trying to download the problem zip files yet again. 😕 Twice so far I've had to reset them to online only. Frustrating!


Just as before, I was not trying to view the files or interacting with them in any way, not indexing as far as I'm aware, didn't even have File Explorer or the Dropbox folder open, no virus scan running, nothing.


I shouldn't have to create a new online-only folder (set to not index, since there's definitely a conflict between Dropbox Smart Sync and Windows indexing) just to try to stop this from happening but I can't think of anything else.

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

I just noticed, based on my own thread here, that the last two times this happened were on Fridays. Just like today! Is there some weird Dropbox setting that switches online-only files to try to download on Fridays??


Oh crud, now it's trying to download ANOTHER online-only folder that didn't give me trouble before! 😞


EDIT: I first set up this Dropbox on this new computer on October 30, which was the first time I experienced this issue, as I mentioned at the start of this thread. I just checked. October 30 was a Friday.


So this issue has recurred four times so far, each time on a Friday. (It skipped November 6.)


UGH it's trying to download TWO online-only folders now! I'm going to have to pause it just to get it to stop. 😞


But there's definitely some sort of schedule going on, that tries to make my online-only files local. Oct. 30, Nov. 13, Nov. 20, Nov. 27. Fridays!

Explorer | Level 4

Fascinating. I stumbled on this because I am also running into this issue.

This issue is hyper-annoying and this issue melts away a lot of the value that I get from using dropbox.

It persistently downloads things that I keep setting back to online-only.

I can't say I've paid enough attention to detect whether or not Fridays are a contributing pattern on my end, but it is particularly obnoxious today.

It does seem to want to gravitate toward audio files as the files it tries to download even though I want them set to online only.

I've been experiencing this trouble on both my Mac OSX machine and my Windows 10 machine.

It's possible there are different reasons I experience it on one OS versus the other, that is not ruled out.

I will keep monitoring for clues, and I'll update you if I make any headwind on solving this issue.

Anybody who works at Dropbox have any ideas for us?

I'm suspicious that something on my system is periodically "indexing" in a way that tries to open up files that in turn causes smart sync to begin downloading. Any ideas on how to troubleshoot finding a process that is doing that behavior?

Good luck!

Dropbox Staff

Hey guys, I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this.


@Rachel L.,  like @Rich said, this is most likely caused by another app/process that’s accessing files in your Dropbox folder in some way. The fact that this happens consistently on the same day of the week, Friday, leads me to think that maybe there is some scheduled task running then. Is there a backup or other utility doing something on Fridays? 


@thebobalos, thanks for posting. As you mentioned a tendency for this to occur with audio files, I would check for any app that may be accessing/indexing them in the background. Do keep monitoring for clues, and let me know how it goes.



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Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

It's Friday again and guess what! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Yep, Dropbox started (and succeeded, with at least one) trying to download the zipped files. I've temporarily paused it to try to avert the issue for now. There's definitely something weird about Fridays.


@Sanchez , I don't have any tasks scheduled that I'm aware of (this computer is new as of October 2020 and I've never set up any scheduled tasks), and the only "automatic" backup I have enabled is Dropbox itself. I've looked all over in the Dropbox settings but have no idea what could be causing this or why it targets the same files (though last time, it started trying to download a folder it's never tried before, so maybe if I let it keep at this it'd start trying to download everything?). I don't even know if Windows indexing could be to blame, since two of the folders it occasionally tries to download are both online only AND I've set Windows to not index them. 😕 (The zipped files are an exception since they're not in a folder so I can't exempt them from indexing.)


My antivirus runs scheduled scans on Fridays, BUT, it does that at 10PM--not now--plus it was set to scan on SATURDAYS until a couple of weeks ago; only after this issue began did I reset it (for unrelated reasons). So that can't be the cause.


EDIT, incidentally, earlier in the day I was looking at the placeholders for a few files in one of the online-only folders Dropbox often tries to download (it didn't get to today before I paused it); I didn't download anything though I did try searching for a file (didn't work, since Windows hasn't indexed them). I also saved a few new files into that folder, and made them online only. Dropbox did nothing weird at the time.

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

I didn't think I would have an update for today, since I got tired of waiting for Dropbox to start trying to download stuff, and paused syncing before trying to doze off. But then I started getting a swarm of Windows notifications saying Smart Sync had tried and failed to download 1400-something files, 1500-something files, 200-something files, over and over and over and OVER! It wouldn't stop! All this DESPITE Dropbox being paused! :scream:


The messages kept coming and coming so quickly I couldn't even unpause Dropbox or exit the program. It refused to close! I had to go into the Task Manager and close Dropbox as well as about four other processes that seemed to be related to it (I've never seen all those processes before) before it finally disappeared and the notifications stopped.


How on earth am I getting these weird Smart Sync notifications even with the program paused? Previously, when it started acting up, I'd make the problem files/folders online only again, then pause Dropbox, and it would stop acting up for the day. I thought I'd beat it to the punch today and pause it before it could start acting up--but it tried downloading thousands of files anyway! (And yes--while this was happening, the yellow "pause" icon was still displaying in the task tray.)


That was another new development--previously, it would try downloading one or two files at a time. Now that I paused it first, it was apparently trying to download...everything? Thousands of files.

Rachel L.
Collaborator | Level 10

Looking all over in my computer for anything that's scheduled, even though I never scheduled any sort of processes myself. The fact that Windows started sending me all those notifications even when Dropbox was paused makes me suspect Windows is the culprit though I have NO idea what could be causing it.


Nothing set up in the notifications area of Windows settings.


I finally found something called Task Scheduler by using search. It doesn't show anything that ran today or even in the past week:


Task status

Status of tasks that have started in the following time period: Last 7 days

Summary: 0 total--0 running, 0 succeeded, 0 stopped, 0 failed


So I looked in the listing of active tasks. There are a lot and it doesn't give specific dates/times for when most should run, but I did find one that stood out:


Task name: WarrantyChecker_DeviceScan

Next run time:  12/18/2020 4:55:08 PM

Triggers: At 4:55 PM every Friday of every week, starting 11/6/2020

Location: \Hewlett-Packard\HP Support Assistant




Here's the thing--the time is off, plus, November 6 was the one Friday I don't recall anything happening. 😕 Plus I had this issue for the Friday preceding 11/6 (10/30).


So...I don't know, and I don't know why HP Support Assistant (much less something called "WarrantyChecker"?) would have anything to do with Dropbox Smart Sync. But that's all I've been able to find.


Anyway, I'm turning Dropbox back on and hoping nothing else weird happens...

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