Dropbox Messing With Your Local Storage Limits? We Got a Fix For That.

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Get Shift Done: Tips and Tricks


Are you unable to sync all your files stored in Dropbox because you’re running out of space on your hard drive? Even if you are getting ominous warning messages, you aren’t stuck. By exercising more control over what you sync, you can ensure a future free of storage space issues.

When you install Dropbox, the application creates folders on your local hard drive that mirror what is stored on your Dropbox.com account. If you add files to your local Dropbox folders, they are automatically uploaded to your online folders. Likewise, if you add files or folders via the web browser or mobile app, they are downloaded — or synchronized — to your local disk. While this Dropbox feature is fantastic for keeping files globally accessible, problems can arise when you run out of online space or local hard drive space.

For dealing with online space issues, one option is to purchase additional storage space from Dropbox, which means upgrading your account. If you aren’t willing to pay for more storage, however, and you are faced a local disk space dilemma, you can either delete non-essential files to make room, or opt to be more selective with what files you are synchronizing.

Dropbox is configured to synchronize all of your folders and files by default. However, the Dropbox desktop application has a handy feature, Selective Sync, that allows you to choose exactly which files to synchronize. It takes only a few minutes to set up.

To enable Selective Sync, you need to modify the desktop application’s preferences. The easiest way to access the application is through the Windows desktop task bar. (The instructions for Macintosh are similar enough that this process should still be helpful.)


Right-click on the Dropbox icon; navigate to the gear icon in the upper-right corner; left-click; and then choose Preferences.


A dialog box displaying the General Preferences appears. Navigate to the Account tab.


Click the button that says Selective Sync.


A second dialog box appears, showing all the top-level directories in your Dropbox folder. The folders with a check next to them currently are being synced between your computer and the cloud application.


Uncheck any folders that you don’t need to sync between Dropbox and your local disk. Please keep in mind that folders that do not have a green checkmark are not uploaded to Dropbox. If you deselect these prematurely, the folders will not continue to synchronize.

If you elect to remove certain folders from the synchronization process, don’t worry about losing all of your data. While the local hard drive data is removed, you’ll still have all of the files you already uploaded to Dropbox, available online.

Consider which files and folders to keep synchronized before activating Selective Sync. Think about what you actually need available on your local hard disk. Are these frequently updated or referenced documents you use for work? Are they old pictures or presentations that you want to keep for posterity (with an attitude of “You never know when it might come in handy”), but rarely view? Your online Dropbox account doesn’t only provide easy access to files; it also offers backup redundancy. If there are files or folders you do not need to access when offline, consider removing them from automatic synchronization.

When you’re done making your selection, click Update.


Dropbox shows a warning notification indicating that the unselected folders will be removed from the local disk. As noted, any files previously synchronized continue to be available in the cloud. Click OK to continue the process.


Congratulations! You’ve just freed up a bunch of underutilized space on your hard drive and saved some bandwidth usage in the process!

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