How-To Geek

How to Sync Only Specific Folders With Dropbox

dropbox-disable-folder

Dropbox, by default, syncs everything to all of your computers. But maybe that’s not what you want.

If you have Dropbox installed on multiple computers, or share an account with family members, there might be folders synced to the service that you don’t want on all of your machines—especially if you’re low on hard drive space.

Happily, Dropbox lets you choose which folders sync to which computers. It’s called Selective Sync, but to find it you’ll have to dig a little bit.

First, find the Dropbox icon in your system tray. On Windows there’s a good chance that you’ll need to click the up arrow to the left of your system tray, in order to see the rarely-clicked icons. On a Mac, this will be in your menu bar.

dropbox-icon

Whatever your operating system, you’ll see the standard Dropbox window, which includes a rolling list of recently synced files. Click the gear icon, then click “Preferences”.

dropbox-preferences

A window will pop up. Click the “Account” tab in this window and press the button labeled “Selective Sync”.

dropbox-preferences-window

From here, a sub-window will pop up, allowing you to uncheck specific folders or sub-folders. Uncheck anything that you don’t want synced to the computer that you’re currently using. I share an account with my wife, so I could for example uncheck her work folder.

dropbox-disable-folder

Note that unchecking a folder will not delete that folder from the cloud or any other computer: all this does is prevent the given folder from syncing to the computer you’re currently using. If there are files you don’t want on other computers, you’ll have to repeat this process on those machines.

Once you’ve chosen which folders not to sync, click “Update.” Dropbox will ask you to confirm your decision, explaining what it means.

selective-sync-sure

Dropbox will then get to work on deleting the files you unchecked, and will not sync them to this computer until you change the setting back. As mentioned earlier, the files will remain available on the web and on any other computers you’ve set up with your Dropbox account.

Justin Pot is a technology writer and enthusiast who lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.

  • Published 06/1/10

Comments (5)

  1. rzlmlchm09

    Dropbox is awesome! As long as I have an internet connection, I no longer need to worry about trying to carry around a USB flash drive with all of my necessary files on it.

  2. fdbryant3

    Can someone explain to me why Dropbox is preferred over Live Mesh. They seem to do the same thing except Live Mesh gives you 5GB (and rumor has it that MS is going to connect it the 25GB Skydrive with the next iteration) and allows you to sync computers without using the 3rd party servers.

  3. Matthew Guay

    @fdbryant3 – I think many users were not confident about using Mesh since its future has seemed uncertain (with it in perpetual beta). But, Microsoft is supposed to be merging Mesh, Skydrive, and Live Sync with the Windows Live Wave 4 release this summer, and that should make it a lot more interesting (and viable). Expect to see lots of coverage from us when it comes out!

  4. Doctor Mick

    I used to use Live Mesh until I realised it was selective about which files it would upload. It wouldn’t even sync Microsoft Money files.

    Now I use Dropbox.

  5. angelo

    @Doctor Mick: how exactly do you sync microsoft money files? is there a file similar to Outlook pst file?

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