How to Clear Your Dropbox Cache in Windows, macOS, and Linux

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When you delete sensitive files from your Dropbox account, you may think you’ve deleted them permanently. However, the files remain in a hidden cache folder on your hard drive for efficiency and emergency purposes that is cleared automatically every three days.

If you need the space, you can manually clear the cache by deleting these files. It won’t save a lot of space permanently, necessarily, but if you deleted a rather large file, it might make a significant difference.

How to Clear the Dropbox Cache in Windows

To access the Dropbox cache folder in Windows, press Windows+X on your keyboard to access the Power User menu and select “Run.”

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Type (or copy and paste) the following command in the “Open” edit box on the “Run” dialog box and click “OK.”

%HOMEPATH%\Dropbox\.dropbox.cache

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Select all the files and folders in the “.dropbox.cache” folder and press the Delete key to delete them. The files are moved into the Recycle Bin, so you will need to empty the Recycle Bin to permanently delete them.

NOTE: You can also press “Shift + Delete” to permanently delete them immediately, bypassing the “Recycle Bin,” or securely delete the files.

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You may see the following “File in Use” dialog box when trying to delete files from the “.dropbox.cache” folder. In Windows, all folders containing visual media (image files and movies) have a database of thumbnails (the “thumbs.db” file) that provides thumbnail images for the files if you switch to any of the available thumbnail views in Windows Explorer. When you open a folder containing the “thumbs.db” file, Windows locks that file because it’s in use. Therefore, when you delete the contents of the file, Windows tells you that the “thumbs.db” file can’t be deleted because it’s in use. That’s fine; the rest of your content should be deleted. You can disable Windows thumbnail generation to delete that thumbs.db file if you so choose.

How to Clear the Dropbox Cache on a Mac

The easiest way to clear the Dropbox cache in macOS is to head to the cache folder using the Finder’s “Go to Folder” option. With the Finder open, click Go in the menu bar, then click “Go to Folder”.

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+G. Either way, a window will pop up asking you which folder you want to open.

You want to head to ~/Dropbox/.dropbox.cache, assuming your Dropbox folder is in the default location. To quickly explain: the “~” refers to your home folder, “/Dropbox” is your Dropbox folder, and “/.dropbox.cache” is the hidden folder Dropbox uses as its cache.

Hit “Enter,” or click “Go,” and the cache folder will open.

You can browse this to see which files are currently cached, or delete everything by dragging all folders to the Trash folder on your dock.

Just like that, your Mac’s Dropbox cache is empty.

How to Clear the Dropbox Cache in Linux

 

To delete the items in the Dropbox cache folder in Linux, we’ll show you how using Linux Mint. The procedure is pretty much the same in Ubuntu, and similar in other Linux distributions.

Open your file manager or double-click the “Home” icon on the desktop.

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You must make sure hidden files are shown. To do this in Mint, open the “View” menu and make sure there is a check mark in front of the “Show Hidden Files” option. You can also press Ctrl+H to toggle the hidden files view.

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Head to your “Dropbox” folder and double-click on it.

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In the Dropbox folder, double click the “.dropbox.cache” folder. Note the “.” at the beginning of the folder name. That indicates the folder is a hidden folder.

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Select all the folders and files in the .dropbox.cache folder, right-click on them, and select “Delete” (to permanently deletes the files) or “Move to Trash” (to move the files to the Trash).

NOTE: You can also securely delete files in Linux.

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If you’ve moved the files to the Trash, you can permanently delete the files by right-clicking on the “Trash” item under “My Computer” in the left pane, and select “Empty Trash” from the popup menu.

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Dropbox keeps deleted files on their servers for 30 days. Deleting the cache files on your computer does not affect the deleted files that are stored on their servers. Files deleted from your Dropbox account can still be recovered within 30 days even if you’ve cleared the Dropbox cache folder on your computer.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.


Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.