Friday, October 16, 2009

Dropbox - daily usage

Dropbox is a free online service to easily synchronize and backup your data. It can be very useful and it has some very nice features, but it has some limitations too.

Dropbox features:

  • 2GB free online storage, easy registration.
  • Easy sync to different computers / Macs.
  • Files are always reachable using the Dropbox website.
  • Dropbox keeps 30 days version and deleted files history.
  • A public folder with direct static file url's makes it possible to host your site on Dropbox server.
  • Sharing of folders between Dropbox accounts is possible.

Dropbox limitation:

  • No filtering on files / folders is possible.
  • For each account, one folder is synchronized. You need to use Junctions (hardlink NTFS shortcuts (easy Junction explorer extention)) if you want to include external folders in the sync.
  • No default support for multiple account synchronization. You need to use the portable Dropbox (see information below) if you want to synchronize multiple accounts from the same computer at the same time.
  • No option to make Dropbox always request for account password on startup (would be useful for the portable version).

Personal usage scenario's:

  • Synchronization of my AI Roboform data so I have all my login's everywhere. I combine this with the Roboform2go on my USB stick and Dropbox portable to make sure everything is kept in sync.
  • Hosting of files for websites. Instead of having to upload them to different free hosts with ads, I can now use the Dropbox space for easy hosting. Even complete websites are usable when hosted within the 'public' folder of a Dropbox account.
  • Combination of FreeOTFE portable to make sure my USB stick portable Dropbox account is kept save. I place all Dropbox files within a FreeOTFE secured file, since else when losing USB stick, anyone could have access to my Dropbox account by just starting up the portable Dropbox application.
  • Some other tips and tricks for Dropbox usage from LifeHacker. The 'start torrent from anywhere' trick is nice!
  • Since I use my personal SVN I wanted to make a combination of the automatic Dropbox synchronization coupled to the full control SVN synchronization for development projects. By using the Junctions I could link the SVN folders into Dropbox. Now I have an auto sync of files and folders, but I can manually sync with SVN to have an extra backup and history tracking with full control. The downside of this is that all hidden '.svn' folders are kept in sync too within Dropbox and this can take a lot of your Dropbox space. With the selective sync option in Dropbox, you can disable the syncronisation of the .svn folders to save space. But be carefull, when deselecting .svn folders in the Dropbox configuration, it will remove those folders from your local system. So it’s best to first create some dummy empty .svn folders, next disable the sync of these folders and then copy the real .svn folder at the correct location.

Dropbox Portable installation:

DropboxPortableAHK is now available. This makes the use of Dropbox Portable much easier. All download/configuration is now automated and very userfriendly. Just download from the developer website:

Update 09/01/2011: New version of the Dropbox Portable framework (5.3.4). But this new framework requires a relink! The new version has easier update (just copy official Dropbox setup file in the update folder). Cleanup of blog and added extra info on installation.

Update 20/01/2011: added info from comments to change path in config.db

Update 03/04/2011: link to new DropboPortableAHK version, no more manual tweaks required.


  1. Hi

    Thanks for your effort in keeping DropBox Portable updated to latest verion.

    Regarding encrypting my personal data, I used TrueCrypt to make a encrypted container. Have to mount it for each use, but small price to pay for being secure.


  2. TrueCrypt is indeed nice as well. But so far I didn't see any option from TrueCrypt that is missing in FreeOTFE and FreeOTFE has a PocketPC version which I use as well ;)

  3. OK, I am not a "computer person" and I am sure this will be a REALLY funny question for all of you out there, but here goes: I downloaded the "Dropbox Portable v0.8.112 (15MB) with selective sync" from above and got a bunch of files in a ZipItFree window. I want to put dropbox with selective sync on my SanDisk U3 - what do I do now?

  4. Just extract the zip file to any folder on your USB stick (with WinZip or 7-Zip or build in Windows unzip tool). Then run the 'Dropbox Portable.exe' and it will ask for your Dropbox login/password or let you create a new Dropbox account. Next it will start synchronizing your Dropbox files and put them in the 'Dropbox' folder next to the 'Dropbox Portable.exe' file, so that's it.

  5. I must agree with Raggi. I really appreciate you keeping this application portable an updated. Please keep up the great work. I just downloaded and installed it to my usb drive and it is working great.

  6. Selective Sync under preferences copies data to a new folder in the root DropBox folder - from here it appears to only do a one-way sync to the portable DropBox and will not copy updates back the other way. The original data remains but is an orphaned copy.

  7. Thanks for the update. Selective sync now works, but the 'open dropbox folder' menu item always wants to open from my documents on my C drive and not my portable drive, generating an error.

    It should also be noted that it writes several entries to the registry and therefore may not qualify as truely portable for some user.

  8. i am having a problem where it isn't creating the folder on the USB drive. it is instead putting it into the the user directory. the config file still starts with ".\". if i try to do an advanced setup to do selective sync and set the path, no folders show up. if i try to change it afterwards, it tells me i can't have it on portable media.

  9. i am also have the selective sync issue "Anonymous" had where it seems to be syncing only in one direction.

  10. @max, one other thing I may have done before installing the last update was removing dropbox items from the registry. Even though it appears to use the config.cfg for some items, others are still apparently referenced from the registry.

  11. Thanks for your comments. I tested a clean Dropbox Portable installation, and indeed the Dropbox data folder is always placed in the default user documents folder instead of the configured location from config.cfg.
    I've put online a new version of It contains a new version of the framework but initally combined with an old version of the Dropbox application. Once the links with the account is created, an update to the latest version of Dropbox is possible. This way, the Dropbox folder will remain at the correct location from config.cfg. All info in updated blogpost above.

  12. I am unable to get DropboxPortable to install properly. It is defaulting to the My Documents directory instead of the directory that the Portable Executable file is. Any direction would be appreciated!

  13. make sure you set up the link with Dropbox server using Dropbox 0.8. Immediately after the link is set up, exit dropbox and put the 'Update.exe' file in the folder '.config/update' to update to release 1.0.10.
    Using release 0.8, the folder should correctly be created in the folder from portable dropbox, instead of the my documents folder.

  14. I reinstalled with the latest ZIP file above and also added the update.exe from the archive. It all seems fine, except that menu shortcut 'Open Dropbox folder' is still pointing to my C drive even though I'm on a portable USB. I didn't make any registry changes this time, so it looks like were making progress.

  15. @James: no idea, I always disable the start menu shortcut in the initial Dropbox linking wizard.

  16. Hi, thanks for providing a current Dropbox Portable link.

    I just installed this on my USB drive. At first I had problems getting it to sync properly, it was only updating files in the root dropbox folder (.\DropBox) and not updating any subfolders. Also, even though the path was drive letter independent, as soon as I moved the drive to a different letter name DropBox complained that it couldn't find my files.

    I searched around and found this post - - which seems to indicate the path in config.cfg isn't what it goes by, instead it looks at the config.db file. Sure enough, I opened up the config.db file and there was an absolute pathname pointing to E:\! As soon as I changed it to my current USB drive letter all was fine. I tried to make the pathname relative using both ".\DropBox\..." and "%:\DropBox\..." and DropBox was then able to find its folder, but none of the subfolders would update. It seems to need an absolute pathname to work properly. My solution was to make multiple config.db files on the stick with different drive letters, and then just copy the one with the right drive letter over.

    It's working perfectly now aside from those little quirks. Hopefully this helps someone else out.

  17. Thank you so much ! I just tried this with 1.0.14 and this works flawlessly after updating the dropbox_path in config.db.

    Commands were as follows:
    (config.db is in following path:
    Dropbox Portable\.config\data\Application Data\dropbox)

    Start -> Run -> Cmd
    sqlite3 "c:\Dropbox Portable\.config\data\Application Data\dropbox\config.db"
    update config set value = 'absolute path of where you want your dropbox folder' where key = 'dropbox_path';

    restart dropbox portable

  18. I got this working, but since i use it on multiple computers i setup a "Update File Paths.bat" which automatically updates paths so you dont have to update it by hand. Here's how:

    1) Download sqlite3.exe as above, and place it in .config folder
    2) Create a 'Update file paths.bat' in your root dropbox portable directory next to dropboxportable.exe

    3) Edit it in notepad, and add the following -

    FOR XP
    echo update config set value = '%~dp0dropbox\' where key = 'dropbox_path'; | "%~dp0.config\sqlite3.exe" "%~dp0.config\data\Application Data\dropbox\config.db"

    echo update config set value = '%~dp0dropbox\' where key = 'dropbox_path'; | "%~dp0.config\data\AppData\Roaming\dropbox\sqlite3.exe" "%~dp0.config\data\AppData\Roaming\dropbox\config.db"

    Your config.db will now be updated with the current location of your dropbox portable folder. Note, you should edit the set value to correspond to your real location according to $path, the above example assumes you've put it in the default "dropbox" directory.

    4) Save and exit

    Now, before you run Dropbox Portable, run the .bat and it'll update your paths so it works correctly.

  19. I'm getting the "Stopped Working" error, but things aren't going quite according to the instructions after that. I wait for the extraction to finish (the window closes automatically) as indicated, but when it does, DropBox doesn't seem to be running (no tray icon and no processes in the task manager that have "dropbox" in the name. I assume that means that the "close DropBox" instruction is superfulous, but when I try to restart DropBox Portable the extraction (and the error) repeat themselves. Any suggestions?

  20. @Padraic: don't close the 'Stopped working' error popup window until the extraction is finished. This way, it will remember the extraction was done.

  21. That window is closing automatically while the extraction is still taking place. Should I try to prevent it from closing (and if so how)?

  22. hmm, strange. on my pc it stays open. I don't think you can force it to stay open. I think you'll have to wait for a new release of the portable framework...

  23. Delete after upgrading your Dropbox in config\update folder the update.exe file. I think dropbox will run.

  24. Thanks ! this works for 1.0.20 on my Win7 64bit.

  25. Creating a folder structure is easy when you know the hierarchy. However illustrating a structure is not that easy without a folder structure diagram tool .