Sync Files and Folders Outside Your My Dropbox Folder

The popular cross-platform file-syncing application Dropbox is a hit among Lifehacker readers, but it has one major drawback: It only syncs files placed inside the My Dropbox folder. Here's how to get around that limitation.

In order to sync files and folders that live outside the My Dropbox folder, you need to create a symbolic link between the My Dropbox folder and the folder on your drive that you want to sync. Symbolic links are sort of like shortcuts, so if you had a folder called SyncMe that lived on your desktop, you'd create a symbolic link that made it appear as though SyncMe also lived inside the My Dropbox folder. This process varies depending on your operating system. On Windows:

Use either the JUNCTION utility from Sysinternals, or the MKLINK command built in to Windows Vista and Server 2008, for example:

 junction "C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\My Dropbox\DesiredFolder" "C:\Path\To\DesiredFolder"
 mklink /D "C:\Users\Steve\Documents\Dropbox\DesiredFolder" "C:\Path\To\DesiredFolder"

Or, if you prefer a GUI, install Link Shell Extension.

[You could also]use SyncToy to echo changes from another folder to your Dropbox folder. This keeps 2 copies on disk though.

On OS X or Linux, try the following:

Use the ln command, for example:

 ln -s /path/to/desired-folder ~/Dropbox/desired-folder 

This works with files too:

 ln -s /path/to/desired-file ~/Dropbox/desired-file 

Another easy way to do this with Terminal is type the ln -s part, then from Finder drag the folder/file that you want into the Terminal window then drag the Dropbox folder and hit return.

Note that an Alias file or folder does not work.

The wiki also offers an Automator workflow to streamline the process if you're using OS X. If this syncing obstacle has held you back from using Dropbox, give these symbolic links a try. If this seems like too much of a hassle, previously mentioned Syncplicity and a few other popular file-syncing apps have user-defined sync folders baked in.


    I just set up Ubuntu's "desktop" folder as ~/Dropbox/Desktop

    I believe this would still require the total storage of the junction-linked folders to stay within the 2GB max dropbox size for the free version, correct?
    I'd like to see a pipe-tool that will forward any file synched into my dropbox, over to my skyDrive (25GB) and optionally removed from the dropbox upon successful 'moves'. that would keep the dropbox clear and would allow the nice drop-box front end, including folder/ multiple files at a time 'drops' onto the clunky skyDrive one-file at a time interface.

    Does Junction work with folders in the LAN?

    Make sure that you keep the actual files in the DropBox folder and then create a symbolic link to where you want your files. Otherwise dropbox does no automatically upload files and you can get multiple version of files if you make changes on another PC (or mac). See the Known Issue section in their Wiki:

    On Windows you might not want to move your Desktop, for the reasons outlined on the DropBox Wiki: .... problem solved

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