Friday, December 27, 2019

Dropbox No Longer Follows External Symlinks


As of mid-2019, Dropbox no longer follows items outside of your Dropbox account that are linked to by a symlink.

You can have symlinks that link to items both in and outside of your Dropbox account; however, these two types of symlinks sync differently.

  • If you create a symlink that links to an item in your Dropbox account, we’ll sync the the symlink file at its location and the item that it links to at its location respectively
  • If you create a symlink that links to an item outside of your Dropbox account, when you sign in to you’ll only see the symlink file but not the content it links to

Too bad, as I had considered symlink support one of the advantages of Dropbox over iCloud Drive. It made it possible to store things in Dropbox yet have them actually reside at other locations in the file system. And I could use Git to manage the contents of a folder that syncs, without having to put the .git folder in Dropbox.

The timing of this is not clear to me, though. The article says “as of mid-2019,” which we have certainly passed. Yet, as of now, it seems to still be following symlinks, and the report it generated for me lists the symlinks that “will” stop syncing.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

FWIW, in case anyone’s considering alternatives, Resilio doesn’t follow symlinks outside of share folders but does let you set up as many share folders as you like.

I’ll second Resilio. Absolutely love it.

Synology NAS

I never knew links were synced like that. I’ve always linked files in my home directory (.basrc, .gitconfig, etc.) to a folder in Dropbox so I can use them on any machine I use, including Linux.

I'm with Mark, I never knew Dropbox would do that and always had the "original" file in the Dropbox folder and pointed symlinks at the files there rather than the other way around.

So, does this mean that Dropbox can't be used to store the files of an Eaglefiler library, sans the index, et al? Right now, I'm using OneDrive with the file names fixed, and it seems to be working OK.

Add me to the chorus who has never used symlinks.

I switched to OneDrive when Dropbox went to its 3 devices only for free accounts. Not sure if that supports symlinks but I’ve found it a good alternative to Dropbox.

@sgtaylor5 With EagleFiler, typically people do the reverse—replace the EagleFiler folder with a symlink into Dropbox—so there is no symlink stored in Dropbox, anyway.

For my Dropbox account, mid 2019 apparently meant January 9, 2020. I was using this to auto sync with my Mac web server in a colo facility. All of a sudden 3.5 Gb of files disappeared from all of my computers (except on the server), though Dropbox still seems to be including this 3.5 Gb in calculating total usage. For now I am using Sync Folder Pro to sync into a Dropbox folder. Updates are infrequent, so I guess this double synchronization will work. But I sure wonder why Dropbox abruptly made this change of something that worked fine for many years.

Follow up that may be useful to someone -- the folders that were symlinked still appear in DropBox on the web, but the folders have been renamed with (Symlink Backup Copy) appended to the end of the folder name. So that's why the 3.5 Gb still shows in the usage. The backup copy folders only appear on the web version of DropBox, not on any of my computers. Not super useful to me, but I do like resolving the mystery.

Leave a Comment