What is Dropbox?

A few weeks ago, I talked about an online backup service called Mozy that lets you back up your PC or MAC online (the first two gigs of data free).  Today, I will show you another great online service called Dropbox, which, like Mozy, allows you to back up your MAC or PC online for free. However…. online backup is only the start with Dropbox!

Unlike Mozy, which only backs up your data to the Mozy data center, Dropbox will ALSO back up or sync your data to any other computer where you’ve installed the Dropbox software, no matter the operating system (MAC, Windows, iPhone Mobile, Android Mobile).  Additionally, you can also use Dropbox to share data/files/pictures, etc… with other Dropbox users or anyone who has a web browser.  This is great for grandma who wants to see the latest picture of the grandkids.

Honestly, Dropbox is cool, which is probably why it’s one of my favorite applications of all time. Honestly, it reminds me a LOT of one of my older favorite applications called Foldershare or Windows Live Sync, which I’ve been using since 2007.  As great as Foldershare was/is, it only allows you to SYNC files between computers.  Dropbox does this as well. However, it also backs up your data in the cloud, making it accessible from anywhere using the Dropbox website and your web browser, even if all your computers with the data are offline.

So with Dropbox, you get the best of breed for online backup with features that include:

  • MAC and Windows Compatible
  • Your data is backed up to the “cloud” in the event of a disaster (house fire, theft, etc…)
  • Your data is encrypted before it’s sent to Dropbox (The encryption is not as good as Mozy. However, it’s better than not being encrypted at all)
  • Your data is SYNC’d in real-time with your other computers (Windows or MAC)
  • Easily share/sync your data with other Dropbox users
  • Easily share your data and photos with anyone with a web browser (you will need to send them a private/unique URL)
  • Full access to your data from any computer using just a web browser on dropbox.com

Very groovy indeed!  Here’s a quick video demonstration that explains a few more details about the Dropbox service. If, however, you want to just read up on all the features of Dropbox and get rolling with it, take a look here at the Dropbox feature page.

Like any other professional online storage service, Dropbox has a great privacy policy. However, if privacy is a concern for you, you may want to avoid the Public folder within Dropbox as any content put in there is essentially “up for grabs” to the whole internet.

Okay, now let’s do my new favorite workout, Drop-boxing!  (…yeah I know)

How To Store All Of Your Files And Data Online Using Dropbox’s Incredible Sync Technology

1. Download the Dropbox client installer.

 Dropbox screenshot - download dropbox

2. Once the download finishes, Start the Dropbox installer.

Dropbox screenshot - start dropbox setup / install

3. If you are brand new to Dropbox, Click I don’t have a Dropbox account. Then Click Next.

Dropbox screenshot - choose to create a new account

4. Type some info for the fields shown.  Check the box for I agree to the Terms of Service, then Click Next.

Keep in mind this will be displayed in your Dropbox profile but you can change it later.

Dropbox screenshot - enter your account information

5. Select your desired Dropbox size which will likely be the Free 2GB box.  Click Next to continue.

Dropbox screenshot - get a free 2GB account

6. From here you can go through the 4 part “tour” tutorial and learn a few tips about Dropbox, or Skip it.

Dropbox screenshot - skip the "tour"torial

All that’s left to do concerning installation is a few more simple but important options.

Dropbox will create an internet-synced folder on your computer and as soon as you put files into this folder, they will instantly be encrypted and backed up to the Dropbox online storage system and any other Mac / Windows box you’ve installed Dropbox on.  It’s that simple.  That being said, keep reading for more details about the service.

7. Configure the last few options for Dropbox Setup and then Click Finish.

Dropbox screenshot - adjust final preferences and change dropbox location

Now you’re all done with installation; if you thought it was simple, then you thought right.  The rest of Dropbox’s functionality tends to follow that pattern, which is why the Groovy team absolutely loves it.

Let’s Take A Look Into Using Dropbox (Demo time!)

Dropbox makes backing up and synching your files to your online storage very simple.  It acts like any other folder on your system.  In Windows, it is as simple as Dragging a file and Dropping it right into your My Dropbox folder, or you can directly Save it through whatever application you are already working in.

Dropbox screenshot - drag and drop files to back them up online Dropbox screenshot - automatically save files to your online backup

The inside of your Dropbox folder will look just like any other folder on your computer.  We’ll just call this your local Dropbox.  The local Dropbox may look normal, but every file that is placed in here is automatically and instantly synced between your computer and your online Dropbox storage.

Dropbox screenshot - your dropbox folder is part of the cloud

If you want to view and manage your Dropbox without your local Dropbox folder you can do so online at the Dropbox website.  The login is located at the top-right of the page, just the account information you created earlier and you’re in.

Dropbox screenshot - login to dropbox

From the Files tab, you can manage all of your Dropbox content.  You’ll notice that this online Dropbox syncs perfectly with the folder on your computer, and you can even save it into your folder while you have this window open to watch new files appear.  The Share a folder and Sharing buttons are my favorite.

Dropbox screenshot - manage your dropbox account online

Click the Share a Folder button to open up the in-window sharing dialog.  From here you can Create a new folder, or Choose a currently existing one.  Dropbox doesn’t have an option to share individual files so keep in mind ALL contents of the folder will be shared.

Dropbox screenshot - create a new dropbox share folder

In the next step you can enter as many email addresses as you like and invite people to view and contribute to your Dropbox folder. If you accidentally share a file with the wrong person you can easily Un-share it from the Files tab, but you’ll need to re-invite the intended people if you do.

Dropbox screenshot - invite people to use your share folder

For your convenience, Dropbox will add an icon to your system tray making it easy to control nearly all aspects of the application.  From here you can see how much space you are using, view recently changed files, automatically open your online or offline Dropbox, check for updates, upgrade to a paid account, or change your Preferences.

Dropbox screenshot - the dropbox system tray icon rocks

How Do I Change My Dropbox Default Folder or Account?

If you decide you don’t like where you can originally installed Dropbox, Right-Click the Dropbox system tray icon and then Select Preferences… From the Preferences Window you can adjust the location by using the Move… button.

If you want to use a different Dropbox account on your computer you can Choose to Unlink this computer… which could be a fun experiment.

Dropbox screenshot - change dropbox default location or change / remove dropbox accounts

One important thing to note about your Dropbox, you need to use it or lose it!

If a Free Account is inactive for ninety (90) days, then Dropbox may delete any or all of Your Files without providing additional notice.

Online storage space doesn’t grow on trees, and since the Dropbox team is giving away 2 Gigs to anyone, one way to control costs is to nuke those who aren’t using it.  If you don’t use your account for 3 consecutive months, they will erase it.  Sounds fair enough to me.  Paid accounts are never deleted unless you stop paying and don’t reactivate for 3 consecutive months.

This is just one of many articles I plan to write about Dropbox, but hopefully, it’s been enough to give you an idea of what’s possible with this great free service.  Are you a fan of Dropbox, or do you know of another great Online backup/file sync app we should talk about?  Join the discussion below in the comment section.  If I see one I’ve not heard of or written about before, I’ll be sure to get an article up reviewing it vs. some of the services I’ve already mentioned.



  1. tainted

    May 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Dropbox is killer killer killer. I use it EVERY DAY to sync everything. It’s hilarious. I don’t even use local storage anymore. Everything is in dropbox.

    Nice write-up. You should have mentioned how great it is to share data between work and home a little more.

    • shockerSH

      May 25, 2010 at 8:44 am

      When you say “I don’t use local storage anymore” I think you mean you store everything in your dropbox folder right? If yes then your still using local storage (your local HD) your just storing everything in your dropbox folder so that it’s backed up and sync’d accross all your machines.

      • shockersh

        May 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

        Hey – I forgot to metion – if anyone wants to sign-up and give me 250megs of more FREE space please use this link!!!! :) :) :)


        • MrGroove

          May 25, 2010 at 9:11 am


  2. alpipego

    May 25, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Try looking into Spideroak, I for my part like it even better. In order to keep two directories synchronized on up to five machines (e.g. my folders for university related stuff) I think it does a better job. It always uses the newer version of a file (without prompting) BUT keeps backups of everything you’ve uploaded until you finally delete it from your Spideroak Account.
    So I guess dropbox is quicker for sharing files for single use but Spideroak is really powerful when you have to keep directories updated.

    • shockerSH

      May 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

      I just took a look at the site and it looks pretty good however, it doesn’t really look like it gives you anything over Dropbox. Granted I only have 3 PC’s I sync (2 windows and 1 mac) so I can’t really speak to the issue you stated about Dropbox not doing a good job accross a lot of machines.

      What exactly is it you like about them other than the better sync?

      I think SpiderOak might have come just a bit late to the party….

      • alpipego

        June 25, 2010 at 7:55 am

        so I finally managed to re-install Dropbox and have a look again. The thing I don’t like about Dropbox is that I have to move the files into a folder instead of simply selecting folders I like to keep synced.
        So I have it on my machines again and I like the idea of having a scratch pad, passwords etc in the Dropbox folder. So I’ll use SpiderOak and Dropbox for now (and Office Groove btw).

        • alpipego

          July 6, 2010 at 3:14 am

          It now works perfectly with symlinks:


  3. Jack B.

    May 25, 2010 at 3:54 am

    There’s a 97 percent chance that Dropbox is the best thing in the world. I have two machines, one of which is dual booting Win7 and OS X, plus a smartphone and Dropbox keeps them all on the same page. My favorite thing: I have a .txt file that sits in my Dropbox folder and acts as a universal “scratch pad” for ideas, to dos, etc. Also, when I last took my computer in to get fixed (under warranty), they asked “Do you have any data on here that you want to save before I wipe it?” I was all, “Psch, go ahead–all my data is in the cloud.” It really puts me at ease, especially since I do a lot of tinkering and occasionally ruin everything on my computer. I’ve even accidentally (somehow) deleted everything in my Dropbox account, but even then, you can undelete it in seconds.

    • shockerSH

      May 25, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Yea that’s awesome…. Love that about dropbox.

      One thing I love about dropbox is using it to SYNC my encrypted password file accross all my machines. This way no matter where I go, when I surf the net and need to get into a site, my password file is sitting there fully updated.

      • MrGroove

        May 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

        @ShockerSH – VERY good point. Which Password Management tool do you use with Dropbox? I use Passware and that works out pretty well for me with Dropbox.

  4. Vadim

    May 25, 2010 at 8:49 am

    MrGroove – You forgot to mention that dropbox also keeps different versions of files for 30 days. So if you nuke a file or change a file, you can get to an older copy of it for 30 days.


    • MrGroove

      May 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

      @Vadim – Free accounts get 30 days of undo history however paid accounts you get unlimited undo.

      Thanks for mentioning this. Looks like grooveDexter didn’t mention it in his article!

  5. Hammad

    September 20, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great guide…Thanks alot Dexter. I think i should seriously think about using Dropbox regularly to store and share files. The only thing which concerns me is the privacy. I hope its safe to store my work and other files on Dropbox

  6. Ramon Ortiz

    December 31, 2011 at 5:26 am

    I just wanted to know if there is a way to delete local content from the dropbox folder but keep said content on the dropbox server. Great Guide Austin!

  7. Ramon Ortiz

    January 4, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Ignore above I figured it out

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