Dropbox Selective Sync
Ben Brooks’ latest post on archived data in iCloud makes some interesting points but makes one mistake along the way. If you’re making the same mistake it means you are missing out on a great Dropbox feature that can help you archive old files that you don’t use regularly and reclaim disk space on your computer.
With Dropbox, however, everything exists on one master device (your main computer) and mobile devices only store pieces of that data when you explicitly tell them to.
This ignores a great, but little known, feature of Dropbox called selective sync. Selective sync allows you to tell Dropbox to only sync certain folders to certain computers. So, for example, if you have Dropbox installed on your home and work computer but don’t want all your personal files on your work machine, you can use selective sync to have your work Dropbox client not download your personal files to your work.
Even better though, selective sync allows you to have files stored in Dropbox that aren’t residing on any of your computers. This is great because it means you can save space on your personal computer by offloading little used files to your Dropbox account.
One useful way of using selective sync is for photos. Federico at MacStores made the move from iPhoto to Dropbox and Dropbox is becoming a great way to access old photos anywhere (I still prefer PictureLife though). The downside, particular for Macbook Air owners with limited hard drive space, is that old photos can quickly overwhelm your hard drive. With selective sync you:
- Place the folder of photos into your Dropbox folder.
- Wait for the folder to upload completely to Dropbox.
- Go into Dropbox’s advanced settings and, under selective sync, deselect the photos folder from syncing.
Dropbox will then remove the photos folder from your computer, but keep it on its servers so you can still access them from apps and their website.
While there are some things to watch out for, I haven’t had any trouble with this set up and it has let me reclaim a ton of disk space and still have access to my old photos when I need them.