Difference between revisions of "Dropbox"

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(alternatives are described in Backup Programs)
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[[Category:Internet Applications]]
[[Category:Internet applications]]

Revision as of 04:28, 1 March 2014


Dropbox is a file sharing system that recently introduced a GNU/Linux client. Use it to transparently sync files across computers and architectures. Simply drop files into your ~/Dropbox folder, and they will automatically sync to your centralized repository.


dropboxAUR can be installed from the AUR. Alternatively, dropbox-experimentalAUR is also available.

  1. After installing the package, you can start Dropbox from your application menu or run dropboxd from the command-line. The client icon will appear in the system tray.
  2. A pop-up will notify you that Dropbox is running from an unsupported location. Click on Don't ask again since you know that you have installed it from AUR rather than from the official homepage.
  3. Eventually a pop-up will ask you to log in to your Dropbox account or create a new account. Enter your credentials.
  4. After some time you will see a "Welcome to Dropbox" pop-up, which will give you the opportunity to view a short tour of Dropbox.
  5. Press the "Finish and go to My Dropbox".

For KDE users, no further steps are required (it is enough to install the above dropboxAUR package from the AUR), as KDE saves running applications when logging out and restarts them automatically. Similarly for Xfce users, dropbox will be restarted automatically next time you login since the dropbox.desktop file be placed in ~/.config/autostart.

Optional packages

  • For a command-line interface, install dropbox-cliAUR from the AUR.
  • For integration with Nautilus, install nautilus-dropboxAUR from the AUR. The Nautilus plugin will start Dropbox automatically.
  • For integration with Nemo, install nemo-dropbox-gitAUR from the AUR.
  • For integration with Thunar, install thunar-dropboxAUR from the AUR.
  • For KDE users, there is a KDE client available: kfileboxAUR from the AUR.

Automatically starting Dropbox

Dropbox can be automatically started by adding dropboxd to ~/.xinitrc (or ~/.config/openbox/autostart, depending on your setup). Alternatively, you can start it as a daemon.

Alternative to install: use the web interface

If all you need is basic access to the files in your Dropbox, you can use the web interface at https://www.dropbox.com/ to upload and download files to your Dropbox. This can be a viable alternative to running a Dropbox daemon and mirroring all the files on your own machine.

Run as daemon with systemd

Recent versions of Dropbox come with a systemd service file. By default running Dropbox as a daemon does not give you an icon in the system tray, but syncs your files and folders in the background. If you want to have tray support, create /etc/systemd/system/dropbox@.service to override the provided service file and specify the environment variable DISPLAY:

.include /usr/lib/systemd/system/dropbox@.service

Finally, to enable the daemon for your user, so that it will start at login:

# systemctl enable dropbox@<user>

Note that you have to manually start Dropbox the first time after installation, so that it runs through the login and setup screen. Further, you need to uncheck the option Start Dropbox on system startup in order to prevent Dropbox from being started twice. The daemon can then be used subsequently.

Run as a daemon with systemd user

If you have followed the systemd/User wiki page, you probably want to start dropbox only when you log in or launch your WM/DE. The solution in that case is to create a service in your home directory instead of using the sysadmin account:

Description=Dropbox as a systemd service

ExecReload=/bin/kill -HUP $MAINPID


They you can start or enable it with:

$ systemctl --user {start|enable} dropbox@:0.service

That way you can easily start it in your main display (likely :0) or in another one, without having to hard code it.

Note: After a lot of trial and error I found that using /usr/bin/dropboxd didn't start the service and it didn't show any error either (even when running it directly from the terminal worked fine). I believe it has to do that starting it that way systemd doesn't know which user is actually running the daemon.

Securing your Dropbox

If you want to store sensitive data in your Dropbox, you should encrypt it before. Syncing to Dropbox is encrypted, but all files are (for the time being) stored on the server unencrypted just as you put them in your Dropbox.

  • Dropbox works with TrueCrypt, and after you initially uploaded the TrueCrypt volume to Dropbox, performance is quite okay, because Dropbox has a working binary diff.
  • Another possibility is to use EncFS, which has the advantage that all files are encrypted separately, i.e. you do not have to determine in advance the size of the content you want to encrypt and your encrypted directory grows and shrinks while you add/delete/modify files in it. You can also mount an encrypted volume at startup using the -S option of encfs to avoid having to input the passphrase, but note that your encrypted files are not secure from someone who has direct access to your computer.

Setup EncFS with Dropbox

Follow the Wiki instructions to install EncFS.

Assuming you have set your Dropbox directory as ~/Dropbox:

Create a folder. Files you want synced to Dropbox will go in here.

$ mkdir ~/Private

Run the following and enter a password when asked:

$ encfs ~/Dropbox/Encrypted ~/Private

Your secure folder is ready for use; creating any file inside ~/Private will automatically encrypt it into ~/Dropbox/Encrypted, which will then be synced to your cloud storage.

To mount your EncFS folder on every boot, follow the instructions in the EncFS wiki page.

Tip: Consider using the ENCFS6_CONFIG variable and moving the .encfs6.xml file to another location (like a USB stick), to help ensure that your encrypted data and the means to realistically decrypt it do not exist together online.

Multiple Dropbox instances

If you need to separate or distinguish your data, personal and work usage for example, you can subscribe to Dropbox with different email addresses and have multiple directories synced to different instances.

The basic principle and general how-to are described in the Dropbox Wiki.

Note: When dealing with multiple instances you have to select the Dropbox destination folder, which the Dropbox installer asks in the last step; usage examples may be /home/dropbox-personal, /home/dropbox-work, and so on.

For convenience, here is a script that I use to accomplish the task: just add a dir in the "dropboxes" list to have another instance of Dropbox, referring to the dir, loaded at script startup.


 # Multiple dropbox instances

 dropboxes=(.dropbox-personal .dropbox-work)
 for dropbox in ${dropboxes[@]}; do
     if ! [ -d $HOME/$dropbox ];then
         mkdir $HOME/$dropbox
     HOME=$HOME/$dropbox/ /opt/dropbox/dropbox start -i &

Dropbox on laptops

Dropbox itself is pretty good at dealing with connectivity problems. If you have a laptop and roam between different network environments, Dropbox will have problems reconnecting if you do not restart it. Try one of the methods described below first, if for some reason the problem remains, you may try one of these hackish solutions: [1], [2].

Note: When using any of these methods, you need to prevent Dropbox from doing a standard autostart by unchecking Dropbox - Preferences - General - Start Dropbox on system startup. This prevents Dropbox from creating the ~/.config/autostart/dropbox.desktop file and thus from starting twice.

Using netctl

For netctl, use ExecUpPost and ExecDownPre respectively in every network profile you use, or for example in /etc/netctl/interfaces/wlan0 to start Dropbox automatically whenever profile on wlan0 is active. Add '|| true' to your command to make sure netctl will bring up your profile, although Dropbox fails to start.

ExecUpPost="any other code; su -c 'DISPLAY=:0 /usr/bin/dropboxd &' your_user || true"
ExecDownPre="any other code; killall dropbox"

Obviously, your_user has to be edited and any other code; can be omitted if you do not have any. The above will make sure that Dropbox is running only if there is a network profile active.

Using NetworkManager

If you have connectivity problem with NetworkManager, try using a dispatcher script: networkmanager-dispatcher-dropboxAUR or networkmanager-dispatcher-dropbox-systemdAUR.

Using wicd

Create /etc/wicd/scripts/postconnect/dropbox:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
su -c 'DISPLAY=:0 /usr/bin/dbus-launch dropboxd &' your_username

or, if you use dropbox with systemd:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
systemctl restart dropbox@<user>

Create /etc/wicd/scripts/postdisconnect/dropbox:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
killall dropbox

or, if you use dropbox with systemd:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
systemctl stop dropbox@<user>
Note: If you use PCManFM as your file manager, Dropbox will use 'xdg-open' calls pcmanfm to open the Dropbox folder.However, without a dbus session, you can not use Trash in PCManFM. You should refer to Dbus and General Troubleshooting#Session permissionsto edit your ~/.xinitrc based on /etc/skel/.xinitrc to start a D-Bus session before your launch any other program in ~/.xinitrc. Do use 'dbus-launch dropboxd' instead of just 'dropboxd' in wicd postconnect script. otherwise pcmanfm launched by clicking dropbox icon can not use the Trash.


Dropbox keeps saying Downloading files

But in fact now files are synced with your box. This problem is likely to appear when your Dropbox folder is located on a NTFS partition whose mount path contains spaces, or permissions are not set for that partition. See more in the [forums]. To resolve the problem pay attention to your entry in /etc/fstab. Avoid spaces in the mount path and set write permissions with the "default_permissions" option:

UUID=01CD2ABB65E17DE0 /run/media/username/Windows ntfs-3g uid=username,gid=users,default_permissions 0 0

Change the Dropbox location from the installation wizard

Some users experience the problem during setting-up Dropbox that they cannot select a Dropbox folder other than /home/username/Dropbox. In this case when the window for changing the path is shown , hit Ctrl+l, enter the location (e.g. /mnt/data/Dropbox) and click on the '"Choose" or "Open" button.

Context menu entries in file manager do not work

Several file managers such as Thunar, Nautilus or its fork Nemo come with extensions that provide context menu entries for files and folders inside your Dropbox. Most of them will result in a browser action such as opening the file or folder in dropbox.com or sharing the link. If you experience these entries to not working, then you are likely to have not set the $BROWSER variable which Dropbox requires. You can check that by

$ echo $BROWSER

To set your $BROWSER variable open ~/.profile and replace chromium with your default browser:

if [ -n "$DISPLAY" ]; then


It may happen that Dropbox cannot connect successfully because it was loaded before an internet connection was established. This can happen on wireless connections, or fast loading machines on wired networks. The best solution to this problem, for wired and wireless connections, is #Dropbox on laptops which will ensure that Dropbox is started only after the connection is established.

An alternative solution, for those not using netctl or NetworkManager, is to delay the startup of dropbox:

  • cp ~/.config/autostart/dropbox.desktop ~/.config/autostart/dropbox-delayed.desktop
  • Prevent dropbox from doing a standard autostart by unchecking Dropbox - Preferences - General - Start Dropbox on system startup. This removes ~/.config/autostart/dropbox.desktop.
  • Edit ~/.config/autostart/dropbox-delayed.desktop and replace Exec=dropboxd with Exec=bash -c "sleep timeout && dropboxd". Tweak the timeout parameter, the value of 3 is a good start.

Dropbox does not start - "This is usually because of a permission error"

Check permissions

Make sure that you own Dropbox's directories before running the application. This includes

  • ~/.dropbox - Dropbox's configuration directory
  • ~/Dropbox - Dropbox's download directory (default)

You can ensure this by changing their owner with chown -R.

This error could also be caused by /var being full.

Re-linking your account

Dropbox's FAQ suggests that this error may be caused by misconfiguration and is fixed by (re)moving the current configuration folder

# mv ~/.dropbox ~/.dropbox.old

and restarting Dropbox.

Errors caused by running out of space

A common error that might happen is that there is no more available space on your /tmp and /var partitions. If this happens, Dropbox will crash on startup with the following error in its log:

Exception: Not a valid FileCache file

A detailed story of such an occurrence can be found in the forums. Make sure there is enough space available before launching Dropbox.

Locale caused errors

Try starting dropboxd with this code:


(You can also use a different value for LANG; it must be in the format "en_US.UTF-8") This helps when running from a Bash script or Bash shell where /etc/rc.d/functions has been loaded

Filesystem monitoring problem

If you have a lot of files to sync in your Dropbox folder, you might get the following error:

Unable to monitor filesystem
Please run: echo 100000 | sudo tee /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches and restart Dropbox to correct the problem.

This can be fixed easily by adding

fs.inotify.max_user_watches = 100000

to /etc/sysctl.d/99-sysctl.conf and then reload the kernel parameters

# sysctl --system

Proxy settings

The easiest way to set Dropbox's proxy settings is by defining them manually in the Proxies tab of the Preferences window. Alternatively, you can also set it to 'Auto-detect' and then export your proxy server to the http_proxy env variable prior to starting Dropbox (HTTP_PROXY is also usable)

env http_proxy=http://your.proxy.here:port /usr/bin/dropboxd


export http_proxy=http://your.proxy.here:port
Note: Dropbox will only use proxy settings of the form http://your.proxy.here:port, not your.proxy.here:port as some other applications do.


Hack to stop Auto Update

rm -rf ~/.dropbox-dist
install -dm0 ~/.dropbox-dist