Mac Tip: DropBox Tips – Selective Sync & Cache Cleaning

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Dropbox is an amazing tool and now that it has selective synchronization, you no longer have to have every folder synced across all of your systems.  This is particularly useful if you find solid states hard drive sizes a bit cramped.

1. Set up selective syncing by clicking the Dropbox icon and selecting “Preferences.”

2. Go to the “Advanced” tab, then click the “Selective Sync” button.

3. Then just un-check the file or folders you do not want synchronized on the current system.

TIP 2: delete Dropbox’s huge cache

In addition to storing your files on your computer, Dropbox also keeps a second copy of many files (including deleted files) in a cache. While running previous tip recommendation, Grand Perspective on my system, I noticed several large blocks all in a “.dropbox/cache” directory. There were files here from years ago taking up over 40gb of space.

Here is how to remove this cache on a Mac (note: there are articles on how to delete Dropbox’s cache on non-Apple operating systems).

1. Make sure to either “Pause Syncing” or “Quit Dropbox.”

2. Open a Finder window and from the “Go” drop down menu, select “Go to Folder”.

3. Type in “.dropbox” or .”dropbox/cache” The “.” before dropbox is essential!

4. There should be three folders in the cache folder. You can delete the files in each of the three folders but do not delete the folders themselves or the parent “cache” folder.

There! You may now have gigabytes more space open on your hard drive.

Is there a downside to removing the cache?

According to Dropbox,

The cache is there for your protection (i.e. it helps if there’s an accidental large deletion, or dropbox erroneously deletes a file). If you restore files after a large delete, dropbox will simply fetch the files from your cache folder (instead of downloading it all over again). Also, if for some reason dropbox erroneously clobbers a file, you can quickly grab it from the cache.

That said, the very large file that frequently changes can cause problems. For this reason we need to be smarter about managing the cache size (no precise ETA, but we know it needs to be addressed).

So, you can weigh the pros and cons. However, if you notice your harddrive space shrinking and need to put your laptop on a diet, you can often get gigabytes back by deleting the cache.

UPDATE 05/23/11: Some readers have pointed out that they do not see a large cache file in the hidden dropbox folder. I have performed this cache cleaning on several systems linked to the same dropbox account and each had a substantial cache on it. However, since clearing out the cache, it has not reappeared. I can speculate that the cache may be a vestigial part of prior version of the dropbox program. If you are more recent user, you may not see it. If you have been using dropbox for a while, it may be in your system taking up quite a bit of space. In summary: if you don’t see the large cache, it may just not be there. However, it is still worth checking just to make sure it is not taking up huge chunks of  hard drive space. Thank you so much reading and sending in your experiences!

Top image Creative Commons License photo credit: JanneM


  • http://COBankruptcyLaw.com Robin Hunt

    This tip was mentioned as your Mac tip in the Colorado Bar Association’s C-Brief e-mail newsletter. I followed the instructions for deleting Dropbox’s cache. When I clicked “Go” after entering either “.dropbox” or “.dropbox/cache” in “Go to the folder,” a message appeared that the folder could not be found.

    Then, I used EasyFind by DEVONtechnolgies to search and found a “.dropbox.cache” folder with a dated subfolder (2011-05-09) within my Dropbox itself. EasyFind also located a “.dropbox” folder hidden in ~/User/ and containing 10 items (subfolders and files).

    I’m not finding anything that looks like what you are describing.

    • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

      Hi Robin, it looks like you found the folder. Yes, it is a hidden file in the user folder. I can update the article to make that clearer.

      There may be 3 folders in the cache folders named as dates. Dropbox says keeps “3 days” of cached files, however in my experience, while there were 3 folders with the last 3 dates, the files contained in the folders went back to quite a ways. That may be because I have been using dropbox for several years now and there may be cruft there from prior versions of the program. When you say that you did not find anything like what I described, do you mean that you did not find a large cache?

      Thanks for writing!

    • Alex P

      I realise this is old but if do find this article and the tip above doesn’t work for you this is probably because you haven’t specified the full path to the Dropbox cache folder.

      On my Mac the Dropbox folder is on the top level of each User thus the full path to the Dropbox cache is obtained like this:-
      Finder, Go, Go to Folder…

      In Go to Folder type:-

      ~/Dropbox/.dropbox.cache

      Good luck.