Back ups outside of Dropbox

dropboc_logoI’m a pretty big fan of DropBox, the remote back up service with version control and file sharing.  It works on Mac, Linux and Windows.  I use it nearly every day to back up important files and pass documents to colleagues in a safe version-controlled environment.  (I wrote a brief explanation of DropBox last summer if you’re interested.)  There is also a web interface that allows access to your files no matter what computer you happen to be using at the time.

The only problem I saw with the service was its inability to back up files residing outside your DropBox folder.

I found a solution to this problem recently on the DropBox wiki.  The solution is brilliantly simple, but requires a short Terminal command to create a symbolic link.  Let’s say you would like to back up a folder called “Projects” that lives inside your “Documents” folder.  Open your Terminal and type the following command:


This command will create a symbolic link of your Projects folder into your DropBox. I have tested this in Mac OSX and Linux (Ubuntu) and it works beautifully.  There is a hack to make it work in Windows as well.

By the way, I’m not affiliated with DropBox in any way, I just happen to think it’s a beautiful piece of software.

If you’re interested, you can get a free DropBox account here.

If you already have a DropBox account, do you have any tips or tricks to share in the comments?

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10 Responses to Back ups outside of Dropbox

  1. ChuckEye says:

    I got a .mac account a year ago (before the transition to mobile me) and I’ve been debating whether or not to keep it. Address Book syncing was useful until I moved all my contacts to my Gmail address book, because Gmail syncs contacts & calendars with my Blackberry more seamlessly than MissingSync or PocketMac for Blackberry. I still like using iDisk for offline or on/offline storage… Keeping iDisk synced means there’s a local sparse disk of 20GB that pushes changes up to the cloud in the background… a function I might like if I also pick up a Dell Inspiron Mini9 netbook to run Leopard on. (Seems like a SSD system keeping your datafiles in sync with iDisk would be the way to go, since it wouldn’t be my primary machine but rather something used for note-taking and surfing…)

    I may have to give DropBox a look to see if it meets any of those needs before my mobile me renews next month for another year.

  2. Dave says:

    Thanks for the comment, Chuck. For me, DropBox has a few features that iDisk is lacking. Hard disk space is a big one. For the same price as MobileMe ($99/year for 20GB storage) you get 50GB with DropBox. But that’s not what stands out to me. I LOVE the version control and ability to “restore” previous versions of a file if it is needed. It’s basically Subversion for non-programmers (with a nice GUI interface). Thanks again for stopping by the blog.

  3. Hey, Dave, I clicked through to DropBox from here and it awarded you (and me) some extra memory. Wasn’t expecting that, but there ya go. Doing my initial upload now… should have waited for an overnight, it is clogging my bandwidth. will try this Terminal hack as I don’t like having things live in the DropBox.

  4. Dave says:

    Hi Maryn, yes I used my referral code for DropBox so that anyone signing up through my link would get a little extra space for free. I get the same free space as well. Pretty nice. I went a little crazy with the Terminal hack last week and backed up all my development websites, important documents, etc. Hope it works for you.

  5. Mojo Denbow says:

    Now why don’t you blog more often? Good stuff.

  6. Dave says:

    Thanks, Chris, glad you liked it. Sometimes the blogging spigot gets clogged…

  7. Doug Aitken says:

    Thanks for this David, I was just about to go to the Dropbox wiki to find this out, I thought it would be just the same as a norm sym link but wanted to check but came across this post first.
    I recently blogged about the use of Dropbox in education, just an idea I had. I use Dropbox to back up my website code etc.

  8. ChuckEye says:

    The symbolic link works good for most standard docs. Unfortunately, it can be screwy for a few specialized cases. This weekend I tried to do “ln -s ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist ~/DropBox/SyncLink/Bookmarks.plist” after having made a copy to my DropBox… Now that I let my .mac expire, I was looking for a new way to sync my Safari Bookmarks, and since I’m not on more than one machine at a time, I thought this would be a good solution. Well launching Safari read the one from the DropBox on launch, but then overwrote the symbolic link with a new hard file in the Library.

    No immediate workaround in mind, though not a pressing problem. Just thought I had a clever solution and it didn’t quite work.

  9. Dave says:

    Chuck, give Xmarks a try for the bookmark syncing. I use it to sync bookmarks across Safari, FireFox and IE (over Mac, Linux & PC). Free and works like a charm. Here’s a tweet with my screenshot of just that.

  10. Fabiano says:

    Chuck, I’m sure you found out about this by now but here is a link where they talk about this issue in case someone else runs into it:

    “..if you put a symlink in your Dropbox folder that links to a single file, updates to the file sometimes cause the link to be replaced by a copy of the file itself, and the original ‘linked to’ file is not synchronized anymore. A safe solution seems to be to put only symlinks to folders in your Dropbox folder, or to put the original file into your Dropbox folder and then create symbolic links to your file at the other location(s) you want to access the file from.”

    I think the best solution would be to symlink the folder instead as in
    $ ln -s ~/Library/Safari/ ~/DropBox/SyncLink/
    but then I am not sure you want everything in there to be synched.

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