How can I sync Dropbox folders separately with each device?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by aoitsukinosuke, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. aoitsukinosuke macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2011
    Hi everyone.

    I've got a question regarding Dropbox sync. Did a lot of search but can't find the exact solution.

    I have a MacMini at home, an iPhone 4 and a MacBookPro. My wife has an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2.

    We use the MacMini as our base. Downloading, surfing, workfiles, photos, movies, etc.
    MacMini is also our main sync operator for all our mobile devices.

    Here is my problem;
    I don't want to sync everything in our base folder (MacMini Dropbox folder) with all the devices. Rather, I'd like to sync each folder ONLY with the relevant device.

    I created a different subfolder for each device in the MacMini Dropbox folder.
    Now, I'd like to sync the Dropbox files separately between our devices.
    Videos would be placed in the iPad subfolder to be synced with iPad only.
    PDFs would be synced with my MacBook.
    Photos and other small files to be synced with the iPhones separately.

    I checked out the "share folder" option but it doesn't seem to solve my problem.
    When I share the iPad and my wife's iPhone folders, they both sync with her 2 mobile devices. But, she doesn't need the video files in her iPhone.

    Can anyone give me a hand please?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. The Tech Fish macrumors member

    Jan 31, 2012
    United Kingdom
    I don't know of any easy way to do what your doing with drop box. the only thing i can think of is to set up a dropbox account for each device, and then do it that way - but obviously that is very tedious and time consuming.

    I don't know much about iCloud, but might there be a way to do it with that?

    I know i have not been very helpful, but if nothing else, i may have stopped you trying to go down a dead end...

  3. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    The Mac version of dropbox allows you to selectively choose which folders sync with your computer. dropbox>preferences>advanced>selective_sync. Unfortunately, I do not see such an option in the IOS version of dropbox... which is where you probably really want it the most.

    However, the IOS versions of the program do not truly "sync" the data. Instead you specify how much storage you want dropbox to use, and it will use that as some type of cache for recently accessed files. You can force the program to prioritize certain data by the "star" function which is your "favorites". I believe that dropbox will attempt to keep starred files resident as a priority... allowing them to be used offline. Unfortunately, I do not believe that you can "star" a folder, just individual files... which would be a management challenge for a dynamic folder of frequently accessed data.

    Having said all of that... if you or your wife never view certain files on the iPhone or iPad, I do not think they would download to your devices... so maybe this entire exercise is unnecessary.

    The only other option that I can think of is to create different dropbox accounts for each of your "types" of devices. Then you can share the desired folders across each of your device types. The management overhead of this seems pretty high. Personally, I would first determine if the IOS caching behavior of the data suits your needs as is.

  4. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    Jim has the right idea. Lets break this down.

    Let's say your Primary Dropbox account is This is the dropbox account on your MacMini, You have a Dropbox folder on your MacMini with 3 folders in it

    1 Videos
    2 PDFs
    3 Photos and Small files

    On your MacBook set up your DropBox account as Go into Dropbox preferences by clicking on the Dropbox icon on your toolbar then select Preferences. In Preferences select advanced tab and click selective sync and choose the PDFs folder only. That's you MacBook sorted. All files will then Automatically sync over in only this folder.

    For your videos and Photos folders you will need to create two new Dropbox accounts. They will need separate email addresses, but most email accounts allow you to create alias accounts. These are linked to the primary email account but have a different name, create two new email accounts, and

    Create two new dropbox accounts with these email addresses.

    Go to the Web interface at and login with your primary email account, then share the Videos folder to, and the Photos and small files folder to

    On the iPhones and iPads then setup your dropbox account with these two new dropbox accounts.

    Once you have set this up, you will not have to change anything again, so a little effort to start but it will work.

    Some thoughts though

    1. Jim is right - as iOS devices do not sync as such - it just gives you a list of files in your dropbox account which you can choose to download, so maybe you don't need separate accounts.

    2. Not sure putting video files in Dropbox is a great idea, it is really designed for smaller documents, you will eat into your Dropbox space pretty quickly and the transfer will be very slow. A better approach for your iPad is to use iTunes home sharing, where you can store the files in your iTunes Media sever on the Mini then on the iPad use home sharing to access the files. However this only works over WiFi in the same location. In other words you can only use home sharing while at Home.

    Hope this helps.
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I don't really see the rationale here, since Dropbox won't download the file to the mobile device unless necessary.

    But if you want this type of functionality then consider SpiderOak or SugarSync. They are also cloud storage, but work on a folder-by-folder basis. Both are free and are outstanding backup/sync solutions IMHO. They allow for more customization than Dropbox.
  6. aoitsukinosuke thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2011
    Thank you for your valuable inputs and I'm terribly sorry for not getting back to my own thread sooner.

    The Tech Fish - Thank you Joe. You have been very helpful, indeed. I'm trying to stay away from iCloud at the moment.

    flynz4 - Thanks Jim. You've given me a good insight regarding the iOS side of it in a nutshell along with the right path to follow.

    James Craner - James, thank you for your time and effort. Great step-by-step tutorial, which really shed the light. As you said, a little effort in the beginning, but seems to solve my problem.
    I agree with your advice re: videos. I know they take quite some space, but I will only sync them briefly to let my family members to get the videos on their own devices and then delete them to save storage space.

    robgendreau - Thank you for your suggestions. I will look into them soon to see if they offer better alternatives.

    All in all, thank you all for your time and concern. I really appreciate it.
    Be safe.


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