How to use the same Dropbox folder with a dual-boot

I have been using Ubuntu and Windows in dual boot for some time now and I found that using Dropbox on both OSs could get a bit tricky as by default it will duplicate your files.

An easy walk around is to use the default location under windows, and then to create in linux a symbolic link that will point to it.

I will assume that you have a Documents folder on a disk/partition with letter D: under windows and mounted at /media/data. The path to your documents will then be “D:\Documents” in windows and “/media/data/Documents” in linux.

The installation has to be done in three steps

  1. Install Dropbox on windows, at the end of the installation the program will give you the option to change the Dropbox folder location, select your “D:\Documents” folder. The program will automatically create a “My Dropbox” subfolder where you files will be synchronised.
  2. Under linux create a symbolic link named “Dropbox” in the place of your choice, for instance in your home directory:
    ln -s /media/data/Documents/My\ Dropbox ~/Dropbox
  3. Install Dropbox in your linux distribution, at the end of the installation will again give you the option to change the Dropbox folder location, this time select your the folder where you created the Dropbox link, in our example your home directory. Dropbox will then see the folder “~/Dropbox” as it were “/media/data/Documents/My Dropbox”.

With this methods your files are always synchronised, should you be working under linux or windows, without being duplicated. Beware though that conflicted copies might appear if Dropbox does not finish the synchronization when exiting the operating system.

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7 thoughts on “How to use the same Dropbox folder with a dual-boot

  1. lloowen says:

    Does this really work? I always thought that Linux could not write to an NTFS partition. So how does Dropbox running on Linux write to a Windows partition. Is your Windows OS running on FAT32 file system?

    • Victor says:

      Yes it also works with an ntfs filesystem. You need to instal ntfs drivers (for instance ntfs-3g) and mount you filesystem with write permissions (for instance by editing /etc/fstab).

  2. Eric says:

    Neat presentation, thanks for the post.

    I had issues with, essentially, the same solution. Conflicting copies would pop in constantly when switching systems. Unless there is background Dropbox work that is hard to monitor, the problem was not lack of waiting for syncs to finish before the switch. Clock differences between systems, perhaps? That seems unlikely. Any hints?

    I will try re-doing this as you suggest.

  3. Dan says:

    Great instructions and even easier if you used a WUBI install of Ubuntu like me, as my NTFS data partition is already mounted and easily accessible

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