May 20, 2024
Dropbox Will No Longer Support External Drives on Mac

Dropbox Will No Longer Support External Drives on Mac

Posted February 15, 2023 at 5:19pm by iClarified
Dropbox has announced that it will no longer be able to support external drives on Mac due to Apple's required use of its new File Provider API.

According to a support document and numerous support forum posts, an update to the Dropbox for Mac is rolling out that will make significant changes to how the service can function.

Apple will now require Dropbox to store user files at ~/Library/CloudStorage, and according to Dropbox support, "there is no workaround on this as changing the location of your Dropbox folder is no longer supported by macOS."


For many users of Dropbox this is a disastrous update that will greatly disrupt their workflow. For example, video editors may have TBs of footage synced on external drives that will not fit on their boot drive.

Here's a look at the changes coming to Dropbox as a result of this new API.

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Changing the location of your Dropbox folder is no longer supported by macOS.
● Your Dropbox folder will be moved to ~/Library/CloudStorage.
● Due to the change of the Dropbox folder location, files that were previously linked in some third-party applications will need to be linked again.
● [u]Storing your Dropbox folder on an external drive is no longer supported by macOS.[/u]
● Your Dropbox folder in Finder will now be found under Locations instead of Favorites.
● Individual folders can be moved from your Dropbox folder to Favorites for quick access.

A new file format known as a flattened package is supported by Dropbox on macOS.
● Package files appear as regular files, but are actually bundles that contain other file types within.
○ Examples of package files include .pages, .numbers, and .key.
● This new format will have the same functionality as previous package files.
● Existing packages will be updated to the new format the next time they are changed and synced.
● Flattened packages can only be accessed on devices running Dropbox for macOS.
● Dropbox Transfer doesn't currently support flattened packages.


Searching through Finder won't find all content in your Dropbox folder.
● Searching through Finder will only find online-only files or folders that have been previously accessed on your device running Dropbox for macOS.
○ Only file names will display in these search results, not the file contents.
○ This will also affect features that depend on searching through Finder. For example, Smart Folders.
● Search using Spotlight isn't affected.

Actions involving a large number of files can take longer than usual to complete.
● Syncing or updating a Dropbox account with over 300,000 files can take a long period of time.

Certain types of files may not sync on macOS 12.
● Certain files, such as .fcpxml (Final Cut Pro) and .logicx (Logic Pro), may not sync.
● Files or folders may not sync if their name contains the byte-order mark (BOM).
● Files or folders may not sync if their name begins with a space followed by a single digit.
● These issues are resolved in macOS 13+.

LAN Sync is currently not supported on Dropbox for macOS.
● Users on the same LAN won't have increased syncing speed.

Photos Library isn't supported on Dropbox for macOS.
● Apple no longer allows Photos Library to be stored over cloud-storage services.
○ Some users have also reported this issue with Final Cut Pro libraries.

Some downloaded files won't display as occupying disk space.
● Opening an online-only file from the Dropbox desktop app downloads a file to your computer, but macOS won't include these files when calculating occupied disk space.
○ Making these files available offline corrects this issue.

Some newly added files will default to online-only.
● Files added to your Dropbox account from another device or that are shared by another user will default to online-only.
○ Files added to folders that are available offline will maintain the available offline status.
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Notably, it appears that Microsoft OneDrive has a solution for the external drive issue. This involves creating a symlink to a cache path.

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Using another volume
Sometimes, users choose a path on another volume to set up OneDrive. A typical use case for this happens when a user has a small internal drive on their Mac, but also has a larger external drive attached. This configuration is still supported in the new Files On-Demand experience if an external drive is selected during the first-run experience. A few things change as a result:

● The sync root remains in ~/Library/CloudStorage, on the user's home volume. As noted above, this path cannot be moved from this location.
● The cache path is on the volume that was selected during the first-run experience. This is located in a hidden folder that's a sibling of the location that was chosen.
● This folder begins with the name ".ODContainer".
● A symlink is created from the chosen location to ~/Library/CloudStorage.

For example, if the user selects /Volumes/BigDrive/OneDrive for their OneDrive path:
● The sync root will remain in ~/Library/CloudStorage/OneDrive-Personal
● The cache path will be set up at /Volumes/BigDrive/.ODContainer-OneDrive
● A symlink will link from /Volumes/BigDrive/OneDrive to ~/Library/CloudStorage/OneDrive-Personal

Because the cache path is located on an external drive in this scenario, any pinned content will be stored there and not on the main drive. The cache path folder is hidden by default. Users should not modify this folder or its contents.
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It's unclear why Dropbox hasn't implemented a similar solution, but we'll let you know if the company does release a workaround for the new limitations imposed by Apple.

Please download the iClarified app or follow iClarified on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and RSS for updates.


Dropbox Will No Longer Support External Drives on Mac
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