How To Fix the Dropbox Refresh Problem (Windows)

If you’re like me, you love Dropbox.  But it has a small flaw, that perhaps only power users would notice.  Here’s how to fix it.ADHERER

The Dropbox executable sits quietly in your system tray waiting for an update to or addition of any files in the Dropbox folder.  However, the Dropbox folder is one of the service’s biggest weaknesses: everything you want to sync has to be in that folder (or its subfolders) in order to get it to sync.

Some clever people figured out a good way around it by using links (linkd on XP, for instance, or junction or mklink… ln in OSX or Linux).  So if there’s a folder outside of the Dropbox folder that you wish to be synced, and you don’t want to relocate the folder, you can set up a symbolic link in the Dropbox folder to point to the folder you wish to have synced.  It’s really clever and works like a champ.

Except for one thing.  For some reason, the Dropbox application cannot sense a change in the linked folder unless it’s to the symbolic link.  Let me try to explain further.

Let’s say your Dropbox folder is located at E:\Dropbox.  You have a documents folder, let’s say it’s located at E:\Documents, that you wish to be synced.  So you set up a symbolic link at E:\Dropbox\Documents which points to E:\Documents.

So now, it looks, to the operating system and all applications, like there is now a folder called E:\Dropbox\Documents.  If you open, say, E:\Dropbox\Documents\Spreadsheet.xls, it actually opens E:\Documents\Spreadsheet.xls, and the second you save any changes to it Dropbox kicks in and syncs those changes to the Cloud.

But here’s the problem.  If you open E:\Documents\Spreadsheet.xls (which is the same file), when you save, Dropbox doesn’t realize that there’s been a change that it needs to sync.  At least it doesn’t for me.  I wish the Dropbox application had a right-click shortcut that said “Sync Now” but it doesn’t.

So I cooked up this small batch script to help me out.  I schedule it at various times throughout the day, and most importantly around the time that I leave the office and head for home.  That way, I will be sure to have the latest versions of my files when I get home.  Here’s the script:

taskkill /F /IM Dropbox.exe

start "" "C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Dropbox\bin\Dropbox.exe" /home

This is fairly straightforward.  It essentially kills the Dropbox application and restarts it.  The first thing Dropbox does on startup is check for anything to sync.  Easy-peasy, right?

The “start” command is necessary so that the batch script will be allowed to end without waiting for the new iteration of Dropbox to be terminated first.

So just create a file, name it something like “RestartDropbox.bat” and paste the above lines in it (replacing the <username> with your sign-on name to get the appropriate path), save it, and you’re ready to go.  Schedule it for whenever you want to refresh your Dropbox sync and never worry about it again.

Do you use Dropbox?  What do you use it for?  I’m always looking for new ways to use my Dropbox account; let me know your Dropbox stories and tips in the comments below.

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4 Comments on How To Fix the Dropbox Refresh Problem (Windows)

  1. Vincent Kruskal says:

    The fix to the problem you are talking about is to move the real folder into the Dropbox folder and put a junction where it used to be, that is where you expect the folder to be.

    The only time I have found that doesn’t quite work is Picassa, where Picassa, itself, is using the feature that Dropbox uses to get a signal when the folder changes. They can’t both get the signal unless you can change the Picassa folder to be the real Dropbox folder. In my case, that is possible on some computer, but not all.

  2. Michael Swanberg says:

    Ah, so you’re saying I should reverse the direction of the junction… hmmm… that might just work. I’ll give that a try. Thanks!


  3. Vincent Kruskal says:

    That’s what I’m saying. I’m doing that extensively and it works perfectly as long, as I said, the other application doesn’t use Windows change notification feature. The only case I’ve run across is Picassa.


  4. Michael Swanberg says:

    Thanks, Vincent! That tip worked perfectly! No more kludge! It updates in real time now.



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