Running out of Dropbox storage? If you’ve tried every known trick in the book to increase your free storage without paying, then it may be time to re-evaluate your current Dropbox usage. In this guide, I will show you some of my tips for reclaiming storage space on Dropbox without having to lose an arm and a leg.
Identify the space hogs
Start with the low-hanging fruit by targeting the files that are taking up the most space in your Dropbox. Using DaisyDisk for Mac or WinDirStat for Windows, you can scan your Dropbox folder to quickly identify those bulky files.
One particular folder that may require your attention is a hidden cache folder that Dropbox uses to store recently deleted files. This folder is useful for quickly restoring files without needing to download it all over again. For example, if you accidentally deleted a file and attempt to restore it, Dropbox can simply fetch the local copy in the cache folder – saving you both time and bandwidth.
On the Mac/Linux, the folder is stored at your root Dropbox folder and can be found at:
On Windows, you can find it at:
From there, shut down Dropbox, delete the contents of the cache folder (but not the folder itself or the .db files), and then restart Dropbox.
Since Dropbox automatically purges the contents of this folder on a regular basis, any storage space you recover will likely be short-lived at best. More details can be found in this Dropbox forum thread.
Prune the Camera Uploads folder
The Camera Uploads feature for the Dropbox app on your phone or tablet is a handy way to quickly backup photos and videos to the cloud. Over time however, those countless selfies and 1080p videos you shot have nearly depleted your storage. Fear no more as I’ve got some ideas on how to fix that:
- Upload only photos to Dropbox – In the preferences of your Dropbox mobile app, you can choose to upload either just photos or both photos and videos to Dropbox. Disabling video uploads can go a long way to claiming back some space. Let’s do the math: a single 60-second video shot in 1080p can easily top 100mb. If you record three videos a week, it will take less than a month to consume 1GB of storage.
- Compress images using ImageOptim – ImageOptim is a must-have tool for quickly reducing the size of your images without any loss in quality. Simply drag and drop your photos into the app’s window and you’ve just saved 10–15% of disk space. You should be careful though with dropping your entire Camera Uploads folder all at once. Image compression uses a fair amount of CPU power so your computer will run quite audibly during the process.
- Use Hazel to filter out screenshots – If you’re a screenshot junkie like I am, it can be annoying to have Dropbox back up screenshots you take on your phone alongside your photos/videos. To fix this, I use a simple Hazel rule that moves any PNG files into a separate folder on my computer. You can also configure Hazel to delete the file altogether but that’s up to you. I also use an additional rule for Vine videos that does basically the same thing.
- Auto-upload to Google+ Photos or Flickr instead – If your Camera Uploads folder is simply too unwiedy to trim even further, you may want to consider alternative cloud services for storing your media. Two options I recommend are Google and Flickr. Both offer what can be considered “unlimited” storage for most people. On Google, you have 15GB of free storage shared across Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. For photos that are 2048px or less (on the longest edge) and videos that are less than 15 minutes long and have 1080p resolution or less, they don’t count towards your storage allocation. On Flickr, you get a whopping 1TB of free storage for any resolution photos which is more than enough for most people. The recent 3.0 release for the iOS and Android app introduced Auto Sync which is essentially Camera Uploads for Flickr, though I don’t think you can sync videos automatically.
Delete unused shared folders
I’ve used Dropbox numerous times for college and work to collaborate on projects. Once those projects conclude, it may be time to delete them from your Dropbox. If you are concerned you might need the files again in the future, simply back up the contents elsewhere like in an external hard drive or Google Drive. Even if you delete the file from your local storage, you can still download the entirety of the shared folder in the future via the Dropbox.com website – assuming no one in your group has made any changes.
What are your tips?
Dropbox is easily one of the first apps I download on a new computer, phone, or tablet. Don’t let your storage allocation hold you back any longer though. If you have any tips or tricks that you’ve used to radically recover GBs of space without resorting to deleting crucial files, please share them in the comments below!