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How I set up a single Dropbox folder on my dual-boot Windows and Linux system

A quick guide to installing Dropbox on your dual-boot system with a central folder (instead of two)

This article is deprecated. For an overview of an updated and truly cross-platform remote sync solution based on Git, please see this article: A remote sync solution for iOS and Linux: Git and Working Copy.

June 14, 2018: Ben Newhouse, former head of Sync at Dropbox, was kind enough to inform me that this set up might have unintended ill effects on your Dropbox data:

Dropbox on Windows and Linux maintain metadata on each OS differently, so they’ll confuse each other. This will likely break things like version tracking and comments and as this isn’t a supported configuration probably worse.

I’ve personally moved away from using Dropbox (and for that matter, dual-boot) since writing this article. My current file sync solution for my all-Linux system uses a private repository on Bitbucket. Still, I never noticed any problems when I used this dual-boot setup. Here’s how to do it, at your own risk.

I’ve now set up two different laptops to dual-boot Windows 10 and different Linux distributions. Here’s how to ensure you maintain one Dropbox folder over both operating systems.

Assuming Windows was there first:

  1. Mount the Windows drive in Linux
  2. Install Dropbox in Linux
  3. Sign in to link to Dropbox
  4. Immediately change Dropbox folder location to the mounted drive (same Dropbox folder as Windows)

Dropbox will automatically set up your Dropbox folder when you run it the first time. On Windows it’s typically located in your C:\ or D:\ drive as D:\Dropbox and on Linux, it’ll go into home/Dropbox by default. They key to being able to specify the folder location is to do so the very first time you start Dropbox.

If you started with Windows 10, you’ll need to make sure the disk that contains your Dropbox folder is mounted in Linux so that you can access it.

You can mount the Windows disk in Linux using the terminal with these steps:

Type sudo fdisk -l. This will return a list of your partitions and information on them. Look at the “Size” and “Type” categories to determine which list item is the Windows disk partition that you wish to mount. Its address will look something like /dev/sda2.

Basically, this is what Linux will use to refer to your Windows drive. Type sudo mkdir -p /mnt/winD (where winD is whatever you want to call your Windows disk)

The syntax follows the format: [mount command] [file system type] [windows disk address] [target address] sudo mount -t ntfs /dev/sda2 /mnt/winD

Edit your /etc/fstab file to mount the disk automatically when you boot Linux. sudo vi /etc/fstab Add the mount instruction to the file. The syntax is in the format: [windows disk address] [target address] [file system type] [options] [dump] [pass] /dev/sda2 /mnt/winD fat32 defaults 0 2

Install Dropbox via package download or using the terminal. The completed installation will produce a GUI sign-in.

Aforementioned GUI

Input your credentials and wait while Dropbox does its thing. Once you see the “Congratulations!” message, stop! Don’t click the big obvious button, and read on.

Congratulations screen

Click on “Advanced Settings” and change “Dropbox location” to the Dropbox folder on your mounted drive. This should be the same folder as in your Windows setup. Ok, now you can click the big obvious “Open my Dropbox folder” button. You’re done!

Advanced settings screen

I didn’t read your article before clicking the big obvious button and now I have two folders

Uninstall Dropbox on Linux, making sure you get all the bits at /usr/bin/dropbox. Install Dropbox again and this time, read first! :)

I hope you found this helpful! If you have questions or want to bug me about using jpgs for screenshots, click that link below. :) Thanks for reading!