Dropbox is moving their folder, and you can't change it

I was met with this email this week:

We’re writing to let you know that an updated version of Dropbox for macOS is ready. This updated version of the Dropbox app has a deep integration with macOS to ensure you have the best Dropbox experience. To get started, ensure your computer is on the latest version of macOS and click the Dropbox icon in your menu bar. On the notification that appears, click Get started .

Following the link takes you here:

The short version is:

Your Dropbox folder will be moved to ~/Library/CloudStorage.

Up until now, it has always just been:


by default. Apple is cracking down, and has now changed the rules on where needs to be located.

Interestingly, just around this time, I had been conversing with Arq developer Stefan, trying to troubleshoot an issue. Fundamentally, I couldn’t find my Arq backup files, which were supposed to be in Dropbox. Up until recently, most apps integrated with Dropbox by storing their contents in:


But on my iMac, the “Apps” folder was nowhere to be found (it still appears in the above location on my MacBook). I was looking for it because I was trying to resolve some odd errors causing my Arq backups to fail. Then it hit me that I might have circular logic in my backup strategy, since Arq was backing up my home directory to Dropbox, but my Dropbox folder was in my home directory (I’m embarrassed that I didn’t think of that sooner).

But backups had been running fine for quite a while. Still, I thought I should exclude the backup directory from what I’m backing up. But when I went looking for it, I couldn’t find it.

Talking with Stefan, he suggested looking in the previously mentioned:


But that directory doesn’t exist either! Suddenly, I got scared that my backup was gone, perhaps due to some confusion on my part. So, panicked, I tried to restore a random file that I knew would only have been backed up recently. And the restore worked! So where is Arq keeping my backup?? I don’t know, and it’s still a mystery.

But this is a side drama to the topic here, that I mainly want the community to be aware of. Talking to Stefan, it seems Apple’s new APIs for cloud storage are relocating where Dropbox files live.

I’m not sure that the change bothers me. But obviously, I’m unsettled that I can’t find the data anywhere. I will probably pull out GrandPerspective to hunt it down.

But I’m going to add that Dropbox has been weird in other ways lately. Besides the disappearance of the Dropbox/Apps subdirectory (that Dropbox support has so far been unable to explain), I also cannot get the Dropbox menu bar icon to appear on my MacBook. That means I can’t see what’s going on, what errors exist, whether things are synced, etc. Rebooting, reinstalling the app, and a number of other things have not helped. Is it related to the notch on my MacBook Air M2?

Nor is the “Dropbox Desktop” app working on either Mac. And these features are the way I have visibility into what Dropbox is doing, and the tools Dropbox Support is asking me to use to troubleshoot. Catch-22.

Is anyone else dealing with Dropbox changes or irregularities, like a missing Apps folder, missing Desktop app, missing menu bar icon, or??

Dropbox allows you to specify folders that sync down to your computer, so you can prevent syncing that large folder that Arq creates down to your internal storage. Have you checked the app settings to see if that folder is excluded from local sync?

(When Arq backs up to Dropbox as a backup location, it doesn’t write to your local Dropbox folder - it uses the Dropbox API to store the files directly in Dropbox. In fact, Arq suggests that you exclude this folder from syncing. See https://www.arqbackup.com/documentation/arq7/English.lproj/dropbox.html ).

I feel your pain. Moving Dropbox contents to icloudStorage rather than leaving it as a main User Folder continues to help fill up your hard drive on your Mac or whatever. I don’t like it at all and for that reason, have not upgraded my Dropbox update. Best, Patrick

How is it that moving the folder to a different location causes it to use more space?

For further discussion on this change, see also:

I apologize as I was not clear. What I do mean is that compared to learning how to put Dropbox on an external drive or volume. I guess it is already filling up my hard drive so I need to learn how to move it externally. Thank you. Best, Patrick

I totally empathize. If Apple makes the same restriction about Photo libraries, I’m screwed since mine is 1.6TB.

Apple already made my life difficult by preventing my System Photo Library from being stored on a network drive like Synology.

If I were conspiracy minded, I would posit that Apple was trying to collect upsell premiums by forcing you to buy their largest storage options. But my guess is it’s some technical limitation. But they still need to find a way to provide storage options for people with more than trivial storage requirements. They are failing in this area.


I could buy the conspiracy idea if Apple sold upgrades to internal storage for previously-purchased Macs. Few people are going to buy an entire new machine just to upgrade the internal storage.

True, but some people will buy a fatter machine next time they’re due to buy a Mac. I’m one of those people. Witness this MacBook I’m typing on and just purchased. I paid a premium to get 1TB internal storage, since I really don’t want to dongle an external SSD off of it, now or in the future.

In fact, I’ll flip your logic. I say that because Apple DOESN’T offer upgrades to storage (and RAM) in many cases, that scares experienced owners like me to buy MORE up front than I might ever need, so I don’t end up down the road with a Mac that has become obsolete just because I wanted to save $200. The upgrade option (that doesn’t exist) would allow me to defer (and possibly never make) that purchase.

In any case, I’d love more insight into why Apple has forced these restrictions.

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I believe the major reason was to remove potentially buggy and security-risk kernel extensions from the online sync services and create an API to handle the syncing.

I suggested in one of the posts linked by @jzw above to use Maestral for Dropbox, which will allow you to continue using ~/Dropbox if you wish, or external locations, though it’s not 100% compatible with Dropbox syncing. For me, though, it works perfectly well.

See About - Maestral (which also lists the few limitations of Maestral.)

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I think this is true, but I don’t think it explains why Apple designed the system in such a way as to prevent storing synced files on an external drive (or more generally providing user choice over the location). I think the answer to that is that they didn’t think too deeply about the various requirements people have and designed for the simplest use case. That sort of laziness/shortsightedness is excusable if there are alternatives, but I really think Apple should have done better in this case given they are forcing all sync providers to use their system.


Yes, but given the typical longevity of Macs, that next purchase may be years down the road.

My current machine is a 2019 16" MBP, and the only reason I’m even considering replacing it in the near future is to get a Silicon Mac. My previous machine was a 2010 17" MBP. That was an unusually long wait (because Apple offered no MBPs with larger than a 15" screen for so long), but the old machine was still viable for all of that time.

It’s not unusual for Mac owners to go five years or longer (sometimes much longer) between new machines. If Apple’s counting on scaring people into overbuying their next Macs, their strategy is far longer-term than just about any other tech business’s these days.

Sure, but part of this change is the ability to download files on demand, similar to the iCloud Drive optimize storage option. If you don’t have the space to store everything, you can still have the download on demand setting and access files as they are needed.

I get it - people want to back up files. But given that Dropbox by default keeps 30 days of file versions online, and I believe OneDrive is the same, I’d be interested to know if anyone has actually lost any files from the sync service providers (including iCloud Drive.)

I have one Mac that downloads and backs up all of these files, so I don’t really need it on all of my Macs.

Haha yea, but since I’ve been a Mac owner since 1984, their long term strategy is working on me ;-)

And maybe this makes me an oddball, statistically. But I currently own 6 Macs in my family (and countless other Apple devices), so I buy Macs (and iPhones, which raise the same concern) a lot more frequently than the schedule you proposed. And every time I do, I go through the painful “do I pay more to future-proof this device” internal battle, and often end on the high side. :sob:

But you can still have multiple libraries. So make the one you want to share over iCloud your system library and move the rest of your content to other libraries, which can reside wherever you want to put them.

If you have one library, the easiest way to split the content is to just duplicate the library (which is really fast and doesn’t consume extra space if you’re using APFS) and then delete images from one or the other, based on how you want to divide the content.

You can also create an empty library and use the Import mechanism to copy images from the other library. Once copied, you can delete them from the old location.

Yes, this does mean you can’t open both libraries at once (at least I don’t think you can), but if you organize everything so the non-system library has images you don’t access very often, then it shouldn’t be a big problem.

See also:

I don’t want multiple libraries. That’s a massive functionality regression. Imagine if there were 10 google home pages, and when you go searching for something, you have to first pick the right home page. Then imagine that 9 of the 10 of them are only accessible when you’re at home. It’s a disaster.

For us, Photos is the #1 productivity app of Macintosh. We have 3 kids and decades of memories, and older pictures than that which are scanned and indexed by date, location, keyword, etc. We enjoy sharing and reliving them. We have them screen saving to our family room Apple TV, and our guests enjoy them as much as we do. It’s usually better TV than anything that’s streaming. They are not something we want filed away into shoeboxes that hide in digital attics that we never see.

Maybe other people would benefit from your idea, and I appreciate you sharing it :-) But it’s not for me.


Thanks for that tip. But I still don’t get it. How do they define a “sync service”? Is any app that moves data between Mac and Internet a sync service? That means all of them :-)

Has anyone tried creating a hard link from ~/Library/CloudStorage to an external drive? Do we know that you can’t move the whole directory?

I think hard links work only for files. A soft link might work, but Dropbox has become very fussy about following them.

Ah! I’m not enough of a Unix person, clearly—I was just assuming hard links could do directories because Time Machine used to use them. But perhaps it made the directories some other way.

But there is some suggestion that it’s possible to symlink the folder in, if someone wants to test.