The sync icons on files in the desktop app, and what to do if they’re missing

The Dropbox desktop app makes sure the Dropbox folder on your computer is synced with your Dropbox account online. The app will show special symbols (or “icons”) to let you know what's happening. You'll see these icons in a couple of places:

  • The Dropbox icon in the system tray or menu bar shows the overall status of Dropbox
  • Icons on individual files or folders show the status of that file or folder

In this article, you’ll learn what each icon means, and what to do if they get stuck or go missing.

Sections in this article:

Note: If you're not sure what "sync" means, you can learn more about Dropbox sync and how it works.

The sync icons that appear on files and folders

Green icon with check mark

Synced

A green circle with a check mark means a file or folder has finished syncing the latest changes. These could be changes you made, or changes made by someone you shared the file or folder with.

Blue icon with rotating arrows

Sync in progress

The blue circle with rotating arrows means individual files and folders are in the process of syncing to Dropbox.

Gray icon with a minus sign

A file or folder isn't syncing

The gray circle with the minus sign may appear on a file or folder when you're using the selective sync feature (meaning you've opted not to sync this file or folder on your computer).

In general, selectively synced files and folders won't appear in the Dropbox folder on your computer. However, if you create two files or folders with the same name, the gray icon will appear, indicating that one of the files isn’t being synced.

Red icon with an x

Sync not happening

The red circle with the x means that something is wrong, and Dropbox isn’t syncing this file or folder. There are a few common reasons for this:

  • Invalid filenames (files can’t sync if their names have certain characters or symbols)
  • Permissions errors (meaning you don’t have access to shared content, or a computer system permission)
  • File changing very rapidly (meaning multiple edits in quick succession)
  • Your Dropbox account is out of storage space (which means you can't upload to it)
Shared folder with lock

View-only access in a shared folder

If you see a lock on a shared folder, it means that you have view-only access to that folder. This means you can view the files, but not edit them or share them with others. To request edit access to the folder, contact the owner of the folder.

Smart Sync

If you’re a Dropbox Professional or Business customer, you may also have icons unique to Smart Sync:

Online-only content icon

Online-only content

Files and folders with the cloud icon are online-only. This means that they’ll appear in the Dropbox folder on your computer, but they’re not fully downloaded. These placeholder icons simply show that the item is available in your Dropbox account online. You can then choose to fully download it if you’d like.

Local content icon

Local content

Local content is available in your Dropbox account online, and it’s also downloaded to the hard drive of your computer. You can directly edit these files from applications on your computer.

Mixed state folder icon

Mixed state folders

Mixed state folders contain both local and online-only files.

The status icons in the system tray or menu bar of your computer

There are a several Dropbox icons that appear in the system tray or menu bar of your computer. Depending on your operating system, these icons may be different colors.

Dropbox Tray Synced

Synced

If the Dropbox app is fully synced, the icon is solid, either black or white depending on your operating system.

Dropbox Tray Syncing

Sync in progress

If Dropbox is in the process of syncing, the icon appears with a syncing symbol in the lower right corner.

Dropbox Tray Paused

Paused

If the Dropbox app is paused, the icon is faded with a paused symbol in the lower right corner.

Dropbox Tray Not Connected

Not connected

If the Dropbox app on your computer can't connect to Dropbox servers, the icon is faded.

Dropbox Tray Notifications

Notifications

If you have unread notifications, the icon has a red dot in the lower left corner with a number indicating the number of notifications. If you have more than 99 notifications, the icon has a red dot with 99+ in the lower left corner.
Dropbox Tray Camera Upload

Camera import

If you are uploading from a camera, the icon has a camera in the lower right corner while the upload is in process.

What to do if the Dropbox icon is missing in the system tray or menu bar

The Dropbox icon will only appear in the system tray or menu bar of your computer if the Dropbox desktop app is downloaded to your computer and running. Occasionally, the Dropbox icon will seem to disappear, but this only means that the desktop app isn’t running.

To resolve this, first try launching the app again. If this doesn’t work, you can download (or re-download) the Dropbox desktop app and sign in to your Dropbox account when prompted. To relaunch the app:

  • Windows: Click the Start menu, then click Programs, then find and run the Dropbox app
  • Mac: Open the Applications folder, then find and run the Dropbox app 
  • Linux: Click the Applications menu, then open the Internet folder, then find and run the Dropbox app

What to do if the Dropbox sync icons are missing from your files

If you don't see Dropbox syncing icons on your files, there can be a few possible explanations. But the most likely one is that Dropbox shut down unexpectedly and is no longer running. To check if Dropbox is running, look for the Dropbox icon in your menu bar or system tray. If it’s not running, see the instructions in the section above to re-launch or re-download.

If you've verified that Dropbox is running, but you’re still having issues with sync icons on your files, here are some other possible explanations:

There are a few other explanations for why the sync icons might not work on a specific operating system. Click your operating system below to learn more:

Windows

  • Installing Dropbox without an administrative password will break sync icons. Re-installing using an administrator's password should resolve the issue.
  • Occasionally, the sync icons won’t appear correctly if you recently upgraded to a new version of Windows, or if you installed new applications on your computer. In this case the files or folders in Dropbox are still syncing. It’s just that the icons aren't appearing.
    • To fix this issue, reinstall the latest version of the Dropbox desktop app (if prompted, be sure to enter your computer’s admin password)
  • If your Dropbox folder is placed at the root (or top level) of a partition or hard drive, Dropbox may have issues accessing certain settings files. Moving your folder to another location on your hard drive should solve this problem.
  • Windows has a limit of 15 overlay icons that Windows Explorer can load, and the operating system reserves four for its own use. To find out how many overlays you have registered, you can check the registry:
    1. Press the Windows key + R and enter regedit.
    2. Navigate to the following registry key with this path:
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\ShellIconOverlayIdentifiers     
      
    3. Scroll right for complete command line.
    4. If the Dropbox overlays are in the first 15 positions, they will display; otherwise you'll need to make room for them. Please note that this requires you to delete or deprioritize other applications' overlays, so only proceed if you’re sure about what you'll affect.
    5. If you decide to proceed, you can select individual keys and delete them by right-clicking on the desired key. If you don’t want to delete them, you can rename them and place a at the beginning to send them to the end of the alphabetically sorted list.
    6. Quit explorer.exe and launch again from the Task Manager, or restart your computer.
    7. Launch Dropbox, and the sync icons should re-appear.

Mac

  • Installing Dropbox without an administrative password will break sync icon functionality. Re-installing using an administrator's password should resolve the issue.
  • If you have other applications or services that also add file icons or context menu items to the files within your Dropbox folder, try to temporarily quit them or uninstall them, and then restart Dropbox and Finder.
    • To restart Dropbox, click the Dropbox icon in the menu bar, click the gear icon, and then select Quit Dropbox
    • To restart Finder, click the Apple icon at the top of your screen, click Force quit, select Finder, then click Relaunch

Linux

  • Opening your Dropbox folder from a symlink will break both overlays and the Dropbox menu that appears when you right-click on a file or folder.
  • Dropbox depends on the Dropbox Nautilus extension for the contextual menu and icon overlays. If you installed Dropbox from the command-line and are not seeing icon overlays in your Dropbox folder, try downloading and installing the Linux package.

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