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What is the hidden "Dropbox" folder on Windows and Mac computers

Occasionally, you may see a hidden file in the Dropbox folder on your computer, or a second version of the main Dropbox folder itself. This will happen in two situations:

  • The Dropbox folder was renamed on your computer (possibly after joining a Dropbox Business team, and then pairing a work and personal account)
  • You enabled hidden files and folders in your operating system

The Dropbox folder was renamed on my computer

If the Dropbox folder on your computer was renamed, the Dropbox app will create a hidden folder with the old folder name ("Dropbox"). This is called a “symlink.” A symlink is a file that directs to another file on your computer.

If your computer is set to show hidden files and folders, this symlink may look like a secondary Dropbox folder on your computer. However, it isn't. Instead, this hidden folder points to the new Dropbox folder from the old location path. To avoid seeing hidden files, you’ll need to change your device settings.

How to change computer settings for hidden files

Windows computers

Check to see if your Windows computer is set to show hidden files.

Mac

To avoid seeing hidden files:

  1. Open the Terminal app:
    • Click Applications, Utilities, and then Terminal
  2. Copy and paste the following line into the Terminal app, and then press Enter:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles NO

Important notes about hidden symlink folders

  • If your main Dropbox folder has been renamed, it may be best to leave the hidden symlink folder alone: some programs on your computer may depend on the original Dropbox folder path name ("Dropbox") to function
  • The symlink folder does not use extra disk space on your computer or on Dropbox
  • Deleting files in the symlink Dropbox folder will also delete the original file
    • However, deleting the hidden symlink folder itself won't delete the main, renamed Dropbox folder

I enabled hidden “.dropbox” folders in my operating system

Dropbox keeps a record of information about your main Dropbox folder and your shared folders. This information is saved in folders named ".dropbox" in the main Dropbox folder, or in a parent shared folder (i.e. a shared folder with other files and folders in it).

You will not see these folders unless you enabled the ability to view hidden files and folders in your operating system.

We strongly recommend against removing any ".dropbox" folders or the files within them. If you remove them you may unintentionally leave or duplicate a shared folder in your Dropbox. Instead, you can adjust the setting to hide these folders on your operating system.

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