Why is the Dropbox desktop app using so much memory or CPU on my computer?

The Dropbox desktop app tries to be as efficient as possible. However, it will occasionally use more memory (RAM) or CPU than expected. This can lead to a slow-down with some functions on your computer, or generally cause your computer to run slowly.

What factors cause high memory (RAM) usage?

There are several factors that can cause higher than expected memory (RAM) usage, including the number of files stored in your Dropbox folder. The more files you have in your Dropbox folder, the more memory Dropbox will need to keep track of them.

What factors cause high CPU usage?

It's normal for there to be multiple Dropbox processes running at the same time. If you see multiple Dropbox processes in the Activity Monitor (macOS) or Task Manager (Windows), you should let them run. They may be helping the main desktop app or other Dropbox features. They also look for version updates and monitor for system crashes.

If you’re seeing higher than expected CPU usage for the Dropbox desktop app, there can be a few possible explanations. Please check each of the following:

1) The desktop app is syncing a large number of files

The desktop app may cause high CPU usage if there are a large number of files to sync. This is especially true the first time files on your computer have been synced.

2) External factors (or third-party apps) are conflicting with Dropbox

Some third-party apps access files in your Dropbox folder. Dropbox may interpret this access as edits to the files, and sync these perceived changes. If a third-party app continually requests access to your files, Dropbox will continue to sync, which will in turn lead to high CPU usage.

This loop usually occurs with third-party syncing apps, backup apps, and anti-virus or security software, or when a third-party app is installed within the Dropbox folder.

To isolate a third-party app as the cause of high CPU usage, temporarily disable each third-party app in the Activity Monitor (macOS) or Task Manager (Windows), and then see if CPU usage for Dropbox decreases.

3) Files in the Dropbox folder have incorrect file permissions

If files in your Dropbox folder have incorrectly set permissions, then the Dropbox app will continually try—and fail—to sync them.

4) There are a large number of files in your Dropbox folder

Performance of the Dropbox desktop app starts to decrease at around 300,000 files. You can improve performance and sync speed with selective sync.

5) The Dropbox folder is installed on a NAS device

The Dropbox folder should not be installed on a NAS device because our desktop app is not meant to work with network share file systems.

To resolve this issue, move your Dropbox folder back to a physically connected drive. Or, follow special steps to correctly use Dropbox with an external drive.

6) Your file system doesn’t support extended attributes

Our desktop app requires that you install the Dropbox data folder on a drive with a file system that supports extended attributes. If installed elsewhere, the app will continually try—and fail—to sync your files. This process causes high CPU use.

To solve, move your Dropbox folder to a hard drive or partition with a supported file system.

7) Symlinks are causing issues

If you know you have symlinks in your Dropbox folder, remove them to improve the performance of the Dropbox desktop app. Symlinks refer to data in locations outside of the Dropbox folder, so the Dropbox desktop app can get stuck attempting to access them.

Note: In some cases, the Dropbox desktop application may sync just the symlink file itself and not the actual files or folders which it references. 

If you're not sure if you have symlinks in your Dropbox folder, use the steps below to generate a list of any that exist. This list shows you the full file path to every symlink and where the symlink points to outside of the Dropbox folder.

In general, we recommend that you move actual data (your files and folders) into the Dropbox folder, and then create a symlink where the data was previously located. That way the symlink is outside of the Dropbox folder and the actual data will sync in your Dropbox. In this arrangement, you'll still be able to access the data at a location outside of the Dropbox folder in addition to in your Dropbox.

Find your operating system below for more instructions:

Linux and macOS

  1. Open your Terminal app located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal. (Or, open your preferred command line input on Linux.)
  2. Copy and paste the command line below and press Enter on your keyboard.
  3. find ~/Dropbox -type l -exec ls -lah {} \;

Windows

  1. Press the Windows + R keys (at the same time) on your keyboard.
  2. Type cmd and press Enter on your keyboard to open the command prompt.
  3. Copy and paste the command line below and press Enter on your keyboard.
  4. dir "%HOMEPATH%\Dropbox" /a:l /s

By default, the Dropbox folder is located in ~/Dropbox. If you have a Dropbox Business account, the default location for the business Dropbox folder is ~/Dropbox {team name}. To search the business Dropbox folder you should replace ~/Dropbox with the full pathway to the Dropbox folder within quotation marks. You should do the same if you moved the Dropbox folder to a location other than the default location. See the following example pathway:

find "users/Michael/Documents/Dropbox (Enterprise)" -type l -exec ls -lah {} \;

How helpful was this article?

We’re sorry to hear that.
Let us know how we can improve:

Thanks for your feedback!
Let us know how this article helped:

Thanks for your feedback!

Community answers