Dropbox is using more CPU than usual

When the Dropbox desktop app reports high CPU usage it is usually due to external factors that conflict with Dropbox. This article lists factors that could explain abnormal CPU usage.

Third-party apps

Some third-party apps access files in your Dropbox folder. Dropbox may interpret this access as edits to the files, and it will 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.

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

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.

To ensure files in your Dropbox folder have correct permissions, follow these steps:

Linux

  1. Right-click the Dropbox menu in the menu bar.
  2. Click Quit.
  3. Open a terminal window. 
  4. Copy and paste the following line into the terminal (exactly as written below):
    sudo chown "$USER" "$HOME"
    sudo chown -R "$USER" ~/Dropbox ~/.dropbox
    sudo chattr -R -i ~/Dropbox
    sudo chmod -R u+rw ~/Dropbox ~/.dropbox
    
    If your Dropbox folder is not ~/Dropbox, modify the commands above to point to the correct location.
  5. Click Applications
  6. Open the Internet menu.

Mac

  1. Click the Dropbox icon from the menu bar.
  2. Click the gear icon.
  3. Choose Quit Dropbox.
  4. Open Terminal (located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal).
  5. Copy and paste the following lines into the Terminal, one at a time, and press Return on your keyboard after each one:
    • Be sure to copy and paste these commands, rather than typing by hand, as entering the command incorrectly could cause some harm to your computer
    • You'll be prompted to enter your computer user's password (not your Dropbox password) after entering the first command. Note that the password field in the terminal will remain blank as you type your password. After you paste it, press Return on your keyboard.
  6. sudo chflags -R nouchg ~/Dropbox ~/.dropbox ~/.dropbox-master
    sudo chown "$USER" "$HOME"
    sudo chown -R "$USER" ~/Dropbox ~/.dropbox
    sudo chmod -RN ~/.dropbox ~/Dropbox
    chmod -R u+rw ~/Dropbox ~/.dropbox 
    
    Scroll right to see the complete command line.

    If the location of your Dropbox folder is not ~/Dropbox, modify the commands above to point to the correct location.

  7. Restart Dropbox from the Applications folder.

Windows

  1. Click the Dropbox icon in the system tray.
  2. Click the gear icon. 
  3. Select Exit Dropbox.
  4. Press the Windows + R keys (at the same time) on your keyboard.
  5. Type cmd and press Enter to open the command prompt.
  6. Copy and paste the following lines into the command prompt, one at a time, and press Enter on your keyboard after each one.
  • Be sure to copy and paste these commands, rather than typing by hand, as entering the command incorrectly could cause some harm to your computer
  • Paste by right-clicking and then selecting Paste
    icacls "%HOMEPATH%\Dropbox" /grant "%USERNAME%":(F) /T
    icacls "%APPDATA%\Dropbox" /grant "%USERNAME%":(F) /T
    

Scroll right to see the complete command line.

If the location of the Dropbox folder does not have C:\Users\YourUser\Dropbox as its path, modify the first command to point to it. For example, if your Dropbox is in D:\Dropbox, the command would appear as:

icacls "D:\Dropbox" /grant "%USERNAME%":(F) /T

The other commands should remain unchanged. Note that, depending on the size of your Dropbox, this operation may take some time to complete. Wait for the C:\ prompt to appear again before proceeding.

7. Opening the Start menu.

8. Select Program Files.

9. Select Dropbox.

We recommend that you contact the support organization of your operating system to troubleshoot file permissions on the intended destination for your Dropbox folder.

A large number of files in your Dropbox folder

Performance of the Dropbox desktop app starts to decrease at 300,000 files.

Improve performance and sync speed, with selective sync.

Dropbox folder is installed on a NAS device

The Dropbox folder should never 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.

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 upload 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.

Learn more

Symlinks

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.

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.

For OS X or Linux computers

  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 {} \;
    

For Windows computers

  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/Michel/Documents/Dropbox (Enterprise)" -type l -exec ls -lah {} \;
Scroll right to see the complete command line.
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