Using Symbolic Links to Backup Your Files to Dropbox

Dropbox is an excellent little service that I’ve written about on more than one occasion. It’s a nice off-site backup tool, as well as easy way to keep data synced between multiple computers.

I imagine it would be nice to get one of their larger plans and automagically sync all of your files between a desktop and a laptop, but not all of us are willing to pay for that luxury.

Now if you have a few assorted folders that you want to keep synced with Dropbox, what’s an easy way to do so without physically moving them into your main Dropbox folder? You can use the magic of symbolic links. (A magic that only exists on Mac OS X, Linux, and Unix…)

Open a command line and type the following two commands, changing the paths to whatever is relevant in your situation:

cd /Users/Matt/Dropbox
ln -s /Users/Matt/path/to/my/files The_New_Folder_Name

Now if you go back to your Dropbox folder, you should see a new directory called “The_New_Folder_Name” that, when clicked, should bounce you right over to the original folder. Dropbox will see this “shortcut” link as the real deal and back the files up to the cloud.

  • Michael Martin

    Nice trick, but you can do it on Windows as well. I’ve got it setup for my Dropbox account too, it’s definitely the handiest way around the limitation :D

    • Matt

      I knew you could do it for Windows too, but I was too lazy to look for the instructions to do it for the one oddball OS. :P

  • Lisa


    On behalf of Dropbox, I would like to thank you for referencing Dropbox in your latest blog post

    In case you didn’t already know Dropbox’s user base has doubled in the past four months and now helps over 4 million people keep their digital media in sync across their Windows PCs, Linux machines, Macs, iPhones, and iPod Touches.

    Dropbox has also won many industry awards ranging from Macworld, LAPTOP magazine, to industry awards like the best internet application at the “Crunchies”.

    Because of great users like you, we continue to grow everyday. Thanks again!

    • Matt

      Dropbox is a great service. I like having the peace of mind that mirroring current projects off-site provides, and Dropbox makes it dead simple.