Dropbox is a service that stores your files in the cloud and lets you synchronize these files between various devices. I have had my own devices synced using Dropbox for over a year, and it has been a valuable service.
While setting up a new Windows 7 laptop recently, I wanted to make the Dropbox experience as seamless as possible. Since the end user is not as experienced on a computer, and file usage will never be that great, the goal was to make the synchronizing operation as invisible as possible. Here is how I did it.
When Dropbox is installed on a Windows 7 computer, it sets up its own Dropbox folder under c:\users\xxxxx\Dropbox by default. In most cases, every user’s My Documents folder is stored as c:\users\xxxxx\My Documents. The Dropbox folder is the one that is synced to the Dropbox online storage service. You cannot change the name of the Dropbox folder, so you can’t just rename it “My Documents.” Likewise, you simply can’t move the My Documents folder and expect things to work properly in Windows.
With this in mind, you can still easily set up an automatically synchronized My Documents folder.
1) Sign up for Dropbox, then download and install the software for each computer you would like synchronized.
2) Once installed, you will have your Dropbox folder in place. What you want to do now is go to Windows Explorer and move your My Documents folder so it is a subfolder of Dropbox. In other words, it will live under c:\users\xxxxx\Dropbox\My Documents. To perform the move properly, right-click on the My Documents folder. Find the “Location” tab, and click on the “Move…” button. Navigate to your new Dropbox folder, click where necessary, and your entire My Documents folder will move to its new location.
3) Repeat this on every computer that you install Dropbox on.
Once your My Documents folder is under control of Dropbox, two things will happen. First, any file you save to (or delete from) the Dropbox folder will be uploaded to the Dropbox server. Second, when you log into any other computer you’ve installed your Dropbox on, that computer will refresh itself with the same files from the Dropbox server. If you are synchronizing files between two computers on the same network (LAN), the transfer will occur over the LAN and not the Internet.
Because the folders are officially Windows “My Document” folders, most applications will save or retrieve files from that folder. And with Dropbox taking care of anything within its own folder, the synchronizing will be seamless to the end user, the transfer taking place in the background while the computer is connected to a network. In short, no extra work is needed on the end user’s part to take advantage of Dropbox.
Remember that while your smartphone can send or receive files to/from Dropbox, or you retrieve or upload files from the web view of Dropbox, these actions are still manual. So, don’t forget to save and upload if you have worked on a file or two!
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