How to share the same Dropbox directory between Windows and Ubuntu

I use a computer where I dual boot between Windows and Ubuntu. To avoid wasting disk space, I would like to use the same Dropbox directory between both Windows and Ubuntu. Here is how I was able to do this:

  1. I first installed the Dropbox client on Windows. Assume it uses the directory C:\Users\joe\Dropbox in my NTFS partition.

  2. Boot into Ubuntu. Edit /etc/fstab so that the NTFS partition which contains the Dropbox directory on Windows is mounted automatically at boot. I assume it is mounted at /media/my-c-drive

  3. Install the Dropbox client for Ubuntu. During installation, let it pick its default directory as /home/joe/Dropbox

  4. You can see the Dropbox client running in the Panel. Quit it.

  5. Delete the Dropbox directory and replace it with a symbolic link to the Dropbox directory on the NTFS Windows partition:

$ rm -rf /home/joe/Dropbox
$ ln -s /media/my-c-drive/Users/joe/Dropbox /home/joe/Dropbox
  1. Start the Dropbox client again and you are done. It will use the same directory as that used by Windows for syncing.

Note: As you might have suspected, there is a small problem with this technique. Every time you switch between Windows and Ubuntu, the Dropbox client will re-index the contents of its directory. This will happen in the background, but it will consume CPU, disk and network bandwidth. How irritating this is depends on the size of your Dropbox directory. If your Dropbox directory is large, then this type of sharing can only be a temporary solution for these reasons.

Tried with: Windows 8 x64 and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

11 thoughts on “How to share the same Dropbox directory between Windows and Ubuntu

    1. kabinpokhrel: It should appear in Nautilus under the Devices section. Click its partition name and it will be mounted at media directory for you.

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  1. Cool tip – I did it on my computer the other day and I suspected there was something wrong when I switched back to Windows. The indexing might not be a big thing for you but I think it caused quite a lot of traffic on my computer (I have ~50Gb on Dropbox, which is all the more of a reason to avoid duplication).

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    1. Joel: Yes, Dropbox will churn in the background indexing stuff. But since the files were already in sync, you can continue working and accessing the Dropbox files without bothering about it.

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  2. I got a problem with this way to manage Dropbox in windows and ubuntu.
    I found that sometimes if some of my folders I shared were updated in windows… ubuntu starts to synchronize but it go for ever and even the check icon disappears form nautilus in ubuntu. I have to go back to windows, let the dropbox synchronize and then come back to ubuntu and now is works fine again… The boring part is that I have to do the same procedure over and over when somebody upgrade a file from windows…specially files that are temporary on windows. How can I deal with this problem? Thank you for your help.

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    1. Krcraber: Yes, I’ve seen this problem too. I don’t think there is any solution to this, since both Windows and Linux need to use same directory and files to store their sync information.

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  3. This has not worked for me. Data loss and now Dropbox randomly dropping my connection to many of my shared folders seem to have been the results in addition the re-indexing churning away for hours.

    I been suddenly disconnected from many of my shared folders? I can click on reconnect in the web interface, but a duplicate folder is created as the original folders are still in place in my Dropbox folder.

    Note that I am using Dropbox in a dual boot configuration. I have Windows, Ubuntu, and a shared NTFS partition where my Windows Dropbox folder is located. My Ubuntu Dropbox folder is in the default location and contains symbolic soft links to each of the folders in the Windows Dropbox folder. I set it up this way because when I first set this up I configured Dropbox on Ubuntu to use the same Dropbox folder as Dropbox on Windows as per this article http://www.dropboxwiki.com/tips-and-tricks/share-your-dropbox-folder-between-windows-and-linux-using-a-data-partition. This did not work because I found that when I updated files in Ubuntu and then booted into Windows those changes were lost despite making sure Dropbox was fully synced in Ubuntu before booting into Windows. I thought it might be a cache problem so I have avoided having Dropbox on Ubuntu use the same cache folder as Dropbox on Windows with my current configuration.

    The problem just occurred after booting into Windows again after having setup Dropbox on Ubuntu again.

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    1. Stephen Wright: This is not a good solution if you switch between OS frequently or if your Dropbox directory is large. I’m not aware of any other solution either.

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  4. Instead of symlinking, I installed Dropbox and then chose the advanced setup in both OS’s and simply selected the folder in the partition containing the Dropbox folder. I’m not sure symlinks “within” the Dropbox folder itself are handled correctly but I don’t get re-indexing when I switch OS’s. However I noticed that it is safer to wait until the Dropbox daemon has finished syncing before changing OS.

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