Dropbox taking up space on your Mac?

Dropbox was one of the first cloud storage services and is a super-convenient way to share files or just store them so you can access them from any devices. But as well as being convenient, there are a few things that most people don’t realize about Dropbox. One of them is how much space it uses.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a cloud storage storage service that allows you to store files on its servers and access them from lots of different devices including Mac, PC, iPhone, and iPad. There is a free version that provides 2GB of space, and paid-for versions that provide more space and additional features. There’s also a business version that includes a collaboration tool called Spaces.

On the Mac, when you install the Dropbox application and connect it to your account, every file you place in the Dropbox folder in the Finder is synced with Dropbox’s servers and available on other devices on which you are signed into your account.

Does Dropbox take up hard drive space?

Yes. Lots of people think that by storing files in Dropbox you free up space on your computer. But that’s not the case. Every file on your Dropbox account is mirrored on your hard drive or SSD, meaning that a version of the file is stored on your Mac as well as in the cloud. So, if you have 2GB of files stored in Dropbox, you will also have 2GB taken up by those files on your Mac.

How to reduce the space Dropbox uses

Dropbox app settings

One way to cut down the amount of space Dropbox takes up is to use a tool in its Preferences called Selective Sync, which allows you to choose which folders in your Dropbox sync with your Mac and which don’t. The files will still be visible on your Mac, but you’ll have to download them if you want to use them.

  1. Launch the Dropbox app from your Applications folder.
  2. Click on the double arrow at the bottom of the sidebar.
  3. Choose Preferences> Sync.
  4. Press Choose folders.
  5. Uncheck the box next to the folders you don’t want to be saved locally.
  6. Press Update.

Dropbox will remove the folders you unchecked, saving space on your Mac. Selective Sync is available on free versions of Dropbox. Paid-for plans have their own tool called Smart Sync that does a similar job.

The other way to reduce the amount of space Dropbox uses on your computer is to remove files and folders you don’t need regular access to from your Dropbox and archive them on an external hard drive or USB stick.

How to clear the Dropbox application cache

If you want to reduce the amount of space Dropbox uses to the absolute minimum, you should also clear out its cache. The easiest way to do that is to use a junk-removing app.

CleanMyMac X - User cache files in System Junk module

If you love Macs and Apple-esque design you may like CleanMyMac X. This is a native Mac app that detects large hidden files and knows their typical locations on macOS. Go to the System Junk tool. As well as removing application caches, System Junk can remove language files you don’t use, system cache files, and log files.

  1. Run CleanMyMac X — its free edition is available for download here.
  2. Choose System Junk in the sidebar and press Scan.
  3. Click User Cache Files and make sure Dropbox is checked.
  4. Press Clean.

To keep track of your Dropbox folder before it over-inflates, click on the small iMac icon in the Menu bar.

It’s a Mac health monitor that’s part of CleanMyMac X. If you click on that you can connect your Dropbox folder to monitor if it has enough space at all times.

CleanMyMac X menu

Dropbox is a cloud storage service that makes it easy to store files and access them from multiple devices as well as share them with others. It has a number of different subscription tiers, including a business service that provides tools for collaboration. However, moving files to Dropbox doesn’t free up space on your Mac automatically, because they are mirrored in the Dropbox folder on your hard drive or SSD. If you follow the steps above, you can change that and free up space on your Mac that’s currently used by Dropbox. You will also free up space used by Dropbox’s cache.