Run Dropbox as a Windows Service with AlwaysUp

How to Run Dropbox 24/7 as a Windows Service with AlwaysUp

Ensure that Dropbox starts when your PC boots and is always synchronizing your files - no need to log in!

Dropbox is an online storage service that helps you share/synchronize your files across multiple devices. AlwaysUp will ensure that Dropbox is always working, even after an unexpected reboot and when you are not logged on to your PC.

AlwaysUp includes advanced tools to make Dropbox start at boot and run 24/7.

The Application Advisor will help you install Dropbox as a Windows Service with all our recommended settings — in just a few clicks. Simply select Advisor from the Application menu and follow the straightforward prompts.

To configure Dropbox with AlwaysUp:

  1. Download and install AlwaysUp, if necessary.

  2. Download and install Dropbox, if necessary.

  3. Next, we must prepare Dropbox to run in the background as a Windows Service:

    1. Start Dropbox.

    2. Click the Dropbox task tray icon (Dropbox tray icon) and select Preferences from the gear icon to bring up the Dropbox Preferences Window:

      Open Dropbox Preferences

    3. On the General tab, uncheck Start Dropbox on system startup. This feature will no longer be necessary once AlwaysUp takes over.

      (Note that this setting is very misleading. It can only start Dropbox after you log on, not when your computer/system starts!)

      Prepare Dropbox to run as a Windows Service

    4. Click the OK button to save your settings.

    5. Next, if you are using Dropbox Smart Sync, which enables "lazy" file transfers, please disable Smart Sync now.

      Unfortunately, as described in our blog, Smart Sync will not work when you run Dropbox 24/7 in the background as a Windows Service.

    6. Now that you are done configuring Dropbox, close the application by clicking on its task tray icon and selecting Exit Dropbox from the gear menu.

    7. And just in case Dropbox put itself in your Startup folder (Start > All Programs > Startup), check for and remove the Dropbox shortcut from there.

  4. Start AlwaysUp.

  5. Select Application > Add to open the Add Application window:

    Add Application as a Service

  6. On the General tab:

    1. In the Application field, enter the full path to the Dropbox executable. This is usually:

      C:\Program Files (x86)\Dropbox\Client\Dropbox.exe

      (If you have a non-standard installation, you can always find the location by right clicking on the Dropbox icon on your desktop and selecting "Properties".)

    2. In the Arguments field, enter:

    3. In the Start the application field, select Automatically, but shortly after the computer boots.

      This setting — which delays Dropbox startup by about 2 minutes — should ensure that critical system services (like networking and domain authentication) are ready and waiting when Dropbox is launched in the background.

    4. In the Name field, enter the name that you will call the application in AlwaysUp. We have used Dropbox (the default) but you can specify almost anything you like.

    Dropbox Windows Service: General Tab

  7. Click over to the Logon tab and enter the user name and password of the Windows account in which you installed and use Dropbox.

    This is very important: Dropbox will not be able to find the profile you set up if it runs in the default system account.

    Dropbox Windows Service: Logon Tab

  8. On the Restart tab:

    1. Check the Whenever the application stops, restart it box.

    2. Check the Not immediately, but box.

    3. Select the After option and enter 5 minutes in the adjacent field.

    These settings are necessary to tolerate Dropbox automatic updates, which can cause havoc in a 24x7 environment. Dig into the gory details in our blog article.

    Dropbox Windows Service: Restart Tab

  9. Click over to the Startup tab and:

    1. Check the Ensure that the Windows Networking components have started box. This informs AlwaysUp that Dropbox needs the TCP/IP networking stack to operate.

    2. Check both the Stop all copies of the application running on this computer and the Also whenever the application is restarted boxes. This empowers AlwaysUp to take control of Dropbox — even if someone inadvertently starts Dropbox from a desktop icon (or from the Startup folder).

    Dropbox Windows Service: Startup Tab

  10. We are done configuring Dropbox so click the Save >> button to record your settings. In a couple of seconds, an entry for Dropbox will show up in the AlwaysUp window. The state will be Stopped, indicating that Dropbox is not yet running as a service:

    Dropbox Windows Service: Created

  11. To start Dropbox, choose Application > Start "Dropbox". The state should transition to Running:

    Dropbox Windows Service: Running

    Note: With Dropbox running as a Windows Service, your files will be synchronized but you will no longer see Dropbox's graphical elements.

    The task tray icon, the "overlay" icons that Dropbox places on your files in the Dropbox folder (such as the green check mark or the blue refreshing icon) and the Dropbox menu entries shown when you right-click on a synchronized file will not be visible.

    This is because Dropbox is running the background, in Session 0, and can not interact with your desktop.

    If you wish to see the task tray icon and interact with Dropbox "normally", choose Application > Restart "Dropbox" in this Session to have AlwaysUp restart Dropbox onto your desktop.

  12. That's it! Next time your computer boots, Dropbox will start up immediately, before anyone logs on. We encourage you to edit Dropbox in AlwaysUp and check out the many other settings that may be appropriate for your environment.

Dropbox not working properly as a Windows Service?

  • Unfortunately, Dropbox occasionally runs into problems. And since it is running invisibly in the background, you may not notice the error messages it is trying to communicate.

    We suggest restarting Dropbox on your desktop (by selecting Application > Restart "Dropbox" in this session):

    Restart Dropbox in your Session

    Check for errors and warnings via the Dropbox tray icon (Dropbox tray icon).

  • Please use our free Cloud Storage Tester utility to confirm that the Dropbox client application is working properly on your computer.

    It will quickly detect if Dropbox has a problem synchronizing your files and folders when running in the background as a Windows Service.

  • September 2019: It seems that Dropbox version 81 and later may have trouble running in Session 0.

    If your Dropbox runs properly when you start it in the current session but it doesn't synchronize any files when started normally (in Session 0), you have likely run into the problem.

    However there is a simple solution! Please follow the instructions in our blog post to get your Dropbox installation working as a Windows Service. The fix has worked for all our customers to date.

    NOTE: AlwaysUp version 12.5 (released on November 27 2020) resolves this issue automatically. The manual fix is only necessary if you are running AlwaysUp version 12.0 or older.

  • September 2020: Dropbox 105 brought more surprises when running as a Window Service! This time, synchronization starts normally but stalls after a while.

    Fortunately, we have identified a quick fix that is working well for our customers. Please apply it and let us know how you get on.

    NOTE: AlwaysUp version 12.5 (released on November 27 2020) resolves this issue automatically. The manual fix is only necessary if you are running AlwaysUp version 12.0 or older.

  • If Dropbox seems to be running but your files are not being synchronized, please ensure that Dropbox is configured to share the correct (public?) folders. This situation has nothing to do with AlwaysUp, so you can stop Dropbox in AlwaysUp and start it normally to validate your folder setup.

  • Visit the AlwaysUp Troubleshooter — our online tool that can help you resolve the most common problems encountered when running Dropbox as a windows service.

  • From AlwaysUp, select Application > Report Activity > Today... to bring up a HTML report detailing the interaction between AlwaysUp and Dropbox. The AlwaysUp Event Log Messages page explains the more obscure messages.

  • Consult the AlwaysUp FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions and troubleshooting tips.

  • Contact us and we will be happy to help!

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