Dropbox is great for online storage. Take advantage of our 10 all-new secrets
Dropbox itself is hardly a secret. At the last count, the storage service had more than 45 million users worldwide and it’s not hard to see why.
The basic service, which offers 2GB of online storage space, is completely free to use. Other companies may have started offering more free space (Microsoft’s Skydrive provides 7GB, for instance) but Dropbox is hard to beat in terms of usability and flexibility. Files stored in a Dropbox folder can be accessed and synchronised anywhere from another desktop PC to the smartphone in your pocket.
Dropbox is a bit like having an invisible USB memory key that’s permanently plugged into all your devices at once - but are you making the most of it? There are loads of clever features that many users miss and here we’ll reveal 10 of our favourites. We’ll assume you have already signed up for a Dropbox account and downloaded the desktop application (see our handy guide if not).
Get more space
It’s possible to increase your quota of free storage space - up to 18GB - if you know how. Sign in at www.dropbox.com and click the Get Free Space link at the top of the page. Connecting Facebook or Twitter accounts will grant an extra 125MB apiece, as will following Dropbox on Twitter or providing some feedback. More space can be had by referring friends to the service. You get 500MB per friend if they sign up and download the application. Further space is granted for completing the Getting Started tasks (click the birthday cake icon on your main Dropbox page) or using the Camera Upload feature.
The Dropbox desktop application has a few tricks up its sleeve. Right-click the Dropbox icon in your computer’s Notification Area (bottom right of your screen) and select Preferences. A tabbed dialogue box will appear. Under the General tab, make sure Enable Lan sync is ticked. This is a clever feature that allows computers on the same local network - your desktop PC and your laptop, for example - to share files from your Dropbox folder without having to download them from Dropbox’s online servers every time.
In the same Preferences dialogue box, click on the Bandwidth tab. Here you will find some options for controlling the speed at which Dropbox downloads files. Under normal circumstances it’s best to leave these settings as they are. But there may be occasions where selecting lower rates will be useful. Say you are using your broadband connection for streaming music, you could tick the Limit To option under Download rate and select a lower speed - 50Kbits/sec, for example - so that Dropbox’s synchronisation doesn’t interfere with your music playback.
Limit upload rate
Dropbox automatically limits its file-synchronising upload rate to around 75 per cent of the available bandwidth. This is because most broadband connections offer much slower upload speeds compared with their download rates. Limiting Dropbox’s upload bandwidth can prevent noticeable slowdowns when web browsing or sending and receiving emails. However, those wanting to prioritise Dropbox for faster syncing can open the Preferences dialogue box (as described above), then click Bandwidth and select the Don’t limit option under the Upload rate heading before clicking OK.
Log on anywhere
In addition to the desktop application, it’s also possible to use Dropbox from any computer, even if the Dropbox application is not installed. Simply head to www.dropbox.com, click Sign In (at the top right) and enter your account details. Tablet and mobile device users can also access Dropbox using free apps designed for iPhone and iPad, Android and Blackberry. In each case, it is possible to open and view files of various types, including Microsoft Word (DOC) and Excel (XLS), though dedicated applications are required to edit them.
Upload photos automatically
The Dropbox app for Android devices includes an interesting feature called Camera Upload, which automatically uploads all photos and video taken on your device to your Dropbox folder. Download the latest version of the app from and you will be prompted to configure Camera Upload when you install it. A similar feature is available for users of the latest desktop version. When plugging a camera or memory card into your PC, look for the ‘Import pictures and videos using Dropbox’ option in the Autoplay menu.
Restore deleted files
Dropbox keeps backups of all the different versions of files you have saved for up to 30 days. If, for example, you accidentally delete some vital information from an Excel spreadsheet, it’s possible to restore a version saved a week ago and reinstate the missing data. Log in to the Dropbox website, right-click on the file in question and select Previous Versions (or click Dropbox then View Previous Versions if you’re using the desktop application). Click Preview to download and check the file before clicking the Restore button.
Leave shared folders
If someone shares a Dropbox folder with you, the contents of the folder will count towards your total Dropbox quota until you leave the shared folder. To do this log in, click the Sharing link in the left-hand menu, then click the Options link that corresponds to the shared folder you want to leave. Click Member,s followed by Leave Folder. Remove the tick next to ‘I still want to keep my copy…’ and click Leave Folder again. This will free up the used space.
View files on your Playstation 3
Dropbox was blocked on Sony’s Playstation 3 (PS3) but a recent firmware update has allowed PS3 owners to access their Dropbox account and its contents from the console. Open the PS3’s web browser, press the Start button on the PS3 controller and enter www.dropbox.com. When the website loads, sign in using your account name and password. The contents of your Dropbox folder will be displayed. Dropbox on the PS3 is good for browsing your photos or downloading music and video files to your console.
Generate a sharing link
A quick way to share a file with someone, even if they don’t use Dropbox, is to use the Get link option. Log in to Dropbox, navigate to a file or folder you wish to share, right-click it and select Get Link (or click Dropbox then Get link if using the desktop application). This will open a browser page that shows a preview of the file with a Download button. Highlight the web address in the browser’s address bar and press Control (Ctrl) and C to copy it. You can now paste the address into an email.
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