My Favorite Use for Dropbox: Synced Windows Desktop


I must admit, I have not used Dropbox for a long time, but already, I love it.

Dropbox Introduction

If you’re not already familiar with Dropbox, it is a cloud based service which allows you to store your files on the internet for accessing and sharing with others easily. As well, Dropbox will automatically sync a specified folder on your computer, with your cloud storage, and sync those same files on any computer you download and install the Dropbox software. With Dropbox you may also share files and folders with other for collaboration on projects, or simply share documents, images and files without allowing others to modify them. Dropbox is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry.

Free Bonus Dropbox Storage Space

Dropbox will give you 2GB of free storage space, but will also give you FREE bonus storage space for completing simple tasks, such as: Watch the intro how-to video, install the Dropbox app on your computer, add a file to your Dropbox, install Dropbox on a 2nd computer, share a folder with a friend and share Dropbox on Facebook and Twitter. Different tasks are awarded different amounts of bonus storage space.

Also, check-out the Dropbox website and forums periodically for beta testing opportunities to receive even more bonus storage space.

Click any of the Dropbox links on this page to help me get a little extra storage space, as well as a little extra for yourself.

Note: You must register for Dropbox and install the Dropbox app on your computer using the same registration email address to receive bonus storage space.

Uses for Dropbox

I’m sure the possibilities are already running through your mind. Here are some:

  • Teachers: Having students turn in projects and reports by sharing a folder with each student
  • Students: Keep ALL your school files in one spot. Never forget your flash drive again! Remember, Dropbox is available for Android and iPhone as well!
  • My Documents: Simply change your actual “My Documents” folder to your Dropbox folder. In Windows Vista or 7 this is extremely easy to setup. Right click on your “My Documents” folder then select the “Location” tab, click “Move…”, then select your Dropbox folder. When you hit OK, it will ask if you want to move all your folders and files. Click Yes.
  • Gamers: Set all your game saves to go directly to your Dropbox folder, so you can play the game on any computer where you have the game installed
  • Torrents: Simply set your torrent client (μtorrent pictured) to automatically load .torrent files from a specified folder and leave your computer at home running with the torrent client on. When you add a .torrent file to your Dropbox folder. The download will start automatically.

  • Music Libraries: Some people have suggested using Dropbox for iTunes or full music libraries. Unless you only want to make a small portion accessible, I recommend Google Music instead.
  • Software Syncing: Well, kind of. I have a “Software” folder in my Dropbox. Whenever I install new software on my laptop or desktop, I also drop it into this folder so I remember to install it on all of my computers.
  • Password Management: Do you use a password manager application? If so, set the password database to store in a Dropbox location and use the same database across multiple computers.
  • Contacts & Calendars: Keeping contacts and calendars in sync across multiple computers is a good idea. I use Gmail as my email client, Google Contacts for my contacts and Google Calendar for my calender, however. If you still use a desktop email client, use a Dropbox location to keep in sync.
  • Shopping Lists: This is one of my favorites as well. Just make a plain text (.txt) file, then add it to your Dropbox. Every computer and cell phone can open a .txt file.

My Favorite Use for Dropbox: My Windows Desktop

Similar to the suggestion above to use Dropbox as your “My Documents” location, I use a “Desktop” folder in my Dropbox as the desktop display, synced across all my computers.

All the time, my friends and family tell me my computer’s desktop is “so messy.” That’s not true. It is organized, but usually has a lot of stuff on it. When working, I use my computer desktop, as an actual desktop… The things I am currently using and/or working on are right there and easy for me to use. That is actually the point of the desktop, right?

I don’t always work from one physical location, so it is a bit of a chore to make sure I have transferred files to a location (such as USB drive or FTP site) so I can access them later. As well, should I really need to pull out my laptop to grab a single .php file or .psd? I don’t think so.

Using Dropbox as my desktop allows everything I am working on to be available everywhere I work, without even thinking about it.

Using Dropbox as your Windows Desktop is very simple to set up: In Windows Vista or 7, navigate to your user folder.

When logged in, you can type your username into any Windows Explorer address bar to go directly to your User folder.

Right click on your “Dekstop” folder then select the “Location” tab, click “Move…”, then select your Dropbox folder. Your desktop location has now been updated!

Go to your desktop and hit “f5” to refresh. Windows may have placed a shortcut link/icon on your new desktop, if so, you can delete it.

A Few Notes on Using Dropbox as Your Desktop

  • If you use a lot of program shortcuts, make sure the programs are installed in the same location on all computers, including the same drive letter.
  • As well, if you have shortcuts to files, make sure they are on both computers. I use Dropbox  for all my files, so this doesn’t make a difference.

Alternatives to Dropbox

Above, I have already mentioned a few services I use instead of some recommended uses for Dropbox, but there are a few other cloud storage services I also use.

  • Google Music: Dropbox is simply too small to freely use as a streaming music library. My choice is Google Music, but then again, I have an Android phone. Not available on other phone formats.
  • Google Docs: For collaboration on documents, I prefer Google Docs. With Google Docs, a document owner can share files and folders, pick and choose who can view the files, who can edit the files and who can leave comments on the files. Comments can be made by highlighting text, then right clicking. The comments show in the margin, threaded per comment. Users can also leave comments on comments. Plus, who doesn’t already have some sort of Google account nowadays?
  • A current promotion is giving users 50GB of storage space. offers Andorid, iPhone Windows Mobile and Blackberry apps. does not have a drag and drop folder sync application like Dropbox, but that is something we will address with another app later.
  • Windows Live Skydrive: Windows gives you 25GB of storage space with the Skydrive. Skydrive apps are available for iPhone and Windows Mobile. The browser access is pretty good for other phones. No drag and drop app for Windows.
  • FTP Web Storage: As a web designer, of course I have a web hosting account. This is obvious, but worth mentioning. If you have your own website, a simple folder on your host may be good enough to access your files. You don’t even need a FTP client. A lot of people don’t realize there is one built into Windows. Simply type your FTP info into any Windows Explorer address bar, in this format — ftp://username:password@host — Username: your web host username Password: your web host password Host: your website’s address without http:// and without www.
  • Gladinet: This is an app that will allow you to use some of the above services as drag and drop syncing with the cloud. Galdinet creates a virtual hard drive on your computer and allows you to add all the above services (except Google Music) and many, many more. A folder is created for each service, which will automatically upload anything you drop into it to the respective service.What I like most about Gladinet: It allows you to save to the virtual drive (cloud storage or FTP location) directly from most Windows software. This is something not built into any of these services, other than Dropbox.

Thanks for Reading

Of all the services mentioned, Dropbox is my favorite and my favorite use of Dropbox is as a Windows Desktop synced across all my computers.

What are some of your favorite cloud storage services and uses?


There's always more to read

17 Replies to “My Favorite Use for Dropbox: Synced Windows Desktop”

  1. I guess I don’t understand why people jump through all of these hoops to get DropBox to do what they want. Other solutions, like SugarSync, allows you to simply select your desktop as a syncable folder, which I can then check off to sync with one or more of my other PCs.

    1. I actually just discovered SugarSync yesterday. I also read a few articles about how SugarSync appears to be pretty worried about competing with Dropbox… Needing to raise an additional $15M, I believe. Sounds like SugarSync is a bit worried, if you ask me.

      Either way, I added it to my repertoire, as well.

      Dropbox is more popular and well-known in the industry, that tends to give people a little more security and piece-of-mind.

      Honestly, I would definitely switch to Google Docs (and offered more storage space) or Windows Live Skydrive exclusively, if either offered the same syncing features as either Dropbox or SugarSync.

  2. I have only really just started using DropBox for more than just a casual place to store files. Reading your article gave me some great tips, and things I never thought about, like using it for my Desktop. I also created a simple text file for a TODO list and now have access to it everywhere.

  3. I’ve been using this for a long time. It is indeed very useful. One important thing to note though is sometimes your desktop is not updated, meaning what’s actually in the Desktop folder stays not shown on the Desktop itself until you hit refresh. For me it doesn’t happen very often, maybe once a month or two. Just bear in mind and refresh often.

  4. I love the idea of my desktop being synced with Dropbox. But…I run Mac OS X Snow Leopard. I do not have the option to “move” to another folder when I right click my Desktop folder in the Finder. Not sure if you have any experience with this on a Mac or not. Thoughts?

  5. Hi, great post! At first I thought this was the same as using Symlinks, but it seems that this is better:

    Also, have you figured out a way to reverse this that doesn’t delete all the Dropbox contents? When I change it back (Restore Location) it removes everything from Dropbox and onto the computer.

    Guess you shouldn’t need to worry about this generally.

Let me know what you think