How to use Dropbox for Windows

By Corbin HartwickUpdated on March 13, 2018

Once you have the Dropbox program installed for Windows, you can do most of the things that you do in your main screen on the Dropbox website right on your computer’s desktop. You don’t even have to open your web browser! In fact, there are certain things that you can do using the Dropbox program that you can’t do on the Dropbox website, like taking files off Dropbox and putting them on your computer, without having to open and save them (which, in some cases, is difficult or impossible).

There are two parts to the Dropbox program for Windows. The first is the actual program itself, which allows you to keep tabs on what has recently changed in your Dropbox account and how much memory storage space you’ve used. It also allows you to instantly go to the “Dropbox folder” on your computer, or to your account on the Dropbox website.

The second is the special “Dropbox folder” that the program creates on your computer, which allows you to directly manage your files on Dropbox. It’s basically just like your “My Documents” folder in that you can add files to it, remove files from it, and open files within it. The only difference is that the files you put in this folder are backed up on Dropbox’s servers, both so you can recover them if something happens to them, as well as so you can easily share them with other people if you so choose.

The Dropbox program for Windows

By default, the Dropbox program for Windows should start running as soon as your computer boots up (you can change this in its settings; see our Dropbox Settings article for more information). If it doesn’t, You can go to your Start menu and go to All Programs, then the Dropbox folder (not to be confused with the folder that contains the files that you put on Dropbox, which we will style as the “Dropbox folder”), and then click Dropbox.

NOTE: If the Dropbox program is already running, this will automatically take you to your “Dropbox folder”.

Once the Dropbox program is running, you can access it by left-clicking the Dropbox icon in the toolbar in the lower-right corner of your desktop screen.

This will open a window that will let you do a number of different things that affect both your Dropbox account and the Dropbox program itself. Click on the yellow buttons in the screenshot below to learn more about what each function does.

1. Sync Status – This shows you how far along Dropbox is in downloading the files in your Dropbox account to your “Dropbox folder” on this device, or the other way around. You can click Pause Syncing to temporarily keep files and folders from changing in either location (at least for you; other people sharing your folders can still change them). Click Resume Syncing to have Dropbox start updating your files and folders between the two locations again.

2. Settings – Click the gear icon to open a drop-down menu where you can:

  • Check how much memory storage space you’re using on your Dropbox account
  • Get more memory storage space by upgrading your account
  • Pause or resume synchronizing files between this computer and your account
  • Change how the Dropbox access program behaves
  • Visit the “help” section on the Dropbox website
  • Close the Dropbox program

3. Recently Changed Files – These are files that have recently been added to your Dropbox account or changed within your Dropbox account, either by you or someone with whom you’ve shared a Dropbox folder. Click on a file to take you to its location within your “Dropbox folder”.

You can also click Share Link to create an Internet link to that file on Dropbox, which you can copy and paste into an email or social media publisher. This lets your friends see it and download a copy of it.

4. Open Dropbox Folder / Website – Click the file folder icon to instantly open the “Dropbox folder” on your computer that the access program created (see section below). Or, click the globe icon to visit your folder directly on the Dropbox website.

5. Upgrade – If your Dropbox account can be upgraded, clicking here will take you to a page on the Dropbox website with information on how to do so.

The Dropbox folder

When you install the Dropbox program on your Windows computer, it creates a special folder on your computer called “Dropbox” that lets you (for the most part) directly manage the files and folders within your Dropbox account. Again, like your “My Documents” folder, you can add files to it, remove them from it, or open files within it. Generally, it will show up in your personal system folder, like it does in the screenshot below (you can get to your personal system folder by clicking the Start menu and then clicking your name). Notice that it has the Dropbox logo beside it; this is how you know it’s your special “Dropbox folder”.

You can also quickly find this folder by using the Open Dropbox Folder button in the Dropbox program, as described in the previous section. You can also use the Preferences menu in the Dropbox program to change the location of this folder on your computer, but you cannot change its name; it will always be called “Dropbox”.

Once you have your “Dropbox” folder open, you can see what files and folders are stored inside. Like on the Dropbox website, any folder with a picture of two people beside the icon is one that you are sharing with other Dropbox users.

NOTE: If you share a folder, then all other folders and files within that shared folder will be shared, too. Say, for example, you have a folder called “Vacation Photos” that has two folders inside it full of pictures — let’s call them “Florida” and “Bahamas”. If you share “Vacation Photos” with someone, then “Florida” and “Bahamas” will be automatically shared with that person, too, along with all of the photos inside them.

Once you have your “Dropbox” folder open, you can add files and folders to your Dropbox account simply by saving them there, or by clicking and holding the mouse button down, dragging the files and/or folders into your “Dropbox” folder, and then releasing the mouse button.

Conversely, you can move files and folders out of your Dropbox account by finding them within your “Dropbox” folder, clicking and holding the mouse button down on them, dragging them to a location outside your “Dropbox” folder, and then releasing the mouse button.

Note: when you move a file out of a shared folder (or delete it), the file will be removed for all users sharing the folder.

See our How to Upload Files to Dropbox in Windows and How to Download Files from Dropbox in Windows tutorials for more information and further instructions on doing these two things, respectively.

That’s pretty much all there is to using Dropbox on your Windows desktop computer!