How to run two Dropbox instances on the same PC

Why would you want to run multiple Dropbox instances on the same machine? We could think of two reasons (1) you’ve maxed out on the 16 gigs or so that each free Dropbox account can give you as a ceiling, and would like to use another account to add more, or (2) you would like to access another Dropbox account for whatever reason, such as a disposable account used by members of your team or that of someone else (such an ex employee of your company) etc.

In this posting, we will describe how to run another Dropbox account to your WINDOWS machine using a third party freeware program (i.e. to install two Dropbox accounts running simultaneously on one PC).

The application usedDropboxPortableAHKis a free program that can create portable instances of Dropbox, which can be carried on a USB drive, etc. Or it can be run locally alongside your existing Dropbox installation, which is what this post assumes.

Multiple Dropbox instances Screenshot

Note before starting: the second instance of Dropbox will involve a process (DropboxPortableAHK.exe) running in the background. I have found that this process can use up 2-10 percentage points of CPU usage intermittently, depending on the settings used in the setup. This on my high spec PC was no big deal, but may be somewhat annoying on a resource-challenged machine. The good news is that you can opt to run this (i.e. the second instance of Dropbox) when you need it rather than having it in the background at all times. Or you can reduce or eliminate this if you uncheck ‘Dropbox folder protection’ in step 6 below.


First things first, download the free program:

Get a free program called DropboxPortableAHK  from it’s program page. Extract the zip volume into an appropriate place on your hard drive. Note: the instructions below assume that your new Dropbox folder will be INSIDE this folder, so take that into consideration when placing this folder. Next run “DropboxPortableAHK.exe” to start the setup process.


Setting up:

01- Welcome: the setup process Consists of 9 steps, as seen in the screenshot below on the left sidebar. Many of these are self explanatory, but we will briefly go over a few.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot1


02- Connection profiles  –  click on the “+” sign to add the Dropbox credentials for the account you want to use. You should see the screen below. Enter your Dropbox account email in the ‘Username’ slot, and the password underneath it. This should be all you need to input, unless you use an internet proxy, in which case you need to fill in the other fields.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot2 - add credentials


03 – Dropbox folder location: here, you can specify where you want your new Dropbox folder to be. My advice, leave it as is (“.\Dropbox”, which indicates that you want it to be in the same folder as the DropboxPortableAHK.exe executable). Note that this is a portable application, meaning that wherever you move the DropboxPortableAHK folder, the Dropbox folder will move with it.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot3 - Dropbox Folder Location


04 – Previous Dropbox configuration: do NOT do anythingon this screen; just click next. I am assuming that you are reading this post to ADD another Dropbox account to your machine; this step is only necessary if you are converting your already installed Dropbox account to a portable installation using DropboxPortableAHK. Otherwise, click NEXT.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot4 - Previous Dropbox Configuration


05 – Update notification: self explanatory. If you want update notifications from DropboxPortableAHK or Dropbox, check the appropriate boxes. My advice: leave as is and click ‘Next’.


06 – Addons: the settings on this page are important.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot6 - Addons

Consider the following options. You will need to make some decisions. Note that I am assuming that you are reading this post because you want to run another instance of Dropbox on your hard drive, rather than running a portable Dropbox instance from a USB. You can assume that settings not explained below should be left as is.

Create autorun.inf: For our purposes, do not check. This is not necessary unless you (a) are planning to use this Dropbox install on a USB, and (b) you do not run Windows 7.

Dropbox folder protection: *important* if you plan to keep your second Dropbox instance in the same folder location on your hard drive, uncheck this. (The advantage = significantly less of a drain on your PC’s CPU resources). Otherwise, keep it checked, especially if the folder is on a removable volume that could accidentally have a different drive letter associated with it across sessions.

If you think you may want to MOVE your second Dropbox folder and/or use it portably, keep this checked. This option will keep Dropbox from deleting all of your folder contents on the server if it cannot find the folder anymore (because you moved it) and therefore thinks it is blank.  If you do check folder protection, you can change the checking interval value if you want, although it is not necessary (lower=more CPU usage but less chance of deletion, higher=less CPU usage but more chance of deletion).

Notification about workaround on restricted user accounts: keep this checked.

Make SyncAndGo the default behavior: SyncAndGo is a usage mode whereby you can run DropboxPortableAHK, have it sync your local folder and the remote Dropbox server, and then immediately exit. Check this if that sounds like what you want.

Save Dropbox configuration files for each PC: keep this checked.

For more information on these options, go to the instructions page on the program website, scroll to about the middle of the page.


07- User applications: in this screen, you can tell DropboxPortableAHK to run certain applications before and after it starts and closes Dropbox. For our purposes, leave these blank and click ‘Next’.


08- Dropbox application files: click ‘Download Dropbox files’ to download the latest Dropbox local installation file.

Also in this screen: choose a color for the Dropbox icon to differentiate it from your original Dropbox icon in your system tray, in order to tell which is which.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot8 - Dropbox Application files


09- Dropbox setup: click ‘Start Dropbox setup’, keep ‘Start Dropbox after setup has finished’ checked.

Click ‘Next’. The Dropbox desktop client setup will run. * Importantly*, note the following:

  • The location of the Dropbox folder that you will specify in the Dropbox setup process will NOT be the actual location used. Remember that you specified a location in step  ‘03’ above. That location will end up being the actual folder location.
  • Make sure not to make the default Dropbox folder location in the setup the same as your Dropbox instance already installed on your machine.
  • Here’s a step by  step
1.  Click ‘I already have a Dropbox account’ 2. Enter your credentials for the 2nd account. Give the computer name a name that identifies it for you 3. Click the free 2GB (it will say 2GB regardless of whether or not you earned more).
Dropbox setup 1 Dropbox setup 2 Dropbox setup 3
4.  Click advanced. 5. You want to make sure that you do not choose the Dropbox folder location to be the same as the folder location of the already running instance of Dropbox.Below, I chose “C:\Dropbox” as the location. Later, I will go back and delete that folder 6. In this step, you can choose whether you want all of the folders in the account to sync, or some of them. It’s up to you.
Dropbox setup 4 Dropbox setup 5 Dropbox setup 6

That’s it. In the remaining screens, skip the tour and click finish.

The DropboxPortableAHK Setup screen will be displayed again. Click ‘finish’

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot9 - Dropbox Setup end


Last steps:

  • If you get an error screen like the one below, click Yes, and it should go away.

Close Error Screen

  • Open your DropboxPortableAHK folder. You will see that, as specified in step 03 above, the Dropbox folder is indeed there.

DropboxPortableAHK Folder

  • Go to the location that you specified in the Dropbox setup (C:\Dropbox as per the example shown here) and delete that folder. It is not needed.

Finally, go to your system tray. You will find a new Dropbox icon alongside the original one that was initially installed on your machine. See the screenshot, top of this post.


Questions? Issues? Comments? Please use the comments section below.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Brockman

    Very cool, thanks. It never occured to me to run two Dropbox accounts at once, but I may try it.

  • Sandrina

    Well, for me the first Dropbox was removed from Favorites in Windows Explorer, but I changed it back. Thanks :)

  • Gary

    So basically, if 16G(free mind you) is not enough, here is how you can cheat the company. Great Job! I’m all for freeware, but come on if you really need more pay for it. What if someone posted one of your articles, word for word, and said they wrote it, would you like it? Probably not.

    • Samer

      @ Gary: No. Running two instances of Dropbox is not like getting a larger, expanded Dropbox (which would be more convenient and easier to administer); rather, it is like running, say, Dropbox and another service, such as SkyDrive, at the same time. As far as I am concerned I am doing the Dropbox people a service by publishing this. You are free to disagree.

      • Ali

        It is also best for those who shared a single pc & wanted to separate dropbox accounts

  • Mike

    Gary,

    Actually, this is quite helpful to me because I have a personal dropbox and I also have one that is used for my job. I have to access both from my house on occasion to be able to work from home. This saves me the hassle of having to unlink my personal account and relink my work account and then unlink my work account and relink my personal account when I am finished.

  • PussyMalone

    I am running 2 distinct instances of dropbox portable simultaneously for my girlfriends account and mine. I think you can run as many instances as you want.

    • Ryan

      Good day, please help, I am looking to run more than 2 instances, as I have a sales team, an admin team and an accounts team, all 3 instances would need to be kept separate, for confidentiality reasons… Any ideas?

  • Ekman

    Hi, love the article and concept but it doesn’t work for me sadly.

    I am stuck on step “09- Dropbox setup”, part 5.

    The dropbox install will not let me select another directory besides the default one.
    The “C:\users\dropbox” text field is grayed out and when I click “change” no folders show up in the window forcing me to select the default one.

    The default directory is where I am currently running my primary dropbox account and I certainly don’t want to merge my work an personal dropboxes ;)

    Does anyone else have this problem? Or am I an idiot missing something?

    Thanks!

  • Samer

    @ Ekman: try to simply type the path in. For example, type C:\users\dropbox2 instead of browsing to the folder, and let me know if it works.

  • Ekman

    @ Samer

    Thanks for the tip, but it will not let me type it in. The directory area is all greyed out and will not allow it to be changed.

  • Samer

    @ Ekman,
    I went through all the steps again, to get to the point that you’re stuck in. I am able to change the directory easily when clicking the ‘change’ button. All I can suggest is maybe moving the original Dropbox folder somewhere else (and perhaps changing it back afterwards).

    I am actually not entirely sure if setting the second Dropbox instance to the same directory as the original will have any untoward effect, since the second instance will NEVER actually use the directory you set in the second Dropbox installation. But it’s better to be careful.

    • rhapsodic

      Hi, I’m stuck in the same problem and your solution (moving the original Dropbox folder) can be quite a problem to me since practically all of the folders in my Dropbox are shared to different people which contains important files. I don’t want them panicking if ever they find out in the short span of time that I somehow deleted all the files or something like that. This move will have that effect won’t it?

  • Kenika

    Hi!
    Thanks for this article, but I got some problems:

    Is it normal that dropbox is syncing very long after installing a 2nd instance?
    It continuous updates files with a name like »4fd87985« and is updating the log file »DropboxPortableAHK_debug_xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.log« every minute … in my first/old dropbox! That’s really annoying.

    And what about the folders .dbfiles that are created in both (!?) instances of my dropbox? Can I delete it or do I destroy something?
    Same question for »DropboxPortableAHK.exe«. Can I delete this after installing or is this the Autohotkey-File that is needed to run the application?

    Also: My new dropbox keeps greyed out in the taskbar. And a right click shows the information of the old dropbox. Is that going to change? Right now, it doesn’t look like I got 2 GB just for the new one. It looks like it’s using the storage of the first dropbox. Weird…

    And a warning: In my case, some (most, but not all) of the dropbox folders in my old dropbox were deleted after installing the second one! Be carfeull and make a backup before…

  • Kenika

    Okay … now I have the proof that something went wrong. When I put a file into my 2nd dropbox, it also appears in my first one…
    What do I have to do to solve this mistake? I’ve had the same problem as Ekman by the way and just used the path given by the installation program: C:\User\USERNAME\Dropbox (?)
    Is that my mistake? Is the first instance using the same path?
    Can I change this now or do I have to delete the 2nd instance? And how? Uninstall or just deleting the folder?
    Sorry… and thanks. :-)

    • Samer

      @ Kenika: it seems that your two Dropbox instances are using the same path. My advice to you is to delete the second instance and re-do the whole thing, making sure that you do not use the same path for both Dropbox folders. DropboxPortableAHK.exe, btw, is the program that manages this and cannot be deleted.

  • Kenika

    Hi Samer!
    Thank you for your quick response … and sorry for me waiting so long. You were completely right. It was my mistake with the same path. Now, everything works fine and it’s fantastic! Thanks a lot for that hint! I can really need the second dropbox! Great!
    Another question: Is it possible to install even more dropboxes with the DropboxPortableAHK.exe and more accounts?

  • Kenika

    … and – sorry – another question:
    On dropbox’ website, logged in, I see the Photo and the Public folder in the list. But I do not have them in my second dropbox on my HDD?! How come?

  • Kenika

    And again me…
    Now, everything works fine except for the “Copy public link” function in both (!) dropboxes. I can only copy the public link by visiting the website. That’s not so cool. Any ideas?

  • http://Private Private

    Is it possible to run more than 2 dropboxes on one computer?

  • http://morcebu971stickam.blogspot.com/ ereckson

    Sir Samer, Thank you so much, :)

    Cheerss

  • Woo
  • Jamila

    Thanks for the tutorial! Your method is so much cleaner than the other Windows work-around I found. Dropbox must not have anticipated that many businesses would use their service. Anyway, thanks again!

  • Veronika

    Hi,
    I have gone through these steps and I thought I have followed them, however it seems that whenever I shut my laptop off and then re-start, the DropboxPortable fails to sync automatically. To then activate syncing, I click on DropboxPortableAHK.exe again which start the download of all folder/files etc from the start rather than syncing what has changed from last time. This download from the start takes several hours to upload/download. Did I do something wrong with the setting by any chance? Any help would be very much appreciated.
    Thanks you :0)

  • Southern Gal

    THANK YOU!!!
    I tried a few other tips on the web and they didnt work. Yours worked beautifully – at least so far… just set it up and its synching away.

    I also have two accounts one personal (and YES I PAY FOR IT ) and the other for work. So its important to have both available to me.

    thank you again!

  • Southern Gal

    ok. it was great but today when i started my computer (my boss has us turn them off every night) the second dropbox icon did NOT show up…

    advise please?
    thanks.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Southern gal: here’s a quick checklist for you
      – Is it possible the icon is hidden in the Windows 7 notification area (the up arrow visible in the system tray)
      – Does it work if you simply go to the executable and launch it manually
      – If so, you can use a program like ‘Starter’ (http://bit.ly/Rd1qTV) to add it to Windows’ startup programs.

      I hope this helps.

  • Alan McD

    Hi Samer..
    Thank you very much for this tip.. very useful for the classic ‘work’ and ‘personal’ dropboxes…

    Two problem I seem to have:
    #1
    I have the second Dropbox running, but when I choose ‘Launch Dropbox Website’ from this second instance in the system tray, Chrome errors out with a message:
    “Your Preferences cannot be read – Some features may be unavailable and changes to preferences wont be saved”
    Followed by another Chrome dialog:
    “Google Chrome cannot read and write to its data directory – or ”

    #2
    Now that I have two Dropboxes running, my Dropbox content menu is not appearing anymore, either in the original or the new instance.
    This is a bit of a pain, as I cannot now pull up any Public links unless I go to the web-based Dropbox… then see issue #1

    If this can be resolved, I would be over the moon with the capability of 2 Dropboxes!! :)

    Thanks in advance..
    Alan

  • Igor

    Works great for me!!!! Thanks!!!

  • Ibrahim

    Hi admin,
    sounds like an amazing software, which i terribly need now… as i am holding part time roles in two companies and need to maintain access to both dropbox on my personal laptop
    in step9-5, when i try to enter a different location, it prompts me “there is already a folder here called Dropbox. Do you want to merge all the existing files in that folder into your Dropbox?”
    and its OK / Cancel. Ok defaults to computer’s primary dropbox. cancel brings me back to folder browsing screen.
    help pls
    Ibrahim

    • Vera

      same problem..:(

      • rhapsodic

        I’m also having the same problem, someone please help

  • john

    thanks so much for this. It is just what i’ve been looking for to help me with homeworking.

    I got all the way to the end and the new dropbox appeared in the taskbar. But I had to close it and now I can’t figure out how to open it up again…

    Am I being a total doofus?

    thanks for any help.

  • cricha

    Having a setup problem. I don’t understand what “enter your credentials for second dropbox” means.
    I’ve put in one of my email addresses and the password which goes with it but get an error message saying invalid password/email pair.
    What should I have put in?

  • Mirella

    Hello!! Great application many thanks. I have a small problem though. My first dropbox is at My Documents and my second dropbox is at the Desktop so they don’t read from the same path. Although this I only have at my taskbar only the second’s dropbox icon and in order to see the folders of my first dropbox I had to create a shortcut at my desktop. Please let me know how I can have both icons at my taskbar. Thank you so much

  • Brian

    Thanks for this walk-thru, working great for me!

  • Andrew

    I have 2 accounts running now- works a treat, but when I restart my computer the second account does not sync… any ideas. It is not in my running programs list, and No it is not ‘hidden’ in the status bar.

  • Andrew

    I have 2 accounts running now- works a treat, but when I restart my computer the second account does not sync… any ideas. It is not in my running programs list, and No it is not ‘hidden’ in the status bar.

  • Andrew

    I have installed it as per instructions and my second Dropbox folder works a treat. There is still an issue though. When I restart my computer, the second account does not show in the notification tray. What program needs to be added to the startup menu?

    • Serdem

      I think this is what I experience now. Have you sorted out this? Thanks.

  • Serdem

    Hi,
    Thanks a lot for this. It does work for me. I only have one issue though. After my second dropbox sync’ed the dropbox icon disappeared. How can I have it on the right bottom corner of my screen (and sync’ing constantly).

    Thanks.

  • Ekman

    @ Samer

    Your tip worked! Thanks!!!!!

  • Pingback: Two Dropbox instances on same PC | Visual Oomph – Visual Thinking Blog by Kumar Kolaganti

  • Karthick

    Hi, Thanks for your efforts, you had saved my time.
    all the best for efforts in future

  • Meghanath C

    this article was very good, helpful and explanatory

  • blaxzagan

    thank you very much..now i can use my own dropbox using my brother’s PC! Good Job!

  • pulpfiction_ll

    Hi,
    I just made everything right but still doesnt work for me. I only have one issue though. My second dropbox doesnt sync automatically and i have to go to the instalation folder and click on the DropboxPortableAHK.exe again, then a few minutes after the second icon appear on the task bar but when i try to click on it, it disappeared.

    How can I have it on the right bottom corner of my screen (and sync’ing constantly). Just like the original dropbox do…

    Pls Help!!!

  • Martyn

    Late to the Party, but thanks Samer. This has helped me to free up my personal laptop, which is also used for work. I have a 100G DB work account & a 50G DB personal account, both taking up far too much room on my paltry 360G HDD. This little trick has enabled me to run both accounts from a 1TB external HDD, by simply assigning a fixed drive letter to it.
    Thank you again.

  • Erik

    trying to help out with the un-answered questions in here
    – computer restart, the new dropbox instance gone, what to do ?
    there are a couple steps u can take to make sure the the instance is “really” gone

    – ctrl+alt+del > start task manager > process tab > click image name tab > find the dropbox instance.

    from here u can have 2 possibilities
    1. theres 2 dropbox intances listed, but the icon on the lower right corner of your windows is not showing them,

    solution :
    on task manager, find explorer.exe > right click > end process > (still on task manager, upper left corner) click File > New task > type explorer.exe.
    this should refresh your taskbar and showing the “hidden” icon

    2. theres only 1 dropbox instance, to make sure which one is this,
    on the task manager > right click the Dropbox.exe > open file location.
    a new window will open, note the address if its something along this line :

    D:DropboxPortableAHK.dbfilesprofileAppDataRoamingDropboxbin
    this address means the dropbox.exe is from the new DropboxPortableAHK
    this means something is preventing your standard dropbox installation to launch, for this particular solution u might want to try google first.

    C:UsersxAppDataRoamingDropboxbin
    this means the dropbox.exe that is running atm is from the standard installation NOT from the DropboxPortableAHK

    solution :
    – u can use a new software to manage your startup launch as mentioned by Samer
    “If so, you can use a program like ‘Starter’ (http://bit.ly/Rd1qTV) to add it to Windows’ startup programs.”

    – i dont like to add unecessary software into my pc, so my solution :
    u need to find where u download the DropboxPortableAHK folder > find the DropboxPortableAHK.exe > right click > create shortcut (keep this window open)

    click Start (lower left window icon) or press ctrl+esc > all programs > right click Startup > Open (a new window will open)

    now cut the new shortcut u just created (in the previous window) and pasted it into the Startup window

    last thing to do is to restart your windows and test it, dont forgot how to really check if u indeed have 2 dropbox instance by using the task manager (see above)
    hope this helps