Now that Apple has killed Dropbox sync folders on external drives, what now?

Apple apparently killed the API that allowed Dropbox and others to sync external drive folders. I see no way forward other than just beefing up the internal drives. Has anyone discovered a workaround? I use Nextcloud so I presume this will affect me also.

from 9to5:
For instance, Dropbox currently lets users store their Dropbox folder on an external storage. However, this will no longer be possible even after the update with support for macOS Monterey and macOS Ventura. This is because all content from cloud apps on macOS will now be moved to the ~/Library/CloudStorage folder for privacy reasons.

Microsoft have sort of got around this, but I guess DropBox didn’t want to do a similar implementation.

How did they do it if Apple only allows ~/Library/CloudStorage? Has the time arrived when we need to start jailbreaking macOS also? :smiley:

From their help page, it looks like everything is CloudStorage, but the data is stored on the external drive in its cache…

Sometimes, users choose a path on another volume to set up OneDrive. A typical use case for this happens when a user has a small internal drive on their Mac, but also has a larger external drive attached.

This configuration is still supported in the new Files On-Demand experience if an external drive is selected during the first-run experience. A few things change as a result:

  • The sync root remains in ~/Library/CloudStorage, on the user’s home volume. As noted above, this path cannot be moved from this location.
  • The cache path is on the volume that was selected during the first-run experience. This is located in a hidden folder that’s a sibling of the location that was chosen.
    • This folder begins with the name “.ODContainer”.
  • A symlink is created from the chosen location to ~/Library/CloudStorage.

For example, if the user selects /Volumes/BigDrive/OneDrive for their OneDrive path:

  • The sync root will remain in ~/Library/CloudStorage/OneDrive-Personal
  • The cache path will be set up at /Volumes/BigDrive/.ODContainer-OneDrive
  • A symlink will link from /Volumes/BigDrive/OneDrive to ~/Library/CloudStorage/OneDrive-Personal

Because the cache path is located on an external drive in this scenario, any pinned content will be stored there and not on the main drive.

The cache path folder is hidden by default. Users should not modify this folder or its contents.

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I wonder whether a somewhat tech-savvy user could create their own symlink-based solution, in this case for Dropbox.


I also wonder how long it will take Apple to disable symlinking to external drives altogether for the sake of security.

It seems that the Apple vision is: “You have everything in your cloud of choice, it may be cached locally for performance reasons but you will not be guaranteed to have a local copy of everything”. “Oh, Apple, how do I do backups?” “That’s a job for your cloud storage provider”. “Ok, can I have a backup of my iCloud Drive?”

Why do you want to sync external drive. Backup? or sync?

Dropbox or any sync service is not a reliable backup as any flaw on local and or server gets synced automatically and the backup goes “poof”. :wink:

I’m pretty sure I used a symlink, years ago, to relocate my email folder to an external drive. That is no longer possible. Did they do this for security reasons? Or to encourage users to purchase larger internal storage?

I dont know anyone who backs up with dropbox but I do know people with sizable syncs between desktops at multiple locations. If you only sync text files this will not affect you

Well maybe you have a 256GB main drive and 1TB in the cloud, an external drive is handy to download it all locally.

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Especially since the default Dropbox max storage is 2 TB. iCloud’s “Premier” plan is also 2 TB.

Given that iCloud in particular doesn’t allow selective sync, that means that the vast, vast majority of devices Apple sells won’t be able to use the storage that Premier subscribers are paying for.

It still actually lets you actually download everything, right? It just has to be on your main drive?

This is why I’m moving off cloud storage in favour of a physically small ssd. I’m finding it much simpler to have data on an encrypted ssd that I can carry around than the headache cloud storage (especially backup and unreliable sync), apple’s ridiculous cost for more hard disk space and now removing a users choice of where they store particular data are creating.

We’re moving into the realm where apple will soon lock us out of the OS completely!

While I appreciate Apple’s commitment to security and privacy, there are times when their efforts to save me from myself feel downright parental. I’m officially old enough (in tech years) to put my my stuff where it needs to be, not where Apple thinks it needs to be.


If I understand @svsmailus’s argument correctly, the fact that Apple won’t allow us to use the blazingly-fast (and very inexpensive, relatively) SSDs over USB C for cloud, requiring us to pay the “Apple Tax” to upgrade our internal SSDs if we want to use cloud storage, is precisely what makes it a “money grab”. :slight_smile:


I do to, but I cannot see how this is furthering those efforts in any meaningful way. (I’m not saying that you’re implying that they are, just quoting you as a general statement that I agree with)

With the caveat that that does of course not include Apple themselves. They are just keeping others out but give themselves complete access to your data.

This is relatively easy with Carbon Copy Cloner. I’ve already got it set to back up one external disk to another. Plus ssd’s are fairly speedy to backup. If you invest the money annually spent on cloud storage into ssd’s it’ll save you money.

I feel that this has been discussed before, when it was first implemented.

The change is down to Apple updating old code within macOS and I think the big stink was a year or two ago when it came in to effect.

It’s affected me to - however, third part sync solutions get around this (Insync, Maestral), and as I use Onedrive, it’s not the big issue I thought it was going to be.

Now, if I was a laptop user, I might be disappointed, unless I did the old velcro an SSD fo my Mac, but as a Mac Mini user, I currently have no issues with Onedrive syncing to the external, as it’s always connected.

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To be fair to Apple, they have just implemented features that lock themselves out of being able to see (almost any) of your iCloud data. To be fair to not-Apple, they do get access to quite a lot of other data.


Here’s the thing: for me cloud storage isn’t an alternative to local storage—whether that’s my hard drive or an external drive—it’s a supplement to it that allows me to access whatever I’ve put there from more than one device. Making it next to impossible for me to store files on an external drive and then sync some of files to the cloud service of my choice suggests that Apple and I have a difference of opinion about what cloud storage is for.

Apple has strong opinions about How Things Should Work. Some of those opinions do provide a better user experience, but many don’t. Thinner is not always better. Fewer ports is not always better. The Truth is not always in the Cloud and Bluetooth is not always better than a headphone jack. Relieving the user of choice is most definitely not always better.


They do make a backup of your iCloud Drive and you can initiate a restore locally unless you have a lot of information in iCloud I believe the limit for having to ask them to do it is over 200 GB.

I lost my documents folder due to an iCloud glitch and they were able to restore it. Be aware it is an all or nothing restore.