Replace Dropbox app with Maestral

The recent ATP podcast episode 452 (Oct 14, 2021) recommended the Maestral app as replacement for Dropbox’s macOS client app. The Maestral app was described as “lightweight”, with a much smaller memory and CPU utilization footprint compared to the Dropbox app.

Searching the Macpowerusers forum revealed positive comments by @tjluoma and @MereCivilian, as well as a Github link with more information (GitHub - SamSchott/maestral: Open-source Dropbox client for macOS and Linux).

My question for MPU forum: what specific steps should I follow to replace the Dropbox app with Maestral for my 2020 iMac 27” and 2020 M1 MacBook Pro? My Dropbox folder contains 9,135 items (17.6 GB), and I currently run Dropbox on 4 devices - the two Macs listed above, iPhone 10s Max and iPad Pro 11".

My guess would be the following:

  1. Quit the Dropbox app, leaving my Dropbox folder intact.
  2. Drag \applications\dropbox.app to the trash.
  3. Download the Maestral app bundle for macOS, install the app, specifying my Dropbox folder as the appropriate folder to sync with Dropbox.

Is that all there is to it?

Some questions come to mind:

  1. Are any other steps needed for compete removal of the dropbox app, such as preference files, associated utilities, login files, etc.? A brief search revealed a ~\library\Application Support\Dropbox folder containing a DropboxMacUpdate utility. I assume this should be deleted also, correct?
  2. Should Dropbox Finder extensions be removed in System Preferences?
  3. Remove Dropbox app from Login Items under Users and Groups in System Preferences?

Are there any other places to check, items to delete or actions to take to remove the Dropbox app and its associated files and settings? Do I need to shut down the Mac and re-boot macOS after removing the Dropbox app, before installing Maestral?

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I went to System Preferences » Extensions and turned off (unchecked) the Dropbox stuff.

I removed:

  1. The ~/Dropbox/ folder
  2. The ~/.dropbox/ folder
  3. /Applications/Dropbox.app/
  4. I rebooted. Which probably wasn’t necessary, but didn’t hurt.
  5. I installed maestral and followed the prompts, etc.

That’s all I did, and it seems to work fine. The few things left on my HD were not worth it to me, but deleting ~/Library/Application Support/Dropbox/ can’t hurt. I just checked and all those files are zero bytes.

Edited to Add

I have fully moved 100% to maestral. I use Dropbox.com for sharing stuff, but I do that seldomly.

Don’t miss the command-line tool which gives you things like

Usage: maestral [OPTIONS] COMMAND [ARGS]...

  Dropbox client for Linux and macOS.

Options:
  --version  Show the version and exit.
  --help     Show this message and exit.

Core Commands:
  start          Start the sync daemon. ¹
  stop           Stop the sync daemon. ¹
  gui            Run the GUI if installed.
  pause          Pause syncing. ¹
  resume         Resume syncing. ¹
  auth           Link, unlink and view the Dropbox account.
  sharelink      Create and manage shared links.

Information:
  status         Show the status of the daemon. ¹
  filestatus     Show the sync status of a local file or folder. ¹
  activity       Live view of all items being synced. ¹
  history        Show recently changed or added files.
  ls             List contents of a Dropbox directory.
  config-files   List all configured Dropbox accounts.

Settings:
  autostart      Automatically start the sync daemon on login.
  excluded       View and manage excluded folders.
  notify         Manage desktop notifications.

Maintenance:
  move-dir       Move the local Dropbox folder.
  rebuild-index  Rebuild the sync index.
  revs           List old file revisions.
  diff           Compare two revisions of a file.
  restore        Restore a previous version of a file.
  log            View and manage the log.
  config         Direct access to config values.
  completion     Generate completion script for your shell.

¹ indicates personal favorites of mine, good for automation.

6 Likes

@tjluoma - thank you, this is helpful, especially the point about the ~/.dropbox/ folder. I probably would have missed that.

Why remove the ~/Dropbox/ folder? This is the user’s main Dropbox data folder, correct? Was it your intent to re-download the Dropbox data folder from the Dropbox cloud server after installing Maestral? Why not just keep the Dropbox data folder “as is” on your computer?

And this brings up another question - How does Maestral establish your Dropbox account credentials (sign-in to the Dropbox.com server, location of your Mac’s Dropbox folder)? This is established during installation of the Maestral app, correct? I apologize for this elementary question - I want to understand some of this before proceeding with the installation.

If there is a folder already there, Maestral (or the regular Dropbox app) has to compare what is there, with what is on the server.

If there is no folder there, Dropbox (or Maestral) will simply download the current contents of my Dropbox.

Downloading is fast.
Comparing is slow(er).
Uploading is slow(er).

I have a very fast download connection that is unmetered, so removing the ~/Dropbox/ folder is the best chance I have to avoid potential problems and slowness. IMO. YMMV. Not legal advice. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Better to start clean.

Maestral will walk you through the process. I believe it opens a web page that will have you log in at Dropbox.com and then will open the app.

It was simple and straightforward.

It will offer to use ~/Dropbox/ but you can change the name or move it elsewhere.

Maestral even supports multiple accounts.

And you can change the installation location later without much hassle either. Much easier than Dropbox’s official app.

Yes, this is all part of the installation process.

No apology is necessary. Feeling confident before you start reduces anxiety and will allow you to be more comfortable when you do it.

That being said: take your time, read what it says, follow the instructions, and it’s difficult to go wrong.

IME.

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:joy:

Nice deep cut!

Glad someone seemed to recognize it. Or at least said something.

Search the forums and you’ll see I’ve mentioned it before. I’ve probably linked the video before too.

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OK, makes sense. Counterintuitive… but clear, once you think about the realities of syncing with a cloud service.

A real head-slap moment, analogous to the situation with iCloud Photos. It seemingly takes forever to re-sync a large Photos library if you make the mistake of signing out of your iCloud account or turning off iCloud Photos. Like the Dropbox situation above, simply downloading the cloud-resident Photos library is much faster than re-syncing your local copy. A work-around for this iCloud Photos sync problem was described in Allison Sheridan’s Podfeet blog/podcast website (link: https://www.podfeet.com/blog/2018/03/photos-sync-4-days/

Thank you, very helpful.

Oh yes. This is tons faster. Comparing all of those photos can take days in my experience. If you know you were up to date with uploading, just re-downloading will be extremely fast by comparison.