How to Use Dropbox Smart Sync for Cloud Storage

Dropbox Smart Sync is a useful feature that helps you save hard drive space while still having access to all your Dropbox files. With Smart Sync, you can store files in the cloud rather than locally on your device, freeing up space on your hard drive.

What is Dropbox Smart Sync?

Dropbox Smart Sync gives you the ability to choose whether to save files locally on your device or keep them online-only in the cloud. It lets you access all your Dropbox content without taking up all the storage space on your computer.

There are two sync states for files and folders with Smart Sync:

  • Online-only – The file appears in your Dropbox folder but doesn’t take up local space on your hard drive. It downloads temporarily when opened.
  • Local – The file is stored locally on your device and also synced to Dropbox, taking up space both places.

Smart Sync is available for Plus, Professional, and Business Dropbox plans.

Benefits of Using Smart Sync

There are several key benefits of using Smart Sync:

Saves Local Storage Space

By keeping files online-only, Smart Sync lets you free up space on your hard drive while still having access to those files in your Dropbox folder. This is perfect if you work with large files like videos and photos but have limited disk space.

Easy Access to All Files

With Smart Sync, you can view and access your entire Dropbox, regardless of whether files are stored locally or online. You don’t need to worry about selectively syncing folders.

Works Across Devices

The Smart Sync settings you choose apply across all your connected devices. So the files you set to online-only on your desktop also become online-only on your laptop and mobile devices, saving you space everywhere.

How to Use Smart Sync

Using Smart Sync is easy. Just follow these steps:

1. Install the Dropbox Desktop App

If you haven’t already, download and install the Dropbox desktop app on your computer. Smart Sync is only available through the desktop app.

2. Right-Click Files/Folders

Open your Dropbox folder on your computer. Then right-click on any file or folder and hover over Smart Sync in the menu.

3. Choose Online-Only

Select “Make Online-Only” from the Smart Sync menu. This will remove the local copy and keep that file/folder accessible only through the cloud.

4. Check Sync Icons

The green checkmark shows files stored locally. The blue cloud icon means they are online-only. These icons let you easily distinguish between local vs. cloud-only files.

5. Set Defaults

In Preferences > Sync, choose whether new files added to Dropbox default to storing locally or online-only.

Tips for Using Smart Sync

Here are some handy tips for getting the most out of Smart Sync:

Set large files as online-only – Prioritize keeping your largest files like videos in the cloud to maximize space savings.

Make edited files local – If you are actively editing a file, keep it local for quicker saving and access.

Sync work files locally – Files you access regularly for work should stay local for performance.

Enable automatic sync – Let Smart Sync automatically make stale files online-only after periods of inactivity.

Use selective sync for backups – Choose specific folders to sync if you mainly want Dropbox as a backup of key data.

Best Practices with Smart Sync

To ensure Smart Sync works smoothly, follow these best practices:

  • Maintain an internet connection to open online-only files
  • Disable battery saver modes which may interfere with syncing
  • Keep a reasonable amount of free space in your Dropbox account
  • Occasionally restart your computer and check that Smart Sync is working
  • Disable Smart Sync before uninstalling or reinstalling Dropbox

Smart Sync vs Selective Sync

Dropbox also offers Selective Sync which has some similarities but differs in a few key ways:

| Feature | Smart Sync | Selective Sync |
| Access all files | Yes | No |
| Default settings | Online or local | Local |
| Choose sync folders | No | Yes |

So Smart Sync is more automated and gives you access to your entire Dropbox while Selective Sync lets you manually select folders to sync.


Dropbox Smart Sync provides a great way to save local disk space while keeping your entire Dropbox available. By strategically choosing which files stay online-only, you can optimize storage on your devices.

Just install Dropbox, right-click files to manage their sync status, and set defaults that meet your needs. Follow the tips in this guide to configure Smart Sync in the way that works best for your workflow. With a few simple clicks, you’ll have all your Dropbox files at your fingertips without filling up your hard drive.