How To Run Multiple Dropbox Accounts Simultaneously [Mac]

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00 Logo Multiple Dropbox.jpegOne of the most useful computer applications that I’ve come across so far is Dropbox. There are already countless articles about this automatic folder backup and synchronization tool here in MakeUseOf, including many usage spin-offs like: synchronizing research data and triggering automatic downloads.

But if you are an avid Dropbox user, there might be times when you wish you could run multiple Dropbox accounts simultaneously.

Maybe because you need to seperate personal account and work account, or maybe you just want to get some extra storage – for free. Whatever the reason is, there are ways to run multiple Dropbox accounts at once. Here are the steps to do it on a Mac.

Before you start, you need to create an additional account with Dropbox.

Command Line Galore

Tweaking Dropbox to enable multiple instances requires meddling with Terminal and a whole bunch of command lines. I’m not a fan of command line myself, but I can tell you that the following process is not as “scary” as it sounds.

There are two steps that need to be taken. The first step is setting up the account.

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  1. Open Terminal
  2. Type (or just copy and paste) this command:


    Hit enter and insert the next command line:

    HOME=$HOME/.dropbox-alt /Applications/ &

    Here’s how it looks like.

    Multiple Dropbox Accounts

  3. A new Dropbox icon will appear in the menubar.

    run Multiple Dropbox Accounts

  4. A Dropbox account setup window will also pop up. Follow the setup steps.

    03b Dropbox Setup.jpg

  5. At the last setup step, tick the option to choose your own location of Dropbox folder. Hit the “Change” button to determine the location.

    04 Dropbox Setup - Choose Location-1.jpg

  6. After the setup process complete, you can close the terminal. Theoretically, the extra Dropbox instances will also be closed, but in my experiment it remained in the menubar.

That’s the end of step 1. We’ll go to the second step: creating the startup item for the extra Dropbox instance.

  1. Open the Terminal (again)
  2. Paste in this command line:

    mkdir -p ~/wherever you like/

    In place of “wherever you like” really does mean anywhere on your hard drive that you like, such as ~/Documents/.

    Multiple Dropbox Accounts

    In this step, you are creating an application called “DropboxAltStarter“. But it’s not completed yet.

    05b Created Application-1.jpg

  3. Then open TextEdit and paste:
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN"
    <plist version="1.0">

    Save the file as: “Info.plist” anywhere.

    (Please note that the <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC “-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN” and “”> above should be written within one line of code – separated by a space, but we need to break it down into two because it couldn’t fit into the WP theme. So don’t forget to enter it in one line).

    06 TextEdit - Save plist.jpg

  4. Right click on the “DropboxAltStarter” that you’ve created before and choose “Show Package Contents

    07 Show Package Contents.jpg

  5. Drag and drop the “Info.plist” file into the folder “Contents” (the same level as “MacOS” folder).

    08 Inside Contents.jpg

    08b Inside Contents.jpg

  6. Create a new text file and paste:

    (Again, the HOME=/Users/$USER/.dropbox-alt and /Applications/ should be written in one line of code separated by a space. You know what to do.)

    Then save the file as “DropboxAltStarter” (sans quote). Don’t forget to uncheck the “If no extension is provided, use “.txt”” box to prevent TextEdit from saving the file as text file.

    09 DropboxAltStarter.jpg

  7. Repeat steps 4 and 5 above to put the “DropboxAltStarter” file into the “MacOS” folder.

    09b DropboxAltStarter.jpg

  8. Open Terminal and type this command:

    chmod 755

    Before you hit enter, drag and drop the “DropboxAltStarter” file to the Terminal to finish the command.

    10 Making it executable.jpg

    Then hit enter.

    10b Terminal

  9. Now you have a working app. You can move it to the “Applications” folder if you like, double click it to open the second dropbox account.

    11 New Dropbox account-1.jpg

  10. You can also add the newly created app to your start up list by going to “System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items” menu.

    11 Add login items.jpg

After the long journey

Whew! That was quite a long ride, wasn’t it?

The work is done, but there’s still one thing to add: To know which Dropbox account is which, you can assign different logo to one of them. Go to Dropbox’ “Preferences > General” and choose the B&W logo for one of the accounts.

12 Dropbox Preferences.jpg

If you are a Windows user, you can use Dropbox addon called Dropboxen to achieve the same result.

So, what would you do with two Dropbox instances? Do you know the way to run multiple Dropbox accounts? Share your thoughts and opinion using the comment below.

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Comments (12)
  • Josh

    I’ve been running this for a couple of weeks with a work account and a personal account, and no Finder crashing here. Macbook Pro on 10.6.3

    As for reversing it, all you need to do is delete the stuff you created and make sure to take the entry out of Login Items. It doesn’t modify your original Dropbox installation in any way, particularly if you use my Applescript method.

  • Jon

    Is this reversible?

    If I screw it up, how do I go back to the default install?

    Thank you!

  • inboulder

    These instructions work, however, once 2 dropbox instances are running, finder crashes _constantly_.

    • Don Gilbert

      If that’s true, then I can’t use this, no matter how clever it is. Can anyone confirm this?

  • Josh

    A much easier way to make the “Starter” app:

    1. Open “Applescript Editor”
    2. enter the following applescript:
    do shell script “bash; HOME=/Users/$USER/.dropbox-alt /Applications/”
    (that’s all one line)
    3. File > Save As… choose “Application” as the format

  • fab

    Great job, man! thank you

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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