How To Run Multiple Dropbox Accounts Simultaneously [Mac]

Jeffry Thurana 26-01-2010

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 4 Unique and Cool Ways to Use Dropbox Read More like: synchronizing research data How To Share & Synchronize Research Data To Other Computers Read More 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.

  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.

Related topics: Data Backup, Dropbox.

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  1. Jose
    October 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    This seems exactly what I need. Anyone successfully tried this recently?
    I've bumped into an error on step 1. My Mac has Snow Leopard, and Dropbox version is the latest I think (v12.4.22)

  2. bob
    September 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    This really helped me. I use the suggestion to use the applescript editor to create the starter app, that way also addressed the issue of the powerpc message saying it is no longer supported. And all works fine, I am running 2 Dropbox accounts on a El Capitan 10.11.6.

  3. Josh
    April 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    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.

  4. Jon
    April 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Is this reversible?

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

    Thank you!

    • Jon
      April 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      btw - can any one else confirm the finder crashing?

  5. inboulder
    March 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

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

    • Don Gilbert
      April 9, 2010 at 7:07 am

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

  6. Josh
    March 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    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

  7. fab
    February 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Great job, man! thank you

  8. manu
    February 10, 2010 at 7:05 am

    works great, thanks a lot :)

  9. Brian
    February 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    problem solved, it was the unicode text issue.

  10. Brian
    February 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I can't get this to work, I've tried it on three machines so far. I think it may be my textedit. I don't have the option to save as Unicode or plain text in TextEdit. When I try to open the altstarter program i get an error saying the the file is damaged or incomplete. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    • Jeffry Thurana
      February 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      Maybe your TextEdit is set to save as RTF. Try "Format > Make Plain Text" menu or "Command + Shift + T". And don’t forget to uncheck the 'If no extension is provided, use “.txt”' box to prevent TextEdit from saving the file as text file.

      Hope this could help.

  11. MPN
    January 30, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Warning...I will curse in the following....
    ...has anyone seen/does anyone know whether this will work (in any other way) for errrm..Windows.. too??