Your Cloud Media Center: How To Stream Videos From Dropbox

Simon Slangen 27-08-2012

stream files from dropboxIf you’re like me, you’ve got a computer hooked up to the big screen to go along (or replace) your TV tuner. It transforms your everyday television or computer monitor to something akin to those smart TV’s popping up in stores around the world, allowing you to watch most video files and YouTube videos from the comfort of your couch.


The biggest problem remaining with this set-up is the drag of keeping your video library current. You’ll want to watch your videos on your laptop one day, and on your media center the next. Time to get your USB stick. Or is it?

A simple solution to this problem can be found with Dropbox, but not the way you’re thinking. Instead of synchronising your videos across multiple computers, you can stream video files from Dropbox on any Internet-enabled computer.

Uploading Your Videos

The first step — and incidentally the most predictable one — is to upload your videos to Dropbox. Not necessarily all of them, mind you. Your Dropbox account can only hold so much. This step will take the longest, and require some patience from you; your upload speed is usually notably slower than your download speed.

Using the default settings in the Dropbox desktop client, these videos will soon be downloaded to your other machines. Although there’s nothing against it, this is not necessary for what we’re trying to achieve — streaming video — so you can save yourself some bandwidth by ignoring your videos folder using Dropbox’ Selective Sync feature.

Stream From Your Browser

When you want to watch one of your previously uploaded videos, just grab an internet-enabled computer and head to the Dropbox website. After signing in, you’ll see a list of the files and folders stored on your Dropbox account.


stream files from dropbox

Clicking one of the items will open Dropbox’ lightbox, which is a black overlay for viewing or previewing your files. In the case of video files, it’s actually rather impressive. This in-browser video player plays most file types you’ll throw at it. I personally tested it with H.264-encoded MP4’s and MKV’s, as well as AVI and MOV, and all worked smoothly.

Your Cloud Media Center: How To Stream Videos From Dropbox dropbox lightbox

The media player is very simple — as expected for streaming video — but should offer most, if not all the functionality you need. That is, you can skip ahead in the video, control the volume, and switch to a full-screen viewing mode.

Bandwidth and Copyright Limitations

You may be tempted to share your magical streaming library with friends and family, but there are two things to beware. First and foremost, you should avoid copyright infringement. Even if you own a particular movie, Dropbox doesn’t take kindly to you putting it in your public folder and passing the link around, and multiple infringements will see your account suspended.


stream files from dropbox

The second reason is a practical one. Dropbox is a synchronisation tool, rather than a file host, which is why they’ve put bandwidth restrictions on the files you put in your public folder. Luckily, these shouldn’t bother casual users. At the time of writing, the limit’s at 20 GB per day for free accounts, and 200 GB per day for paid accounts.

Have you ever streamed video from your Dropbox account to another computer? Any other Dropbox tips that you know of? Let us know in the comments below the article!

Related topics: Cloud Computing, Cloud Storage, Dropbox, Media Player, Online Video.

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  1. Marko
    December 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Not sure why you didn't receive my previous message, but to get the complete video you have to download it as a Favourite.

    I've downloaded 2 hours of video and played it back successfully.

    • Elissa
      December 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      I added it to my favorites and NOTHING. It still says only 15 minutes is available and I NEED to transcribe a 40 minute interview NOW and I have a two hour deadline and I am frustrated beyond belief.

      • Marko
        December 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        ELISSA, Its no good just adding it to your Favourites and expect to play it straight away, you have to download it first. It took me 20 min to download 1 hour of video. When you've saved it as a Favourite, go back to Favourites and see it being downloaded in percentages, when complete you will find it plays OK.

  2. Marko
    December 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Same problem, only 15 mins of streaming and that's it. Great shame they don't allow a certain amount of video (say 2hrs worth with a GB limit so you can adjust the quality) to be uploaded and streamed in full.
    I'll check back here again for any suggestion, in the mean time I'll carry on looking for an answer or alternative.

  3. PierreM
    September 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I've uploaded a 40 minute 2GB wedding video which my friends can only stream the first 12 minutes of. Is this a Dropbox limitation? The video downloads fine.

    • Sanjib
      November 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

      I've had the same problem. Uploaded a 22 minute, 800 MB mkv file, and can only stream 16 minutes of it. Very strange

      • Simon Slangen
        November 6, 2012 at 8:55 am

        Strange. Have you tried contacting Dropbox support with the problem?

        • Nick
          November 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm

          I'm having the same problem. How do I stream more than 15 minutes?? I get a warning when trying to stream the video, "can only stream 15 minutes of video. To watch the rest of it, please favorite the video." So I tried adding the video to my favorites, and when I select the video from my favorites, the same exact warning comes up. Any ideas?

        • Nina
          November 28, 2012 at 3:18 am


        • Andy
          November 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

          Same here - I've contacted Dropbox support and have been told that the 15 minutes is a limit on streaming. It totally ruins the point of having a streaming service. I'm currently trying to find an alternative, which looks like SkyDrive at the moment.

        • rob
          December 5, 2012 at 4:32 am

          having the same problem and skydrive only allows up to 300mb files

        • Simon Slangen
          December 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

          I'm afraid there's no way around the 15min limit using the free version of Dropbox. Cloudee (from the makers of Boxee) might be worth looking into.

        • normangl
          January 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

          From your last comment, does this mean I shouldn't get this 15 minute streaming limit now I have purchased a professional version of DropBox instead of the free version I previously had?

  4. Vampie C.
    August 30, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Great tip.

    So that way I can easily share video's of our little girl to my parents and friends, without having to mail it to them?

    That would be great. :-)

    • Simon Slangen
      August 30, 2012 at 9:19 am

      That's right! You can press the little link icon at the lower right of the player to easily share the video with friends and family.

  5. venkatp16
    August 28, 2012 at 11:07 am

    this is not working for me.. does it has anything to do with account settings? or browser...

    • Simon Slangen
      August 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Can you tell me about the problems you're having?

      • venkatp16
        August 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

        it is almost like playing video youtube if i'm not wrong. when i click it keeps on loading but nothing comes up and after sometime it is going to home page...

        • Simon Slangen
          August 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm

          Strange indeed. The only things that come to mind are a browser/plug-in issue, or an unsupported filetype.

  6. Erlis D.
    August 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I haven't thought that Dropbox would have such feature...
    But anyway, cool!
    I would also, like to use this feature, but what troubles me, is the space limit.. (I believe is 2Gb, right? )

    • Simon Slangen
      August 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Standard limit is 2GB, correct. But you can do a lot of things to increase the allotted space.

  7. GrrGrrr
    August 27, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    It is really good, but bandwidth restrictions are bad.
    I have faced bandwidth restriction before.

  8. lance burn
    August 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I have a tivo box so just use that

  9. Vipul Jain
    August 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

    This surely is a nice feature. But you should know that if you exceed limitations or share a copyright file/video, your account isn't suspended straight away.
    Instead your fie sharing ability is disabled until you delete the copyright file and in case of limitations you just get a "Too much traffic" notice.
    Accounts are suspended only if you repeatedly host copyrighted stuff.

    • Simon Slangen
      August 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Thanks for clearing that up!

  10. bro
    August 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I'm using my public folder to host some web pages. It is a very nice feature !

  11. Ashwin Ramesh
    August 27, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Didn't know you could do this!

  12. VS Vishnu
    August 27, 2012 at 6:17 am

    good info..

  13. Sebastian Hadinata
    August 27, 2012 at 5:53 am

    excelent tips and info, especially about th daily bandwidth limit, I don't know that dropbox has bandwidth limit, oh well it is more than enough anyway, 20GB/day is just way too much for me :3

  14. vineedcool
    August 27, 2012 at 2:57 am

    pls ref me simply by visiting link and make an acc

  15. VictorGeis
    August 27, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I didn't know you could do this! This great for sharing home videos with the family!