Differences Between Dropbox Selective Sync and Smart Sync


U-M Dropbox


What is Dropbox Selective Sync? What is Dropbox Smart Sync? 


Selective Sync

  • Selective sync lets you choose which folders you’d like to store on your computer’s hard drive from all of the folders you have stored in your Dropbox account. If you check a folder, that folder and the files and folders inside it are saved to your hard drive. If you uncheck a folder, that folder and the files and folders inside it are removed from your hard drive and are only stored on the web (dropbox.com).
  • Selective sync helps you save hard drive space by removing files from your hard drive so that they’re online-only. However, those files will no longer appear in the Dropbox folder on your computer (File Explorer/Finder) or the desktop app.
  • Selective sync will prevent folders from being downloaded/available on the desktop and is good for users who have limited disk space. 
    • When using selective sync, and choosing to sync a folder that you had previously excluded on the desktop client, you may notice the files appearing with a grey cloud icon beside them. This means that the files are ‘online-only.’ You can interact with these files as normal, but they take up no space on your computer.

Learn more about Selective Sync:

Smart Sync

  • Smart Sync is a feature of the Dropbox desktop app that allows you to make files online-only so you can save hard drive space on your computer.
    • You can choose which files to make online-only or let automatic Smart Sync choose for you
    • Through the Smart Sync feature, you have greater control and can sync only the folders or files that you need by right-clicking, selecting Smart Sync, and then selecting 'Local'
  • Instead of completely removing files and folders, Smart Sync lets you make files and folders online-only so they’re still visible from your computer, even though they’re only stored in your Dropbox account online
  • Smart Sync also has an automatic setting that makes files and folders online-only, based on how you use them.

Learn more about Smart Sync:

Additional Information

Note: Smart Sync and Selective Sync preferences you choose are unique to each computer and don’t affect other computers you use with Dropbox.

Need additional information or assistance? Contact the ITS Service Center.

Print Article


Article ID: 6670
Thu 10/28/21 3:03 PM
Thu 2/10/22 11:30 AM

Related Articles (2)

This article provides guidance on accessing the Dropbox folder in your File Explorer or Finder.
This article explains that selective sync is a feature in the Dropbox desktop app that lets you choose folders to remove from your hard drive so you can save space on your computer. The folders you choose to remove from your hard drive remain stored in your account on dropbox.com.