Dropbox does not officially support this capability, but there are various methods to provide access to two or more Dropbox accounts within a single user login. Most rely on creating alternate “home directories” for one running instance of Dropbox, or running a copy of Dropbox as a different user using facilities built into later versions of Windows.
The Dropbox folks work hard to provide a great service, so please consider supporting the company by upgrading to a “paid” plan if you need more space, rather than using the methods below to “cheat” the 2 GB (technically, up to 8 GB with referrals) free plan.
There are, however, exceptional reasons—such as collaborative projects with a team sharing a dedicated Dropbox account—where you might legitimately need to access two accounts simultaneously. Instructions for Windows, Mac, and Unix/Linux (including specific instructions for GNOME 2.x and some hints for KDE) platforms are provided below.
- 1 Windows
- 2 Mac
- 3 Unix
- 4 Getting Started
- 4.0.1 How to run the “alternate” Dropbox manually, for testing
- 4.0.2 How to auto-start the alternate Dropbox on login for GNOME (2.x)
- 4.0.3 How to auto-start the alternate Dropbox on login for KDE
- 5 How do I tell the “alternate” Dropbox apart?
- 6 See Also
For Windows 7, consider one of the following:
- Multiple DropBox Instances on Windows 7.
Use Dropbox Encore.
Optionally, if you prefer a more hands-on (command-line oriented) approach, you can follow the OS X-specific instructions in the Multiple Instances On Linux Or Mac OS X article.
The general idea of running multiple instances of Dropbox on *nix systems (including Mac OS X, although you may find Dropbox Encore an easier solution) is to run the dropbox binary with an alternate home directory. On Unix-like systems, you can “trick” a program into using an alternate home directory by passing a value for the $HOME environment variable on the command line, prior to the actual command (see below). The value of this environment variable will only affect that running instance of the program. This causes Dropbox to create a separate “Dropbox” folder and associated databases, independent of your “primary” Dropbox account, which is typically in $HOME/Dropbox.
These instructions assume that you have already installed Dropbox via the usual means, by visiting www.dropbox.com and downloading the binary package for your system. You may want to quit any existing instances of Dropbox from the menu bar or top panel icon, and possibly make a backup of your entire Dropbox folder as an insurance policy against anything going wrong.
WARNING: These instructions should be well-tested (for Ubuntu 10.x and Dropbox 1.1.x) at this point. But if you have any doubts about what will happen when you perform the steps below, quit all instances of Dropbox, and rename your “primary” Dropbox folder to something like “Dropbox.good”. Once you’re sure that the “alternate” setup works (and doesn’t tamper with your “primary” Dropbox), you can rename “Dropbox.good” back to “Dropbox” and run Dropbox normally from your system menus.
First, create an alternate (hidden) directory for your second Dropbox account:
Files and folders starting with a period (‘.’) on Unix-like systems do not show up in normal file listings.
Then run the Dropbox installer in “first use” mode, specifying the alternate home directory as follows:
HOME=~/.dropbox-alt dropbox start -i
(dropbox is probably already in your PATH, but if not, specify the full pathname as
This should take you through the first-time installation “wizard” where you should specify your alternate Dropbox account’s credentials.
Before you close that terminal window, create a symbolic link to the “alternate” Dropbox folder someplace convenient, with a command like this (change “DropboxAlt” to whatever you like):
ln -s ~/.dropbox-alt/Dropbox ~/DropboxAlt
This will create a link to the alternate Dropbox folder called “DropboxAlt” in your home directory. You could also change
to put a link on your desktop instead.
How to run the “alternate” Dropbox manually, for testing
To run the “alternate” Dropbox manually for testing, type (or paste) the following command into a terminal or your desktop environment’s “Run” dialog box (Alt + F2 on GNOME):
If this command doesn’t seem to work, try replacing the ‘~’ (tilde) with the complete path to your home folder, e.g.,
on Linux or
on OS X.
How to auto-start the alternate Dropbox on login for GNOME (2.x)
For KDE, you can see the instructions below.
The GNOME 2.x “Startup Applications” capplet (see below) and the “Run Application” dialog box (Alt + F2) don’t seem to accept setting environment variables or using “~” as a shorthand for your home folder. So you’ll want to create a “shell script” to do the work for you.
Create a shell script to start the alternate Dropbox daemon
Experts will note that there are many ways to perform the steps below (using your favorite editor, for example), but these instructions should work for the beginning user with a “fresh out-of-the-box” Ubuntu or Debian desktop installation.
You do not have to have root privileges for these instructions to work.
- Open a terminal by opening the Applications menu, select Accessories, and then click Terminal.
- To begin editing your script, type the following commands at the $ prompt (you can copy and paste these commands into the terminal as well):
cd ~/.dropbox-alt # change to the "alternate" Dropbox directory # which was created above gedit dropbox-alt.sh # create a new file with the 'gedit' text editor
You should now have an empty text editor window on your screen. Any changes you make will be saved to the file dropbox-alt.sh in the “alternate” Dropbox folder we created earlier. Copy and paste the following lines into the editor:
#!/bin/bash HOME=$HOME/.dropbox-alt # set the new home dir cd # to the "new" $HOME ./.dropbox-dist/dropboxd & # and run dropboxd
then save the file and quit the editor.
Now, back in the terminal set the permissions on the file to make it executable (+x)—THIS PART IS IMPORTANT:
Set the dropbox-alt.sh script to auto-start on login
For GNOME (2.x) the “Startup Applications” control panel would be found in the GNOME main menu, under System → Preferences → Startup Applications. Or you can run
gnome-control-center manually from the Alt + F2 “Run Application” dialog box or a terminal window.
Click Add under the Startup Programs tab, then type the following into the “Command” field:
replacing <your_username> with your username. The easiest way to get this right is to open a new Terminal window, then type
pwd and make sure the <your_username> part matches that. You can also click the Browse button, press Ctrl + H to show hidden files, then browse to the script from there.
Click Save, then Close. You can log out and back in if you want to test that the script works, or:
- Quit the “alternate” Dropbox (left click on the Dropbox panel indicator → “Quit Dropbox”) if you still have it running from the setup instructions above.
- Press Alt + F2 (Run Application) and paste in the same line from above, changing <your_username> as appropriate.
- Press Enter.
How to auto-start the alternate Dropbox on login for KDE
- For older versions of KDE (3.x and earlier), see this article
- For KDE 4.x (a little easier), see this article
How do I tell the “alternate” Dropbox apart?
If you are running the standard Ubuntu desktop environment or Mac OS X, you should see a (second) Dropbox icon appear in the indicator panel in the top-right corner of the screen. The way to tell them apart is to look at the “Dropbox location” on the “Advanced” tab in the Dropbox preferences, or just choose “Open Dropbox Folder” from the panel indicator menu.
You can find more comprehensive instructions for using multiple accounts with Max OS X and Linux in the Multiple Instances On Linux Or Mac OS X article.