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These tricks have been tested on a Mac OS X so far (including Snow Leopard), with version 0.6.570 of Dropbox. These tricks do not appear to produce a working alternative Dropbox instance app in Mac OS 10.7 (Lion). Try DropboxEncore instead, which works with Lion.
Users have reported this working on Mac OSX 10.9

General idea

The basic idea is to just start Dropbox from the command-line using an alternate home-dir. This will create another Dropbox icon, and another Dropbox folder, which has to be in some other place from the original one. One way to distinguish the two menu bar icons is to change one to Leopard style (black and white) in its Preferences. The two Dropbox folders will both be called Dropbox (this cannot be changed), but you can distinguish them by their location, precisely. Each instance can be used with a different Dropbox account. For instance, I have a personal Dropbox account and one for professional use. On my laptop, there are separated on two different user accounts, but at home, I would like both on the same user account. Hence, at home, I use the trick below. Technically speaking, this trick could be made an unlimited number of times.

On Mac OS X

Set Up

Launch /Applications/Utilities/ Make sure you are running a “bash” shell. If needed, just type:


Then paste the following command:

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

Now, you should entering a new Dropbox setup wizard window. A second Dropbox icon should appear on the status bar. Choose an existing account if you have one (different from the original one!) or create a new one. Make sure you choose an alternate location for your new Dropbox folder. If you quit the terminal, the new alternate Dropbox process will also quit. But do not worry! It is set up, and the remaining part of the trick below explains how to restart it with a dedicated little app bundle.

Start automatically on login

There are two methods for this. One method is to create a small app bundle that you then add to startup items. Alternatively, you can use Automator to create an application that runs the bash command above in Terminal.

Automator Method

  1. Open Automator from your Applications folder
  2. Choose the ‘Application’ template from the template chooser
  3. In the Actions Pane on the right side, Choose ‘Library > Utilities’
  4. From the next pane choose ‘Run Shell Script’ and drag it into your workflow.
  5. In the Run Shell Script text box, paste the command you used above:
    bash HOME=$HOME/.dropbox-alt /Applications/ &
  6. Make sure to include the linebreak.
  7. Run the script (button on the top right) to make sure it works.
  8. Go to File > Save As and save anywhere.
  9. Add the resulting application to your Login items.

App Bundle Method

In order to run the second instance automatically on login, you’ll have to create a small app bundle, which you will later add to startup items in the System Preferences “Accounts” pane. Starts by pasting the following command into Terminal. Again, do not include the initial dollar sign of each block:

mkdir -p ~/<whaveter place you like>/

This will create recursively, if they do not exist, the folders “”, “Contents” and “MacOS”. If you change the name “DropboxAltStarter” for something else, make sure you change it everywhere relevant in the next lines.

Now, open a text editor, and paste the following code:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" ""> <plist version="1.0"> <dict>     <key>CFBundlePackageType</key>     <string>APPL</string>     <key>CFBundleExecutable</key>     <string>DropboxAltStarter</string>     <key>LSUIElement</key>     <string>1</string> </dict> </plist>

And save it with the name “Info.plist” (this is crucial, do not choose another name) and save the file inside “”! Now, open a new text file in the text editor, and paste the following text (warning: make sure you remove the leading whitespaces – I had to put one because of wiki formatting):

#!/bin/bash  HOME=/Users/$USER/.dropbox-alt /Applications/

and save it with the same name as specified in the Info.plist file (i.e. look at the string just below “<key>CFBundleExecutable</key>”). And save the file inside “”! (Yes, with “MacOS” this time). You can close your text editor.

Make sure that your script is executable, by typing the following command in a terminal:

chmod 755 ~/<whatever place you like>/

Now, in the “<whaveter place you like>” directory, you have a small Mas OS X app bundle. You can add it to your login items in the System Preferences->Accounts. You can also double-click on it everytime you need to start this second instance of Dropbox (i.e. if it crashed).

On Ubuntu

Note: It doesn’t seem to work with version of 0.7.110 on Ubuntu 9.10

Set Up

Open a terminal or whatever shell. Then paste the following commands:

mkdir $HOME/.dropbox-alt HOME=$HOME/.dropbox-alt /usr/bin/dropbox start -i

Now, you should entering a new Dropbox setup wizard window. A second Dropbox icon should appear on the status bar. Choose an existing account if you have one (different from the original one!) or create a new one. Make sure you choose an alternate location for your new Dropbox folder. If you quit the terminal, the new alternate Dropbox process will also quit. But do not worry! It is set up, and the remaining part of the trick below explains how to restart it with a dedicated script.

Start automatically at boot

For Most Scenarios

edit /etc/rc.local as root (Mac OS X uses /etc/rc.common), then add the following line:

su <user> -c "/home/<user>/.dropbox-alt/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd &"

Where <user> is the username under which you want to run Dropbox.

For More Recent Versions of Linux

Disable the autostart feature of the existing Dropbox account. Then copy your existing credentials to a new folder, like so:

mv .dropbox .dropbox-personal

Create a new script called which contains the following:

dropboxes=".dropbox-personal .dropbox-work"
for dropbox in $dropboxes
    if ! [ -d "$HOME/$dropbox" ]
        mkdir "$HOME/$dropbox" 2> /dev/null
        ln -s "$HOME/.Xauthority" "$HOME/$dropbox/" 2> /dev/null
    /home/$USER/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd 2> /dev/null &

Give this file executable rights:

  $ chmod +x path/to/your/file

Now add this file to your startup programs. (Note, this can be edited to accommodate as many instances of Dropbox as you wish. Just add an entry in the line defining the directory names: dropboxes=”.dropbox-personal .dropbox-work .dropbox-whatever”.)

This can be done for as many users as you like, provided that they actually exists and that they have Dropbox installed/symlinked in their home folder. You’ll also need to set it up manually the first time, as it requires a graphical interface to link to an account. The above can also be used to auto-start Dropbox on systems which are not running Nautilus as the file manager.

Share the Knowledge!

Helpful(4) Unhelpful(2)
  • Sandeep Sajeev

    Thank You for this! It works flawlessly.

  • lola

    It almost worked! But when you say to save the new app “someplace different,” what do you mean? I saved it on my Desktop and suddenly started syncing to my OTHER (original/primary) DB account!

  • lola

    The instrux for Dropbox Encore are fantastic! Wish I’d realized that the article on this page wouldn’t work on my OS X Lion 10.7.5…but DB Encore saved the day.

    • Dropbox Wiki

      Hi @disqus_v5enetoply:disqus, I’m glad you were able to get Dropbox Encore working. We tried to make it as clear as possible at the top of the article that Dropbox Encore should be used but we’ll try to make it even more clear.

  • draffin

    I’m running dropbox under archlinux and the trick isn’t working that well.

    The command : «HOME=/home/miman/Dropbox-partitions/ /usr/bin/dropboxd start -i» returns

    «No protocol specified
    This client is not linked to any account…
    Please visit to link this machine.»

    When I visit the link, it asks a password (which I give, of course) but… the same message is being send each time I try to connect by cli…

    Thanks for your help

    • draffin

      Ok, I finally manage to solve that little problem (you mustn’t close the processus while you follow the link…)

  • Gregory H

    While I was able to get the multi DBs set up and working the first time around, and the alt dropbox folder is available on my computer, I cannot get the automator or app bundle methods to work for opening the alt db app on startup (so i have two icons in my status bar and can change db settings in the alt db).

    With the automator method: if i have a line break (so that & is on line 2) i get an error that the $HOME/.dropbox-alt doesn’t exist (even though it does). When i remove the line break, this does seem to work when i test run it, but when i run the new app, i don’t get the icon in my tray.

    With the app bundle method, the app seems to run, but the tray icon doesn’t appear.

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  • MobAssault

    stop working after 2.4.2

  • jake

    is this still working on the latest dropbox release on linux?

    • Fabian

      It works with version 2.4.6 (Ubuntu 13.04)

  • diasse

    This is just awsome! Works great in OS X 10.9 and thnx for a great tutorial! 🙂

  • olgv

    DB Encore not working after updating to 10.9.2, any suggestions ?

    • olgv

      also, while using the “Automator Method” for starting automatically on login.. the DB instance starts but the automator workflow doesn’t stop… I get the automator workflow’s spinning crank wheel.. going on and on … and on 🙁 , until I kill the workflow manually, though the BD instance remains on

  • studid is as stupid does

    I did this successfully on my macbook (using these instructions: which, several months later I spilled soda on 🙁

    Is there a way to access the shell script (not the original) dropbox account from another computer/via dropbox online or is my only option to get the files extracted off my (non-functioning) laptop ($$$)?

    Thoughts and suggestions much appreciated!!!

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  • thedavemonster

    Does this include being able to set up a new Dropbox account by accepting a referral from my personal account to my new business account?
    Edit: OS X 10.9.3

  • Geet

    Thanks for the tip…

  • Leona

    Worked ok for a while, now I only see 1 icon, it can be random which one of my accounts start but only 1 will, I running this under Linux Mint 13, Dropbox Version 2.10.3.

    • Collin

      Yeah, same here. Can only run one, and my second ‘work’ one doesn’t even show an icon anymore even though it does appear to be running

  • Ralf S.

    With two instances running, it sometimes is difficult to figure out which ‘dropbox’ is synced and which isn’t as the icons in the status bar look the same….
    To solve that, I’ve changed the images in the different directory trees (/.dropbox-dist/dropbox-lnx.x86_64-2.10.30/images/hicolor/16×16/status/dropboxstatus-.png): simply use a graphics editor (gimp will do nicely) and fill the transparent fields on the outside with a color (green for personal, orange for work related).

    Be aware that restarting the two instances from a terminal will change your HOME environment variable (got me puzzled there for a while), so use a freshly started terminal for the various instances…

    • Yekrallum

      Hi Ralf, I’m not sure if it’s due to Yosemite or a Dropbox update, but since yesterday you can no longer right-click on the dropbox icon in the status bar and change the icon colour in the preferences menu. This was great for identifying between the two accounts.

      Your solution looks like it ticks that box now but I’m not technical enough to understand your instructions… (/.dropbox-dist/dropbox-lnx.x86_64-2.10.30/images/hicolor/16×16/status/dropboxstatus-.png): ….

      Would you mind explaining that process in a little more detail. I managed to get these two accounts working, not really by understanding what I was doing, just by following the instructions.

      Is that an instruction I copy and paste into Terminal?

      Many thanks for your help, appreciate it.

  • Simon

    mkdir -i, returns invalid option — ‘i’

  • wolfixx

    If I create a DropBoxAltStarter it works but the shell stays open which is really annoying. If I change the script to

    #!/bin/bash HOME=/Users/$USER/.dropbox-alt /Applications/ &

    by adding and & at the end dropbox doesn’t start anymore and fails with an error, (Dropbox Error)

    has anyone had this issue and found a solution?

  • Dave H.

    I was able to set up and get running and synced with a 2nd dropbox on Ubuntu 14 LTS, but now that I have restarted, I realized I need to set it to work on boot. Your reference to .dropbox-alt/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd above doesn’t work since i don’t have a .dropbox-dist folder. It doesn’t exist in ~/.dropbox or ~/.dropbox-alt. Any suggestions on how to get dropbox to launch on start. Can I just put HOME=/home/[username]/.dropbox-alt /usr/bin/dropbox start -i in /etc/rc.local? Thanks.

  • Mau


    I think I managed to get it running on Ubuntu 14.04, Dropbox 3.4.6, thank you very much!

    However, both of the icons always display the outline of the gray open box. They only change when syncing, but they don’t change when fully sync or when they fail to sync (no green checks, no blue circling arrows). Also, my folders don’t display the green checks or blue circling arrows either.

    Is there a way to restore these features?


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  • Bryan Batcher

    How do you uninstall a secondary Dropbox installation?