How to... store and share files and photos with Dropbox

Simon Handby Advice
14 Feb, 2012

Keeping your files backed up and synchronised is easy thanks to Dropbox. Simon Handby shows you how to use the service.

If you've ever worked on the same document from more than one computer, you'll know how tricky it can be to keep it synchronised. If it's a Word document, you need to remember to email it to yourself each time you make any changes, and for anything much bigger you need to save the changes onto a USB flash drive – which you could lose.

It was this frustration that caused two Massachusetts Institute of Technology students to set up Dropbox; a secure service that stores your files online and easily lets you share them between your computers, or even with other people. With Dropbox you can share photos as a slideshow or collaborate in privacy on work or creative projects. Free accounts start with 2GB of storage; here's how to get started.


The first step is to create a Dropbox account. Visit, click Log in at the top of the page then click Create an account. Here you'll need to provide your name and email address, along with a password to access the service. It's worth properly reading the terms and conditions if you're concerned about trusting your personal or professional files to the cloud: Dropbox categorically makes no claim to your files and will not share them with anyone unless you expressly permit it. Provided you're happy, click Create account to sign up. You'll be prompted to download the Dropbox software. Although this isn't essential (see step 10) you will need it to use the service's most advanced features. Download the installer and run it in the usual way, providing permission if prompted by Windows' User Account Control.

When prompted, select I already have a Dropbox account. Provide the email address and password you chose in step one, then choose a descriptive name for your PC. The next screen offers you the chance to upgrade to a paid account but we'd recommend sticking with the free service for now; you can upgrade at any time. Proceed through the installation, choosing the Typical setup unless you're particular about where synchronised files will be stored on your PC. At the end of the installation, follow the short tour to see a quick rundown of Dropbox's key features. There's more complete information in the Getting Started PDF file, which is in the root of your new Dropbox folder.

The install program will offer to open your Dropbox as it finishes. Once the software is installed you can access your Dropbox at any time by double-clicking the Dropbox icon in the system tray, or just by navigating to it through your computer's folders – by default it will be within your user directory with the path C:\USERNAME\Dropbox. Using Preferences (right-click the Dropbox icon in the Notification Area) you can move the folder to a location of your choice. Initially your folder contains the getting started file, along with preconfigured Public and Photos folders, which we'll cover in steps seven, eight and nine. Just as within any other folder on your computer, you can right-click inside your Dropbox and choose New to create a new folder of your own. Once created, simply drag files that you want to synchronise or share into the new folder.

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