How to Download and Back Up Dropbox Data

If you’ve ever told an IT professional that you’re using Dropbox to back up files and were greeted with a side eye and a stifled “well, actually…” it’s because Dropbox isn’t actually a backup. It’s for syncing data. The distinction is subtle, but critical.

If you’re reading this post, you probably already know that data is always at risk of loss to accidental deletion, system updates, or even if you forget your password and get locked out of your account. The difference between backing up and syncing is that syncing your data will not protect it from these risks.

It’s easy to accidentally lose access to a sync service where you might be keeping files or images that no longer live on your computer. Many colleges and universities now even offer file hosting service subscriptions to students for free—until they graduate. After students earn their diplomas and leave the dorms, these services graduate, too, and students either get locked out of their accounts or have to choose between switching to a free tier and compromising on storage space or paying the fees to keep their existing subscription tier.

To make sure your data stays safe and secure, you’ll want to make sure you have a copy of it on your local device as well as a copy backed up to the cloud. A 3-2-1 backup strategy is always your best bet for securely storing your data. In this post, we’ll walk you through downloading your data from Dropbox and some strategies for backing up your downloaded files.

Back Up Everything But the Kitchen Sync

As we mentioned earlier, saving your data to a sync service is not the same as backing it up. Sync and backup services are complimentary, but only a backup will save a copy of your data and keep it safe against accidental deletion, updates, a ransomware attack, and more.

To help you save your synced computer data, we’re developing a series of guides to downloading and backing up your data across different sync services, like OneDrive. Comment below to let us know what other sync services you’d like to see us cover.

How to Download Files From Dropbox

Note: If you are using the Dropbox client to sync the files that are on your computer, the option to download your files may be replaced by an option to open them, instead. Clicking on “Open” will open up the files directly from the file on your computer where they are saved.

To download a file or folder from Dropbox, follow these steps:

    1. Sign in to your Dropbox account. (We know, this is pretty self-evident. We’re just trying to be thorough here).
    2. Find the file or folder you’d like to download and hover your cursor over it.
    3. Click on the three dots.
    4. Select Download. Your files will appear in the Downloads folder on your computer, and folders will be downloaded as .zip files.

    It’s also important to note that Dropbox only supports downloads of folders that are less than 20GB and contain fewer than 10,000 total files.

    How to Back Up Your Dropbox Data

    Now that you have all of your Dropbox files downloaded to your computer, you’ll want to follow through with the next steps of the 3-2-1 backup strategy. By saving a copy of your data on an external or secondary device (like a hard drive), and a third copy in an off-site location (like the cloud) your data will be protected from any number of possible risks. Backblaze Personal Backup automatically and continuously backs up a copy of all of the data on your computer to the cloud, making it that much easier to fulfill the 3-2-1 backup strategy.

    Bonus: How to Export a File From Dropbox to an App on Your Phone or Mobile Device

    If you want to send a portion of your files elsewhere for safekeeping, or to share with another app, you can follow the set of instructions below. Just remember that downloading your files to your phone or emailing them to yourself isn’t the same as keeping a full copy of your data on an external device—your data is still susceptible to damage or loss.

    First, you’ll need to download the Dropbox mobile app to access your synced files on your mobile device.

    1. Open the app and select the three dots next to the file or folder you’d like to export. On an iPhone or iPad, the dots will appear horizontal, and on an Android device they’ll be vertical.
    2. Select Share.
    3. Select Export file, which will show a list of apps that can open the file. Choose the app you’d like to open the file. Note: once you export the file, if you make any changes to that file in the other app, those changes may not be saved back to your Dropbox account unless the app integrates with Dropbox.

    Back Up Your Dropbox Before It’s Too Late

    Have a lot of Dropbox data you don’t want to take up space on your computer? Upload and store your data in Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage as a part of your 3-2-1 approach. Also, let us know in the comments if you’d like to see more guides to downloading and backing up the data saved to other sync services.


About Lora Maslenitsyna

Lora Maslenitsyna was the associate editor at Backblaze. She appreciates developing content that’s helpful, easy to read, and tells a great story. She has experience as a content writer and has previously worked in marketing for arts organizations, universities, and non-profits. Connect with her on LinkedIn.