How to run two Dropbox instances on the same PC


Why would you want to run multiple Dropbox instances on the same machine? We could think of two reasons (1) you’ve maxed out on the 16 gigs or so that each free Dropbox account can give you as a ceiling, and would like to use another account to add more, or (2) you would like to access another Dropbox account for whatever reason, such as a disposable account used by members of your team or that of someone else (such an ex employee of your company) etc.

In this posting, we will describe how to run another Dropbox account to your WINDOWS machine using a third party freeware program (i.e. to install two Dropbox accounts running simultaneously on one PC).

The application usedDropboxPortableAHKis a free program that can create portable instances of Dropbox, which can be carried on a USB drive, etc. Or it can be run locally alongside your existing Dropbox installation, which is what this post assumes.

Multiple Dropbox instances Screenshot

Note before starting: the second instance of Dropbox will involve a process (DropboxPortableAHK.exe) running in the background. I have found that this process can use up 2-10 percentage points of CPU usage intermittently, depending on the settings used in the setup. This on my high spec PC was no big deal, but may be somewhat annoying on a resource-challenged machine. The good news is that you can opt to run this (i.e. the second instance of Dropbox) when you need it rather than having it in the background at all times. Or you can reduce or eliminate this if you uncheck ‘Dropbox folder protection’ in step 6 below.

First things first, download the free program:

Get a free program called DropboxPortableAHK  from it’s program page. Extract the zip volume into an appropriate place on your hard drive. Note: the instructions below assume that your new Dropbox folder will be INSIDE this folder, so take that into consideration when placing this folder. Next run “DropboxPortableAHK.exe” to start the setup process.

Setting up:

01- Welcome: the setup process Consists of 9 steps, as seen in the screenshot below on the left sidebar. Many of these are self explanatory, but we will briefly go over a few.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot1

02- Connection profiles  –  click on the “+” sign to add the Dropbox credentials for the account you want to use. You should see the screen below. Enter your Dropbox account email in the ‘Username’ slot, and the password underneath it. This should be all you need to input, unless you use an internet proxy, in which case you need to fill in the other fields.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot2 - add credentials

03 – Dropbox folder location: here, you can specify where you want your new Dropbox folder to be. My advice, leave it as is (“.\Dropbox”, which indicates that you want it to be in the same folder as the DropboxPortableAHK.exe executable). Note that this is a portable application, meaning that wherever you move the DropboxPortableAHK folder, the Dropbox folder will move with it.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot3 - Dropbox Folder Location

04 – Previous Dropbox configuration: do NOT do anythingon this screen; just click next. I am assuming that you are reading this post to ADD another Dropbox account to your machine; this step is only necessary if you are converting your already installed Dropbox account to a portable installation using DropboxPortableAHK. Otherwise, click NEXT.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot4 - Previous Dropbox Configuration

05 – Update notification: self explanatory. If you want update notifications from DropboxPortableAHK or Dropbox, check the appropriate boxes. My advice: leave as is and click ‘Next’.

06 – Addons: the settings on this page are important.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot6 - Addons

Consider the following options. You will need to make some decisions. Note that I am assuming that you are reading this post because you want to run another instance of Dropbox on your hard drive, rather than running a portable Dropbox instance from a USB. You can assume that settings not explained below should be left as is.

Create autorun.inf: For our purposes, do not check. This is not necessary unless you (a) are planning to use this Dropbox install on a USB, and (b) you do not run Windows 7.

Dropbox folder protection: *important* if you plan to keep your second Dropbox instance in the same folder location on your hard drive, uncheck this. (The advantage = significantly less of a drain on your PC’s CPU resources). Otherwise, keep it checked, especially if the folder is on a removable volume that could accidentally have a different drive letter associated with it across sessions.

If you think you may want to MOVE your second Dropbox folder and/or use it portably, keep this checked. This option will keep Dropbox from deleting all of your folder contents on the server if it cannot find the folder anymore (because you moved it) and therefore thinks it is blank.  If you do check folder protection, you can change the checking interval value if you want, although it is not necessary (lower=more CPU usage but less chance of deletion, higher=less CPU usage but more chance of deletion).

Notification about workaround on restricted user accounts: keep this checked.

Make SyncAndGo the default behavior: SyncAndGo is a usage mode whereby you can run DropboxPortableAHK, have it sync your local folder and the remote Dropbox server, and then immediately exit. Check this if that sounds like what you want.

Save Dropbox configuration files for each PC: keep this checked.

For more information on these options, go to the instructions page on the program website, scroll to about the middle of the page.

07- User applications: in this screen, you can tell DropboxPortableAHK to run certain applications before and after it starts and closes Dropbox. For our purposes, leave these blank and click ‘Next’.

08- Dropbox application files: click ‘Download Dropbox files’ to download the latest Dropbox local installation file.

Also in this screen: choose a color for the Dropbox icon to differentiate it from your original Dropbox icon in your system tray, in order to tell which is which.

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot8 - Dropbox Application files

09- Dropbox setup: click ‘Start Dropbox setup’, keep ‘Start Dropbox after setup has finished’ checked.

Click ‘Next’. The Dropbox desktop client setup will run. * Importantly*, note the following:

  • The location of the Dropbox folder that you will specify in the Dropbox setup process will NOT be the actual location used. Remember that you specified a location in step  ‘03’ above. That location will end up being the actual folder location.
  • Make sure not to make the default Dropbox folder location in the setup the same as your Dropbox instance already installed on your machine.
  • Here’s a step by  step
1.  Click ‘I already have a Dropbox account’ 2. Enter your credentials for the 2nd account. Give the computer name a name that identifies it for you 3. Click the free 2GB (it will say 2GB regardless of whether or not you earned more).
Dropbox setup 1 Dropbox setup 2 Dropbox setup 3
4.  Click advanced. 5. You want to make sure that you do not choose the Dropbox folder location to be the same as the folder location of the already running instance of Dropbox.Below, I chose “C:\Dropbox” as the location. Later, I will go back and delete that folder 6. In this step, you can choose whether you want all of the folders in the account to sync, or some of them. It’s up to you.
Dropbox setup 4 Dropbox setup 5 Dropbox setup 6

That’s it. In the remaining screens, skip the tour and click finish.

The DropboxPortableAHK Setup screen will be displayed again. Click ‘finish’

DropboxPortableAHK Screenshot9 - Dropbox Setup end

Last steps:

  • If you get an error screen like the one below, click Yes, and it should go away.

Close Error Screen

  • Open your DropboxPortableAHK folder. You will see that, as specified in step 03 above, the Dropbox folder is indeed there.

DropboxPortableAHK Folder

  • Go to the location that you specified in the Dropbox setup (C:\Dropbox as per the example shown here) and delete that folder. It is not needed.

Finally, go to your system tray. You will find a new Dropbox icon alongside the original one that was initially installed on your machine. See the screenshot, top of this post.

Questions? Issues? Comments? Please use the comments section below.