How to sync your Downloads, Desktop, and other user folders via Dropbox or OneDrive on Windows 10

I have multiple Windows PCs and like a lot of people, I use my Desktop as a big temp folder. Downloads is also a disaster of miscellaneous files. Plus, it didn’t make sense to keep downloading and installing similar programs across multiple PCs.

There’s an easy way to fix this. You can use OneDrive, Dropbox, or any other cloud sync service of your choice that creates a sync folder on your PC.

  1. Take all the files currently on your Desktop and move them into a new folder in your OneDrive or Dropbox account called “Desktop”.
  2. Open an Explorer window and right-click on the Desktop folder.
  3. Select the “Location” tab and click “Move…”
  4. Select your new sync-located Desktop folder and hit OK.
  5. It’ll ask if you want to move files, but you already did that, so just hit “OK”.

That’s it. You can repeat with your Downloads folder, Pictures, Documents, etc. Windows 10 has options of where to store your Pictures and Documents, but favors OneDrive. This option lets you use your cloud service of choice.

Be careful to move the files first. It says it’ll do it for you, but if you have a folder with some files in one spot and a different set of files in the other, hitting “OK” on that initial “Move” option will delete files in one of the two locations. Best to just handle that manually in advance.

Using Dropbox on a Surface Book SD Card

I’m mostly posting this here for myself. If you’re looking for a way to move Dropbox to an always-fixed SD Card in a Surface Book, it does work.

You have to create a symbolic link from Dropbox to the card, which isn’t hard. It’s best if you can do this with an empty card (just in case), but I did it with a bunch of data running and it was fine.

Here are the steps to move Dropbox to an SD Card and insert a symbolic link with mklink

  1. Install Dropbox as usual. It created my Dropbox folder in C:\Users\justi\
  2. Stop the Dropbox process
  3. Cut and Paste the Dropbox folder from C:\Users\justi\ and Paste on SD Card. In my case, this was D:\Dropbox
  4. Make sure the Dropbox folder in C:\Users\justi\ does not contain anything anymore and that the root Dropbox folder is no longer there.
  5. Open cmd as Administrator by right-clicking the Start menu icon in Windows 10 and selecting “Command Prompt (Admin)” (typing “cmd” in the Run dialog won’t work, most likely).
  6. Type mklink /D C:\Users\justi\Dropbox D:\Dropbox  [Note that the /D at the start of this command is for Director, not the D: drive your SD card may be on. Just as point of reference.]
  7. Start Dropbox and test that it syncs to new location on D:\Dropbox

Removing a symbolic link

If you need to remove this symbolic link later, be careful. Using the command mklink /d will remove the link AND the files in the linked destination. Which would be bad.

Instead, use rmdir, which only deletes the directory link. I’d make a backup just in case. I haven’t tested this:

  1. Stop Dropbox
  2. Run cmd as an Administrator (right click Start > Command Prompt (this doesn’t need Admin rights)
  3. Type:  rmdir C:\Users\justi\Dropbox
  4. Restart Dropbox and, I assume, allow it to index everything again.

So far I have not had a problem where Dropbox threatens to delete my files like some people have stated when the Surface Book’s screen is detached. It seems to behave exactly like OneDrive did when it was on my “embedded” SD card. It simply stops checking and won’t resume until the drive is restored.