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If a Mac Mini running macOS 10.11 is in sleep mode, but powered on and connected to the network, will Dropbox still sync in the background?

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You might want to consult Apple's documentation about Power Nap.

Mac Minis (Late 2012 and later) are Power Nap compatible.

From what I can see, the only services which are available when a Power Nap compatible computer is in sleep mode are Apple-only:

If your Mac supports Power Nap, these activities can occur while your Mac is asleep:

  • Mail receives new messages.
  • Contacts keep up to date with changes made on other devices.
  • Calendar receives new invitations and calendar updates.
  • Reminders keep up to date with changes made on other devices.
  • Notes keep up to date with changes made on other devices.
  • Documents stored in iCloud keep up to date with changes made on other devices.
  • Photo Stream keeps up to date with changes made on other devices.
  • Find My Mac updates the location of the Mac, so you can find it while it's asleep.
  • VPN on demand continues working so that your corporate email updates securely. (Power Nap supports VPN connections that use a certificate to authenticate, not VPN connections that require entering a password.)
  • Mobile Device Management can remotely lock and wipe your Mac.

And these activities can occur while your Mac is asleep and plugged in to an AC power outlet:

  • Software updates download.
  • Mac App Store items (including software updates), download in the background.
  • Time Machine performs backups.
  • Spotlight performs indexing.
  • Help Center content updates.
  • Wireless base stations can wake your Mac using Wake on Wireless.

Content lifted directly from the Apple Support document linked above.

  • Thanks @iconDaemon do you know if dropbox will stay syncing whilst in power nap ? – sam Jan 15 at 13:30
  • You'd have to ask Dropbox. – IconDaemon Jan 15 at 13:37
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Dropbox (as of March 2019) appears to be Power Nap compatible. I started 14GB syncing (uploading) before I went to bed, closed the lid, and it was all synced by morning. Computer was cool to touch in the morning so I don't think it was awake with lid closed.

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