Recently, I downloaded Dropbox to try it out, and upon realizing it required a subscription after 2 GB, I decided to cut to the chase and delete it. After syncing everything, I followed the instructions found here.

However, after deleting it, I realized my Desktop, Documents, and Downloads folder, the same folders Dropbox synced were "missing". They were still there, but the original icon was gone (the arrow pointing down for Downloads, for example), and upon clicking them, they showed: "The operation can’t be completed because the original item for “Downloads” can’t be found."

I've tried re-launching Finder, restarting my computer, to no avail. I tried this, but found that my iCloud was not synced, and every other search result was something along the lines of "Deleting files in dropbox deletes them in mac as well". I opened the "Macintosh HD/Users/[username]" folder, and found that where documents, desktop, and downloads used to be, there were aliases: aliases

Upon clicking these, it showed the same error as before: "The operation can’t be completed because the original item for “Downloads” can’t be found."

I then remembered I had the Downloads folder in my dock, and opened it, revealing that it was in here

I went to my Trash, found the Dropbox folder, but found it empty. No "Mac" thing in it. I could try dragging the documents, downloads, and desktop folders into the sidebar, but I would like my three most important folders to not be in the trash, and for aesthetic reasons, to have the old icon back.

Any help is appreciated.


1 Answer 1


What's Wrong

It seems like you turned on Dropbox's feature for "computer backup" where it replaces those folders with folders on Dropbox. That is the default, because Dropbox wants you to do it, which is a bad idea because it mucks with several key folders, as you have discovered.

Really this is Dropbox's poor design and poor user experience more than your fault.

How to Fix It:

In order to 'undo it' you have to reinstall the Dropbox app, turn the feature off, and then uninstall Dropbox again.

Quoting from https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/sync-uploads/computer-backup:

Turn off computer backup

You must have the Dropbox desktop application installed to turn off computer backup. If you already uninstalled the desktop application, reinstall the desktop application to turn off computer backup.

  • There were comments on this post previously. Not sure what happened to them.
    – TJ Luoma
    Sep 24, 2021 at 14:30

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