I have what should be a really simple question but Google Search is failing me.

I have a lot of data (TBs) on Dropbox. My laptop hard drive has only 500 GB. For the last few years, I’ve been using the sync feature on Dropbox and only downloading what I need for my laptop as needed. So, at any given time, I only have 500 GB of data locally, with the rest “on the cloud”.

Problem: I want to stop using Dropbox. So what do I do? If I make a copy of all my Dropbox files on a 15 TB external hard drive, then how can I sync up the hard drive with my laptop to make the hard drive function like Dropbox does?

When I try to google this, I only ever find how to “backup” my laptop. All the software seems to focus on making an image of the laptop hard drive and then syncing from there. But that is not what I want to do.

I want all my data to sit on a 15 TB hard drive and then pull in a small subset “local copy” to my laptop as needed. When I plug in the external hard drive, all the changes made on my laptop will be mirrored on the external.

Am I over thinking this? There must be a simple solution that I’m missing here…

  • The simple solution is dropbox :) How will you decide what needs to be copied to the laptop and how often does that chnage?
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


To get off of Dropbox, the easiest thing to do is set your Dropbox folder settings to be on the external drive, and tell it to download everything. Then, it should download all your contents to the external drive.

However, there's no easy way to "sync" with the external drive, most notably because it's not always available. If it were always available, then you would just work directly off it.

If you are commonly working on the same project, then keep it on your local computer and everything else on the external drive. When you finish that project, copy it to the external drive and remove it from your local computer.

If you are commonly working on all 1.5 TB of data, you just need to keep your external drive connected at all times you're working.

  • 1
    And remember that if you're working from files on one external drive, you need a separate device to back them up to.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 16:00

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