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Been using my Dropbox account for years on a Lubuntu system. Now, my new company has made a Business account available to me.

However, Dropbox insists that this folder should be called:

~/Dropbox (firm-name)/

And there seems to be no way of changing it. I'm by no means a linux or cli expert, but one thing is renaming all my different absolute paths to something else, that's a one-time effort, but another thing is renaming it into something else with spaces. I'm foreseeing a lot of minor annoyance in my workflow if all filepaths I use suddenly includes a space by default.

So one possible way around this is to either symlink or mount --bind the ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/ as ~/Dropbox/.

This question seems to be concerning the same issue, and suggests using mount to bind the directory. by doing that, I would:

sudo mount --bind '~/Dropbox (firm-name)/' ~/Dropbox/

And then put it in /etc/fstab so it doesn't disappear when rebooting.

However, I'm basically unsure of wether that is a very bad idea that will lead to all sorts of issues. I don't understand the mount command well enough to feel comfortable using it for something so important as this without guidance.

Symlinks in dropbox have worked fine for me when placing a symlink outside dropbox pointing to a file or folder in Dropbox, but symlinks inside the Dropbox folder has led to issues in the past, that seems to have changed, however. This use-case is different, in the sense it is the entire dropbox folder that should be synced, like so:

ln -s '~/Dropbox (firm-name)' '~/Dropbox'

So I'm asking: what -if any - is a safe, reliable way of linking ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/ to ~/Dropbox/? It seems like a mount --bind or a symlink are the two best possibilites, but even though I've read about the differences, I don't know which of the two I should choose for this scenario. Is it even possible to do in a reliable way, or should I just pay up for my own account (seems so redundant though!). the symlink-way seems to have worked for this guy, but it's not a very detailed answer and I'm afraid of the unforeseen consequences and the loss of data and work.

note: It could be argued that the question I link to is the same question, but the original author never accepted the only answer. Also, there are some differences in his circumstances with a headless server, and being not an advanced user, although I've been using linux for years, I don't know if our premises are the same. I will argue less advanced users would benefit from a question and answer to this that had a very basic use-case premise.

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  • At the moment it doesn't answer your question, but I suggest you use the FOSS Maestral instead of the Dropbox official client. See Maestral#347 for your issue Apr 1, 2021 at 8:27

1 Answer 1

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Both ways are safe (personally, I prefer and use the bind mount alternative). There are a few minor differences, which may or may not be relevant to you:

  • By default, file indexers (e.g. updatedb) tend to skip symbolic links and not to skip bind mounts. E.g. if ~/Dropbox is a symlink, locate a_file_in_Dropbox would find the file in ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/ only; it will instead find the file in both ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/ and ~/Dropbox if ~/Dropbox is a mount point.

  • Other programs may as well slightly change their behavior when operating on symlinks. A bind mount is more likely to ensure a seamless experience.

  • In the bind mount case, failing to mount ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/ to ~/Dropbox may cause processes to write files in the ~/Dropbox directory (the mount point), and not, as intended, in ~/Dropbox (firm-name)/. On the contrary, writing something in a broken symbolic link will just fail with an error.

My advice is to create the /home/your_user/Dropbox directory and add

/home/your_user/Dropbox\040(firm-name) /home/your_user/Dropbox none bind 0 0

to /etc/fstab. (It will be mounted on next boot or by running sudo mount --all).

Given that, in fstab, spaces and tabs are used to separate fields, literal spaces and tabs in mount points — and, where appropriate, as in the case of bind mounts, also in the first field — have to be replaced with the \040 and \011 escape sequences respectively.


Note that the tilde (which is not special as a path) is only expanded by your shell if unquoted. The command:

ln -s '~/Dropbox (firm-name)' '~/Dropbox'

tries to create a symbolic link named Dropbox in a directory (literally) named ~, located in the current working directory (which is unlikely to exist, causing an error). And that link will point to a file named Dropbox (firm-name) locate inside that same ~ directory.
It should be:

ln -s ~/'Dropbox (firm-name)' ~/Dropbox
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  • I will try mounting, and see how it goes, and approve your answer as the right one if it works- could take a little time, however, need to test it properly. thank you for the correction about the symlinks.
    – emilBeBri
    Apr 7, 2021 at 9:42
  • I just did it and will report back with results. Note however on a Lubuntu 20.04 machine you can't use quotes in fstab and get the space understood properly as a space. You need to use \40 instead like so: /home/your_user/Dropbox\40(firm-name) This is the exact reason why want to do this to begin with, to avoid all the bullsh*t with spaces :D superuser.com/questions/527495/…
    – emilBeBri
    Apr 12, 2021 at 10:19
  • @emilBeBri Right, thanks. Answer fixed.
    – fra-san
    Apr 12, 2021 at 10:53
  • it is working without issues so far, in a dropbox with ~ 75 GB and symlinks pointing into the "mount bind" folder (though haven't tried the othe way around)
    – emilBeBri
    May 4, 2021 at 10:48
  • Symlinks placed outside a Dropbox directory and pointing to files (and directories) inside a Dropbox directory are safe. To minimize headaches, my advice is to just avoid symlinks placed inside a Dropbox directory, regardless of what they point to. Being designed to sync between incompatible operating systems, Dropbox can't easily preserve every kind of file (not just symlinks: think about FIFOs, block/character special files, sockets).
    – fra-san
    May 4, 2021 at 17:33

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