How to Get More Space for Free on Dropbox
What is Dropbox?
Dropbox is a great program for backing up files and synchronizing them between different electronic devices. The program needs an Internet connection in order to do its job. When someone saves a file in the Dropbox folder on their computer, the file is automatically backed up on an online file server. It's then available on all of the person's other devices, including their mobile ones.
The process also works in the opposite direction. Files can be created on a mobile device, backed up on the online server and synced with a person's computer. I've found that the process generally works seamlessly in both directions and is very useful.
The Dropbox company offers both free and paid plans. In general, as more storage space is offered, the cost of the plan increases. There are ways to significantly increase space in the free plan without spending money, however.
The Dropbox desktop application is available for the Macintosh, Windows and Linux operating systems. An app is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Tablet and Blackberry devices. The program is also available via a web browser.
How Dropbox Works
When someone places a file in their Dropbox folder on their computer, a blue icon appears on the folder to indicate that the file is being uploaded to the online server. The icon becomes green when the file has finished uploading. The server then delivers the files to the person's other devices if these are connected to the Internet.
On my Macintosh I can choose to save files in my Dropbox folder from the File menu or the Export menu of applications. The sync speed depends on the speed of my Internet connection and the size of the file. Many files sync almost instantly. Large files like high resolution photos and videos sometimes take longer to sync but still transfer rapidly.
On my iPad, I create documents that I want to sync with Dropbox in one of the Microsoft Office apps. This works well once the Office app has been linked to Dropbox. The linking process has to be done only once. Once this simple task is completed, uploading to the server is automatic.
How to Use Dropbox
Another useful feature of Dropbox is the fact that it enables people to collaborate on documents. User-created folders can be shared, allowing different people to access the files in the folders and change them. The shared folders appear on each person's devices in their Dropbox folders.
If a person wishes to share a folder with other people, an email invitation is sent to the people concerned. They must accept the invitation in order for the shared folder to appear inside their Dropbox folder.
When referring to disk storage, 1000 megabytes (MB) equals one gigabyte (GB). 1000 gigabytes equals one terabyte (TB).
Five Ways to Increase Storage Space
The initial storage space in the free version of Dropbox is 2 GB. This amount can be increased by performing certain tasks. Once you've created an account via the Dropbox website and are logged in, you can do the following jobs to obtain more space. Additional tasks are available if you want even more storage space.
- Take an online tour of the application: Adds 250 MB (This claim on the company's website is a little misleading. You need to take the short online tour and complete four other jobs from the "Get Started" section of the website to get the extra 250 MB of storage. The jobs include the following: install Dropbox on your computer, save files in your Dropbox folder, install the program on a second computer, install the application on a mobile device, share a folder with someone else or invite friends to join Dropbox. The last step gives even more storage space, as described in the referral section below.)
- Connect your Facebook account: Adds 125 MB
- Connect your Twitter account: Adds 125 MB
- Follow the Dropbox company on Twitter: Adds 125 MB
- Give the company feedback about why you like their program: Adds 125 MB. (Just complete the sentence beginning "I love Dropbox because....." using 90 words or less.)
Refer Other People to Dropbox for Even More Storage Space
Gathering referrals is another method to gain extra storage space. A referral is someone who you attract to the Dropbox service and who refers to your name when they download the software. Each referral will give you an extra 500 MB of storage space.
A maximum of 16 GB of extra space can be obtained by getting referrals. Since a gigabyte contains 1000 megabytes, 32 referrals are needed to get 16 GB of storage. A nice touch is that while you get 500 MB of extra storage for a referral, so does the person that you are referring.
The Dropbox company offers two aids to help you invite other people to use their service. The online section of your account enables you to send an email invitation to friends. The website also gives you a personal link which can be copied and shared. If people sign up by clicking this link when you publicize it, you'll get extra storage space.
The Mailbox App
Until recently, people could earn 1 GB of extra space on Dropbox by downloading an email program called Mailbox. Mailbox was created by a company called Orchestra and was already a popular iOS app when it was acquired by the Dropbox company in 2013. Unfortunately, in December 2015 the company announced that it will shut down the Mailbox app on February 26th, 2016. The app is no longer available for download.
I think that Mailbox is a nice program. It obtains email from a mail server and enables it to be easily managed. The app aims to let uses simplify their mail by quick swipes with a finger on the screen. The swipes move an email message to a specific folder. The idea is to have only mail that needs to be dealt with in the present or in the very near future in the inbox. Any other mail is quickly "snoozed" until a chosen time, added to a list, archived or put in the trash.
When a new email message is being created, photos from the device's photo library and documents stored on the Dropbox server can both be added to the message.
The video below shows how the program works. Based on the reviews that I've read, the app's features seem to be popular. Perhaps another company will incorporate some of these features into its own email program once Mailbox stops working.
A Review of the Mailbox App for iPhone and iPad
According to the email that I received from the Dropbox company, Mailbox is being shut down because "we realized there's only so much an email app can do to fundamentally improve email". On the Mailbox website, the company says that it wants to concentrate its resources on other areas of development.
The Carousel App
I received 3 GB of extra space by downloading and using an app called Carousel. Carousel is a photo and video viewing, sharing and backup program created by Dropbox. Unfortunately, like Mailbox, Carousel will soon shut down and can no longer be downloaded in exchange for extra storage space. If the app has already been downloaded, it will cease to work on March 31st, 2016. The company says that it will incorporate some of the key features of Carousel into Dropbox so that people can work with their photos online.
Carousel backs up photos from a person's mobile device. This is useful in case the photos are accidentally lost from the device. It's also useful when the device runs out of storage space and photos have to be deliberately deleted from the device. The app allows photos and videos to be saved on the Dropbox server even if they are deleted from the mobile device. It also allows people to send photos to other people accompanied by messages and to share photo albums.
I won't miss the Carousel app when it stops working because I think it has limited abilities. Incorporating some of these abilities into Dropbox itself seems like a wise move to me. The company says that photos that have already been backed up by the app will remain on their server.
Delete Files or Leave a Shared Folder to Save Space
Although Mailbox and Carousel are being shut down, there are other ways to gain storage space. Previous versions of files and deleted files don't contribute to the Dropbox storage quota, but shared folders do. Unnecessary files can be deleted and shared folders can be left if they are no longer needed in order to gain space.
A shared folder can be very useful if you're working on a project with someone else, but it takes up storage space. If you don't need a file in the folder, delete it or ask the person who created it to delete it. Leave a shared folder if you no longer need to access it. To leave a folder, click on the sharing tab from the left of the web interface in your account. Then click on "Options" to the right of your chosen folder. The box that appears on the screen will allow you to leave the folder. Once a shared folder is left it will disappear from your Dropbox folder.
When any service stores people's files or information on their computer (or computers), security is a big concern. When a file is on only one individual's computer, that individual can make decisions about how best to keep it secure. Once it's uploaded to someone else's computer, the individual has to trust other people to protect their data.
The Dropbox company says that they use strong security measures. On their website they state that they have a team dedicated to maintaining security and that a user's account login "is protected by many layers of security". The files are backed up as well as being stored securely. The company claims that they use modern encryption methods to store and transfer data. Their software is "constantly being hardened to enhance security and protect against attacks".
Staff members are prohibited and technically prevented from viewing users' files, except for a few members who must be able to access files in case they're asked to do so by legal authorities. Nevertheless, no cloud storage system is perfect, including Dropbox. Problems have occured.
Users should think very carefully before sending private or sensitive data into the cloud. Even personal photos may be inappropriate for cloud storage.
Types of Dropbox Plans
I like Dropbox and use it for backup. I also use it instead of removable media and email when I'm transferring files. I don't use it for storing or transferring private data, though. At the moment, the free account plus the extra space that I've earned is enough for me.
There are currently three Dropbox plans: a basic one (which is free), a pro one and a business one. The current prices and details of the plans can be found on the company's website. At the time when this article was written, the basic plan offered two gigabytes of space, the pro plan offered one terabyte of space and the business plan offered unlimited space.
The pro and business plans provide more file storage space than the basic plan and have some other advantages, but they also have a monthly fee. It's a shame to pay a fee before you've tried to increase your free storage allotment. You may find that with or without bonus storage the free version of Dropbox is all that you need.
© 2013 Linda Crampton