Jan Čurn, co-founder and CTO at photogprahy software platform VirtualRig Studio, has been using Dropbox since 2009.
After using the service for about five years, Čurn has come across one of the most terrifying, stomach-churning scenarios one could imagine when relying on cloud storage.
More than 8,000 of his personal files had mysteriously disappeared. To be exact, 8,343 of his files were missing.
Čurn detailed his experience on Medium, complete with his entire correspondence with Dropbox discussing the problem. In his post, Čurn writes that he had decided to use Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature when the hard drive in his laptop was running low on space. Selective Sync allows you to manually choose which folders from Dropbox you’d like to sync with your computer.
Čurn decided to use Dropbox as the sole storage space for a large amount of his files. He writes that he unchecked a bunch of folders using Dropbox’s Selective Sync tool, meaning that these unchecked folders would only live in Dropbox, not on his computer.
“After that, the Dropbox client froze and didn’t show any sign of life for a couple of minutes, so I decided to kill it and restart again,” Čurn wrote.
He then tried to sync them one-by-one since the folders were so large. He thought the process had worked out perfectly — the folders had disappeared from his local storage, but were still available on Dropbox. It wasn’t until about two months later he realised that he was missing a giant chunk of his work and personal files.
After contacting Dropbox, Čurn came to the conclusion that this mysterious deletion has to do with the way Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature works.
According to Čurn, Dropbox reportedly deletes these files from your local storage before it tells its servers about the changes you made to your Selective Sync settings. So, if Dropbox crashes while it’s synching your files, the files can be at risk of permanent deletion. When the client restarts, it only sees the files that have yet to be synched before the crash occurred.
Dropbox is only able to recover your deleted files within 30 days. In Čurn’s case, it had been more than 60 days by the time he realised his files were gone.
It’s important to note that these kinds of situations can be avoided by actively backing up your work — meaning you should store important files in several safe places to avoid losing them.
Here’s what Dropbox had to say to Čurn:
Marla, Jul 01 09:47 AM:
Thanks for your response. Unfortunately these files were deleted around 63 days ago and I cannot recover them.
According to our records it appears that these files were deleted by the device ‘macbook’ on 2014-04-29 at 14:57:30 GMT (UTC). The link to this deletion event is below:
You can also see which user and computer deleted or changed a file by looking at the “previous version history” or the “Events” page on the web site:
For more information, please visit the following help center article:
There are a number of different reasons that a delete could happen, but the Dropbox desktop client does not have the ability to tell how or why files were deleted, only that they were deleted. Possible reasons for unexpected deletions include:
· a user dragging the files/folders out of the Dropbox folder (or a shared folder) instead of copying them;
· backup software installed on the computer which unmounts the hard disk;
· human error (i.e. an inadvertent delete keystroke).
Connectivity issues may delay the actual synchronisation so that the event timestamp is listed at a time when no one was using the computer.
The files could also be missing due to the intentional deletion of files from a device that shouldn’t be connected to the account anymore. You may want to review your connected devices here:
From there, you can unlink any that no longer needs to be linked to the account.
The Dropbox folder is just a normal folder and the Dropbox software only responds to changes after they happen. Neither the Dropbox desktop client nor the Dropbox servers have the ability to delete your files on their own.
Even a Dropbox bug or glitch would be on the client and not the server. Please try installing the latest version of the client. It has the latest fixes in it and may resolve the issue you’re experiencing.
You can find more information on file deletions in our Help Center:
Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.
We’ve reached out to Dropbox for comment and to see if this type of scenario is common, and will update this article accordingly.