Being able to share files efficiently and easily is a key part of working as a virtual assistant, and there are lots of tools out there that can be used to achieve this. Dropbox is one of the most commonly used, but (and there’s always a but!) there’s a downside!

Have you noticed  your computer slowing down? Things don’t work as quick as they used? Programs that used to work well, now seem to freeze or take aaaaages to load up. And starting up your computer? Well, it needs switching on a good 10 minutes before you can start work – so you might as well go and get a cuppa while it does its thing! There’s potentially many reasons for this, but it could be that Dropbox has a load of files on your computer that’s eating up your hard drive space and bogging everything down.

“But wait” I hear you say “Dropbox is all in the cloud, I don’t store anything on my local drives”. Well yes, it is all in the cloud, but thanks top Dropbox for desktop and the beauty of sync, all of those files (which depending on your version could be as much as 100GB) are also on your local computer.

You see, this is a common issue experienced by VAs, because you are potentially storing files for not just one business, but multiple businesses. Not to mention all of the software and programs that you need to go with it. Chances are your Dropbox is filling up nicely. Now I always advise that you store as much of your files, software & programs in the cloud. The computers within our business contain very little client data, or even our own company information. We download as little as possible to our machines. This means that not only it frees up our computers to work as efficiently as they can, it also means should anything happen to that machine, you can set up very quickly somewhere else with very little hassle.

Dropbox is one exception to this. In order to work well as a VA, you really need to be using the desktop version, which syncs files to your computer. This way they are available for you to add as attachments to emails, upload elsewhere, work with the software that you do have on your computer etc. without needing to download and upload from the online Dropbox account each time. However whilst using the desktop version is a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to download every single file that is stored in your dropbox. Why don’t you take a look in there right now? How many of the folders that have you got synced to your computer haven’t been looked at in months?

And the solution?

Two words… Selective. Sync.

Yep, did you know that you don’t have to download everything to your computer? You can pick and choose. Meaning the files you use regularly can be to hand when you need them, and the rest can stay safely tucked up in the cloud until you want them. It’s one of the simplest ways of freeing up space on your hard drive for Dropox users.

So what is selective sync?

By default, Dropbox downloads a copy of all your files to the Dropbox on your local computer, but Selective Sync allows you to pick which folders to sync to your computer and which folders you only want to keep online, meaning you never have to worry about running out of hard drive space. Selective Sync settings are unique to each computer linked to your Dropbox account, which means if you have more than one machine, e.g. a desktop and a laptop, you can choose to have fewer/different files synced to your laptop than your desktop to suit the way that you work. As an example, if you have archived files for old clients, or projects, that you no longer use, you can choose to keep these saved in Dropbox, but not keep them on you hard drive. Or perhaps if you have a lot of large video or audio files that you use on your desktop, but also sometimes you work on a laptop, you can choose to disable syncing of these large files on your portable devices which probably have a smaller hard drive, but still be able to easily access them from your desktop when you need to work with them.

So how do you do it?

There are two slightly different methods depending upon whether you are adjusting settings for a new or existing Dropbox account If you are setting up dropbox on a computer for the first time: Download the Dropox desktop application from your online account Dropbox1Dropbox 2 One installed, follow the on screen instructions. Sign in to your Dropbox account when prompted.

Dropbox will then automatically ask if you want to download everything, or just selected files, at the point, simply tick the folders and files that you want to sync to your computer.

Note: you can always change these settings later on if you need to

That’s all there is to it!  

Adding/Removing folders from a computer that already has Dropbox

Click on the Dropbox icon in your menu bar or system tray.




Click on the Gear icon > Preferences > Account. Depending on the version of Dropbox you have, you may need to choose which account you want to adjust setting for (either business or personal.








Under “Selective Sync” section choose Change Settings

You’ll then see a list of all the folders in your Dropbox which will all be ticked by default. This means it’s saved on both your computer and your online Dropbox account. To remove a folder from your computer, untick it. To add a folder to your computer, tick it.Dropbox6

Click Update

The folder(s) will automatically be removed from your computer. Don’t panic though, they are only removed from your hard drive and all of your files are still safe in your online dropbox account. If you ever need to access these files, you can still go to the Dropbox website, or you can change your Selective Sync settings again at any time.