Share a Dropbox account with multiple Windows users

2022 Update:

Well, I personally have stopped using the Shared Dropbox method outlined in this blog post as of 2020.


The main reason for sharing a Dropbox account across Windows desktop accounts was to solve multiple problems that, together, made the workaround worthwhile. As new features have come out and come of age, this workaround has lost it’s relevance. And frankly, that’s wonderful news!

Improvement #1: Smart Sync
Smart Sync has evolved since it’s release in 2017 to business and enterprise accounts. It’s now a standard feature on all paid Dropbox accounts (and for the most part, it works now). This eliminated the need for a giant hard drive to keep a giant Dropbox sync copy. No longer do multiple copies of a Dropbox need to take up all your hard drive space.

Improvement #2: Family Plan
Secondly, family plans are a thing now – so one can now share their Dropbox cloud capacity with family members using their own accounts. This means you can finally share your Dropbox with your family with their own Dropbox accounts without paying for separate accounts.

Is the Shared Dropbox method dead? Probably.
The last time I attempted to use it in 2020, the whole thing stopped working each time a new Dropbox update was released. Given the new features, I wasn’t finding a great reason to invest more time into reverse engineering the software again to preserve this workaround.

That said. leave a comment if you still use this method and anything you’ve found that helps keeping it alive. 🙂


Dropbox is Awesome

What makes Dropbox so wonderful is that it lets stores files locally on computers and sync them to the cloud without hassle. This makes keeping your data safe easy, collaboration with partners a breeze and ensures your data is everywhere you need it.

Sharing with multiple users

Dropbox for Windows has been designed to run under a single user account with a private file cache. This poses a problem for users sharing a single Windows computer and family (or workgroup) Dropbox with different user names. The Dropbox account you setup will only be available and sync when the owner of that account is logged into the computer.

Dropbox as a Background Service

The solution is to configure Dropbox to run as a Background Service using a dedicated service account. We will point the software to synchronize to a folder that can be accessed by all users on the computer. Alternately, you can share that folder on your local network.


  • If you have a large Dropbox, I recommend synchronizing it to another computer on your local network that is turned on and logged in as the user with the Dropbox configured. This will speed up the sync to your new system.
  • Uninstall Dropbox for each user that has it installed on this computer.

Step 1. Create an a new Service Account in Windows

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Open Add or Remove User Accounts.
  3. Add a new Administrator account called ServiceAccount.
  4. Give the account a password and keep track of it. This is critical. Don’t skip this step.
  5. Log in as the ServiceAccount.

Step 2. Download, Install and Configure Dropbox

  1. Visit and download the client.
  2. Install the client, configure it for your Dropbox account, but choose a custom installation.
  3. Change the target for your Dropbox folder to the root of your hard drive. Don’t panic – this will create a “Dropbox” folder on your hard drive and put everything in here. This is important.
  4. Once installed and you see that files are syncing, open Dropbox Preferences.
  5. Disable “Show Desktop Notifications” and “Start Dropbox on System Startup”.
  6. Save the settings.
  7. Shut down Dropbox by right clicking the icon in the tray and selecting “Exit”.

Step 3. Download Microsoft Server 2003 Resource Kit and Configure Service

This is an important step. With the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit, Microsoft included an application that can run what are normally “Desktop” applications as a service.  You can get it here.

  1. Install the Resource Kit to C:\Program Files (x86)\Resource Kit.
  2. Open a Command Prompt as Administrator.
  3. Type the following and hit enter:
    sc create Dropbox binPath= “C:\Program Files (x86)\Resource Kit\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”
    There is a space between the two instances of = and the ” in the above instructions.
  4. Click Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Services.
  5. Double Click the Dropbox Service.
  6. Change the startup to “Automatic”.
  7. Switch to the LogOn Tab. Enter the credentials for the ServiceAccount.
  8. Click OK.

Step 4. Define Service Parameters

Now we are going to put it all together and setup the Dropbox to start as a the Service we just created.

  1. Click Start/Run.
  2. Type regedit and press enter.
  3. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Dropbox
  4. Create a new key called Parameters.
  5. Inside the Parameters key, create a new REG_SZ value called Application.
  6. Set the Application value to the location of the Dropbox executable. It will be found in the profile of your service account – similar to C:\Users\ServiceAccount\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\bin\Dropbox.exe
  7. Close Regedit.

Step 5. Fire it up!

Reboot your computer. On boot, the Dropbox service will start in the background.

To verify it’s working, try adding some files to your Dropbox from a different computer, come back and check your C:\Dropbox folder – your files should be there.

Using this configuration, Dropbox will always be syncing in the background when the computer is on.


Dropbox Client Updates (6/2018 Update)

Occasionally (once a month, perhaps) log into the service account, stop the Dropbox Service and fire up Dropbox normally (i.e. via the Dropbox icon on the desktop). Allow Dropbox to update to the latest version of the client through it’s automatic mechanisms. It’s been observed that the Dropbox client will stop working when it’s too far out of date. Since Dropbox is running in the background, it’s not possible to surface the notifications that would normally alert users that an update is needed to the client software before it stops working. The background client update feature does not work reliably when Dropbox is run as a service. If Dropbox struggles to update, you may have to do it manually.


SmartSync & Teams (6/2018 Update)

Dropbox has released a few new features that are untested at this point using the Dropbox-as-a-Windows-Service configuration outlined in this post. These include SmartSync and Teams. Both have some neat features, but also raise some serious questions about how Dropbox will perform when it’s not running in the foreground as it’s intended. My general advice is to avoid these two features when using DaaWS. I don’t anticipate testing these new features as they don’t appeal to me. If anyone would like to put it through it’s paces and share your findings, please leave a comment on this post.


If you have many gigabytes of data, you may find that the scanning engine runs every time you turn your system on for a very long time. For laptop users, this can slow you down considerably. I strongly recommend upgrading to an SSD hard drive to give your laptop enough disk I/O bandwidth to not get in your way while the sync is running in the background.

File Servers

If you are going to use the Dropbox sync engine as a Service, you should upgrade to Dropbox for Business. You’ll get more space and aren’t likely to violate the terms of Service.

Windows 10

UPDATE 12/10/2015  – Thanks to reader Tyler  for confiring this works  on Windows 10!!






58 responses to “Share a Dropbox account with multiple Windows users”

  1. David Spector Avatar
    David Spector

    You don’t need Microsoft Server 2003 Resource Kit! There are several ways to create a new service using the command line (Command Prompt), the best one being the SC command, the interface to the Server Control Manager. Just search the Web for similar solutions that use SC. Since the article is already very good and is easily found by searching, my suggestion for the author is to edit the Microsoft Server 2003 Resource Kit section of the artlcle. But note that the Dropbox company states officially that Dropbox cannot be made to work as a service without “installing a third party application” (see the $50, so there is no guarantee of the article’s solution being free of problems (although my suspicion is that it should work).

    1. Greg Avatar

      All good points, David. Indeed, there’s more than one way to implement this approach! Using SC is indeed a viable (and likely easier for advanced users) way to accomplish the same thing. I don’t have a good sense as to the value proposition for AlwaysUp, but on the surface, it might be worth experimenting with. Great find!

  2. David Spector Avatar
    David Spector

    One step is “Uninstall Dropbox for each user that has it installed on this computer.”
    I’m having problems understanding this. Mainly because only one user can have one Dropbox installed at one time, and second. Or did you mean to unlink any Dropbox accounts on the computer?

    1. Greg Avatar

      Hi David – Great question! Dropbox can be configured for multiple Windows users without any special steps, but that’s not what this tutorial is intended to address. The intent is to sync a single copy of a single Dropbox to a computer which is shared by multiple users all using the same Dropbox data source. The solution here is to run the Dropbox client as a service on the workstation rather than as an application for each user. At the time of posting the original article (some years ago now), uninstalling Dropbox for each user was intended as a fail-safe way to ensure that Dropbox wouldn’t accidentally be executed twice. As to if that’s still a best practice, it’s unknown to me.

      1. David Spector Avatar
        David Spector

        Thanks for maintaining this interesting thread over 7 years. I, too, wished to share one set of Dropbox files among several Windows accounts, such that updating would always happen.
        However, after studying several approaches posted on the Web, and after realizing that any service installation is likely to fail each time Dropbox releases a new version, I’ve decided to stick with a manual approach, manually syncing files using shared Windows folders.
        I’ve also looked at OneDrive, which does not solve this problem.
        I’m not sure about Box (I can’t remember the reasons I rejected it years ago).
        I think the market has been ready for many years for a continuous, encrypted, backup/mirror/sharing solution that syncs files in a set of folders automatically using a system service, yet shows each user the current sync status and gives them both local and remote access to their private and shared folders and files. It is crystal clear that Dropbox the company has an aversion to ever adopting that model.
        The programming challenges would be very interesting and I see no insuperable problem in designing and implementing a very robust solution. Unfortunately, I’m too busy to do this project myself. But someone could make a lot of money, even while offering a personal version for free.

  3. […] Our first reference: Dropbox allows to share all types of files but it’s not designed to publish and it’s also not in designed for teachers. Picture source […]

  4. Doug Avatar

    Hi Greg, thanks for this guide!
    I have been using this method for quite a while now, but I do find that it stops working quite regularly (every few months or so) and I just have to go through and set it up again. Any ideas where it is most likely going wrong?

    1. Greg Avatar

      Hi Doug – It may a good idea to occasionally log into the service account and fire up DropBox normally (i.e. via the Dropbox icon on the desktop) to allow it to update to the latest version of the client. It’s been observed that the Dropbox client will stop working when it’s too far out of date – a feature that came after this article was published. It’s unclear if the updater can work reliably. It’s even more unclear what new features Dropbox will introduce in the future that will further disrupt this method further as a set-it-and-forget-it solution.

      1. Doug Avatar

        Thanks – that makes sense!

  5. Dave Avatar

    Cracking guide, thank you!

    1 problem though, I keep getting messages saying not enough room for DropBox (there is plenty) and don’t know how to fix this?

    I actually don’t even know how to access the DB program anymore?

    Any ideas?

    1. Greg Avatar

      Glad it was helpful! I’ve only seen the not enough room issue when there are junction points in the target Dropbox location and the drive hosting the junction points doesn’t have enough space to accommodate the Dropbox contents.

      1. Dave Avatar

        It only appeared once, I restarted and not heard since, and still updating, so hopefully ok.
        Not using junctions so can’t be that, but hopefully just a random one off.
        If anyone else gets this, restart your system and cross your fingers 🙂

  6. Marco Avatar

    I can confirm it is working with Windows 10, but I had to do in

    Step 3
    sc create Dropbox binPath= “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”
    NOTE 1: There is a space between the two instances of = and the ” and also a space before DisplayName. in the above instructions.
    NOTE 2: It is Windows Resource Kits (So with Windows in front and Kits with s

    Step 4
    The Dropbox executable can be found in:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Dropbox\Client\Dropbox.exe

  7. Tyler Avatar

    I am using Windows 10 64 bit and this method did work for me. Thank you!

    1. Paul G. Avatar
      Paul G.

      Same here on Windows 10 Home 64 bits.
      Two very slight departures from the procedure outlined in Greg’s terrific post —
      A. In step 3.1, the Microsoft Server 2003 Resource Kit installer suggested “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits” as the default location. Accordingly, I changed the command in 3.3 to the following: sc create Dropbox binPath= “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”
      B. In step 3.6, I failed to locate bin\Dropbox.exe in C:\Users\ServiceAccount\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox. So instead, I made C:\Program Files (x86)\Dropbox\Client\Dropbox.exe the value of “Application”.
      Dropbox is now synchronizing perfectly from all user accounts.

  8. Christoph Avatar

    On the Microsoft site it says that the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit is not supported on 64 bit plattforms. Has anyone had success getting it to work on Win 7 64 bit anyway? Also I found the “Non sucking service manager” at which is supposed to be a replacement for srvany. Anyone is using that?

  9. Mark Avatar

    I have a somewhat rudimentary/non-elegant approach that seems to be working on my Windows 8.1 machine.

    Scenario – I have a work and and a personal account on the machine, but want to have access to my dropbox from either.

    Attempt 1:
    I started with just allowing read-write access to the folders (both accounts are me, so who cares…)
    Problem: There seemed to be an issue with my dropbox folder not syncing new items unless I was logged into the user account on which I installed dropbox

    Treat the accounts like separate devices – install dropbox in each user account, have a dropbox folder in each user account.

    Notes: It does duplicate the files in two places on the same device, which is highly inefficient, but hard-drive space is not a limiting factor for me, nor are there frequent, drastic changes to my dropbox files that would clog up my network space. So I went with simple. I think it also will support resilience for if my company needs to wipe my corporate account for whatever reason – everything on my personal should still be operational.

    I’m sure there is a better solution – but this one is working just fine for me.

  10. Giles Avatar

    Unfortunately SRVANY does not appear to be supported in windows 8.1 see:

    Any ideas for alternative instructions for 8.1?

    Like several million others I wish I hadn’t bought a windows 8 machine

  11. David Avatar

    With Windows 7 (at least – it should work for pretty much any Windows with multiple user accounts) there is a workaround to Greg’s good solution that is usable if you and whoever else shares the computer allow each other to login as each other (see below for how to lift this restriction):
    1. install Dropbox to one account e.g., myaccount
    2. Give full control/sharing permissions to the myaccount Dropbox folder e.g., users/myaccount/Dropbox to the other account(s) (If you anticipate a lot of accounts, make a Group.)
    3. Put a shortcut to e.g, users/myaccount/Dropbox on the other account desktops(s)
    4. After bootup, login first as myaccount and start Dropbox, if not started with system startup
    5. Switch user to youraccount (don’t logout – switch user)
    6. Open users/myaccount/Dropbox from the desktop shortcut and work on files, which will synch because myaccount is still logged in

    This is a poorperson’s service solution.

    If you need inter-account security, make a bare dropboxaccount that everyone can log into first at bootup, install Dropbox, and put a shortcut to e.g., users/dropboxaccount/Dropbox on everyone else’s desktop and give them full control sharing permissions.

    As I said, poorperson’s service solution but it does work and can potentially save GBs of diskspace.

    The only disadvantage is, as noted before, you can’t see the synch progress updates but once you use Dropbox a lot and see that it never fails, you quit looking at them anyway. If you’re obsessive (I am) keep a browser window open on your Dropbox account and check the synchs.

  12. justin Avatar

    Hi Greg, thanks for posting this. Excuse my ignorance but do your instructions apply to multiple users on 4-5 different PC and Mac laptops wanting to be able to access, sync and change files in one existing basic free dropbox account? Or do I need to upgrade? Any help is much appreciated. Thx Justin

    1. Greg Avatar

      A standard free account can be used.

  13. Juan Avatar

    I think I read the entire original article and all the comments, but I don’t think anyone mentioned whether it is possible to hide certain folders from one of the users on the single computer. In other words, can I still do SELECTIVE SYNC to give one user access to only certain folders?

    1. Greg Avatar

      Yes – you can still control all sharing and permissions via the website.

  14. Robert Avatar

    Hello. Just wanted to thank you for this work around for pc’s that have 2 user accounts, but share the same dropbox account. Would be nice if dropbox incorporated this feature in to there install package.

  15. Mike Walker Avatar
    Mike Walker

    Thanks very much for this how-to! It worked great with Vista, but I can’t get it to work with Windows 7. The Dropbox service starts fine, but the process is not running, and nothing is syncing. What have I done wrong?

    1. Greg Avatar

      I’m not sure. The instructions were written for Windows 7.

  16. Brett Avatar

    Any way to still have the notification system still enabled accross all logins?

    1. Greg Avatar

      Not that I’m aware of.

  17. Pankaj Bhalerao Avatar

    I have did all as per instructions, but the dropbox wasn’t syncing. I checked the Dropbox Service which was “stopped”. I tried to start the service but it gave me “Error 1068: The dependency service or group failed to start” . Can you please help out. Thanks!

    1. Greg Avatar

      Unfortunately that error message doesn’t give much to go on. I’m not sure what would cause that to happen.

  18. Jeremy Divin Avatar
    Jeremy Divin

    Sadly I never could get this to work for me. I think the problem was with how the service logged in. I tried the account name and password that Dropbox was installed as, local user, and network user and none of them would work.

  19. James Avatar

    Everything looks good, however unable to install MS Server 2003 Resource Kit on Windows 8.1 without it stating there are compatability issues, should I continue or is there an alternative resource kit which with some tweeking will do the job ?

    1. Greg Avatar

      James – I have not tried this yet with Windows 8.

  20. Jean-Philippe Avatar

    Additionnal usefull trick to hide the ServiceAccount from the user list on the logon page

    Press Windows + R, type regedit and press Enter key.
    Navigate to the following registry key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\Userlist
    Create a new -> DWORD (32-bit) Value.
    – Name the new DWORD registry value name exactly with the user name used at the logon screen.
    – Set the value data to 0 to hide the account from Welcome Screen. set the value data to 1 to show it.
    Exit Registry Editor and Log off.

    Do this trick only if you are familiar with the registry

  21. Jean-Philippe Avatar

    I managed to do this trick on windows 8.1.

    It works like a charm.

    Many thanks,

  22. Rob Haworth Avatar
    Rob Haworth

    I set this up following your instructions but the dropbox folder only synchs when the ServiceAccount is logged on. What did I miss? I do see the dropbox folder from all accounts on the C drive. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Greg Avatar

      Somewhere in setting up the Dropbox service, a step may have been overlooked. Check to make sure the Dropbox service is set to Log in as the Service user account and is set to start Automatically.

  23. David Avatar


    Forgive me for speaking before those more knowledgeable than I am, but I think that the original question was how to get multiple users on one Windows computer using the same Dropbox account and the same Dropbox folder.

    I think that there’s a much easier way to do this, though it has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Install Dropbox for both accounts (or all 12 accounts), choose a nice neighborhood for the first data (Dropbox) folder, and put the folders for the other users someplace where the idea won’t bother you. Then copy down the full path to the Dropbox folders, shut down all of the copies of Dropbox, delete the Dropbox data folders you don’t want.

    After that, create junction points from the former location of the deleted folders to the ‘real’ Dropbox folder.


    Advantages: Quicker to set up; you still have full control of each user’s Dropbox from the taskbar (seems that way, anyway), and you don’t have an additional service constantly running in the background and burdening the machine and the network.

    Disadvantages: Won’t sync when noone’s logged on; I don;t know what will happen if two users hold the same file open, and one or both tries to modify it.


    1. Greg Avatar

      David – I did try a very similar method prior to writing this article and opted for the Dropbox-as-a-Service method. The background sync is really crucial for keeping local copies current – particularly when changes are being made to the Dropbox from mobile devices or other computers. Another benefit is that a single instance of Dropbox makes for easier updates to the Dropbox software.

  24. Jordan Avatar

    Thanks for this… am about to try it but wanted to ask if there is a way co “convert” a normally installed dropbox setup to this? Essentially I am creating additional user accounts on a machine that has an 80gb dropbox account on it and wanted to see if I can create the service and link it to the existing files, instead of uninstalling Dropbox and following the directions above, which will re-download all files. Any help or thoughts?

    1. Greg Avatar

      I’ve had mixed success ‘tricking’ DropBox into using a seeded cache. The best practice, in my opinion, is to have a second computer on the local network with the same dropbox fully sync’d. Then, when you install the shared dropbox, as long as Dropbox is able to establish it’s peer-to-peer connection between the two computers, the files will sync directly and it goes quickly in most situations. It may be worth plugging in directly if either of your two computers are normally connected via Wireless.

  25. Zach Avatar

    It works now. I didn’t sign in to the drop account whenever I was on a different user on the computer. Thank you for sharing this Dropbox info! This will be a great way to keep files organized and readily available.

  26. Aaron Avatar

    Excellent work Greg. It is in fact a bummer that there is no way to use the systray icon any more (controlling bandwith limits, etc) directly from the non-ServiceAccount but I can live without it. This works great for sharing a dropbox account with my wife, she has her own login on our home workstation.

    Marco’s tip was valuable for Windows 7 as the resource kit installs it self in a different directory than what was listed in the original instructions (sc create Dropbox binPath= “C:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kit\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”)

    Thanks for posting this info!!!

  27. Zach Avatar

    Hey Greg, I’m a graduate student trying to apply this to our lab computers and would like to ask a troubleshooting question. I followed your instructions but cannot see the newly created file I made on another computer stored in the same dropbox account. Where is my problem? My Service Account is tied to the local computer and not the network domain that all students log into. I can see older files but not this new one. BTW I’m green to computer programming. Any help would be great. Thank you for reading.

    1. Greg Avatar

      Zach, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be working.

  28. Melanie Avatar

    Do you know of comparable solutions for Mac?

    1. Greg Avatar

      I don’t have any personal experience with doing this on the Mac, but here’s a site that has a How-To that may be worth trying:

  29. Shane Avatar

    Forgot to say — one thing you give up with this approach is that you can’t see the status indicators on the file and folder icons, but I think I can live without that….

  30. Shane Avatar

    Just wanted to let you know this works on Windows 8 as well. Just what the doctor ordered!

  31. Marco Avatar

    Two small remarks: On my windows 7 system I had to do: sc create Dropbox binPath= “C:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kit\Tools\srvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”
    Please do not forget to leave a space after the = sign!

    1. Greg Avatar

      Thanks, Marco! I updated the instructions to reflect your feedback.

  32. Dov Avatar

    I look forward to trying this! The other advantage vs. the approach James gives is stability. I’ve had massive issues with the other approach when using selective sync. If you have multiple accounts connecting to the same dropbox account and their selective sync settings get out of sync (i.e. you take off a folder under one user and forget to remove it from all other users), Dropbox will see that as a delete on the other user accounts and silently wipe out all that data (from that computer and all other synced computers).

    The service approach should solve that issue, since it gives a single place to manage the dropbox settings. Thanks for the great idea!

  33. Greg Avatar

    A Service Account requires full “Log on as Service” rights. It’s not ideal to allow your regular user accounts this right in order to to maintain a reasonable level of system security. It also allows you to change your user password without breaking the Dropbox service.

  34. Patrick Avatar

    Why is it necessary to create the new Windows (“ServiceAccount”) account? Why can’t you set this up in the main account?

  35. James Avatar

    Thanks for this article Greg. Just wondering what the advantage of the method above you have described and this one….
    Windows 7 – 2 user accounts – one dropbox account.

    Install dropbox and set it up for each windows user with the same dropbox account and select the same local folder to sync.

    Thats it. It appears to be fully functional also…

    1. Greg Avatar

      Great question! The main advantage to this method is that the Dropbox sync will happen in the background without requiring any user to be logged on. As long as the computer is booted and connected to the Internet, the Dropbox will sync in the background.

    2. Alex Avatar

      That’s what I thought would be the easy fix too, but once I’ve set, for example, my sync location to be C:/Dropbox on user account number 1, then installed Dropbox on user account number 2 and try to change the sync folder to C:/Dropbox as well, an error message appears saying there is already a Dropbox folder on C:/… which I know and which I want to be, but I won’t let me merge them. How did you do it?

  36. Steve Grimes Avatar
    Steve Grimes

    This worked great for me! You Rock! Thank you!

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