Back when I was a student, a cloud was a collection of droplets in the literal sky, not somewhere I could keep files. I had a laptop and it would run my graphics software, but… very… slowly… and so the desktop computers at school were preferable. To create files at school, then continue working on them at home in the evening, that required burning a CD. (Yes, USB flash drives existed, but capacity was yet at a puny handful of megabytes.) I had an iBook G3 — not the clamshell, but “Snow” white version with a tray where I could whoa! not only read and write, but also rewrite!! on discs that were CD‑RW. Being able to transport work back and forth between computers, to do finishing touches on my laptop at home, then back to school the next day, this was quite a luxury. I remember meticulous naming, to keep track of which file on which computer or disc was my most recent version.

Synced files! ⛅️

That bygone workflow became antiquated the moment a service in a cloud happily synced files between different computers like a breeze. I can see from my account that I started paying for Dropbox in 2014. I must have used a free plan for a while before upgrading — to what was at the time a Pro account with 200GB, combined with Packrat (unlimited version history). I also found a list in my account of all the devices that I have unlinked over the years. There are 14 different laptops! Along with 1 current.

Simple and secure storage? 🌧️

I’ve been wanting to choose an alternative. Dropbox today offers a free plan for storing 2GB, and the next plan up is Dropbox Plus - 2TB at $9.99 / month when billed yearly. No plan between the two. I wouldn’t even mind paying that amount if I was happy with the product, but Dropbox has become more and more complex in convoluted ways over the years. I suspect individual users might not be the target audience anymore? Features are promoted in increasingly annoying popups and notifications; like “Supercharge your productivity with AI and video updates” or how about “Track analytics to learn how viewers engage with your content!” Yeah, no. I just wanted simple and secure storage.

I can see that I’ve been meaning to untangle myself and depart Dropbox for quite some time, because I flipped the billing from yearly to monthly in April 2020, even though the price is then $11.99 / month. I made that change almost 4 years ago… Well, I guess, there’s no time like the present to get moving.

But how to quit Dropbox? 😖

How to bid a service like this farewell without accidentally loosing any files? It’s not like Dropbox will provide a smooth off-boarding. First thing to figure out, is exactly what I am using Dropbox for today.

  • How much space am I using in total?
  • Which devices are currently linked to my account?
  • Have I used Selective Sync and have online-only files?
  • …or is everything available offline on my laptop?
  • Do I know the local location of all files I have synced?
  • Is there enough space on my laptop for all files I want to keep?
  • Should I backup first? Or take my chances on a couple of days without external backup?
  • Am I syncing any special files, something I might have forgotten about?

Previously, I used Dropbox to sync a vault in 1Password. It was also how I configured iA Writer to sync files, my preferences for Alfred, and the kind of syncing that is set up within other applications. Forgetting something like this while quitting Dropbox could turn into a minor personal digital disaster. But since this project of “one fine day bid Dropbox farewell” has been brewing for years, I know that I switched to using iCloud for that type of syncing when I set up a new work laptop 2 years ago. That other laptop doesn’t have Dropbox installed at all, so I know that I no longer use Dropbox for syncing something important behind the scenes that I otherwise might have forgotten about.

There used to be more gigabytes, but I have been clearing away a lot of old junk recently. Now I am looking at numbers that there is plenty space for on my laptop hard drive:

168 158 924 776 bytes (168,95 GB on disk) for 233 008 items

Oh, and shared folders. Confusing to figure out how to keep files, but move them out of Dropbox, without deleting them for anyone else. But I think I figured it out this time around. I know in the past I’ve deleted files for others, without meaning to. Using a browser to look at this was helpful to get more information about who owns a shared folder. I also found a list of shared folders that I had access to, but hadn’t joined — and that also provided an option to ‘Remove me’ from those folders.

Farewell Dropbox 🥳

All right, files now moved out of the Dropbox space and I have cancelled my subscription. And only now did I dare add up all payments found in my billing history since 2014, the total was $1747.35 hrmf. But yay, now I am freeeee! I got so excited about finally doing this, that I went ahead with quitting Dropbox before having set up alternative storage. So that is the next project!