How to Install and Use Dropbox on Your Mac

An easy-to-use cloud storage system

Installing and using Dropbox for Mac is as simple as downloading and installing the app. From there, your Dropbox acts like a folder on your computer—except that it resides in the cloud. Here's how to add it to your Mac.

We'll be looking primarily at the Mac version here, but note that Dropbox is also available for Windows, Linux, and most mobile platforms, including Android and iOS devices. This cross-platform functionality gives you access to your files regardless of device or platform. Screenshots and prices are current as of February 2020.

  1. If you don't already have a Dropbox account, create one on the Dropbox website.

    Dropbox signup as of 2020

    The free Dropbox account option can be a bit difficult to find. Sign up for free.

  2. Download the installer.

    Dropbox download page
  3. When the download is complete, look for the installer in your Downloads folder. The file name is DropboxInstaller.dmg. Double-click Dropbox Installer.dmg.

  4. Within the Dropbox Installer window that opens, double-click the Dropbox icon.

    A notice will appear warning you the Dropbox is an app downloaded from the internet. Click Open to continue. Dropbox will then download any necessary updates and then start the installation process. A Dropbox icon will appear in your menu bar, and the Dropbox app will show in your /Applications folder and in the sidebar.

    Dropbox for Mac Desktop
    Dropbox for Mac showing Dropbox folder and Dropbox menu item. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
  5. After you sign in, the Dropbox window will display a congratulations message for successfully completing the installation. Click Open My Dropbox Folder.

  6. Dropbox needs your account password to allow your new Dropbox folder and system to work correctly with your Mac. Enter your password, and click OK.

  7. Take a few moments to read through the Getting Started guide installed in your Dropbox folder to learn more.

Using Dropbox

Dropbox installs a login item into and integrates itself into the Finder. You can change this configuration at any time in Dropbox Preferences. Click the Dropbox icon along the top of your screen, and then the down arrow next to your initials. Select Preferences from drop-down menu.

Dropbox Menu > Preferences

We recommend keeping the Finder integration option, and the option to start Dropbox whenever you start up your Mac. Together, these help Dropbox act just like another folder on your Mac.

How Dropbox Works

Anything you place inside the Dropbox folder on your Mac is automatically copied to the cloud-based storage system, and is synced with any other devices you use that are also running Dropbox. This means you can work on a document at home on your Mac, head off to work, and resume what you were doing with the document, knowing it's exactly the same as where you left off.

Using the Dropbox Folder

You'll notice a flag next to each file in your Mac Dropbox folder; it shows the current sync status of the item. A green checkmark indicates the item has been successfully synced to the cloud. A blue circular arrow indicates syncing is in process.

Dropbox flags

You can always access your data from the Dropbox website, but overall, it's easier to install Dropbox on all the devices you use.

Why Use Dropbox?

Using Dropbox on your Mac can simplify sharing files with other devices and people. For example, you can put a group of photos on your Dropbox to share with family, rather than emailing them or fiddling with thumb drives and the like. Dropbox is useful for work, too: You can put important files in your Dropbox to share with large groups, rather than dealing with the confusion and inbox mess of a large, long email thread. For these reasons, Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud-based storage systems.

Dropbox isn't the only cloud-based storage and syncing service for the Mac, but it's currently one of the most popular. It does have some pretty stiff competition, though, including Microsoft's SkyDrive, Google's Google Drive, Box.net, and SugarSync. As a Mac user, you also can use Apple’s own cloud service, iCloud. It's a very handy, easy-to-use service that's already integrated with your Mac.

So, why consider Dropbox? Here are a few reasons:

  • Using multiple cloud-based services helps keep your costs for storing data in the cloud down; plus, redundancy ensures you don't lose data.
  • Almost all cloud services offer a free level, and Dropbox is no exception.
  • Many apps integrate themselves with various cloud-based storage services to offer additional features. Dropbox is one of the more commonly used cloud-based systems used by third-party apps.

Dropbox is available in four basic pricing plans; the first three let you expand the amount of storage you have by referring others to the service. For example, the basic free version of Dropbox will give you 500 MB per referral, to a maximum of 18 GB of free storage.

Dropbox Pricing

Dropbox offers tiered pricing, based mainly on your storage needs and, if applicable, those of your team. All paid accounts offer a 14-day free trial.

Plan Price per month Storage
Basic Free 2 GB
Plus $9.99 when billed yearly 2 TB
Professional $16.58 when billed yearly 3 TB
Standard for Teams $12.50 per user 5 TB
Advanced for Teams $20 per user Unlimited
Dropbox Plan Comparison (as of Feb. 2020)