Is it possible use Dropbox as my OSX Time machine backup drive?

I am thinking of getting Dropbox Pro.


Dropbox themselves say it's not possible. The link unfortunately went offline.

Time Machine uses a special way of "pointing" files to each other, which means that every snapshot of your system as available in Time Machine is not the same on the disk. For example, a file you created a month ago will not be duplicated in your current backup, but there's a "pointer" to the old file in another folder.

Dropbox however doesn't offer a way to represent these file links in their system. That means you can only upload actual files to their service, and not those links.

As a consequence, you can't recreate the file system layout of a Time Machine drive in the Dropbox when pulling it from another Mac or looking at it online, even though your Mac would appear to create the backup just fine.

If you want to spend money on online backup services that fit well with OS X, check:

  • To my knowledge, iCloud only backs up data from iOS devices.
    – slhck
    Jun 11 '12 at 14:03
  • What about creating a disk image in Dropbox?
    – daknøk
    Sep 13 '12 at 7:52
  • @RadekSlupik Time Machine uses Sparse Bundles and I'm rather sure they don't translate well to the Dropbox system – that being said, I've never tried it and it could be worth a shot, but I could imagine that it won't work out of the box.
    – slhck
    Sep 13 '12 at 8:03
  • @slhck you can put the sparse bundle in a non-sparse disk image. :)
    – daknøk
    Sep 13 '12 at 10:32

Yes, here is my guide

Backup to the cloud

You first need to create a disk image in disk utility, first open disk utility, then click new image, fill in the details

Save as: The name of the image

Choose your cloud service as saving location ex dropbox, jottacloud

Name: The name of the disk

Size: Click the dropdown and select custom, choose a size, Note that your cloud service need to be able to hold it

Format: Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

Encryption: If you want to lock it that you need a password to open it choose 128 or 256 bit encryption higher bit more secure, but slower

Partitions: Choose hard disk

Image format: Choose read/write disk image

Click create

Wait until it is done

Wait until it is fully uploaded to the cloud, this may take a wile, you have to upload the size of the image

Check on your cloud service’s website to see that it is there

Unmount/Eject the disk

Double-click the image

Select the drive there you choose witch drive to use with time machine or your backup program

Backup to this drive To restore

Set up your mac

Download the image from the cloud

Double-click the image

Open migrate assistant and continue

If you need to boot from the drive or the restore process above do not work

Download the image from the cloud

Double-click the image to mount the disk

Open disk utility

Click the image’s disk to the box to the left Note, do not click the image, but the disk underneath

Click restore in the tab

Source: Drag the image’s disk to the box Note, do not drag the image, but the disk underneath

Destination: Drag an external hard drive to the box Note, do not drag the top part, but one of the partitions underneath

Click restore Note, the external hard drive will be erased

When done: Open migrate assistant, your backup program or boot from it and continue Note, The name of the drive will changed

Truls Zhong Konstali

  • This looks super promising, but I ran into a couple of showstoppers. I have Box.com and Google Drive File Stream with unlimited storage at work. But it seems to create a disk image on GDFS, it need start from from your local machine first. So I can't create a 2TB image on GDFS to designate for Time Machine backup, when my hard drive is only 1TB to begin with. Jun 8 '18 at 13:27

It can be done in High Sierra, but was unable to do so without using terminal since TimeMachine doesn't seem to recognize the DMG image, even when mounted, as a destination to backup to.

Start by following Truls Zhong Konstali's directions and create a DMG (HFS+/GUID) that is large enough to hold your local drive and give it a volume name like TimeMachine and know that once mounted your volume can be located as /Volumes/TimeMachine or replace TimeMachine with whatever you name your volume.

To make note, any future use of the string TimeMachine in the terminal commands will be replaced by whatever you title the volume name when you make the DMG.

Mount your DMG, and open Terminal.

Run diskutil info -all and locate your mounted volume, noting the /Volumes/ location.

Run the following to add the mounted volume to Time Machine as your destination:

sudo tmutil setdestination /Volumes/TimeMachine

Add an exclusion to ~/Dropbox by running:

sudo tmutil addexclusion ~/Dropbox

I would add an exclusion for any folder that actually contains the DMG that has been mounted for backup.

Run the following to see the set destination for your Time Machine backup:

tmutil destinationinfo

To start the backup:

tmutil startbackup

To pause or stop the backup:

tmutil startbackup

Once the backup has been completed, you can move the DMG to your Dropbox folder for backup if you have not mounted the DMG from a directory in the Dropbox location already. I would recommend making the backup with a DMG file where the physical location is elsewhere than a Dropbox monitored directory, and then moving the DMG to a Dropbox monitored directory since the DMG will constantly be modified during the backup and will require re-uploading to keep up to date.

Hope this helps!


No. This question was asked on the Dropbox forum.

  • Broken link...making this question a low-quality duplicate of the accepted answer. :( Nov 5 '17 at 3:20

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