HOWTO: Synchronize Dropbox and ZumoDrive on Windows

Dropbox (review, bonus 250MB, or [ad#CJ-DropboxPro-TextLink]) and ZumoDrive both offer an amazing cloud-based file synchronization service, yet their features do not completely overlap. Until the services have closer feature parity, there are different reasons to use each. For me, one the the biggest features of Dropbox is the availability on Linux, which ZumoDrive does not offer. On the other hand, ZumoDrive has a client for iPhone, which Dropbox does not yet have. If I want truly want to access my files on any platform, I have to use both services.

Aside from these feature differences, using two services allows me to escape the lock-in of a single provider. If either company experiences a service interruption, I can rely on the other in the meantime, giving me a mirroring-like setup.


To accomplish automatic synchronization, we are going to leverage a feature called Symbolic Links (symlinks). Linux, Unix, and Mac users are likely familiar with the concept, as it has been around for more than 15 years and is now part of the POSIX standard. For those new to the symlink concept, it acts similar to a Windows shortcut, but provides direct access to a file. A shortcut in Windows is actually a .lnk file containing information on the destination; the Operating System or application must be acutely aware of how to interpret this .lnk shortcut. This contrasts with a symbolic link, which is treated as an actual destination in the file system.

Think of a path as driving directions: There are many roads (paths) to get to a destination (file or folder). Instead of going right-left-left, you can just go straight. You arrive at the same destination, but have traveled via different routes to get there.

Symlink Analogy
Symlink Analogy

Linking Dropbox and ZumoDrive

As mentioned, NTFS supports symlinks, but the tools for creating them were not widely distributed before Windows Vista. To overcome this inconvenience, we’ll be using a tool called Link Shell Extension. This tool provides right-click access to link creation through shell integration.  The tool is available for Windows NT4, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 for all common architectures (32-bit, 64-bit, and Itanium).

  1. Install Link Shell Extension. Vista users should “Run as Administrator”
  2. Ensure that ZumoDrive is running
  3. Exit Dropbox
  4. Copy the contents of the My Dropbox folder (not the directory itself) into ZumoDrive
  5. Navigate to your Computer, so you can see a listing of all system drives

    ZumoDrive in Computer drive listing
    ZumoDrive in Computer drive listing
  6. Right-click on ZumoDrive and select “Pick Link Source”

    Pick Link Source
    Pick Link Source
  7. Navigate to the parent folder above My Dropbox (i.e. your user folder) and right-click empty space and choose, Drop As… → SymbolicLink

    Drop As Symbolic Link
    Drop As Symbolic Link
  8. A new directory will be created called “ZumoDrive (Z)”, but you’ll notice a small arrow badge in the lower left corner. That’s because this is – unsurprisingly – a symbolic link.

    New ZumoDrive Symbolic Link
    New ZumoDrive Symbolic Link
  9. Delete the “My Dropbox” folder
  10. Rename “ZumoDrive (Z)” to “My Dropbox”
  11. Start Dropbox

After Dropbox has started, it should synchronize like normal. You can now copy files into your Dropbox or ZumoDrive location and have them synchronize to both services. If you’d like to verify everything is working properly, feel free to log into each website and verify the contents.

Because of restrictions placed on folder destination, using symlinks is a great workaround to ensure both services stay in sync.

See also: Dropbox Review

11 thoughts on “HOWTO: Synchronize Dropbox and ZumoDrive on Windows

  1. Just one hint:
    It doesn’t work well under XP, if u use “junctions” instead of symbolic links — although it actually should behave the same way. Problem is, after the first link to something outside of your dropbox folder everything works like expected: everything is synced. But if u later change something (add/remove/modify) under the linked folder (or under the dropbox view of things) nothing won’t become synced anymore. Reason is that the junction itself is not modified, but the original file folder. So dropbox has no chance of recognizing that.

    On the other end (a remote machine sharing the same dropbox folder) everything works like expected because there is no junction. At initialization the linked folder of the source machine with all it’s content is copied into dropbox and then copied to the remote machine – so the “source junction” is an ordinary folder on the remote.

    Altogether this results in a funny behavior: A one-directional sync. Every change on the remote machine is synchronized to the source machine. But not any change on the source machine (except the first initialization) is synced to the dropbox and to the remote machine.

    Maybe somebody has use of such a feature…

    PS: XP has no symlink’s (only Vista and higher). I know, there is a third party symlink driver, but it has it’s own bugs. It’s unstable at installation and booting (sometimes doesn’t start). It also does symlinks sometimes wrong. One time I ended up with wrong plus undeletable symlink’s. Was a big action to clean them…

  2. i think now no need this kind of thing already, because zumo have a function is ”link folder to ZumoDrive”

  3. Great tip about the Link Shell Detection. Now I don’t have to relocate folders into My Dropbox and can setup just certain subfolders to be synced. I can keep them where they are which is great.

    This is really going to help productivity using two different computers.
    I can even use this to synchronize VirtualBoxes and Firefox settings. Very nice.

    Thank you Taylor.

  4. @Kev

    Because I don’t know of a graphical tool, you’ll need to use Terminal to do a little command line work. Open Terminal up and navigate to your Dropbox folder using “cd”. From there, type in this command (replacing the folder path and linkfoldername.

    ln -s /path/to/folder/to/symlink linkfoldername

    This will create a symbolic link in as “linkfoldername”, which points to /path/to/folder/to/symlink.

  5. This is a really nifty trick, Taylor! Love it and I am going to try it on mine as well. It will be so cool to get this stuff on both Linux and iPhone.

  6. I use Dropbox to sync my 1password keychain and other settings between my two Macs. I have set mine up where I do not use any aliases to make it work. I simply point the app pref or data location to the Dropbox file on the machine.

    I have tried that using the free version of Dropbox, that comes with 2 GB, and really like. Gives you a good feeling, when you know your data is safely backuped and your computers are in sync.


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