Dropbox Woes – Recovering Data in Bulk

To recover many recently deleted files or folders scattered across many directories, just delete the folder highest in the file system tree that contains everything you want restored. Then recover that folder through the Dropbox web app. All of the recently deleted data within that folder will also be recovered.

The Situation
I have many workstations and need my files synced across them all. I’ve used many tricks in the past from rsync scripts, to mounted file systems. Dropbox’s syncing services allowed me to take my hands off of the syncing and put them back onto my research. However, there were some problems with how I used Dropbox. I partition my hard drive so I can have multiple OS on one machine for my different needs. Naturally, I want my files synced across each partition. Unfortunately I had partitioned my hard drive long before I installed Dropbox and overlooked a little detail…

The Problem
I always partition my hard drive into n+1 partitions where n is the number of operating systems I plan to use. The extra partition is where I store my common files that I want access to across all OS. Given that set up, I over looked the consequences of using different Dropbox apps to sync the same files and folders on the same partition. I used one OS far more than the others and between the lab, work, and home my syncing life was great. But, the one day I decided to use another OS turned into a very sad day. Since both instances of Dropbox were looking at the same file system, when the Dropbox from a different OS looked at the files and saw that they didn’t match what it had, it began deleting everything that wasn’t there when since I last ran it.

The Fix
After fretting for a while I realized the fix was quite easy. Dropbox provides a great caching and file recovery system. Just look in the folders via the Dropbox web app and you can click on recently deleted files and restore them. The problem for me was that by the time I realized my files were being deleted I had already lost thousands of them and they were scattered through out my folders (Dropbox apparently deletes randomly). The trick that saved me hours of time was noticing how Dropbox restored folders as opposed to files. When you restore a folder Dropbox doesn’t know which files were in it when it was deleted, so it just restores every file that has ever been in the folder (for the past 30 days I believe). So to recover my thousands of scattered files, I just deleted the entire folder from my local file browser and then restored it via the Dropbox web app. As expected, all of my recently deleted files were restored.

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