Setup Dropbox to sync on a schedule

click here for the Mac version

Currently I am living in a part of rural Virginia, where the only option for internet is ViaSat internet satellite.  The service has its ups and downs, but the worst part are the data caps, and they are cell phone low.  In fact the highest plan I can buy is 25GB of data transfer and that is about $140 per month.

One thing that I really miss is the ability to have my Dropbox synced at all times.  The data transfers can be high if I am putting videos and photos into my Dropbox.  Dropbox’s application currently allows you to throttle the bandwidth, but it’s either on or off…

ViaSat does offer something nice…  every morning from Midnight to 5AM they shut off the meters allowing unlimited usage.  I decided to leverage this and make Dropbox sync only during this free window.

Doing this boils down to three things.

1.  Find the Windows Task Scheduler.
2.  Schedule a daily task to START Dropbox.exe at 12AM.
3.  Schedule a daily task to STOP Dropbox.exe at 5AM.

1. Find the Windows Task Scheduler

Click into Administrative tools in the control panel

1.1 Click into Administrative tools in the control panel

Here it is. The elusive task scheduler (well not really... there are a bunch of ways to find it.)

1.2 Here it is. The elusive task scheduler (well not really… there are a bunch of ways to find it.)

 

2. Schedule a daily task to START Dropbox.exe at 12AM.

2.1 Click Create task to ummm, create a new schedule task.

2.1 Click Create task to ummm, create a new schedule task.

1. Name the Task. 2. Set to run whether the user is logged on or not.

2.2. Name the Task.
2.3  Set to run whether the user is logged on or not.

1. Click button to create a new trigger 2. Set New trigger Settings to "Daily" with a start time of 12:00AM since I want it to trigger on every morning at Midnight.

2.4  Click button to create a new trigger
2.5  Set New trigger Settings to “Daily” with a start time of 12:00 AM since I want it to trigger on every morning at Midnight.

1. Click button to create a new Action. 2. Browse to the program to launch (in this case for me its Dropbox.exe)

2.6  Click button to create a new Action.
2.7  Browse to the program to launch (in this case for me its Dropbox.exe)

3. Schedule a daily task to STOP Dropbox.exe at 5AM.

Since the scheduler only “Starts” programs, this requires us to write a tiny batch file that when started will kill Dropbox.exe.

Place the following

TASKKILL /F /IM "Dropbox.exe"

into a file named whatever your want .bat, in my case I called it ‘stopdropbox.bat’

Simple batch file to kill the Dropbox.exe process.

Simple batch file to kill the Dropbox.exe process.

Now lets just make another task schedule to Stop Dropbox.

Stop Drop Box Scheduled Task General Tab

Just like above, name this something and set it to run even when the user isn’t logged in.

Stop Drop Box Scheduled Task TriggerTab

Same as above except we are setting the trigger for 5AM, which for me is the end of the “FreeTime” window.

Stop Drop Box Scheduled Task ActionTab

As above, except here we are pointing to our little batch file that will kill the Dropbox.exe process.

Both Schedules set

Ahhh. Both tasks scheduled.

I hope this helps somebody out there.  If you wish Dropbox had some custom scheduling options built into their sync engine, or just appreciate the kludge I had to endure, please comment below.

34 thoughts on “Setup Dropbox to sync on a schedule

  1. Pennie

    I’m on ViaSat too and it worked like a charm! Thanks for taking the time to post.

    Reply
  2. Hilary

    Thank you. I have the same problem and was wondering if this was possible, but I have a Mac. Please tell me you know how to do this for Mac

    Reply
  3. Gary Holland

    Could this be adapted to run OSX software update during the ‘free’ periods including apps? I use adobe creative cloud and there are some huge updates that I’d like to run overnight. Thanks for the dropbox info.

    Reply
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  5. Stephen

    Simple -Awesome!

    Don’t know why dropbox and google drive don’t both offer a few more options like this.

    Reply
    1. John van Dalen

      Better yet, how about Viasat getting with the program and stop gouging their customers.

      Reply
      1. jsquaredz Post author

        Lol. Good luck on that. I guess its better than the alternative.

        It would actually be nice if Dropbox allowed you to put the bandwidth limiter on a schedule.

        Reply
  6. Mike

    Thanks for this neat solution to an issues i have been struggling with.
    I assume you could the same for OneDrive by browsing to C:\Users\****\AppData\Local\Microsoft\OneDrive\OneDrive.exe

    Reply
    1. jsquaredz Post author

      I assume there would be no difference, but I haven’t tested that. Let us know if you try it on one drive and it works.

      Reply
  7. tjamesjones

    thanks JsquaredZ I’m going to try this. My situation is exactly the same, though I’m in rural Dorset (england) rather than Virginia…

    Reply
    1. jsquaredz Post author

      Worked a treat for me while I was using it. About a year ago I moved back to a city, so I’m back on high speed.

      Please write in with an update and let us know how it works for you.

      Reply
  8. John van Dalen

    Nice to have this work-around to help with the shortcomings of all the Viasat frustrations.

    Reply
  9. michael

    I noticed the tray icon won’t appear unless I set the task to “Run only when user is logged on”

    Reply
    1. jsquaredz Post author

      Not sure on that one but I think it’s more important to have it able to run when logged out than to see the tray icon. Especially since this is happening when I am away from the computer hopefully sleeping.

      Reply
  10. PFS

    Thank-you so much for this it’s been a God send. Like you am on capped /very limited bandwidth allowance from my satellite provider so anything that can be done to schedule downloads and sync off-peak is great.

    I also use Internet Download Manager. Unless it’s urgent everything I download goes into a night time queue that is scheduled to start at 2:01 every morning.

    Every little helps.

    I agree, companies like Dropbox should have a schedule facility built in. Not everyone lives in a Metro area with unlimited broadband.

    Reply
  11. Bernardo Morais

    Hi guys,

    Just advising that killing the task could cause sync problems to dropbox, leading to data loss and sync errors.

    Don’t use this method for critical data.

    Thanks for share.

    Reply
    1. jsquaredz Post author

      Thanks for this comment. There shouldn’t be any sync activity at the time the app is killed since everything would have been synced earlier. Also Dropbox is transactional so if a transfer is interrupted, the service will just retry once the connection is back.

      Reply
      1. Stephen Layton

        I’m from the Uk and have sat broadband in a rural location with a similar deal to the one you describe, namely free data 0000-0600. The Automator for Mac looks like a superb solution, but I’m struggling as it looks as if 2 instructions at the start of the article are overlaid together? Am I being stupid, or has something happened to the instructions? Thanks for your help.

        Reply
  12. Nuno

    Thanks for posting this.
    I came here while searching for a batch file to periodically check and get new photos on Dropbox Camera Upload folder and move them to Pictures folder on my Mac. The timed sync is not an issue. My Dropbox fills up very fast with the little baby’s new pics and videos. Any tips?
    TIA

    Reply
  13. Turvinbris

    No data transfer issues here but rather an older slower laptop which was struggling to keep pace with my work requirements while syncing DB at the same time. Have loaded your suggestion with an 8-hour ‘Stop task if it runs longer than:’ x hours – found in the Trigger window.
    Very thankful for your post and expertise JSquaredZ.com

    Reply

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