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How to Share Files on Dropbox in 2020: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

If you want to know how to share files on Dropbox, you're not alone. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to share Dropbox files and folders -- and how to do it securely.

Robin Barber
By Robin Barber (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2020-10-23T19:47:04+00:00

Dropbox has long been one of the best file-sharing services for both personal and business use. However, newer users may not realize all of the sharing options and security features it provides. In this article, we’ll go through how to share files on Dropbox and keep your sensitive data private in the process.

Although there are other providers, Dropbox for Business is the best cloud storage to share many files within a group. The service allows multiple users to simultaneously view and edit file content, it has high upload speeds and it’s compatible with services like Microsoft Office. There’s even a mobile app for file-sharing on the go.

However, when you share files and folders, you should do it securely. Dropbox already has some strong security features, but the best way to protect your data from any potential leaks is with zero-knowledge encryption. Although Dropbox doesn’t offer this itself, there are providers like Boxcryptor, which are made to work with the service.

How to Share Files on Dropbox 

Dropbox lets you request and share files with any other user, and you can even allow recipients to comment or make edits. This can be done on Dropbox.com or through the desktop UI, as long as you can access your account and know the email address you’re sending the file or folder to.

To share a file with another Dropbox account, it needs to have enough storage space left. If you want someone to download and view the file but they don’t have enough storage available in their Dropbox account, you’ll need to use Dropbox Transfer to give them a copy.

  1. Find the Dropbox file

    Open the Dropbox folder on your computer or go to Dropbox.com and sign in. Then find the file you want to share.

    dropbox sharing file select
    Use File Explorer to locate the file you want to share.

  2. Open the “share” window

    On the website, the “share” button will appear when your mouse is over the file. If you’re in your Dropbox folder, right-click the file and find “share” on the list — it’ll be the one with the Dropbox logo next to it. 

    dropbox sharing file share window
    Open the “share” window on the website or in your Dropbox folder.

  3. Add your recipients and preferences

    In the “share” window, you can change your preferences, add another user or attach a message to your file. 

    dropbox sharing file preferences
    The “share” window allows you to change your preferences.

  4. Share the file

    When you are ready, click the “share” button in the bottom-right corner of the window to send the file. There will be a pop-up in Windows to show that you’ve shared it successfully.

    dropbox sharing file share button
    The pop-up window shows that the file was shared successfully.

The recipients will now get an email with the message and a link to access the file. It will also automatically appear in their Dropbox accounts.

How to Share a Dropbox Folder 

If you want to share a group of files, you should share them within a folder. This’ll let you control the permissions for all files at once without missing any by accident. However, you won’t have as many options for protecting the access links or hiding individual files.

Shared folders can also be useful for a business, as it lets you give each individual access to set folders depending on which files are related to their work. You can also see who made certain changes and rewind a shared folder if something goes wrong. 

1. Find the “share” option

In your Dropbox folder, find the folder you want to share, right-click it and select the “share” option with the Dropbox logo next to it. If you’re using the website, mouse over the folder and click “share.”

dropbox sharing folder select
Open the “share” window to share a folder.

2. Set the permissions

Next, you can set up the permissions to see who can view or edit the folder. As these options will apply to every file within the folder, double-check these before continuing.

dropbox sharing folder share window
The main “share” window allows you to set permissions for the folder.

3. Add recipients and a message

Now you can add people to the shared folder with the permissions to “view” or “edit” the files. You can also put in a message for the recipients.

dropbox sharing folder adding recipients
You can also leave a message when adding someone to a Dropbox folder.

4. Send the folder

Click share in the bottom-right corner. The recipients will get an email with access to the folder and the message, or you can send them the shared link directly.

dropbox sharing folder confirmation email
The recipients will receive the confirmation email for the shared folder.

How to Share Files Through Dropbox Transfer 

Dropbox Transfer is a service that lets you share files and folders with someone who doesn’t have a Dropbox account. You can send up to 100MB of data in a single transfer on the basic plan, which increases to 2GB and 100GB on the Standard and Advanced paid plans, respectively. There’s also no limit on the number or types of files that you can send.

This isn’t an ideal solution for working on a collaborative project with ongoing edits, as it sends the recipient their own copy of the file or folder. However, you can still add a password and change the expiration date with the Professional plan, giving an extra layer of protection.

1. Select your files for the transfer

In your Dropbox folder, select multiple files or folders, right-click on one of them and select “send with Transfer.” You can also go to “dropbox.com/transfer” and begin adding files there.

dropbox sharing transfer selecting files
Select the initial files to create a transfer.

2. Check your transfer

Make sure that all the files and folders you want to send are in the list and the name of the transfer is correct. You can add files from your cloud storage folder or directly from your computer.

dropbox sharing transfer list of files
This is the main screen for Dropbox Transfer.

3. Add any protections

If you have a Professional or Business Advanced plan, click on the settings button in the bottom-right corner and add a password and expiration date to the transfer to limit unauthorized access.

dropbox sharing transfer protections
Add a password and expiration time to the transfer to limit access.

4. Create the transfer

When you click “create transfer,” you will generate a link for sharing these files. You can also choose to “send with email,” which lets you send the link to any email address.

dropbox sharing transfer link creation
Create the transfer link.

How to Share Files in Dropbox Securely

Dropbox has a wealth of features that make it great for sharing files and folders. However, it lacks the zero-knowledge encryption that the most secure cloud storage services use. Its U.S. headquarters doesn’t help ease any cloud privacy concerns, either, and there have been issues in the past.

Although some people are willing to give up privacy for a fast and easy-to-use service, it isn’t hard to protect your data if you know how to do it. Dropbox even has some security measures available, like the permissions system, which can limit what people can see or add a password to the file.

However, if you want to protect a file or folder from criminals and governments, you’re going to have to encrypt it so only you have access. A service like Boxcryptor will obscure your files from anyone — even from Dropbox — unless you give them the decryption key. This will make sharing files harder, but it’s often worth it for the extra privacy.

How to Set Permissions

The people with the most power to damage a file or folder are those you share it with. Because anyone with a computer and the right link can view or edit your files, there’s a big risk that you could lose your data without realizing it.

To prevent this, you can use the built-in permissions to limit the actions of any user. By keeping an eye on who can view or edit the content and removing unknown email addresses, you can help avoid data loss and theft. There’s also better protections — like watermarks and file passwords — on the Professional plan.

1. Limit who can edit files

Before you give someone access to a file, you can click the “can edit” button next to their name to open up a dropdown menu. By selecting “can view,” you allow them to view and comment on the file, but not make edits.

dropbox sharing permissions limit editing
You can limit the permissions of a user when adding them.

2. Remove extra users

You shouldn’t let anyone have access to a sensitive file if they don’t need it. Any user who can see a file has their name in the “share” window. If you click the dropdown menu next to their name, you can remove them from the shared file.

dropbox sharing permissions remove people
Use the dropdown menu to remove people from the shared file.

When sharing a file, anyone can edit it if they have the right link. To prevent this, Dropbox Professional and Business Advanced users have options to add a password, set expiration dates and limit access. You can find these settings by clicking the cog in the top-right corner of the “share” window. 

dropbox sharing permissions link settings
Click on the cog to change what users with the shared link can do.

How to Use Boxcryptor

Although the permissions system is a good start, if you want full control over who has access to your personal data, you need to encrypt it. Boxcryptor is one of our favorite zero-knowledge encryption services, and it’s easy to use it with cloud storage, even when sharing files through Dropbox.

You can even use Boxcryptor with Dropbox Business for larger projects. This is because Boxcryptor has “business groups” where you can give each person specific permissions to view, copy or change the file content.

However, there are drawbacks to zero-knowledge encryption, which is why Dropbox doesn’t use it. Encrypted documents can’t use block-level file copying to increase upload speeds, and you can’t edit or comment on these documents as easily. However, for sensitive data, it’s often worth the minor inconvenience.

1. Download Boxcryptor

To get Boxcryptor, go to its website and download it. You’ll also need a free account, which you can get online or in the desktop application.

dropbox sharing boxcryptor home page
Download Boxcryptor from its website.

2. Open the Boxcryptor folder

After the installation, there will be a new “Boxcryptor” folder on your computer. This will automatically contain any cloud storage folders, including Dropbox.

dropbox sharing boxcryptor folder
Dropbox will appear in the Boxcryptor folder.

3. Encrypt your file

To encrypt a file, enter your Dropbox folder through Boxcryptor, right-click on the file, open the “Boxcryptor” dropdown and select “encrypt.”

dropbox sharing boxcryptor encryption
Enter your Dropbox folder through Boxcryptor to encrypt the file.

4. Manage Boxcryptors permissions

Now you can go back into the “Boxcryptor” dropdown menu and select “manage permissions.” The new window it opens will allow you to give file access to other people. Enter the email addresses for their Boxcryptor accounts, select “OK,” then share the file through Dropbox as usual.

dropbox sharing boxcryptor permissions
You can manage Boxcryptor options and add users.

5. Use Whisply for sharing files

If the recipient doesn’t have Boxcryptor, you’ll need to go into the “Boxcryptor” dropdown menu and select “create Whisply link.” This gives the ability to decrypt the file to the individual you’re sharing with. You can even add an expiration date, password and download limits to the link to help protect it from cybercriminals.

dropbox sharing boxcryptor whisply
Use Whisply to share encrypted files with recipients who don’t have Boxcryptor.

Final Thoughts 

File sharing in Dropbox is made easy, even on the free plan. You can send requests, use either a shared link or an email to add individual people, and send large files to anyone through Dropbox Transfer. The optional permissions also allow you to control your data and keep it safe when sharing files and folders.

However, even though Dropbox does a decent job of keeping your files safe, it isn’t a zero-knowledge encryption service. To obscure your personal data from prying eyes, use encryption software like Boxcryptor before sharing anything.

Although Dropbox and Boxcryptor are great programs that work well together for sharing in the cloud, you may decide to try an alternative. There are many other encryption programs and cloud storage services that will let you share any file or folder while keeping your data safe.

Have you used Dropbox to share files and folders? What did you think of our step-by-step instructions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.

FAQ 

  • Can I Allow Others to Share Files to My Dropbox?

    With the “share” feature, any other Dropbox user can send you a file to view or edit. You can receive these as long as there is space to upload files to your account. There is also a “request” feature, which allows you to ask someone to share a document with you.

  • How Well Does Dropbox Work for Sharing Files and Folders?

    Dropbox makes it easy to share files and work with others. It also has good ways to limit unwanted edits, revert to previous file versions and request access to documents. Although it isn’t the only way to share data, it’s definitely one of the best for both personal and business use.