Running Dropbox as a service on Windows Server 2008

Why you might ask? A perfectly valid and sane question, let me explain. Right now I’m setting up continuous integration for both an Azure project and an Android project. I’ve covered my struggle with the Azure project in an earlier post. But now it was time to get the Amazon EC2 Windows Server 2008 with TeamCity to build an Android project and publish the resulting apk file to a folder in sync with Dropbox. The problem is that Dropbox will only sync when started in an active desktop session, so if you log out from the server the syncing stops – this was a problem…

thinking

Why am I writing this?

As always when face with a very specific unusual problem – Internet is your friend. So I could just have left it there and allowed you to find the answer the same way I did. The thing is that the solution to my problem was a mashup of several standalone solutions presented on the web. So my idea is to summarize what I did hoping that it will help anyone facing the same problem.

What I did

So here are the steps that I took in order to get everything working. Quite a few steps but I wanted it detailed enough so that anyone could follow.

  1. Right click the Dropbox icon in your system tray and select Preferences
  2. Deselect Show desktop notifications
  3. Deselect Start Dropbox on system startup
  4. Download and install Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. It will warn you about incompatibility, but you can safely ignore this (or at least I did).
  5. Open the Command Console (Run –> cmd).
  6. Enter sc create DropboxService binPath= C:Program Files (x86)Windows Resource KitsToolssrvany.exe DisplayName= "Dropbox Service"
  7. Open RegEdit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesDropboxService
  8. Create a new key named Parameters
  9. Create a string value called Application and enter the full path to your Dropbox executable. Typically C:Users****AppDataRoamingDropboxbinDropbox.exe
  10. Open Services (Start Menu –> Administrative Tools –> Services)
  11. Locate your Dropbox Service, right click and select properties.
  12. Set the service to Autostart
  13. Under the Log on tab, check Allow service to interact with desktop.
  14. Press Apply
  15. Start the service
  16. You will get a popup asking for permissions to display the Dropbox configuration – Accept.
  17. Add your user info

Done!

Thoughts…

Well yes, I realize that this is not how Dropbox was intended to be used. But it surprised me that the only way, at least that I could find, was to hack away with toolkits, console applications and the registry. I’m not really counting on that there will be an easier way in the future. So this post is as much for me to remember how I did it, so that I won’t have to figure it out again, as for helping anyone else in a similar situation.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Hi…

    I blogged about this on older servers last year (http://www.craig-parsons.com/2010/08/15/drop-box-on-a-server/) , and have never got around to setting it up on my W2K8 server (I just left a session logged in). I will update that blog soon.

    But just so you know I had a minor problem with instructions. Upon trying to start the Dropbox Service, I would get an error message reading: “The system cannot find the file specified.”

    A little bit of investigation revealed that srvany.exe wasn’t installed in Sys32 for me, but instead in:

    C:Program Files (x86)Windows Resource KitsTools

    Which would need reflecting in Step 6! After this it all worked brilliantly. Thanks again.

  2. Hi Craig,

    That was an error on my part, corrected now. :-)
    Thanks for the heads up!

    / P

  3. Peter (& Craig)

    Thanks so much. I went prowling for an answer for our SBS Essentials 2011 Box so that our interns can access certain files nested a few directories down in Dropbox. Thanks so much for the step by step!

  4. Hi Craig, great article ..

    I just have one problem – everything is running smoothly until I get to the registry part .. The dropbox folder is not visible in there ?
    any thoughts on that ?

  5. Henrik,

    I would say that something went wrong during step 6. Did you get any success message when running the sc command?

  6. The reason Step 6 fails is because of the miss use of quotes.

    Here is the new Step 6 :)

    sc create DropboxService binPath= “C:Program Files (x86)Windows Resource KitsToolssrvany.exe” DisplayName= “Dropbox Service”

  7. Dropbox is a nice way to transfer your files from one PC to another. But I’m also agree with one thing- Dropbox will only sync when started in an active desktop session, so if you log out from the server the syncing stops – thats the main problem…

  8. Just tried this on Windows 7 and it works.
    Small change was that i have used the credentials of the windows account on which dropbox was installed in the service log on tab.

    1. …same for me on Server2012-64
      The “check Allow service to interact with desktop. ” will not work (for any Server product >2008?)
      and you will get a “Service Control Manager 7030” after some seconds.

      Simply add a valid user account/passwd.

      Thanks anyway! Stephan

  9. Excellent tuto! Now I can be confident that my backups are copied everywhere.
    As someone else mentioned above, there are some minor syntax errors, fixed them easily and working like a charm.
    Thanks.

  10. Sir,
    I m sorry to disturb you all but unfortunately I am not able to configure dropbox as SYSTEM SERVICE on my windows 2008 Server (32 bit).
    The application keeps on crashing while trying to link.

    please help out .

  11. You can also make this happen creating a Windows task scheduler. Had to use this for DropBox and QB Intuit Data Protect. Silly these things are not made to run as services from the beginning.

    Anyways, thanks!

  12. Is there a way to open the dropbox application after this is done so you can choose weather to sync a folder or not?

  13. When trying to start the service it says “The system cannot find the file specified” I have followed the instructions but do I need to change the registry key to be C:Program Files (x86)Windows Resource KitsTools instead of the dropbox in appdata?

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