File duplication complications with Cloud, Mac and Windows combo

File duplication complications with Cloud, Mac and Windows combo

Summary: When running Dropbox, Mac OS X and Windows together, one wrong setting can quickly fill up all available disk space. Not a good thing.


A recent post on the Parallels blog discusses an interesting "rookie" mistake when bringing Dropbox into a familiar Mac and Windows workflow. I found a slight strain in credulity with this post, since the author is Mary Starman, Parallels' director of product marketing. But it could happen, per Murphy's Law.

File duplication complications with Cloud, Mac and Windows combo

Even though Starman said she made one of the "biggest hard drive hog mistakes," her problem is one that could easily crop up when adding a cloud service. It's a good story, real or not.

Starman said she usually works in Coherence mode, which is natural. It's an interesting feature of Parallels, letting users hide the Windows desktop. Windows elements are combined into Mac UI and presented to the user. For example, the Mac Dock in Coherence Mode can show Windows applications. This lets users move back and forth between applications in both Windows and Mac OSes.

But then Starman added Dropbox to the workflow. This was on a MacBook Air with limited SSD space.

Now, Dropbox is a perfectly lovely service that solves a lot of storage and sharing issues. However, I inadvertently installed it on both my Mac and in my Windows VM. Didn’t think anything of it. Until I started running out of space since these shared files weren’t small. They were video files and large graphics intensive files.

Suddenly I was out of space and trying to figure out why. As many of you can probably guess, it was because every time I would sync files they were getting duplicated both on my Mac and in my virtual machine. Doh.

Of course, cloud support is one of the major new features in Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac introduced last summer. Folks using the older Version 8 (or even Version 7) should consider upgrading if they add a cloud service to their workflow.

Now, if you're sharing files with Dropbox, it's easy to start seeing duplicates, as mentioned in this post on the Super User blog.

My Dropbox keeps making duplicate copies of files, e.g. Becker Job and saving it as Becker Job(1). What is causing this and how do I stop it?

The answer says that these duplicates aren't in the Dropbox edit conflict format, which is (Username's conflicted copy yyyy-mm-dd). So, it's not Dropbox making the dups. Instead, it's the standard file system duplication that adds a number to avoid an overwrite. The poster says that this could be Windows, but OS X does the same thing.

The tip here for Mac managers is to check out the Edit Conflict handling format for whatever cloud file-sharing service you're working with. This will help you to eyeball duplicates easily and see where the problem is originating.

Topics: Apple, Storage, Virtualization, Windows

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  • you should just switch to OneDrive

    Dropbox is so 2010.
  • Huh?

    If I'm reading this right, you're talking about two completely different things. The first part with parallels is nothing more than an ad spot in a blog to be honest. Of course you're going to have two of every file if you install dropbox on both the windows and mac sides. Parallels is simply giving an example to sell their product's new features and now zdnet is.

    The thing is that the files are not actually duplicates but there are two of the same files on the same hardware. Calling them duplicates is really misleading and then in adding the last part to the article makes it worse. These are really two different topics but the author here is leading people to believe it's the same or related.

    Think about it this way...if you had OSX installed in Parallels you wouldn't say that you have duplicate TextEdit or Activity Monitor apps. In the situation that was described in the Parallels blog if you jumped on the dropbox website and logged into your account, you would not see duplicate files.

    At the end of the day this article is misleading but I will admit could be useful for some. It's just that the first and second part should be separated out so that it doesn't read as if the second is a troubleshooting step to the first.