Let’s just get this out of the way: I love Dropbox. I use it practically every day to synchronize files across my various Mac and PC desktops, and it’s an easy-as-pie way to share files and folders with anyone I choose.
But there’s one aspect of using Dropbox (click here to download and install the free Dropbox utility onto your system) that takes a little getting used to, especially for beginners: any file you drag from your desktop into your Dropbox folder is at the mercy of those in your private, hand-picked circle of Dropbox collaborators.
I’ll put another way: If I drop an Excel spreadsheet into a Dropbox folder I’ve shared with my wife, and my better half subsequently drags the spreadsheet out of our shared Dropbox folder and onto her own desktop, that Excel file will essentially (and instantly) disappear from my Dropbox—and, indeed, from my hard drive altogether, unless I happened to have made a copy of the file first.
The good news, though, is that there is a way to retrieve any file that’s been removed, edited, or otherwise deleted from your Dropbox.
The catch? If you’re using the free version of Dropbox, you must act within 30 days, or the deleted Dropbox file will be gone for good.
(Paid “Dropbox Pro” users can opt for a feature called Packrat, which stores older versions of your Dropbox files for as long as Packrat is enabled.)
- First, you’ll need to log onto your Dropbox account from the web. When you do, you’ll see a list of all the files and folders stored in your Dropbox, as well short list of links just to the left. Go ahead and click the one marked “Events.” Once you do, you’ll see a long list of absolutely every event that’s transpired in your Dropbox, from adding or deleting a file to renaming a folder.
- Next, find the file you want to restore in your Events feed. You can jump to a specific Dropbox sub-folder or date by clicking the drop-down menus in the upper-right corner of the page. Want to search instead? Go back to the Dropbox home page and perform an “advanced” search. (Make sure to check the “Deleted items” box before clicking the “Search” button).
- Found the file? Then click its name, and you’ll get its revision history on Dropbox, including any edits and its ultimate deletion from your Dropbox folder. Just select the version of the file you want to revive, then click the Restore button.
- With a few seconds, the restored file should reappear in your Dropbox.
You can quickly access the revision history for any existing Dropbox file by right-clicking it in your desktop Dropbox folder, then selecting “View previous versions” from the “Dropbox” menu.
Got more Dropbox questions, or any tips to share? Post ’em in the comments below. And in case you’re wondering, no—this isn’t a sponsored post. I’m a genuine Dropbox fan.