How to Merge or Avoid Dropbox Conflicted Copy Files

Found yourself staring at conflicted copies in your Dropbox account? Not sure what to do about it? Don’t worry, it’s not going to be too painful to deal with, although it might require a bit of elbow grease to fully resolve. Either way, it’s most important to understand what caused the problem so it doesn’t happen again and waste your time (and the time of anyone else working on the file). Before you take further actions, start from removing duplicates in the big cloud folder. Download Clone Files Checker and put the synchronized folder to scan for dupes. The scan will take some time but after it is finished, you would’ve a cleaned up Dropbox. Get the Clone Files Checker here.

Duplicate files in dropbox
avoid conflicted copies in dropbox

Understanding the problem

Conflicted copies arise most commonly because two people have attempted to edit a file at the same time from different locations. Each person has a copy open, makes changes, and tries to save those changes, ultimately creating a conflict which Dropbox simply isn’t equipped to resolve. Instead of making an assumption and deleting one version, or attempting to merge the two versions on its own, Dropbox creates conflicted copies to preserve the work done from the different locations.

How to remove conflicted copies of Dropbox files

If you simply wish to cleanly delete the conflicted variants of your document and continue with the existing primary document, that’s simple enough to do; just make sure you don’t have any conflicting versions still networked in from other locations, the delete the conflicting versions from Dropbox. The problem should be done then and there.

For more stubborn cases, or when you’re not entirely sure where the conflicted file is originating from, you can remove the folder containing the files from Dropbox, moving it all local, delete what you don’t want, then return the folder to Dropbox. Everything should sync up properly at this point. If you still have problems, you’ll need to take the time to figure out every account accessing the file and hosting a version, remove the version from Dropbox to a single local system, delete all the other versions, then re-upload to Dropbox.

How to merge Dropbox files that have become conflicted

Now, if you want to preserve both sets of changes, that’s going to be a little more tricky. Dropbox doesn’t have any built-in solutions for such a situation, so you’re going to need to work it out with third party tools or a manual solution. This can be a major pain or very easy, depending on what sort of file you’re looking at, how familiar you are with iteration software for that file type, and how many differences exist between the versions.

In a worst-case scenario, you’ll need to manually adjust one version to contain all of the appropriate content from the variants, then follow the previous set of instructions to delete the redundant versions. This can be very time consuming, but may be your only option if you want to preserve everything from two or more conflicted files.

Avoiding future conflicted copies

Once you’ve resolved the issue one way or another, you’re going to want to take steps to avoid this in the future. Whether the issue arose because two or more people worked on the document at the same time or because you had it open on multiple systems, there’s three ways to prevent it moving forward:

  • Improve communication between collaborators.
  • Move documents being worked on to a different subfolder, so everyone knows not to touch them.
  • Move documents from Dropbox to a local folder while they’re being worked on, so nothing can possibly interfere.

And there you have it—simple solutions to a common difficulty with Dropbox (and many similar backup and file sharing solutions). If mistakes are made again, and conflicted copies pop up, you’ll know exactly what to do next time.