Looking for best practices for multiple computers

I use two laptops every day, one at work and one at home. Both macs, both sharing everything crucial via dropbox.

Well, I learned from the Taking Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink that my use of dropbox to keep my DTPO databases updated (just folder syncing, not using the syncing services) was dangerous, and i’m looking to find a new scenario.

I attempted to setup new local folders for databases on each machine and then use the Dropbox sync feature, but it appears that my database never makes it all the way to dropbox, and nothing is brought back down to the destination laptop when I attempt to import a database from dropbox.

I am likely missing something with how to use the dropbox syncing services via DTPO 2.8.2 on one Mavericks and one Yosemite system, but it occurs to me that i should start back at zero and get advice from those here as to best practices.

Essentially my scenario is that i’d like to do collecting and light organization of new research on my work computer, but deliver these elements back to a personal laptop for deeper development etc for longterm cultivation. And I’d like to avoid practices that might destroy my data!

I’m doing research on a book that has a tremendous amount of online/pdf/etc resources, including images. On a given day i don’t necessary need that much with me when collecting resources while at my workplace, but would like to deposit it within my personal laptop’s larger database so that i can have all of my resources together. So maybe “sneaker net” instead of sync is a solution, importing the day’s collected elements into a primary database?

My primary database also has extensive indexing of folders full of plaintext files so that I can search for them along with the research.

I look forward to advice from the DT geniuses!


Just a quick note: There is an issue with Sync that could affect Dropbox Syncing that will be fixed in the next maintenance release.

In the meantime, what version of syncing is currently the most stable/easy for a database around 2GB?


Pending the next maintenance release, you could Sync to a sync store on a portable drive, updating the sync store by syncing to it after a work session at each location. Given the sizes of my databases and the slowness of my own Internet access, I wouldn’t use Dropbox but would follow this approach if I were in your situation.

To protect data integrity, use a good backup system at each location. I use Time Machine, rotating backups every few days among two portable drives, one of which is stored offsite in my bank safety deposit box. In your circumstances, you would have backups of your computer data at two locations, which greatly reduces the probability of total data loss.

No backup utility (except DEVONthink’s Database Archive procedure) checks your databases for possible errors before making backups. For that reason, it’s a good idea to run Tools > Verify & Repair on your databases every few days or so (or immediately if something flaky happens).

Another good habit is to do preventive maintenance on the operating system and computer. Every few weeks I run Disk Utility’s procedures to Verify Preferences and Verify Disk. I’ve had my MacBook Pro Retina with 500 GB SSD for about a year and a half. Six times, Verify Disk has detected disk errors that required correction. If I had ignored that preventive maintenance the odds of data loss or a drive crash would have escalated as errors cascaded.

And every couple of weeks or so, I run a utility to perform OS X maintenance routines and help keep the operating system clean and fast. I use C0cktail, but also recommend the free OnyX utility. Be sure that the maintenance utility, which gives a user-friendly interface to maintenance routines otherwise available via the Terminal app, has been updated to the version of OS X installed on the computer.

Habits such as these are cheap insurance. They don’t require a great deal of time and effort. The payoff is that my databases are very stable, and although I haven’t had to resort to a backup in years, they are available if needed. Bad Things can and do happen.

This is extremely helpful, and I think will work better than what i had in mind with Dropbox to begin with. Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful suggestions!

I regularly work on three different computers and have used DTPO for the last 8 years. My setup since then has been: the research database (now 35 GB) is on my main machine at home and I sync it with a mobile drive when I leave and when I come home. Away from home or when I am using my laptop, I work on the mobile drive. I can unconditionally recommend this setup with some caveats:

  • use the native HFS±file system on the mobile drive by all means (not the Windows FAT-system as I once had)
  • go for a mobile disk with USB3- or Thunderbolt-connections
  • use a SSD-drive (together with Thunderbolt this makes such a difference!)

Hope this helps,


Nils, what method are you using to sync your mobile drive? DEVONthink Sync? And, what is your strategy for backup for the research database?

No, I use a software called “Synchronize! X Plus” because I sync also my reference library and all current research documents in one go. It synchronizes only those parts of the DTPO-database which have been changed or added (files, metadata etc.), and DTPO has been okay with this the past 6 years.

I have a timemachine-drive connected to my main machine and also a backup of my data in the cloud (and hope that the encryption answers to the promised level of security).



I have the same problem except I cannot get even the first sync with Dropbox to work. The sync keeps failing.