Dropbox Selective Sync Bug

Introduction

I got an email today (October 11th 2014) and it was from the Dropbox team about an error in their “selective sync” feature. The error reportedly occured yesterday. I had no idea what happened.

Here is the email:

Hi Matz,

We’re reaching out to let you know about a Selective Sync issue that affected a small number of Dropbox users. Unfortunately, some of your files were deleted when the Dropbox desktop application was shut down or restarted while you were applying Selective Sync settings.

Our team worked hard to restore files that were deleted from your account. You can see which of your files were affected and whether or not we’ve been able to restore them on this personalized web page.

We’re very sorry about what happened. There’s nothing more important to us than making sure your information is safe and always available. Our team has fixed the issue and put additional tests in place to prevent this from happening in the future.

We’re giving you Dropbox Pro for free for one year starting today, October 10, 2014. While we know it doesn’t make up for falling short of your expectations, we wanted to thank you for bearing with us. If you have any questions, please reply to this message or email us at selectivesync@dropbox.com. We’re here to help.

Sincerely,
– The Dropbox Team

Ok, so I was not expecting the day to start off like that. I was actually not expecting Dropbox to accidentally delete any of my files because they keep backups of the files and everything. Alright, let us assess the situation first before we panic. In the email I was given a link to the files what was selectively synced and unrecoverable

The Dropbox team asks me to review the files that could not be restored.

The Verdict

On closer inspection, the bug only affected 16 files that could not be restored, phew. And here I thought that the whole Dropbox was unrecoverable. So that’s good news, right? I head on to check the 16 files that could not be restored and I got the following

Oh wait, an empty list of “not restored files”, is this another bug?

Yeah, great. So, which files were not fully restored, then? What I would give for a link to the past or a Ocarina of Time right now ;-).

Ta da! (Montage: MatzJB).

I had a couple of ideas how to recover the files that were deleted, but the big problem is I don’t know which files were unrecovereable in the first place, so how could I recover them? So I checked my laptop, where I also have Dropbox installed. I rarely use my laptop, so I logged in and stopped Dropbox from syncing the first thing I did. I then copied the Dropbox folder. In this way I can check the files later and replace the ones Dropbox deleted.

Because of this crippling bug which could have potentially deleted everything on my Dropbox I was compensated with a “Dropbox Pro” account for a year. That’s actually very nice. I can now store 1 TB of data. How I am supposed to upload that amount of data from my crappy internet connection is a mystery to me. But it’s nice anyway.

Ah, I got a heart.

By the way, I love “The legend of Zelda”, and so does appearently Dropbox.

Dropbox loves Zelda and Nintendo

I saw this some time ago and unfortunately it had been reported about in 2012! So I’m really late noticing this, oh well. See http://www.themarysue.com/dropbox-loves-zelda/ for the story.

To see the Hylian shield, go to the “Help Center” and it will be the icon for “Security and Privacy”.

Link Hylian shield versus the Dropbox icon (source: IGN and Dropbox website).

I will go one step further and show that Dropbox really loves Nintendo. If you enter the Developer area you will be greeted with the following art depicting the American version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and also coins from the Super Mario Bros franchise.

The SNES (left) and the famous Mario Coin (right) in the developer’s area of the Dropbox website.

Conclusions and further read

The moral of this story is to always keep a backup, even if you are not using “selective sync”. Buy a harddrive and copy the Dropbox folder and everything else you want to keep. In that way you will be safe from any bugs that may pop up in the future. You can even store 2TB of data to Flickr. But please don’t be fooled. Bugs occur and they are part of all software. Famous Computer Scientist Edsger Dijkstra once said that debugging is the process of removing bugs then programming must be the process of putting them in.

Read also about my harddrive crashing: click here
Read a story about Dropbox selective sync deleting 8000 photos and not being able to recover them:
medium.com

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