Possible permanent fix for Dropbox updates

Hey guys!

I just want to let you know that I might have found a solution to the always coming back Dropbox update issue.

If you want to skip the technical explanation, just skip to the end and see, how you can help :)

Here is a quick reminder why Dropbox updates are bad for DropboxPortableAHK:
Starting with version after 1.1.45, Dropbox started to encrypt their database. This made it impossible for DropboxPortableAHK to change the Dropbox folder path.
That’s why DropboxPortableAHK tries to prevent Dropbox from updating itself no matter what, because if Dropbox succeeds to update itself it will encrypt the database on the next start and DropboxPortableAHK can not modify the Dropbox path anymore.

Then, DropboxPortableAHK will start the setup again and you basically have to start from scratch. This is obviously pretty annoying.

Over the past few weeks, I put many hours into figuring out why Dropbox might succeed to update itself on some of your machines and did never – even with the basic update prevention – on any of mine. I had no luck, I did not come up with anything.

However, I instead found a new way to possibly prevent any new Dropbox update. On startup, Dropbox looks into its database to see what the last time was when it checked for updates.
If this time is too long in the past, then it will check for updates again. So, to prevent it from even checking if there is a new version available, DropboxPortableAHK can set the “last time Dropbox checked for updates” value to a time far in the future.
This way, Dropbox always thinks it already has checked for new updates and will skip this during its execution alltogether.

But there is still the possibility of Dropbox checking for updates. This is, because Dropbox resets the value in its database on startup to 0 and thus will always check for updates the first time it connects to the server.
There is a little timeframe between Dropbox resetting its value and trying to check for updates. This is when DropboxPortableAHK needs to modify the database in order to skip the update check. To be able to do this, it is possibly best to just write to the database every few milliseconds during startup of Dropbox. After a few minutes of running, we can stop this and stop wasting CPU usage and possibly slowing down the computer if the database is on a slow media (like slow USB drives).

How can you help:
It would be great if there were a few users willing to test this version for a few weeks before I release it to the public.
The code should be safe, but as I mentioned earlier, it might slow down the computer (or just Dropbox) during startup of DropboxPortableAHK.

So, if you want to test this beta version, please send me an email through the contact page or reply as a comment providing your email address (which will be hidden from others).

43 thoughts on “Possible permanent fix for Dropbox updates

  1. I would be more than happy to test. I currently run the application on a SanDisk flashdrive and start it up from Portable Apps. I typically will exit the application when I see it trying to update as I don’t want to take the chance it might succeed.

  2. I’d be willing to test this beta. Although, I have been using 2-3 simultaneous instances of AHK for several years now and have never had Dropbox update on me. Come to think of it, I run those AHK instances alongside one full version of Dropbox and always have. I wonder if Dropbox updating my full version precludes it checking the AHK versions? That might be an interesting study as well. Either way, if you want me to help with the beta, I’m willing.

    HP Pavillion M7, 128GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Windows 8, 64bit, currently 2 instances of AHK v1.1.45 and one instance of Dropbox v2.4.11 each on delayed startup via Soluto.

    • Usually, people have more issues with updates if they run the regular Dropbox setup without update prevention alongside DropboxPortableAHK with update prevention.
      The regular Dropbox might get confused about where it is stored and update a DropboxPortableAHK instance.

    • Thank you for the development of this marvellous portable program! I’d like to test this new version for help you to further improve DBportableAHK.

    • I’m getting the same behavior with my portable version as well. It started this morning. It simply says it cannot establish a secure connection.

  3. Q:I’ve been using Dropbox to share files between computers for about a year now with no trouble. Now within the last couple days I get the message “Can’t establish secure connection” on my MacBook, even with no proxies and firewall turned off. I have Dropbox 1.1.45 installed. What solution am I missing?

    A:Please update you are running a very old version. The current version is 2.6.27

    A2:That worked. Thank you! I love simple solutions :)

  4. Nick, thanks for your amazing work for all these years. However, your work on permanent fix for Dropbox updates was done in vain. It seems that Dropbox has killed off old versions – at least 1.1.45 is now dead and won’t connect to Dropbox servers (even though internet connection is available and DropboxPortableAHK detects it without any problems).

    It could be possible that they did it, because of the Heartbleed OpenSSL issue. However, a quick look trough Dropbox 1.1.45 executable revealed that it’s using version from 2007 – 0.9.8e. It is possible that LAN sync in newer (but not recent) versions was vulnerable to Heartbleed attack, so they’ve decided that if they’re puling the plug on older versions, they might as well kill of 1.1.45.

    • I’ve never seen this error message showing up. And I’ve used Dropbox Portable AHK for quite some time (maybe it’s even 2 years now).

      Do you really think, it is a coincidence, that this error message started showing up a few days after the most dangerous issue with the whole internet was made public? I don’t think so.

      I, personally, am waiting until Monday (tomorrow) and if the situation is unchanged, I will have to upgrade and use latest version of Dropbox client.

  5. there is hope:)

    Seen on the contact page of DropboxAHK Website :

    Dropbox says “Can’t establish a secure connection”
    This is a known issue at the moment. Please be patient and wait a few days to see if this issue goes away. I already got a bunch of emails regarding this and I am facing the same issue.
    I will try to find something out over the weekend and publish a new post on the website on Monday, April 14th 2014.

    Wait until Monday, perhaps i’ll find a solution.

  6. Nick, I’d be more than happy to help with the beta testing. I can devote a little time between now and mid-May. After that I can assist in whatever way you need.

  7. Well, unless this was already thought of, maybe you can discuss this problem with the secure connection and folder encryption with the dropbox developers, and see if you can either find a workaround to this, or work with them to develop a better portable dropbox

    Though I will be saddened if this portable dropbox closes down, this was essential to my passing through community college; I stuck with this program since before this new website came into being, and ill be damned if I give up on it now

  8. Have you considered seeking out a security expert to reverse engineer the encryption? It sounds like it’s just a deterrent to tampering; the key should be stored in the Dropbox executable and I doubt it changes between versions.

    • If I remember correctly, the encryption Dropbox uses on Windows is connected to the local Windows user account. This means it might be possible to break the encryption on a local computer, but you still could not use the same DropboxPortableAHK on a different computer / Windows account.

  9. Cuenta conmigo para testear el software. Lo uso en dos sitios diferentes. En el trabajo instalado en un disco portable, y en mi casa, instalado en el disco duro.
    Gracias por tu excelente y desinteresado trabajo!!!!

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