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Setting up MAMP and Dropbox

I realise that there are quite a few tutorials out there that show you how to set up MAMP on your Mac, take this great video series by Chris Coyier for example - First Moments with MAMP, but since these days there a few people that DON'T design on multiple computers, I set about trying to figure out a way to synchronise my local WordPress databases with across multiple computers with Dropbox.

I found a great article on a blog called StuckTogetherWithTape (update 19th September 2020: it appears this link is no longer available but it used to be on how to do this and I'll walk you through this method in the video. Even if you don't work on multiple computers you should do this for backup purposes anyway, just in case your hard drive crashes. In this tutorial, we'll go through...

  1. Briefly why you should be using MAMP

  2. Changing the preferences in MAMP

  3. Backing up your website files

  4. Using Symbolic Link to copy the actual WordPress database to Dropbox

The link to the Symbolic Linker that I mention in the video is here... Symbolic linker.


  1. author's avatar Peter Cardwell says:

    Thanks for this – had already set symlink for the htdocs folder, but didn’t know how to sync the db folder! Ace!

  2. author's avatar Tej says:

    Brilliant works a treat, thanks for the tip!

  3. Hi Jay,

    Lovely post thanks a lot.

    I’m having trouble with my 2nd machine being able to connect to mySQL. (this is my laptop which has a symbolic link of the symbolic link db)

    When I start MAMP the Apache server boots up but the mySQL server does not.

    Have you run into this same issue? Any advice about how I might be able to fix?

    Thanks a lot for any advice – really appreciate it.

  4.  I figured out the issue for anyone else having trouble syncing up the second machine.

    Both machines I’m using are running OSX 10.7.2. It seems in this OS that when you “cut” and “paste” a folder it only actually “copies” the folder into the new location and doesn’t actually “move” the folder to that new location. This was preventing the “symbolic linked” folder from working properly.

    To properly move the folders as outline in the video above use “Command + C” to copy and then use “Command + Option + V” to completely move the folder to the new location. This works a treat!

  5. really helpful, thank you

  6. author's avatar Ed says:

    Tried this several times on 10.7.4 Lion and current Dropbox version – didn’t work – the db symlink didn’t copy up to Dropbox even though it shows up on the source computer in the Dropbox folder correctly.  On the second computer the folder for the Dropbox “db” is empty.  Any ideas on this ? 

  7. author's avatar Aaron says:

    Very helpful, thanks for sharing!

  8. author's avatar Peter says:

    Hi, about to try this out. Great idea. The blog you link to is dead, but the text from it is available at, ie

  9. Thank you for this great VidTutorial!

  10. author's avatar Kristof says:

    Wow, amazing solution! Thanks mate!

  11. author's avatar Kevin says:

    thanks for this, all seems fine but on my second computer when I go to PHPMYadmin and select a DB there are no tables? looking in the DB folder they seem to be there are the site runs fine on my first computer? any help would be appreciated THANKS.

  12. author's avatar Kevin says:

    Ok so turns out I was running different versions of MAMP all works fine now

  13. author's avatar Chrisreeves1 says:

    Hi Jay, Thanks for the video. I’m having a small issue though. When I try to cut the newly created db symlink folder, “cut” is greyed out and not selectable. I can copy the file to another location but thats a copy and it doesn’t work. I thought it might be something to do with permissions but nothing i try in the “get info” window works. Any ideas?

  14. Hey Chris, you can only see ‘Cut’ on my screen because I’m using TotalFinder, a Finder extension which gives you a few extra things like that. You can actually just Cut and Paste in normal Finder though by using Cmd + C to copy, and then Cmd + Alt + V to move (AKA cut and paste). You’ll need at least OSX Lion to do this though. Good luck!

  15. author's avatar ollie says:

    Thanks Jay,  This is a great tutorial and have managed to sync my mac’s.  In addition I have also synced my Dreamweaver site definitions using the technique. Thank you once again 

  16. author's avatar ollie says:

    you can just use command + click and drag the folder that works a treat :))

  17. author's avatar brian says:

    Has anyone had an issue with not being able to log in to WP? My site is showing up correctly at localhost:8888/site/ , but when I try to login at localhost/site/wp-admin, nothing happens. 

    Did I miss something?

  18. Hi! Thanks for this great but simple video.
    I made everything requested but I have a persistent error. I’m trying to sync dbs with symlinks etc but it only works on a single computer. When I’m on another computer, I can read the dbs but the system can’t modify any db files: delete/write etc. For example: #1010 – Error dropping database (can’t rmdir ‘./bachelet’, errno: 66).

  19. Hi there! Thanks for this great but simple video.
    I’m trying to setup this dropbox/mamp environment but I’m stuck on one point: I can’t write on the db folder I symlinked on another computer. db is synced, can be read, but can’t be modified. Example: #1010 – Error dropping database (can’t rmdir ‘./dbtest’, errno: 66).
    Any idea?

  20. Hey Timothé, I’ve never had that problem I’m afraid! I’ve had this set up going on at least 3 computers without a hiccup, and now running Mountain Lion on everything. Sorry I can’t help :-(. If you find a solution though, try to post it here so it might help anyone else with the same problem!

  21. author's avatar Timothe Leroy says:

    Thanks! But nothing yet…

  22. author's avatar Diego Santamarta says:

    Thanks for the solution Jay, I did it first on my MacbookPro and works fine, but after in my iMac it works for static pages (no db) but for the other ones i get a 500 error. I’ve tryed many things and nothing works, I looked into the console log and nothing.

    Any idea?

  23. author's avatar Scott says:

    I am a bit stuck, I get to the point of renaming the symbolic link to DB in dropbox, but then the internal folders in the original DB DB symbolic inside Mamp disappear! I have rewatched video like 10 times…any suggestions?

  24. author's avatar scott says:

    Nevermind, saw this video and it showed me how I was naming things wrong in Dropbox.×0

  25. author's avatar Sean Michael says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! Are there any downsides to using this method to run MAMP? I’m wondering if the symbolic linking or dropbox syncing causes db import/exports to slow down. Also, I wonder if live-reload and codekit will function correctly, given that the theme folder is being stored on dropbox. I’m going to give it a shot. It took me forever to get my localhost directory onto dropbox (about 6 hours). That is something to consider if you have several gb of sites in this directory like I do, and also have work to get done.

  26. Hey Sean, I haven’t seen any downsides to syncing and I’ve been doing it for more than 2 years now. The only thing you need to watch out for is being disciplined to shut down MAMP on one machine before using it on another, else you get conflicted log files. I use LiveReload myself and have no issues with that since it’s just monitoring files.

    I can’t say I have GBs of dbs but I guess that will be a good stress test ;-)

  27. author's avatar Sean Michael says:

    Thanks for getting back to me, Jay. I’m all set up, and It’s working great so far! And thanks for the tip on shutting down MAMP.

  28. author's avatar Sean Michael says:

    So I found out the hard way that this method isn’t boding well with some InnoDB databases that I have in the folder (it’s creating a long error log). Have you ever heard of issues like this?

  29. Hi Sean,

    I’ve not had any issues, but then I don’t check the logs to be honest. I tend to treat my local databases as a bit throw-away; they’re just for testing things outside of a staging / production environment.

    I know everything still works though; whether there are error logs or not.

  30. Hi everyone. Great video Jay!

    I am having an issue with permissions on OSX Mountain Lion. I have created all the symlinks and everything is working but I cannot get the permissions on my dbsymlink to allow anything to published to it without authenticating first. And it doesn’t ask me to authenticate, it just stops the transfer.

    Any ideas? Anyone?


  31. Hi Jacob, I’ve made this set up on a few different machines running Mountain Lion and not had this issue. Does it prompt you for your admin password or something?

  32. It doesn’t actually prompt me. If I physically move it, it then prompts.

  33. author's avatar Andrew says:

    Hi Jay – Great tutorial. Nice work!

    So I have a MacBook Pro at home, but a PC at work. Do you know if this setup can be modified so I can work on my freelance WordPress projects between the two machines? With MAMP being Mac-only, I thought of XAMPP or WAMP for Windows, but neither of those, to my knowledge, references a “db” folder in the program directory the same way MAMP does. Still, a database is a database, and I can’t help but think there’s a way to go about this…

    Does anything come to mind? Are you aware of any blog posts or tutorials covering this scenario?


  34. Hey Andrew, I’m not aware of anything unfortunately. My advice would be to try and convince your employer to let you work on a Mac ;-). Sticking with a single OS is much better for workflow.

  35. author's avatar Spring Mountain says:

    Thank you for this video! It has truly helped me improve my local wordpress workflow. Very good delivery for an average computer user.

  36. author's avatar igloobob says:

    I’ve folowed the tutorial but not MySQL won’t connect any ideas what I might have done wrong? I moved my previous local site folders into the new Clients folder within my dropbox…


  37. author's avatar igloobob says:

    just deleted everything and started again and seemed to work. Must have been to do with me moving the databases I had set up before I followed this tutorial.

  38. author's avatar Martin Hyde says:

    Hi Jay, thanks for the brilliant tutorial. Just what i was looking for. Getting a Mac book air at the weekend :-)

  39. Nice :-), you’ll never go back.

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