macOS 12.3 will break cloud storage features used by Dropbox and OneDrive

If you use Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive to sync files on a Mac, you should pay attention to macOS 12.3 current beta release notes: The update deprecates a kernel extension used by both apps to download files on demand. The extension means the files are available when you need them, but don’t take up space on your disk when you don’t need them. Apple says “both service providers have replacements for this feature currently in beta.”

Microsoft and Dropbox both started alerting users to the change even before the macOS beta dropped. The Dropbox page is relatively sparse. The page informs users that Dropbox’s online-only file feature will be discontinued in macOS 12.3 and that a beta version of the Dropbox client with a fix will be released in March.

Microsoft documentation for OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature is more detailed. He explains that Microsoft will use Extensions from Apple’s File Provider For future versions of OneDrive, the new Files On-Demand feature will be enabled by default and Files On-Demand will be supported in macOS 12.1 and later.

The warning email Dropbox sent to Mac users earlier this week.
Enlarge / The warning email Dropbox sent to Mac users earlier this week.

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In addition to better integrating with the Finder (also explained by Microsoft here), using modern Apple extensions should reduce the number of nasty permission requests each app generates. Extensions should also reduce the likelihood that a buggy or compromised kernel extension could expose your data or damage your system. But this move will also make these apps a little less flexible. Microsoft says the new version of Files On-Demand cannot be disabled. This can be confusing if you expect to have a complete copy of your saved data on your disk even when you are offline.

This isn’t the only time Dropbox and OneDrive have fallen behind in supporting new macOS features. Both companies only released Apple Silicon versions of their customers over the past two months.

Betas for macOS 12.3 and iOS/iPadOS 15.4 add a handful of other notable features, following releases earlier this week that focused primarily on security improvements and bug fixes. The macOS 12.3 beta adds support for Universal Control, the feature that lets you seamlessly use multiple Macs or iPads together. Universal control was announced in June 2021 at WWDC and was briefly present in the first round of Monterey betas before being almost entirely removed from the final version. The iOS and iPadOS 15.4 betas add support for FaceID which can be unlocked by users wearing a mask with no Apple Watch required. Two years after the start of a pandemic, it is a bit late to add this feature, but late is better than never.

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