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Northwestern University


What is Box?

Box is a cloud-based collaborative file storage and sharing service  available to faculty, staff and students. Weinberg College transitioned to Box for file sharing over the summer and fall of 2014. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Box.

How do I get started with Box?

How do I set up an individual account? 

  • Open your web browser and enter
  • Select "Continue." You will be redirected to the NU Passport login page, where you will be prompted to enter your NetID and password.
  • You will then need to agree to the terms of service and to follow computing guidelines before it finishes logging you in.

What login do I use for desktop and mobile apps?

  • You should use your Northwestern email address and no password. You will be redirected to the NU Passport login page, where you will use your NetID and password.

I already had a personal Box account tied to my Northwestern email address. How do I create a Northwestern Box account?

What operating systems work with Box?

  • Box Edit, Drive and Sync require macOS 10.12 "Sierra" or later and Windows 7 or later. The Box web interface (not including Box Edit) will work with the current versions of most web browsers.

If I have a technical question about Box, who should I contact?

Are there other ways to access my files besides the Northwestern Box site?

  • Weinberg College IT recommends the Box Drive client, which allows you to see all of your Box files and folders similar to a network file server. There are also official Box mobile apps you can find in your appropriate app store.

What is the main difference between Box Drive and Box Sync?

  • Sync allows you to sync selected folders down to your computer similar to Dropbox. Drive, however, allows you to see all of your Box files and folders much like a network file server. Additionally, Drive has a powerful search component built in. Box plans to phase out support for Sync.

Can I have both Box Drive and Box Sync on my computer?

  • No, Box does not permit you to have both on the same computer for technical reasons.

Does Box Drive have offline support?

  • Drive does not currently have offline support, although this will be added in the future. If offline access to files is absolutely necessary, we recommend using Sync until such time as Drive adds this functionality.

What is Box Edit?

  • Box Edit lets you create and edit files directly on the Box website using the native apps installed on your computer (such as Microsoft Office), and can be installed on Windows or Mac. To use Box Edit, right-click the file you'd like to open. In the drop down menu, select "Open with..." This will open the file for you in the correct program, and all changes will be saved to Box.

I installed Box Edit, but it's not working. What happened?

  • After installing Box Edit, you have to approve the plugin for use in your web browser. Firefox, for example, will show a bar at the top of the browser window asking for this approval.

How do I upload files to Box?

  •  The two most common ways to upload files and folders are via the web interface or by placing them into Box Drive.

Should my data go to Box? Should my lab's data?

  • Non-sensitive data should go into Box.
  • You are encouraged to store sensitive data in Box by utilizing our SAFER application. More information on getting your sensitive folders registered in SAFER is available here.
  • Box currently has an individual file size limit of 15GB. If you have files that are larger than this, they cannot be stored in Box at this time. As an alternative, we recommend the Research Data Storage Service for high-capacity storage of research data. This service is hosted at Northwestern datacenters and supports storage of all types of data, including PHI and identifiable human subject research data.

How do I share a file or folder?

  • There are two ways to share data:
    • If you are sharing a file or folder with other Box users for a long period of time, it is best to invite them as collaborators. If you invite someone who does not have a Box account to collaborate, they will be invited to join Box. This is also the way to share data if you need to give someone the ability to edit files. We strongly recommend inviting people as collaborators when possible.
    • If you need to quickly share a file or folder with someone, you can send them a shared link. The default for shared links is that they are available to "People in your company." This means that, by default, anyone with a Northwestern Box account could access a shared link. Please be aware of this when sharing links. Consider changing your shared links to have an expiration date or only allow "People in this folder," which allows only people who are already collaborators to access the link.

How do I invite non-Northwestern individuals as collaborators?

  • You can collaborate with non-Northwestern individuals by using Box's sharing functionality as normal.
    • Right-click the file or folder you want to share.
    • Go down to the Sharing sub-menu and choose "Invite Collaborators."
    • Enter in the email addresses of everyone with whom you would like to share the folder.

How do I access organizational or shared folders via my Box account?

  • First, ask the owner of the organizational folder to share the folder with you.
  • You will receive an email alerting you that you have been added to a folder on Box. The email will contain a "View Folder" button, which will open the folder in your web browser.
  • When your web browser opens, you will be prompted to login to Box's web interface. Please see above if you have not already set up your individual Box account.
  • The folder will also show up in the Box Drive application.
  • The default settings for Northwestern's Box accounts are to automatically accept all collaboration invitations. You can adjust this setting in "Account/Content & Sharing" if you would prefer not to auto-accept.

I'm the owner of an organizational account. What are the best practices for sharing folders and sub-folders?

  • Box allows you to invite colleagues to folders in one of seven different roles. Each role has a different level of access and ability to edit content. When sharing a folder or sub-folder, consider how your colleague will need to interact with the files. Is view-only sufficient? Will he or she need to edit or add files?
  • Folders in Box follow "waterfall" permissions. If a collaborator has access to a top-level folder, he or she will be able to access all files and folders within that folder. You can invite collaborators to sub-folders within a top-level folder. However, granting permissions on a sub-folder level creates a more challenging environment to navigate and manage.
  • We recommend structuring your folders to allow for top-level folders to be shared. Sharing folders in this way allows for greater clarity of permissions and ease of navigation for you and your colleagues. As you create new folders or files around the same project or process, your collaborators will be able to see and engage with the shared content more easily.
  • If you choose to use shared links, we strongly recommend giving the links an expiration date OR setting them to only allow "People in this folder" to access them.

When should I send a shared link instead of sharing a folder?

  • Shared links allow the recipient to view and download the specific document you sent, but he or she cannot edit the document. Shared links are best for sending documents that don't require ongoing collaboration.

Does Box support file versioning?

  • Yes, you can access the version history of documents via your Box webpage.

How do I lock and unlock files?

  • If you are working on a file that you share with other collaborators, you can lock the file to prevent anyone else from making changes or uploading new versions. When in the Box web interface, right-click the file you want to lock. You will see a "Lock File" option, which will allow you to prevent others from editing or downloading the file while you are working on it. You will also have the option to set a time limit for how long the file will be locked. If you do not set a time limit, you will need to right-click on the file and choose the “Unlock File” option when you are done editing.
  • You can lock files directly in Box Drive or Sync. Right-click on the file in your Drive or Sync folder, select either "Box > Lock file" or "Box Sync > Lock" as appropriate. A small lock icon will appear to indicate that the file is locked. To unlock the file, right-click on the file and select either "Box > Unlock file" or "Box Sync > Unlock.

Can collaborators edit files at the same time?

  • Yes, if everyone edits the files via Box and Office Online. When using Office Online with Box for the first time, you will be prompted for your NetID and password.
  • Alternatively, you can use Box Notes for simple collaborative note-taking. Box Notes can only be edited in the Box web interface and by using the Box Notes for Desktop application.

Are my Box files backed up? How can I restore them?

  • Yes. Box features a Trash that allows you to recover files and folders that have been deleted. By default, all deleted items will be moved to the Trash location of your account and will be purged after 60 days.  The Trash can be accessed on the left navbar in the Box web interface.

The files I use are all in different folders. Can I create shortcuts to make them easier to access?

  • You can use Box Bookmarks to easily create a folder full of links to your favorite files.

How can I use Box to enhance collaboration with my colleagues?

How do I access Box from my mobile device?

  • Box has official applications for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry, downloadable from each platform's App Store.
  • There are a variety of third-party apps that can be granted direct access to your Box account for interaction with your files. If you have difficulty connecting a third-party app to Box, you may need to create and use an external password (see Known Issue #2 on this page.)

Does Weinberg IT host demos and Q&A sessions about Box?

  • Yes, we're happy to provide demos and work with you to understand how Box can best serve your needs. If you would like to request a demo for your department, please submit a service request via email or web.

If I delete a folder in Box Drive or Box Sync, is it deleted in the web interface?

  • Yes, a folder that is deleted in Box Drive or Sync will be deleted in Box.
  • To remove a folder from Box Sync without deleting it from Box, right click on the folder and select "Box Sync > Unsync."

How do I see who else is a collaborator on a shared folder or file?

  • When viewing a file in the web interface, you can click the collaboration icon (if present) to view all collaborators on a file. This will include all collaborators who have access at a higher-level folder.

On my Box webpage, how do I see the date a file was created?

  • Windows: Right-click on the file and choose Properties to see the Creation Date.
  • Mac: Ctrl-click on the file and choose Get Info to see the Creation Date.
  • If you have files on your computer that you would like to move to Box and need the Creation Date maintained, please use Box Drive or Sync to upload the files. More information can be found here on Box file timestamps.

How do I disable notifications in the web interface?

  • Click on your initials (or picture) in the upper right corner of your Box web page.
  • Click on "Account Settings."
  • Select "Sharing" from the bar at top and scroll down to access the email notification options for your account.

How do I upload my iWork files to Box?

  • Mac "package" files can only be uploaded via the Box Sync client. This includes (but is not limited to) many iWork files, applications, and .pkg files. Unlike Microsoft Office files, iWork files cannot be edited via the Box web interface. This Box support page has more information. You may also be able to save iWork files as a single file rather than a package.

I'm a Linux user. How do I access Box?

  • There is no Box Drive or Sync client for Linux at this time. In addition to the web page, you can mount your Box data folder directly using WebDAV (although Box will be deprecating WebDAV support at the end of January 2019). You will need to create an external password to use with WebDAV (see Known Issue #2 on the linked page).

How do I synchronize my files to my computer?

Dropbox lets me synchronize files with a folder on my computer. How do I do this with Box?

  • The Box Sync client is available on Mac and Windows for this purpose. Log in with your Northwestern email address and no password. You will be redirected to the NU Passport login page, where you will enter your NetID and password.

I installed Box Sync, but the folder I want isn't syncing down from the website. What's happening?

  • Folders don't sync down by default - you need to choose which folders you want to sync to your account. See Box's  page for instructions.

Can I sync different subsets of folders and files to different computers that are logged in with the same account?

  • No, the sync settings are tied to the account and not the computer.

How can I choose a different location for my Box Sync folder?

  • You can only customize folder settings when you first install Box Sync. Uninstalling and reinstalling the Box Sync client will allow you to choose a new location. Please be sure to follow the Box Sync to ensure that you uninstall Box Sync fully.

What is the Box behavior when deleting files and folders from the Sync folder on my computer?

Box Sync is telling me my files can't be synced. What's going on?

  • There are a number of reasons your files may not be syncing. Please see Box's Problem File Notifications page for details on your particular error message.

How many files should I sync?

  • Under some circumstances, performance may degrade as the number of files that you sync increases. We do not recommend syncing more than you need and no more than 70,000 files or 20GB of data.

I just installed Box Sync. Why aren't my files appearing?

  • There will be some delay for the initial sync after a folder is marked as a Sync Folder. The delay will depend on the number of files in the folder. A folder containing many thousands of files could take hours or longer to sync. When performing the initial sync, we recommend leaving the desktop on overnight. This will require the user to be logged in, although the computer should be locked.

I am collaborating with users in China, who have reported that they cannot access Box. What should I do?

  • As a workaround, please have the collaborators in China visit (please make sure to connect with https).

Where can I find additional information about how to use Box?

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