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Northwestern University


What is Box?

Box is a cloud-based file 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?

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

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 Subfolder Sync 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 documentation 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 75,000 files.

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.

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 in your Box Sync folder.

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

  • In general, your data can go to Box.
  • University policy does not allow use of Box for Protected Health Information (PHI) or identifiable human subject research data.
  • NUIT has established the Research Data Storage Service for high-capacity storage of research data. This service is hosted at NUIT's datacenters and supports storage of all types of data, including PHI and identifiable human subject research data.
  • Recognizing the benefits of using Box for all College operations, we are working closely with University leadership to ensure policies and practices support the use of all file sharing services, including Box, for data of all sensitivity levels.

How do I share a file or folder?

  • There are two ways to share data:
    • If you are sharing a 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 who does not need to be able to edit, 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 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 collaboration 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 these instructions if you have not already set up your individual Box account.
  • You will be able to see the contents of the organizational folder online. Please see these instructions regarding how to sync the folder to your computer using the Box Sync client.
  • 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 does file locking work? What if the files are downloaded with Box Sync?

  • 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.
  • You can lock files directly in Box Sync. You can right-click on the file in your Box Sync folder, select "Box Sync > Lock." A small lock icon will appear to indicate that the file is locked. To unlock the file, right-click on the file and select "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.

Are my files backed up?

  • 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. Files stored outside of Box can still be backed up using the CrashPlan service. The Trash can be accessed from the Box web interface:
    • Click on your name in the upper right corner of your Box web page.
    • Select Trash from the list to view your Trash.

How do I restore files and folders that have been deleted?

  • Files and folders can be restored for 60 days after deletion from the Trash via the Box web interface.
    • Check the box next to the file or folder you want to restore.
    • Click the Restore button further up the page.
    • Click Okay when asked if you're sure.
    • The file or folder will be restored to its original location.

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. The Box Mobile Help site has information on the capabilities of each platform's app.
  • 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.)

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.

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

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

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

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 Sync, does it delete in the web interface?

  • Yes, a folder that is deleted in Box Sync will be deleted in Box. However, the behavior does vary slightly if it's a collaborative folder. If a collaborative folder is deleted via Box Sync, you will receive a warning message.
  • 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?

  • When viewing a folder in the web interface, you can see all the collaborators listed along with their role on the right-hand side of the page.

What operating systems work with Box?

  • Box Edit and Box Sync require OS X 10.9 "Mavericks" or later. Weinberg IT recommends 10.11 "El Capitan" at this time. Box Edit and Box Sync also require Windows 7 or later. The basic Box web interface (not including Box Edit) will work with most web browsers.

How do I use Word Templates with Box?

  • You have two options for using Word Templates:
    • If you've synced the folder the template is in and you want to save the new document to a synced folder, you can open the template from the synced folder in Word and populate your template. You can then save it in a synced folder with a new name to distinguish your populated document from the template.
    • If you haven't synced the folder the template is in and/or the folder where you want your populated document to go, you can go into the Box web app, find the file, and copy it first before editing it. When you copy it, be sure to rename it with a different file name. Otherwise, Box will automatically rename the copy with "(1)" added to the end of the previous name. To copy the file, right-click the file. Choose "move or copy" and pick the folder you want to the copy to live in. Click on "copy." Box will give you an alert at the top of your file that says it is going to give your new document the same file name as the template with "(1)" added on the end, but it will ask you if you want to "rename." Click "rename" and give your file a different name. Then you can go into it and edit it as you would like with new information.

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

  • Right-click on the file and choose Properties -> General 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 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 name in the upper right corner of your Box web page.
  • Click on "Account Settings."
  • Select "Notifications" from the bar at top to access the email notification options for your account.

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).
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