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Syncing Between Computers

December 11, 2005

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:02

Many people operate two computers. For instance, I use a desktop computer at work and a laptop when traveling. I run many of the same software applications on both computers and want to maintain an identical set of data files. For years, I would try to keep track of what’s what before and after each business trip without the assistance of any synchronization tools. I found that my system, or the lack of one, was cumbersome and error-prone, so I began to search for a product to help sync files between the two computers. After considerable time looking, I found and purchased LapLink Gold 12.0 and began using it. The product worked “okay,” but it too was slow and cumbersome. 

A couple weeks ago, a friend told me about a product named SyncToy from Microsoft. The description of the product was enticing, so I downloaded it. About a minute later, it was installed on my desktop computer, and in another minute, I was using it. Instantly, I found it incredibly simple and fast and so much better than LapLink Gold—software that took 2-3 hours to set up and make work with the assistance of phone support.

With LapLink, you are required to install and run the software on both computers. Before starting the synchronization, the two computers need to recognize one another and this takes time. SyncToy only needs to run on one of the two computers. The first step with both products is to review the folder pairs that you want to synchronize. With LapLink, this step would take 10-15 minutes, minimum. With SyncToy, it takes 2-3 minutes. And SyncToy makes it so much simpler and clearer. The second step is to initiate the actual synchronization, and it’s also easier and faster with SyncToy.

A very nice feature in SyncToy that is lacking in LapLink Gold is the deleting of files. If you delete a file on the first computer, SyncToy will delete the same file on the second computer, which is what you want. (SyncToy does not actually delete the file; it merely moves it to the Recycle Bin.) LapLink, on the other hand, finds the file on second computer and copies it to first computer, and that’s not what you want. So I would have to determine which files were deleted on one computer and then manually delete them on the other. LapLink does offer some interesting features such synchronizing remotely over the Internet and it works pretty well, but I never found a need to use it.

If you are in need of syncing files between two computers, give SyncToy a try. It’s now a shareware product but the last freeware version is still available from a number of sites including the one here.