how to sync multiple folders on multiple PC’s

My music & photo collection. A combined 40GB in size. I have my desktop set us as my ‘base’ for all images and music. What i mean by that is that i try to keep everything on my desktop, rather than on my netbook and usb drives, external drives etc…

Isaac's trashed desk
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lara604

Notice the word ‘try’ there. Here’s a typical day for me…

  • Do some work on a college PC and email it to myself (college PC’s are infected with the autorun.inf virus, so that means it’s not worth the hassle of plugging them in).
  • Do some work on my netbook and save it to my netbook.
  • Get home with the intention of pooling everything in to one nice organised folder, but it’s too much hassle to plug in a usb stick, copy/paste data, then switch to my netbook, plug in usb stick. Copy data from netbook to usb stick, then from usb stick to desktop. Plus download the work i emailed to myself…

You laugh, but speed and ease of use is important to me. It has a huge impact on how i work. If something takes too much effort setting up, i won’t do it. I hate wasting time, particularly when it comes to technology because i know there’s always better ways of doing things – i just haven’t discovered them.

Let me explain using a better example…. in the morning, i get up at about 7.05am. Mornings are not a time to be wasteful with your time. Usually, everyone’s morning routine will be timed to precision. Sleep in for 5 minutes, and you’re rushing. Wake up 5 minutes early, and you’ll stay in bed until your alarm goes off…

I’d love to be able to check my email in the morning, just before i leave the house. However, turning on my PC and getting it online would take 2/3 minutes. So i don’t bother. That time is too valuable to me – i can’t afford to lose it.

So i don’t check my emails in the morning. HOWEVER, if my PC was able to boot up in 1 second flat and auto-opened gmail for me, i’d look at it. And that’s the sort of difference just 2 or 3 minutes can make. It can change lifestyles and change the way we work and think about things.

So in my ongoing battle to save time and increase productivity, i sat down and tried to come up with a way of syncing my desktop & netbook using my local wifi network. Using my local network was very important – if i’m syncing gigabytes of stuff i want it to be as fast as possible and i don’t want to get billed for it. Transferring stuff from one PC to another, via a wifi router is of course free as you’re not using the internet, plus it’s much faster as data is transferred directly from one PC to another – it isn’t uploaded and downloaded seperately (like dropbox for example).

Windows, vive sin limites
Creative Commons License photo credit: Isacar Marín García

So for sending large amounts of data, it makes sense to use a local network rather than try to use web based solutions. Anyway, my research led me to windows live sync. And it does exactly what i want.

In a nutshell, this is how it works;

  • Install software on PC 1.
  • Install software on PC 2.
  • Create a folder called ‘test’ on PC1.
  • Create a folder called ‘test’ on PC2.
  • Sync the two folders.
  • Set them up to ‘autosync’ rather than ‘manual’.

Now, any new files you add to the ‘test’ folder on PC1, will automatically be added to the ‘test’ folder on PC2 and vice versa. That’s a simple example. But lets say you’re constantly downloading music. Albums. Of the legal and not so legal variety. Doesn’t matter. They’ll be maybe 200mb in size. You’re using your dektop PC to download them.

You’re like me – too lazy to copy them manually on to your netbook. So this is where windows live sync comes in…. 200mb will transfer very quikcly over any sort of decent local network. Mine transfers at about 1.5mb /second (and i’m using a 4 year old wireless router which isn’t that well looked after), so it would take just over two minutes to transfer that album.

windows live sync

But the best part is you don’t even have to lift a finger…. once you set things up to autosync, it works away in the background on both PC’s. So now you can download album A on PC1, album B on PC2 and as if by magic, you’ll be able to see Album B on PC1 and album A on PC2 – fast, efficient, no need for usb sticks or copying / pasting.

Generally speaking, if i go to the trouble of writing a post this length, it means i really really like something or feel very strongly about it. That’s exactly the case with windows live sync. I’d highly recommend you use it if you regularly find yourself copying data to and from multiple PCs that you use, or simply if you want to do things more efficiently and save yourself some time and energy in the long run 😉

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