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Jun 24, 2008
Best way to synchronize My Documents folder
by windshell / General
Synchronization between My Documents folder on your working and home PC, on your flash drive or mirror disk is necessary if you want to have all your files sorted out. It’s complicated job, but it has to be done. Surely there must be an easy way how to do it.
Synchronization of My Documents folder between two or more PCs or drives is everyday’s work, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of data during your working day. There are few methods that will help you perform synchronization.
Using Drag and Drop
First is old fashioned Drag and Drop method. You can do this by simply copying the My Documents folder content from one location to another using drag and drop. This is simple way and requires no software or payment, but it’s prone to errors. It's too easy to overwrite a file with an older version, losing all the changes you've made. Second flaw is that this method is also slow, especially when synchronizing files on two computers that are connected using a network, because if you try to copy a block of files, Windows will copy all the files you selected, not just those that have changed and need updating.
Using Windows Briefcase
Windows has an useful tool which is called Briefcase. However, Briefcase has so many flaws, that it's really not worth using. One example is that if you create the file on your work computer, Briefcase doesn't want you to copy it to your home computer's hard drive. Instead, you're supposed to access it exclusively from your removable media.
But, if you still want to use the Briefcase, do the following:
- Right-click on the desktop (or in any folder on any removable drive that you want to use to carry the briefcase) and select New, Briefcase (You can rename the new briefcase if you wish)
- Transfer copies of the files you want to work on to the Briefcase using drag and drop.
- Transfer the Briefcase to the other computer, by drag and drop across a network or by physically moving it on a floppy disk or Flash drive.
- On the other computer, edit the files.
- Transfer the Briefcase back to the original computer.
- Right-click the Briefcase and select Update all. This will synchronize the briefcase files with the originals.
The Windows command line utility XCOPY has option that can be used to copy only files that are newer than those which are already located in the destination folder (in this case My Documents). To simplify this procedure, you can first create a batch file.
Using Notepad, create a file containing the following two lines:
XCOPY "%1" "%2" /D /I %3
XCOPY "%2" "%1" /D /I %3
Save the batch file in your Windows folder as SYNC.CMD (This is for Windows 2000 or XP. If you are using Windows 95, 98 or ME, replace XCOPY with XCOPY32 and save the file as SYNC.BAT.)
To use the batch file, open a Command Prompt and type SYNC followed by the paths of the two folders you want to synchronize, each in quotes. If you want to synchronize subfolders as well, add /S to the command line before pressing Enter. For example, suppose your project is kept in a folder called "My Documents" on both your local PC and one with a network name of "Work". To synchronize this folder, including any subfolders, type the command:
SYNC "C:My Documents" "\WorkMy Documents" /S
Test this on something unimportant before trying it on valuable work files. Note that the two-line batch file has no "idiot-proof", so it will happily try to synchronize entire hard disks if you tell it to do that.
Using Synchronization Software
If you frequently need to synchronize the content of My Documents folder or other folders, then methods above could be inefficient, slow and time consuming.
The best solution in this case is to use software which is specifically created to synchronize the contents of desired folders. This method is faster, give you much more control over the process to avoid losing time on copying unnecessary files that were in the same folder, and this method is much more reliable.
There is plenty of Synchronization Managers available. The most popular are Beyond Compare from Scooter Software and Synchromagic (formerly known as Synchronix) from GeloSoft that have free trials and cost around 30$. Or if you like free solutions (limited, but still useful), then software like Allway Sync could be the useful tool for you.
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