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Coordinating Data Between Desktops and Laptops

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/28/2010

Coordinating data between desktops and laptops has become simpler every passing year. From the joke of 'sneaker net' to online services, coordinating files with two computers is now easy as pie.

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    Back in the past, simple file transfers from one computer to another other often meant copying a file onto a floppy disk (and later a CD or thumb drive) from one computer and then walking over to the other computer and placing the file on it. It was a precaution for backing up a file, but the copied file wouldn't change, even if the original did.

    There are very few instances nowadays in which the above scenario even takes place. With the emergence of several online solutions, from Microsoft's Live Sync to their Sky Drive storage, the ability to not only back up a file, but allow it to change on another computer when it does on one computer makes coordinating any kind of data between a desktop and a laptop extremely feasible and easy.

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    Desktops and Laptops

    The popularity of computers hasn't lessened since their introduction to the mass market, in fact the market has grown, with most homes having two or more computers in the house. With so many desktops or laptops in one - hopefully - secure network, the ability to share information is important. Businesses also have this same need - to share information between several employees, management, and upper management. Ulike businesses, however, most homes don't have the need or means to employ a server.

    However, recently a new way to share information has allowed everyone - moms, dads, co-workers, etc., - to share data from either their laptops, their desktops, their work computers, or their home computers. There are online solutions in which a user uploads a file or document to an online server so that they may retrieve that file from another computer at another date. These services may charge a fee, from $19.95 a month, all the way up to $100 a month.

    But there are also free services that can be accessed from online, as well as ways you can sync information from home.

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    Home solutions

    If you have a home network, you should be aware that you have the ability to create shared folders on the network, to share pictures, documents, or files from one computer to another. For example, if you're on a laptop in the living room and realize that you need to work on a file on your desktop in the den, having that file shared on the network allows you to do just that. Microsoft Windows users got a similiar and easier way to do this with the introduction of Windows 7 Home Group, if all the users have Windows 7 installed.

    Home Group easily connects computers on a network, allowing them to share files. If a user knows the home group password, they can enter it and then select the type of files they would like to share with other members, like music, videos, or a printer. The downside to this is that sharing computers must be on in order to share files. Also, this feature obviously only works while on the home network; meaning you can't access your home group from the office or while on vacation. Windows 7 logo 

    For homes that have a lot of computers or use a home office, there is the option of getting Windows home server. This is the ability to use a server for all your files and documents, just as you would in a work environment. The upside is that home servers are half the cost of a business server, around $500 or so, and also are able to back up your computers and their information. The downside to this is that you must leave a server running 24/7; you must also place the server in a place where it can be kept cool and of course away from moisture. It's also a good idea to get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for it, in case you have a power outage.

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    On the second page of this article on coordinating data between desktop and laptop computers, Gina outlines the online solutions a user can take in order to coordinate data between their desktop and their laptop.
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    Online Solutions

    As mentioned earlier, there are a few online solutions that one can use for coordinating data between a desktop and a laptop. These are mostly for the Windows operating system, but I've also thrown in some information about Macs too.

    Microsoft's Sky Drive - Sky Drive is an online storage area offered by Microsoft for Windows users. To get Sky Drive, all you need is either a hotmail, msn, or live.com email address. Sky Drive lets you upload files, pictures, and even music to an online space, offering free 25GB of space. The upside to this is that you can upload files from one computer and access those files from any computer by just using your email address. There's also the added advantage of working on the file from the new web versions of Office that let you view, edit, and delete files from a web interface of say Word or Excel. The downside is that although you have the ability of sending a piece of work to Sky Drive within Office 2010, unless you remember to do that, any changes made to the file on one computer (the desktop) will not be reflected on the other (the laptop).

    Microsoft's Live Sync - To go with Sky Drive and the other new online solutions from Microsoft, there is Live Sync. Live Sync is the updated name for folder sync, a piece of software that allowed the syncing of files from one computer to another. It's like having a server on your computers - if you add a file to Live Sync and work on it on your laptop, as long as you have Live Sync on your desktop, that file will reflect any changes or edits that have been made to it. The software is free and takes only a few minutes to set up. The downside to this - as with any online solution - is the potential for someone else finding out how to get in. Like Sky Drive, you need a Microsoft email address; if a hacker discovers what your password is, not only is your email at stake, but so is anything that's linked to that password.

    File Synchronization (Mac computers) - Not to worry, Mac users, you can file sync your folders too with Apple's File Synchronization. Like Live Sync, Apple's version allows for updated files and documents to be synced from a desktop to a laptop, and is free to download from Apple's website.

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    Conclusion

    There are now many solutions in which users can sync information from a desktop to a laptop. Many solutions allow for home network syncing, where files can be shared and accessed from either a desktop or a laptop. There are also online solutions that allow for syncing in the background; as one file changes on one computer, it reflects those changes on the second computer. pc 

    The upside to these solutions is that now you can access your documents not just from a laptop or another desktop, but from anywhere in which you have an Internet connection. The downside for all of these solutions is that the secondary computer must be on in order for this to work. With Live Sync, once a computer is turned on, any change in files can be updated, but only of course if Live Sync is turned on for both computers.