Synchronization is a useful tool that allows a user to keep two directories identical to each other for backup purposes, to a server or to mirror important files on two computers. In this article I will cover a great tool to achieve this as well as the different ways this process can be accomplished.
One of the most useful applications that I use on a daily basis, but never see much hype for is Microsoft’s SyncToy 2.0 Beta. This handy little program can perform a number of powerful syncing operations, which can be configured by even the novice user.
I first found this program while trying to find a simple way to backup my desktop computer, while our Windows Home Server was being rebuilt. During my search I found a number of applications, but many required a strong mastery of the command line. SyncToy truly shines in its simplistic user interface. [See image 1]
SyncToy 2.0 Beta is available free from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=c26efa36-98e0-4ee9-a7c5-98d0592d8c52.
Once you install SyncToy, you are you are presented with three options. [See image 3]
The first option is Synchronize. This is a great option for someone trying to keep two computers they are using daily, such as a desktop and laptop, in sync. New and updated files are copied in both directories and sync with each other, while renamed and deleted files are removed and changed on both sides. [See image 2]
The second option is Echo. This is the function I needed. Echo basically mirrors the backup drive off of the primary drive. Any changes you make to the primary side are repeated on the backup drive.
The final choice is Contribute. This option is a modified version of Echo. It will copy any changes to the other folder and repeat renames across the drives, but it doesn’t delete any files. So even if you accidentally delete a file on the primary side, it will still exist on the other side.
Being that I’m as human as the next guy, I knew that even with the ease of use this program offered I would be hard pressed to remember to run SyncToy on a regular basis. After a little digging around I found that SyncToy offered a great command line option that I could use to create a Scheduled Task in Windows XP and Vista to automate this process for me.
Creating the process was as simple as launching Task Scheduler and choosing to “Create Basic Task." Once I named my new task, I selected to run it daily at 1:00 a.m., then I chose “Start a Program." Once there it was as simple as typing in the location of SyncToyCmd.exe (default locations is C:\Program Files\SyncToy 2.0 Beta\SyncToyCmd.exe) or using the browse button, then adding “-r" (without quote marks) in the “add arguments" box. [See image 4]
This is just one example of powerful, yet free software available for PC synchronization. I will be continuing to explore these resources (along with other free PC software), and share them with you.