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If you crave the comfort of accessing your files anywhere How to Use Your Windows 8 PC Anywhere - Without Taking It With You! How to Use Your Windows 8 PC Anywhere - Without Taking It With You! Imagine your files, settings, and apps followed you everywhere. In Windows 8 that's possible and we will show you how it works. Read More , without having to carry around any hardware, file sync tools become a must.

The tool that’s right for you depends on what sort of files you’ll be syncing — someone who’s looking to wirelessly stream their music from the Cloud Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify. Start it up, tell it what song or artist you want to listen to, and you start listening. You can access your playlists anywhere you have an Internet connection. Read More will be looking for a very different service to someone who just wants to access a few spreadsheets at a moment’s notice.

Thankfully, you can choose from a range of file sync tools and one will meet your needs. Here are a few examples that cater to some common usage cases and all are cross-platform and free.

Dropbox

A simple, clean file sync service that’s best suited to personal use.

dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most popular file sync services out there — and with good reason. Dropbox is easy to use The Unofficial Guide To Dropbox The Unofficial Guide To Dropbox There's more to Dropbox than you might think: you can use it for file sharing, backing up your data, syncing files between computers and even remotely control your computer. Read More , and gives you access to your files on a wide range of devices in a clear, consistent interface.

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However, it’s not without its limitations. Shared folders can be a bit of a pain to set up and require each user to have their own Dropbox account. It’s not an unusable system for collaborative folders, but it’s a little bit clunky.

That being said, Dropbox is a very effective tool for anyone who needs quick and easy access to files from their PC, tablet or phone. A free account gives you 2 GB of space How To Get The Most Free Space On Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive & More - The Complete Guide How To Get The Most Free Space On Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive & More - The Complete Guide Cloud storage services offer a minimum amount of free space to everyone who signs up, but you can often get more. You can upgrade your cloud drive with gigabytes and gigabytes of free space in... Read More — more than enough for most — but subscriptions are available if you need more space or would like to use the service for business.

OneDrive

Robust service that offers plenty of storage How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage OneDrive gives you a healthy dose of cloud storage for free. Let's take a look at what you can do with that. Read More and integrates well with Windows family devices.

onedrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s proprietary file sync solution Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared OneDrive is trying to catch up to cloud storage heavyweight Dropbox. Recent improvements include increased free storage space and raised file size caps. OneDrive has turned into a viable alternative, but is it better? Read More — and if you use a Windows PC, tablet or phone, then you’ll find that it gets along very well with those bits of kit. You can download apps for your Mac or iOS device also, but the best OneDrive experience is found on Windows hardware.

Neatly integrated into Windows 8 for desktop computers and laptops, you’ll notice a OneDrive folder in the sidebar of any Explorer window. Simply drag files into that folder, right-click and select Sync — and your files will be available to you via the OneDrive app or its web client, whatever device you happen to be using.

However, the real killer feature of OneDrive is the way it utilizes Office Online Don't Pay For Word! 5 Reasons You Should Use Office Online Don't Pay For Word! 5 Reasons You Should Use Office Online Office Online is the free and cloud-connected version of Microsoft Office. Limitations are compensated by features, useful even to users of desktop Office. Best of all is its Read More ; you can use in-browser versions of programs like Word, Excel and Powerpoint to edit your documents directly from OneDrive itself. If you’re using file sync for work, this feature puts OneDrive a nose ahead of its competition.

FreeFileSync

Effective, time-saving software that helps take the strain out of backups.

freefilesync

This program takes care of a different type of file sync; rather than focussing on giving you access to files at the drop of a hat, FreeFileSync lends a hand towards the often laborious process of backing up your computer 4 Free File Sync & Backup Tricks Available In Windows 4 Free File Sync & Backup Tricks Available In Windows You've heard it a million times: backing up your files is important. Using cloud storage services like Dropbox or OneDrive, you can make a backup for free, without needing to purchase new hardware. Read More .

Its user interface might not be the most appealing, but this sort of backup tool is rarely pretty. The time that could have been spent smoothing off rough edges has instead been put towards ensuring that this program will make sure that your data is safely backed up.

To that end, it can schedule recurring backups, detect when files and folders have been moved or renamed, and even handle multiple jobs running against the same network share. If you’re responsible for backup — either personal or in the office — FreeFileSync is a very powerful tool to have in your arsenal.

Synkron

Folder sharing application mildly impaired by technical issues.

synkron

Sometimes rather than picking and choosing individual files to share between devices, you might simply want to have a shared folder that you can access from different machines. For example, you might use a desktop computer and a laptop equally as much, and want to have access to the same music library on both.

Synkron can do just that, with a minimalist interface that makes the whole process very simple. Just choose your desired folders, and you can either sync them ad hoc or schedule a particular time to perform a sync on a regular basis.

For the most part it works very well, but the program does have a habit of freezing, which can be quite inconvenient if it happens while you’re syncing important files.

DirSync Pro

Lightweight portable app for file sync and incremental backups.

DirSync Pro

DirSync Pro offers you powerful synchronization and scheduling options wrapped up in a concise, uncluttered user interface. It’s simple enough that anyone who needs to perform a file sync would be able to get their head around it — but it also has sufficient muscle to appeal to the power user.

Pleasingly, that power comes without the overhead you might expect. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of DirSync Pro is the fact that it doesn’t require an installation; you can run the portable app from a USB stick if necessary. That makes it particularly effective for anyone performing file sync tasks on multiple machines.

If you take care of a large amount of machines, DirSync Pro is a cut above the rest thanks to the features it can offer without an install — but this is a sturdy, lightweight program that has a lot to offer to just about any user.

Grsync

Expert-level rsync based local directory sync tool.

grsync

If you’re a Linux user, you’ve probably heard of the widely used rsync utility that’s used to maintain parity between two copies of a file on different systems. While it’s less commonly known among Windows circles, this technology makes Grsync an awesome syncing tool More Reasons Why Grsync Is An Awesome Syncing Tool [Cross-Platform] More Reasons Why Grsync Is An Awesome Syncing Tool [Cross-Platform] Use rsync, the ultimate syncing tool, without having to install Linux or learn the command line. That's the appeal of Grsync, a GUI version of the popular Unix/Linux command line program rsync. Grsync isn't just... Read More .

That said, this isn’t a tool for the novice. Grsync has the potential to cater to most of the uses listed in this article, but to get the most out of it, you need to know what you’re doing.

If you consider yourself an expert user, however, this will cover all your file sync needs Grsync - A Simple GUI to Help You Use 'rsync' Easily [Linux] Grsync - A Simple GUI to Help You Use 'rsync' Easily [Linux] Read More . It’s just a matter of getting to grips with the program itself — don’t go into this program expecting to have your hand held through the experience.

Do you know another useful file sync tool? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

  1. Jackson
    December 20, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for the article, Brad. Any suggestions for SugarSync alternatives i.e. selective directory syncing plus cloud/offline capabilities?

    • stevenol
      January 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      For those of you who are looking for alternatives, I highly recommend KrojamSoft SyncFile. It is the best software I ever used.

  2. Pravin Vibhute
    December 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    You must mention the AllWay Sync. Its the best and free software for Windows and I am using it for years without any issue to sync my PC and laptop.

  3. Lena R
    December 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Strongly recommend SyncBack which very powerfully syncs / backs up / mirrors files, folders or drives of choice across a network or even off site. I've happily used SyncBack SE for many years with Windows. Looks like they now have SyncBack Touch which is cross-platform, between Windows, OS X and Android. Haven't tested that.

  4. Doc
    December 13, 2014 at 2:28 am

    I recently helped a coworker set up RoboCopy on a schedule to back up archive-ready files to a USB drive (using Task Scheduler). Robocopy is now built into Windows Vista and 7; it was part of the Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit.

  5. Aaron
    December 13, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Two options for the "DIY" crowd are Bittorrent Sync (for those who just want to do files) and OwnCloud (for those who might like their own personal Google operating system-like experience, i.e. with contacts, calendar, etc.).

  6. AJ
    December 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Seriously? No Bittorrent Sync?

  7. Gui
    December 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Syncback is the best. Not on the list.

  8. Peter Serafin
    December 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Best sync software is Syncovery.

  9. Fischmuetze
    December 12, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    BitTorrent Sync is missing in the list ...

  10. Michael J. Tobias
    December 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Yeah, I don't recommend downloading Free File Sync. It gave me a nasty virus just a couple of days ago...that insidious snap-do POS. AND, I downloaded it from Sourceforge, and yes, I've notified them. It installed that garbage completely silently in the background without any interaction from me. And I had unchecky AND malwarebytes running in the background and neither caught it.

    • dendenis
      December 26, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      virus isn`t fault of software
      I`m using it and found it as good application. If it had cloud sync it could be the best for me.

  11. James Bassett
    December 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    For general file syncing across the network I use GoodSync. I have it set to monitor certain folders (Photos, videos, music) on any PC on the network and immediately send a copy to the NAS if it detects a new file.

    For online syncing and backup I use SugarSync. It is like Dropbox et al except it allows me to assign any folder on my system as a "Live" folder to syncing to the cloud. And from the client on any device (PC, tablet, phone) I can select any folder or tree of folders and say "I need access to that folder on this device" and it will create a live copy locally. It is so much more useful and flexible than DropBox, OneDrive etc I really do wonder why people persist with them. Why be forced to keep all of the stuff you need where they want it?

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