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We recently had some major storm damage to our house, and our insurance payment was more than enough to facilitate repairs. We also needed a new PC, so with the leftover cash, we got ourselves a custom-built PC, built for gaming and freeze-free computing.

Check the specs: Two 2.8Ghz processors, 4GB(!) of RAM, and 320GB hard-drive space. I don’t know who the fudge needs three hundred and twenty gigs (unless you’re Google), but I’ve got it anyway. This thing, ladies and gentlemen, is a roaring, snarling beast, thus we’ve named it “Big Daddy”. Our older PC is still alive and kicking, and has been dubbed “Little Sister”.

While on the subject of gaming, I would like to advise you that the power of your new rig will not make you suck any less when playing Quake Live. Incidentally, my username there is TimDub, if any MUO readers want free target practice.

The inevitable subject came up of moving our files from Lil’ Sis to Big D. These PCs have multiple users, so we must have an easy way to open our files, no matter which PC we’re using. Also, file transfers between the two should be ridiculously simple.

Anyone who has ever set up a home network knows just how much of a pain it is. I’m not A+ certified, so personally, I seem to only get network shares to be accessible 1/3 of the time.

In the end, I decided not to move the files at all to the new PC. I would sync them.

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It’s chic, when a geek, to talk trash about Microsoft, but not I. Not today. As I write this on Windows Live Writer, our personal files are effortlessly hopping back and forth between Big Daddy and Little Sister, courtesy of Windows Live Sync.

WLS is one of the nicest tools I’ve used in a long time. Simple, too: I was able to explain what it does to my admitted-n00b wife in less than a minute. Her Quake Live name, BTW, is “FragMeRunnin.”

I’ll walk you through the setup, but first, you’ll need a Windows Live ID. This was formerly known as Microsoft Passport, so you may already have one. If not, set up an account at Live.com with any email address.

Once you’ve signed in with your WLID, head for Sync.Live.com and download the client to all the computers you’re going to sync. WLS supports Windows and Mac OS. All the setup is done within the browser on the Sync site. You’ll select a computer and then pick a folder on the file system to sync with the other PC.

selectComputer

selectFolder

A good place to start is linking your Windows “My Documents” folders on each PC. They’re located at C:\Documents and Settings\Username\My Documents. In this example, I’m linking my stepson DJ’s folders. I tried to sync the entire Documents and Settings folder, but for some reason you cannot sync Desktop folders, except for the All Users’ shared Desktop. Weird.

selectPersonalFolder

Once you’ve reached your folder and click “Sync folder here,” that folder will appear under your Personal folders list. If you’re going to sync up multiple folders with similar names, you may want to click on the folder and re-name it on the next screen to avoid confusion.

selectRemoteFolder

On the other PC, your Personal folders list will show up with a right-click on the Sync icon in your System Tray. Gold folders have been linked, but not gray folders. Click a gray folder to open a browser window and link that folder to a local folder. Repeat for any other folders you wish to link.

selectSyncFolder

We’ve had this setup for several days now, and the synchronizing process is hardly noticeable. The only hiccup seems to occur when users on both PCs have the same file open, but this is common with any network. A general rule is to make sure that any shared files are not being accessed by another party. For those of you with privacy concerns, the file transfers are directly between PCs, and are also encrypted. Nothing is stored on a Microsoft server.

WLS may be the easiest and best backup tool I’ve used. We love to give you options, so please leave alternative suggestions in the comments below. I’m gonna go get my Quake on.

  1. Nachanga
    February 12, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Live Sync is amazing! Totally different that Live Mesh and Dropbox.
    It doesn't send files to remote servers. I don't want my pesronal files to be in remote servers I don't owe.
    It's fast! It uses P2P technology to transfer files between all synced computers. It compress data before sending to save bandwidth and transfer faster! It sends only changes you make to your files! It works in almost any situation, behind firewalls, tunnels, proxies, NATs. It just works!
    I use it to have all my files synced between home desktop computer, 2nd home desktop computer, work laptop and work desktop computer. Never again I don't have at home a file I created at work.
    I use it to have backups for all the computers in my family. My father lives away and all his pictures are backed up in real time at my home computer. The same for my sister, her pictures are synced live to my home computer. If any computer dies, all the files are in the other computers!

    Seriously, you cannot compare this to Live Mesh or DropBox (Dropbox only syncs one folder!). This is different product. And for me it's an AMAZING piece of software!

  2. Chris
    February 3, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Another vote for Live Mesh, much better than Live Sync in my opinion.

  3. Data Protection
    October 21, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Windows live sync is a useless program. Almost all the files on my home computer are private and personal. The same goes for my roommates. There is no reason any of us should have access to each others’ personal files. If occasionally we need to see information from one another we can send it in an email. We can zip large files to fit them in a single email. This works much better for us than sync'd files.

  4. Grace
    June 24, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Wow. All of this seems to open up so many possibilities. My biggest concern, of course, is data privacy and data security, especially with Live Mesh. For instance, if I wanted to share files with clients or even family-related files that might have personal information. Maybe there's no more of a privacy/security exposure risk with Mesh as with sending file attachments through any email system. But that just makes me want to rethink things even more.

    I would be very interested to hear from allcarvedup or others who have security/encryption mechanisms to recommend, for Live Mesh and/or for any data that leaves my PC to go out over the net. Needless to say, I prefer freeware. :)

  5. Joe Markus
    April 7, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    If you like this then you would also like Live Mesh as it syncs PCs and to the web (5GB limit on web)

  6. dunlop
    April 2, 2009 at 6:20 am

    After installation, would this work even if the computers are not connected to internet? I have laptops which are connected with wireless network (without internet). Would it work with them?

    • Tim Watson
      April 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm

      As far as I know, you'll still need an Internet connection, since you must be signed into Live.

  7. Monika
    April 1, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Scott
    March 31, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    This wouldn't work for me. I logged into my WL account, clicked on the sync.live link and could never get to the download page. All I got was the Terms of Use page over and over, even after I clicked "I accept" each time. I wonder if its a Firefox thing?

    • allcarvedup
      April 1, 2009 at 8:54 am

      yes, I have heard issues with firefox...Just use IE. No biggie.

      And by the way, I use this to sync my music between home and work. works great. (I have a few levels of security in place to protect all my files, but i digress)

      to put it simply:

      This just plain flat out works.

  9. Bruce M
    March 31, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    umm...320GB only?? I have 500GB on a 3 year old PC. I guess it depends on what you're using it for. If you have home movies, then yeah you will need more than 320GB.

  10. richard
    March 31, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    the free version of dropbox has a 2GB limit and syncs to the web first. WLS doesn't sync online -- it's peer-to-peer, so their is no such thing as space limit.

    It does, however, have a 20,000 file limit on a single share.

  11. Versatile
    March 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    How about dropbox? This is a very cool synching program as well.

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