Is FreeFileSync Better Sync Software Than Microsoft SyncToy? [Windows]

Chris Hoffman 17-02-2012

synctoySync programs make local backups a snap by copying only changed files. Dropbox 4 Unique and Cool Ways to Use Dropbox Read More and other cloud storage systems are great, but they aren’t as fast as a USB flash drive or removable hard drive to back up a large amount of files. Microsoft SyncToy is one of the most popular, but FreeFileSync gives it a run for its money.


We have SyncToy listed on our Best Windows Software The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More  page – it’s popular and it works. FreeFileSync, a free and open-source sync program, isn’t as well-known, but it has SyncToy beat. As a longtime SyncToy user, I was impressed by FreeFileSync’s performance, support for locked files, features and portability.

How They Work

FreeFileSync and SyncToy both perform the same functions. Specify a pair of folders, usually on different storage devices, and the application will synchronize files between them. You can configure either application to sync changes in both directions or in only one direction. Both applications can use a database to detect deleted files so they’re deleted in both folders and not automatically recreated.


Each application has customizable options, so you can add exceptions to prevent certain files in these folders from being copied. Each application can check whether files have changed by examining their date (faster) or by their contents (slower, but can be more accurate).

microsoft synctoy



In my completely non-scientific tests, FreeFileSync had a consistent edge when it came to performance 10 Ways to Improve Gaming Performance on Your Laptop Want improved laptop gaming performance? Here's how to improve laptop performance and ensure you can easily run the games you want. Read More . I had both programs synchronize the same folder, containing about 1.7 GB of data, both large and small files, to different folders on another hard drive. Microsoft’s SyncToy came in around 60 seconds to complete the process, while FreeFileSync took around 50 seconds.

microsoft synctoy

With larger amounts of data, FreeFileSync’s edge should be even more noticable.

microsoft synctoy


Copying Locked Files

If you’ve been using SyncToy for a while, you’ve probably encountered one of its most annoying limitations: it can’t copy locked files. If your web browser is open, you won’t be able to synchronize your browser data. To take a full backup of your application data, it’s best to close every program and let SyncToy run – but who has time for that?

microsoft synctoy for pc

FreeFileSync uses the Windows Volume Shadow Copy service to read locked files and synchronize them. You’d think an official Microsoft program would better use the operating system’s features Microsoft Windows 7: The 7 Most Noticeable New Features Read More , but you’d be wrong.



More Features

FreeFileSync isn’t completely bloated with unnecessary options, but it offers more features than SyncToy. While it offers three synchronization modes, FreeFileSync offers the same three – and also allows you to create a customized synchronization mode with your own rules.

microsoft synctoy for pc

Both applications offer a batch mode so synchronization can be scheduled Run Programs Automatically Using Windows Task Scheduler Read More and run automatically, but only FreeFileSync exposes and explains batch mode in its interface. You’ll have to dig into SyncToy’s help file to learn its batch mode.

microsoft synctoy for pc


FreeFileSync can also automatically shut down your computer or perform other actions when a sync completes.

Is FreeFileSync Better Sync Software Than Microsoft SyncToy? [Windows] screenshot 13


Unlike SyncToy, FreeFileSync can be installed as a portable app 100 Portable Apps for Your USB Stick for Windows and macOS Portable apps let you take your favorite software anywhere via a flash drive or cloud storage. Here are 100 of them to cover your every need, from games to image editors. Read More . You could install FreeFileSync on your removable storage device and use it anywhere without installing it on each system.

Is FreeFileSync Better Sync Software Than Microsoft SyncToy? [Windows] screenshot 011

SyncToy also requires you to recreate your folder pairs on each computer you use, while FreeFileSync has the ability to export your configuration and import it on other systems.


The Verdict

FreeFileSync trumps SyncToy on all fronts. Perhaps it’s not surprising, given that SyncToy isn’t something Microsoft is focusing on – it hasn’t been updated since 2009. Maybe it’s time to take it off our Best Of page and add FreeFileSync? I can’t see a reason to use it over FreeFileSync.

Is there a reason either one is better? Let us know in the comments.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Garou Wolfshaven
    June 4, 2019 at 12:26 am

    I realize this article is a little old but I thought I'd add a bit here. FFS has changed the way it works and it's no longer compatible with the portable apps platform. They still have an out dated version on their site that works. However at some point that could pose a security risk.

    Worse yet the portable apps team has tried to contact FFS about it but they wont respond. I'm really disappointed in the FFS team about this. The main reason I switched from Synctoy to FFS was due to the portable apps support.

  2. Per-Ola
    March 12, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    Been using SyncToy from the very first iteration (2006?) with success (XP, 7, and 8.1). Not supported in years, and MSFT claims it is not working on Win 10 - but have zero issues when now running on several Win 10 PCs (1803 and 1809).
    It is so simple, bare bones, and really all that is needed. And it works across a network w/o issues.
    Years back it indicated it wanted to overwrite a bunch of photo files (thousands...) - but when looking at file properties files really were identical and MSFT team could never figure out why it did behave that way. And then they killed the product (support).
    These days though, MSFT is pushing for OneDrive, but sad they do not put a few hours of engineering into this amazing little tool just to ensure it follows Win10. Heck, it is so small it could easily be an integrated part of Win10.

  3. Hank
    July 25, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I am using Sync Toy just to back up some files on an external HDD and to sync with an other PC. It works perfectly well.

    I think it is relatively simple and while this means it may lack in configuration options and features, it also means it is easy to use.

    I just use this at home for my private files. If I want to do something more serious, I would look into something like syncthing.

  4. Roksolana
    June 6, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I used to have similar problems too, but after using "long path tool" everything was solved. Try this software and you would be glad you did.

  5. Nick
    May 21, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I found that FreeFileSync batch wouldn't return a non-zero ERRORLEVEL value when there was a non-read-privilege file. While SyncToy will return error to ask the user to manually address it. Which if couldn't be fixed, FFS may have a big risk while some source files of non-read-privilege hidden there without being noticed. Is it?

  6. HughLB
    May 19, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I need to sync between two machines - FreeSyncFile will not do this

  7. john
    February 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Unfortunately FreeSyncFile needs an leading Folder for Actualisation a File ... SynToy with the option "Contribute" doesn't.

    regards john s.

  8. Russell
    February 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Can I get FreeFileSync without installing the OpenCandy adware crap? FFS sounds like a good program, but there's no way in hell I'm going to install OpenCandy.

  9. John Mathew
    February 12, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I use multiple machines (PC,Laptop,Tablet, smartphone) to access my work data and sync all my files for anywhere file access which is critical for me. I have tried various software's to sync files however, I have finalized on Organyze for its simplicity and user friendliness.

    Organyze provides me a solution to sync all my files at ease. Would recomend Organyze ( to all professionals on the go and need anywhere file access. It also doubles up as a backup. Cheers

  10. Ferm
    January 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    How to delete an entry from the drop down menu of FreFileSync:
    1. Open the menu
    2. Pint to the entry you want to delete, it gets marked blue, !!!DO NOT CLICK!!!
    3. Push DEL

  11. stevenol
    January 19, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I find KrojamSoft SyncFile better and its fast :)

  12. Help!I'mSyncing!
    July 31, 2012 at 3:35 am

    This is not about FreeFileSync but I will be trying that program shortly.
    Can someone tell me if it is possible to select/deselect multiple items in Synctoy's sim/run window? With 10's of thousands of items on display before a sync it's ridiculous if you want to uncheck a few hundred or so and have to do that one by one. I can't find a way to select multiple items.

    • Help!I'mSyncing!
      July 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

      OK. I just gave FreeFileSync a shot and it satisfies my criteria of being able to select/deselect multiple items before transfer. Yay! I've been using SyncToy which ridiculously cannot do this. I was using SyncBack Pro until the trial ran out and their free version is so seriously knobbled as to be utterly useless (filelist rendered as multiple pages).
      I tried Toucan which is mentioned here but there is absolutely no user control available for the filelist in that very basic program.
      So thanks for the headsup on FreeFileSync. It's usable and going in my toolkit.

      • Chris Hoffman
        August 1, 2012 at 10:40 am

        You can also set up filters which will automatically deselect items for you, saving you time. If you find yourself deselecting something every time, create a filter and you'll save lots of time. I believe you can do the same in SyncToy.

  13. Philippe
    July 15, 2012 at 2:59 am

    A question.

    It is possible to run this program in hidden mode? Lets me explain more:

    I already made a task on task manager. Also did a batch job. When it runs in the scheduled time, it opens the programs and close if automatically. It is possible to setup it in order the user cant see when the task begin like I did whe I was using Synctoy?


    • Philippe
      July 15, 2012 at 3:09 am

      Ok, I solved it. Inside FreeFileSync batch window: uncheck the dialog progress and select ignore errors. Save it before close.

      Thats all.


      • Chris Hoffman
        July 17, 2012 at 1:38 am

        Thanks for figuring out the answer and sharing it with everyone! I'm sure your solution will help someone else.

  14. Miguel
    July 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

    SyncToy detects moved files so that it doesn't do a delete and copy unnecessarily--something very few free sync/backup programs do.

    This is not an advertised feature. But it does it.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 17, 2012 at 1:39 am

      Wow, I had no idea -- they should advertise it. Unfortunately, several readers experience other problems with SyncToy -- it doesn't look supported anymore. Too bad; it was really solid.

  15. Tony
    June 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Hi, I move some panels around and now I lost "compressed view" pane. How can I get that back? Thanks

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      I thought this would be easy to get back but it isn't -- I was stunned to see there there doesn't seem to be a way to get this back from teh default interface.

      What you'll have to do is close FreeFileSync, plug this into your Windows Explorer address bar:


      And then delete the GlobalSettings.xml file. HOWEVER, this will also delete other settings, so you'll have to change them again.

      • Tony
        June 22, 2012 at 4:49 am

        Thanks for the reply Chris,
        It's good..., I am officially OK, because I thought something is wrong with me when I could not figure out how to get back that panel. The app should have a function to get back to default layout.
        Thanks for the suggestion about Global settings.xml file

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

          It's sadly pretty typical for open source software -- the program is reliable and works well, but its interface is pretty horrible -- just really rough around the edges.

        • Informator
          July 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

          You can simply right-click somewhere on the main dialog and click "default view".
          This is also where you get panels back you have accidentally closed.

        • Chris Hoffman
          July 9, 2012 at 4:41 am

          Wow, thanks! I didn't even think to do that -- I suppose it makes some sense, although that really should be in its File/Edit/View menus too.

  16. Chin
    June 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

    FreeFileSync has another advangtage over SyncToy - long file names. I have had sync exceptions for SyncToy due to long file names. The same files does not post a problem for FreeFileSync.

    These same files had a problem with Window's native copy capability too. In this case, I use Terracopy and these files copied over without any problems.

    Note: I use Windows 7.

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 10, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. SyncToy does seem all-around less stable than FreeFileSync from everything I've seen -- not a surprise, SyncToy development seems halted.

  17. JK from the UK
    May 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    I loved Synctoy. It was so simple and straightforward.
    Alas I moved to a W7 machine and it is not only missing files it is deleting them too. I almost had a heart attack as it moved a whole series of files (and a few folders) to the recycle bin and it was only by chance that i noticed that the bin had got oddly bloated so I checked. I just cant trust it. I know some people say that it appears to work well on W7 but that has not been my experience. Thing is how often does anyone check that its worked? I may have done originally but not after it worked flawlessly every 2 weeks. So I dont know what I have lost. Maybe it doesnt make that much difference as clearly I haven't lost a file I needed ...yet but I am not about to experience that.

    • Chris Hoffman
      May 17, 2012 at 1:22 am

      It's worked fine on W7 for me, but I suppose problems don't surprise me. The SyncToy project definitely isn't a priority for Microsoft. The last release was over 2 and a half years ago.

  18. tekequip
    April 25, 2012 at 2:34 am

    sync toy now has a x64 version. does ffs work ok in win 7 x64?

    • Chris Hoffman
      April 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Yup, I use it on Win7 x64 myself.

      I don't think there's a separate 64-bit version, looks like it's 32-bit -- but lots of software is, and it works fine.

      • tekequip
        May 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm

        Hi Chris,

        Well I have started using FFS on my new win7x63 machine and like it but I noticed that when I run the created batch files in the task scheduler that there is something that concerns me. The "Last Run Result" field in the task scheduler window says, "%1 is not a valid Win32 application (0x800700C1)". The batch file seems to run fine when manually invoked and also seems to run OK in the task scheduler but just has that strange message.

        Also when syncing a folder from an XP machine to my Win7 machine the "comparison" feature says that the two folders agree and at the same time the Win7 explorer shows a significant difference in file size between the two. Not sure why they don't agree but so far I can't find a difference between them during browsing both folders even though there are way too many files to manually look at them all.

        • Chris Hoffman
          May 22, 2012 at 1:22 am

          That's really odd. You may want to search or file a bug or two in FreeFileSync's bug tracker:

        • Miguel Angel Rabago
          June 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm

          Did you find a solution to your bug @tekequip?
          I found a 440gb transfer to be 4 gigabytes bigger in the destination drive. They are supposedly sync'd in mirror but the destination drive is occupying 4 gigabytes more than the files in the original drive.
          I searched in the bug page, but I seem to be unable to use the correct search words (implying there IS a solution to this bug)
          I have already checked the recycle bin invisible folder of each drive and both are in ZEROS.

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 15, 2012 at 7:13 am

          Odd. You might want to try another application -- rsync is a really solid tool, but it's native to UNIX platforms. I believe it works on Windows, too. It appears we've written about a Windows frontend to rsync: //

        • Miguel Angel Rabago
          June 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

          I just realized I did a faulty reading of Microsoft's Explorer information regarding my drives. The FFS works seamlessly. A very reliable and fast software I must say.

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 17, 2012 at 12:31 am

          Ah, that explains it -- Thanks for updating us!

        • Haroon Ghaus
          July 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

          With Windows Vista upwards it's not sufficient anymore to specify the *.ffs_batch file only. The task scheduler command must start with an .exe:

          "C:\Program Files\FreeFileSync\FreeFileSync.exe" C:\Sync.ffs_batch

    • Informator
      July 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      It ships with both 32 and 64 bit versions and selects the right one via a launcher on startup:

      • Chris Hoffman
        July 9, 2012 at 4:42 am

        Smart design!

      • Chris Hoffman
        July 9, 2012 at 4:42 am

        Smart design!

  19. Amadou
    March 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

    ???????? ???? ??????????? ?? ?????? ???????????? ????????? HTML ????:

    Notify me of followup ctomenms via e-mail/* */

  20. Jimbo
    March 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    SyncToy 2,1 was missing files on my Win 7 pc.
    Reliability is everything is sync software for me.
    FreeFileSync did my jobs perfect, missing nothing.
    I'm excited about it, even I didn't try all the options yet.
    Looks Great !

    • Chris Hoffman
      March 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      I've never noticed SyncToy missing files -- but then, I've never looked too closely either. Yikes!

      • Chin
        June 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

        SyncToy does miss files, those with long file names or when the total path is too long.

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 10, 2012 at 8:43 am

          Wow, I've never run into that -- good thing i switched to FreeFileSync. Thanks for confirming that.

    • Malcolm
      April 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Thanks for the info. Used up hours attempting to get SyncToy to produce an "echo" (mirror copy) an kept coming up short by a few GB with no indication of there being anything amiss.
      FreeFileSync corrected the missed files in a minute or so -- less than 5 minutes from start of download to install and fix the problem.
      MS screws us again. If it is going to skip files, at least SyncToy should indicate that it did, right?

    • Malcolm
      April 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for the info. Used up hours attempting to get SyncToy to produce an "echo" (mirror copy) and kept coming up short by a few GB with no indication of there being anything amiss.
      FreeFileSync corrected the missed files in a minute or so -- less than 5 minutes from start of download to install and fix the problem.
      MS screws us again. If it is going to skip files, at least SyncToy should indicate that it did, right?

  21. Chris Hoffman
    March 1, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Thanks for sharing! Never heard of that one.

    • Evelin
      March 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Nice tip. I don't use Lightroom but am thinking about it. Can you store the otaalcg file and images on a network drive (say in a small studio environment), each with a copy of lightroom installed locally, and all access and use the same otaalcg?

  22. Aibek
    February 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    thanks for the input

  23. The_guest
    February 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    [quote]FreeFileSync lacks 2 which is a dealbreaker for me.[/quote]
    It doesn't lack this feature, it is less visible: You can select multiple jobs via mouse and merge them on the fly. The result is a single configuration that is the same as if you'd run all the configurations in sequence.

  24. Chris Hoffman
    February 18, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    It sounds awesome, but running the jobs in parallel is a dealbreaker for me.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  25. Chris Hoffman
    February 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Neat. It even has encryption and compression -- looks more advanced.

    Here's a direct link, for anyone that's interested:

    • Dr. Z
      February 25, 2012 at 6:00 am

       Synctoy 2.1 hangs every time i tried on my W7 PC's.  It worked fine with XP, though.  That left me with FreeFileSync for W7's.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 26, 2012 at 3:00 am

        Weird. SyncToy has been stable for me on multiple Windows 7 PCs. Thanks for sharing your experience.

        • SJOSSIE
          July 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm

          I've been using FFS for a while but recently noticed that while it appears to do a good job between folders on the same computer C: D: partitioned drives, when I synced to an external drive it was seemingly missing (using microsoft "properties" to count folders/properties) 20 folders and around 500 files of a total of 45,568 files and 3,286 folders (8.7GB). Have you come across this? Just tried using SyncToy and it stalled like one of your other commentators mentioned. Any other suggestions as to other "good" synchronisation tools ?

        • Chris Hoffman
          July 17, 2012 at 2:30 am

          I haven't come across this, and I use FFS to sync to an external drive. You might try checking to see if some files are being filtered out (maybe ones in the recycle bin?)

        • SJOSSIE
          July 17, 2012 at 7:58 am

          Actually found out that it was a problem with Microsoft explorer. The latter does not always count the number of files and folders correctly. In fact I could open a folder with 30 files in it and using properties it would actually tell me there were zero files !!! Eventually found a programme (Treesize Free) that counted correctly and showed that all files had been synced correctly using FFS. I'm happy now that it works fine.

        • Chris Hoffman
          July 20, 2012 at 4:52 am

          Ah, that actually makes a lot of sense. Thanks for updating us!

      • Chin
        June 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

        It could hang due to long file names.

    • Help!I'mSyncing!
      July 31, 2012 at 4:45 am

      Just tried it. Not able to select/deselect items. Not even one at a time let alone multiple items. Absolutely no user control in the filelists whatsoever. No context menu in filelists. VERY, very basic program.

      • Chris Hoffman
        August 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

        Too bad, that one looked reasonably promising.

    • Help!I'mSyncing!
      July 31, 2012 at 4:49 am

      Just tried it. Not able to select/deselect items. Not even one at a time let alone multiple items. Absolutely no user control in the filelists whatsoever. No context menu in filelists. It's all or nothing. VERY, very basic program.

  26. Chris Hoffman
    February 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Interesting! Never heard of that one.

    Very barebones interface -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

  27. Dude
    February 18, 2012 at 10:06 am

    it looks great but has zillion functions, whistles , bells and even charts,  im not sure if I need all that. Good  for geeks probably .

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 18, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      True. The interface is a bit overcomplicated. But then, SyncToy's interface is a bit unusual too.

  28. Vaibhav
    February 18, 2012 at 6:18 am

    FreeFileSync quite simply rocks!!!!

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      I thought so too!

  29. bobconstans
    February 18, 2012 at 6:08 am

    What about issues related to switching? I've been using SyncToy for backing up several TBs of data over several (mostly external) HDs. If I switch to using freefilesync, am I going to be starting from scratch time-spent-analysing-wise?

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      That's a good question. I personally started over from scratch to make sure it worked properly.

      At the very least, FreeFileSync would have to re-analyze, since each program stores information in its own database format. That seems like it would take a while -- I'm not sure switching would be worth the effort, in this case.

      • Adrienne
        March 24, 2012 at 1:15 am

        Thanks Jim .. current ckbaup saved me when my XP system hard drive failed I was up and running in about an hour.I use SIW to record the license information for my downloaded software. Just write the information to my thumb driveBonnie

  30. N60storm4
    February 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Synx is much better then SyncToy but about equal with FreeFileSync

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 18, 2012 at 1:39 am

      Looks like Synx is for Android syncing. I use this to sync to an external hard drive, so it probably wouldn't work for me.

      Thanks for your comment, though! I had never heard of Synx.