Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sync Folders Across Multiple Computers

In their continuing brilliant renaming schemes, Microsoft has replaced and/or renamed Live Mesh (beta) with Windows Live Mesh 2011.  What happens in 2012?  Why use “Windows” in the title?  Of course it’s Windows, you dumbasses.

Anyway… I had been using Live Mesh (beta) to keep just a few folders synced (both between computers and to the cloud).  I’ve started using WLM2011 to keep folders synced from my home (main) machine to my laptop (skipping the cloud part, as I’m syncing huge folders that would quickly decimate the 5GB’s allotted for my SkyDrive).

Until today, I used SyncBack for keeping folders synced.  Every time I left for a trip, I would select the folders I wanted to sync and click run.  This was a huge pain in the butt every time I was going somewhere.  Yeah, I could have mitigated some of the annoyance by setting up a “container” folder within SyncBack to run multiple syncs, but I still would have to run the sync manually.  I could have set up scheduled syncs, but what I’m really after is “live” syncing.

SyncBack also always made me nervous that I was overwriting or copying something that I didn’t want to.  Furthermore, if you make changes to folder structures on one machine, then run a sync, the files that you moved will be recreated in their old location.  This sucks big time when you’re an OCD freak and reorganize your files/folders all the time.

I think Windows Live Mesh 2011 (what a STUPID and ridiculously long name) is going to work well for my needs.

My biggest gripe is not being able to sync two pre-existing folders.  To set up a folder sync with a folder that already exists on the remote machine you have to first sync an entire folder to the remote machine, then deselect it from your synced files on that remote machine (it will automatically be placed in your “user” folder –nothing you can  do about that), then move the folder to where you want it (and let the folder write over everything in the folder that already exists there if you’ve already been syncing the folder), and click sync again.

This is a pretty big pain in the ass.  I would MUCH prefer to be able to simply enter a folder path manually, or better yet be able to “explore” to it from the machine you are using to set up the sync.

From the WLM2011 help site:

If you want to select where the contents of the folder sync on a computer, don’t select the computer in the list. Instead, click OK and go to the [remote (this is important)] computer, click Sync this folder, and then select where you want the folder contents to sync [select the already existing folder that should sync to the other]. Note that if you select a folder that has files in it, these files will be included in the synced folder.


The biggest thing I really, really, really wish you could do with WLM2011 is set it to sync over your local network instead of having to send everything over your internet connection.  This seems like a no brainer.  Why in the hell would I need to send all that data “out into space” when the two computers are sitting right next to each other and are connected with a Gigabit ethernet connection?  I understand syncing over the internet is necessary if you are syncing to your SkyDrive (the cloud), but if you’re not… it just seems like Microsoft wants to sift through your data. Boo.

One more wish: I’d like to be able to rename the root (synced) folder and have it also change on the other machine.  Currently, if you change the name of a synced folder, it will be recreated from the other synced machine, and then you’ll have two of the same folder on the same machine.

Finally, I’m hoping I can find an Android app that will allow me to bring my phone into the mix.  I don’t have my hopes set too high though.  Worst case scenario: I’ll set up a “mobile” folder to sync between all my machines, and then just set up a separate sync (using Double Twist or some other Android program) between that folder and my phone.

One more thing… I wish you could organize your folders in the WLM2011 interface.  Currently, all of your synced folders are just listed alphabetically.  I’d like to be able to organize synced folders into categories (photos, artwork, video, documents, etc.)

[update]  The ability to organize the folders you are syncing is ABYSMAL.  In other words, there is NO WAY to organize your synced folders.  This is a massive over site on the part of Microsoft.  Your synced folders are simply listed in alphabetical order in your Windows Live Mesh window.  You cannot organize them in any other way.  If you have hundreds of synced folders, you simply have an alphabetical list of hundreds of folders (you can’t group them in any way).  Very, very, very stupid.

Also, I really miss the visual differentiation of synced folders that the old Live Mesh had.  It used to be that synced folders turned blue when you synced them.  Now there is NO VISUAL INDICATOR that a folder is synced.  You could manually change the folder icon, but that’s not realistic for hundreds of folders.

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