Keeping Up to Date with SyncToy

Another technology blog for the masses (or the one person that probably looks at my blog once a year), and this one is a little gem.

Today I was looking into something for Pat, Jackies man on his laptop, and he wanted to know a way to syncronize his files between his desktop home PC which he does all his work on, to his laptop so that when he travels he has the most recent of all his data.

I first thought I could map a network drive between his home PC and his laptop then use Offline Files in Windows XP to syncronize the folders, but then I thought this method would be cumbersome and difficult to keep going for somebody who doesn’t know XP so well.

My second thought was to build a script for him which he could just double click to copy everything from his home PC to his laptop, but whilst this would have been effective, if his requirements for transfer changed, it would have needed me to ammend the script for him to inclde the new files/folders.

I decided to do a quick Google of it to see if anyone had any bright idea, and this came up:

An application by the name of SyncToy, a PowerToy from Microsoft for use with Windows XP and Windows Vista. The tool allows you to create rules which syncronizes files between two computers. The best thing about this utility is that it has lots of different options such as the ability to copy files to and from NTFS and FAT32 volumes without causing errors as it modifies permissions and attributes on-the-fly for the files. The application supports UNC paths and for those of you who don’t understand that it’s a way of connecting to computers on your local home network by computer name such as computer1 as well as supporting networked drives, but the best is yet to come.

The best thing about this application is it’s mode selection. In some cases you want to identical copies of two folders on each computer according to which is newest. In another case, you might case a folder in one location which you want to overwrite the other folder regardless because you know that this folder has the correct data – No problem…this is covered also.

Then some people may have the question of automation? What if I forget to run the copy job or anything like that? No problem. You can use the Scheduled Tasks wizard built into Windows XP or Vista to run the tasks you have configured. Simply create a tash with the -R switch on the end to run all of the configured tasks or -R “TaskName” to specify only a single task to run automated. An example of this would be “C:Program FilesSyncToySyncToy.exe” -R “MyBackupTask”. This would run a task created called MyBackupTask using the schedule you create, which could be hourly, daily, weekly or even as long as monthly – Whenever in fact.

There is one shortfall to this application which I can see, which is that there is no option to specify a ser context for running the backup on the remote computer. In most peoples homes you may have a computer for one person, and anothe for another person, but will probably not have an account for each other on those PC’s meaning you need a way to run the backup using the remote username. This can be solved using a network drive and specifying the username and password for the network drive, but some people might not want to, or know how to map a network drive.

Besides the last part this is a very good little tool ot of Redmond, so I would recommend anyone needing to transfer files to use it, as other commercial file transfer software is very bloaty and can be complex to set up. This program is very lightweight and simple and only occupies about 2 or 3 MB of disk space so you won’t even notice it.


Richard works as a Cloud Consultant for Fordway Solution where his primary focus is to help customers understand, adopt and develop with Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center. Richard Green is an IT Pro with over 15 years' of experience in all things Microsoft including System Center and Office 365. He has previously worked as a System Center consultant and as an internal solutions architect across many verticals. Outside of work, he loves motorbikes and is part of the orange army, marshaling for NGRRC, British Superbikes and MotoGP. He is also an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.