I, like many people, carry a flash drive with me at all times. This allows me to work on files, primarily for a class teach at Metropolitan State University, wherever I am on any computer I can find. When I’m at home, though, I prefer to not hunt for my keychain (where my flash drive is located) and I like to make changes to my files on the hard drive of the computer that I’m using. Windows Live Sync does a great job keeping all of my computer hard drives synchronized, but then I’m still left with the task of keeping the flash drive that I carry mirrored to my computers as well.
I posted before about a Microsoft tool called SyncToy. It worked great with WindowsXP at managing the files I had on my flash drive and replicating additions/changes/deletions between my laptop and flash drive. Sadly, though, once I installed the Windows 7 Beta on my laptop I started to have issues with SyncToy.
Files that were identical on my hard drive and flash drive were copied back and forth as if they were different (usually due to an issue with the time zone offset it seemed). Other times it just seemed that certain files were overlooked in the synchronization process. These issues did not disappear when I installed the final release of Windows 7 in October so I started to look for alternatives. I see now that SyncToy was upgraded to version 2.1 in November, but I’m not willing to risk the integrity of my data given my recent experience with the product so I set off to find a product that did what I needed.
The program that does everything I need it to do (and then some) is SyncBackSE from 2BbrightSparks. Unlike SyncToy it is not free, but it is well worth the $30 for a task that is so vital to me. There is a free version of SyncBack but I found that it doesn’t manage deletions well. When a file was deleted on my flash drive, for example, the free version of SyncBack would identify that the file was on the hard drive and not the flash drive and it would copy the file back to the flash drive to keep the two identical. SyncBackSE version instead will note that the file was deleted on one side and then delete it on the other side of the folder pair. That is exactly the behavior I was looking for. SyncBackSE offers a host of other settings to fine tune the file management process to be exactly what you want it to be depending on your needs (see screenshot).
In short, I use a combination of Windows Live Sync (to keep files mirrorred between three different computers) and SyncBackSE (to manage files between one of those machines and my flash drive — changes that are then passed to the other computers through Windows Live Sync). It is great to once again have complete confidence that changes I make to files will be available everywhere each time I make them.