Have a laptop or netbook and want to get more out of it? You're not alone. We've experienced the frustration of trying to keep data or bookmarks on a portable synchronized with those of a desktop PC or other laptops. We've struggled with diminishing battery life. We've needed assistance getting connected at hotspots or staying safe once online. And we've wondered how to take full advantage of USB flash drives.
But we've found help--and it's all free. Here are ten no-cost pieces of downloadable software that will solve your synchronization, battery, Wi-Fi, and USB woes. They'll make it easier and more fun to get your work done, too.
(If you're eager to download these programs, and you want access to all of them in one convenient place, see our "10 Free Downloads for Your Laptop" collection.)
If you own a desktop in addition to a laptop, you constantly have to deal with synchronizing files and folders between them. If you're not careful, you'll end up working on older files on one computer while the newer versions sit on the other. Worse yet, when copying files between the machines, you might accidentally overwrite a newer version with an older one. The following three freebies solve those problems for you. They can synchronize your files automatically, and they can even synchronize between PCs and Macs.
This excellent software does double duty as a synchronization tool and as an automated backup program. Exceedingly simple to use, it offers 2GB of free online backup space, takes up little RAM and few system resources, and works with Macs as well as PCs. All that, and it's free.
Simply install the software on your computers and indicate which folders to synchronize; SugarSync Free then works in the background. If the computer to which you wish to sync is not online, the files will sync to it when it returns. In addition to syncing the files, SugarSync Free backs them up online.
You can do a lot more, too, such as sharing files and folders with other people. The software also keeps older versions of your file online so that you can revert to any of them.
The free edition of the software will synchronize only two computers, and it has a limit of 2GB of online storage space. For-pay versions let you synchronize among multiple PCs and offer faster upload speeds; prices range from $5 per month to $25 per month.
Download SugarSync Free | Price: Free
Windows Live Sync
What if you want to synchronize your laptop with more than one other desktop or laptop, but you don't want to spend the money that SugarSync charges for it? Give the free Windows Live Sync a try. With this tool, you can sync folders on as many computers as you want, and you don't have to pay a penny. Keep in mind, however, that this software doesn't include online backup; it only synchronizes folders from computer to computer.
Using Windows Live Sync is even easier than working with SugarSync Free--the method of adding and removing folders is more straightforward. Since you manage everything from a Website, you can set up your synchronization options in a single step rather than multiple ones.
Like SugarSync, Windows Live Sync works with Macs as well as PCs. However, I have been unable to get the software to work with Snow Leopard, the newest version of Mac OS X; if you want to synchronize with a Snow Leopard Mac, you may run into problems.
Download Windows Live Sync | Price: Free
Here's a common problem for laptop owners who also have another machine: How do you keep your Favorites and bookmarks synchronized among all your computers? Let's say that you browse the Web on your laptop, adding a few bookmarks and deleting a few. The next day you use your desktop, but of course it doesn't have the latest bookmark changes you made. Trying to make the corresponding additions and deletions on the desktop's Web browser can be time-consuming--and that's assuming you even remember them all.
Xmarks solves the problem neatly. It synchronizes the bookmarks on multiple PCs, and better yet, it does so between browsers as well: With its help, you can keep Internet Explorer bookmarks on one PC synchronized with Firefox bookmarks on another. The tool even works on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The software used to be known as Foxmarks; since then, its creators have updated it with additional features, including the ability to offer information about sites when you conduct searches. The extras are useful, but you'll really want this software for its synchronization of the bookmarks on all your PCs.
Download Xmarks | Price: Free