How to sync files and folders across two PCs

Sasdas asked the Desktops forum for ways to keep the same folder synced on two PCs, so that changes on one computer show up on the other.

Here are four ways to do this, although--technically speaking--only two of them actually keep the files on both PCs. The others merely make the folder available on both.

I'm assuming here that both PCs are attached to the same router (either wired or wirelessly), and through that router can access the Internet.

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Share a folder over the network

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Since your computers are on the same router, they're also on the same local area network (LAN). You can therefore keep the folder on one computer, and share it with others. Exactly how to set up the sharing depends on the operating systems involved.

This solution won't cost you anything, but it's got one serious flaw: It only works when the PC hosting the files is on, and on the LAN.

Attach a hard drive to the network

Robert Cardin

Network-attached storage (NAS) puts one or more hard drives into a special box that plugs into your router. Put the to-be-synced folders on the NAS, and every computer on the network can potentially access them (most NASes allow you to control who has access to what).

The NAS, of course, has to be on all of the time, but they're designed for that and many have power-saving features.

But this is not a cheap solution. Expect to pay a minimum of $150 for the box and a single hard drive.

Set up a local file-syncing program

You can put the folder on both PCs, then use special software to keep them in sync over the LAN. And if you pick free version of Allway Sync, it won't cost you a dime.

See Sync a Network Folder for details.

Cloud syncing

Setting up a local area network can be tricky for the uninitiated, so the simplest solution isĀ the one that avoids the LAN altogether and syncs over the Internet. Services like Dropbox, Apple's iCloud, and Microsoft's SkyDrive keep folders in sync even if the PCs are on different continents.

So what's the bad news?

For one, it's slow. Compared to your LAN, your Internet connection almost certainly qualifies as a bottleneck--especially for uploads.

For another, it might get pricy. Although these services all offer free accounts, they come with space limitations. If you want to sync more than a few gigabytes, you'll have to pay a monthly fee. In the long run, that will cost more than a NAS.

Read the original forum discussion.

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