Anyone with more than one computer has been forced to dance an awkward file-and-folder shuffle. You have multiple files and folders that you want to keep synchronized on multiple PCs, for example one at work and one at home, or a laptop and a desktop. Making sure you have the latest version of files can be a time-consuming chore. And you also want to ensure that you don't overwrite newer files with older ones. Laplink's PCsync, now in version 6.0, solves these problems neatly.
With PCsync, you can synchronize folders and individual files across multiple computers--and schedule synching to run automatically, or manually on demand, or some combination. You'll be able to synchronize via a network such as a home or office network, or via a Laplink USB cable or Windows Easy Transfer cable. It also lets you synchronize to external hard drives and USB drives, so you can use it as a backup program as well. And even if you've got a mixed network, it'll do the trick, because in this new version it now works with Macs. Also new to this version is Windows 7 compatibility, so the software now works with Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. It's a 32-bit application, but works on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.
Setup is straightforward, although on some PC systems, you may run into problems because of potential conflicts with Windows Data Execution Protection (DEP). If that happens to you, you'll want to check out Laplink's help page on how to solve the problem. Also, the installation wizard will ask whether you want to make Ask.com your home page, and will install the Ask Toolbar by default, so make sure to uncheck the boxes if you're not interested.
Once you've got PCsync installed, you'll see all of your computer's connections such as your network, USB drive, and Laplink cable, on the left-hand side of the screen. To synchronize files and folders, click the New button, then follow a wizard's instructions for connecting to another computer and determining what you want to synchronize. You get a great deal of control over which files and folders to synchronize, the schedule for synchronization, and so on. Once you do that, tell PCsync to go to work, and it does its magic. If you have only a few files to synchronize, it happens nearly immediately, but depending on the number of files you want to synchronize, the initial synch can take 15 minutes or more.
If you're synchronizing between a PC and a Mac, you may need to fiddle with the settings to get it to work properly, depending on your PC and Mac setups. I had difficulty connecting to my Mac from my PC, for example, until I turned off the Authentication and SSL settings in the Mac from inside PCsync. After that, it worked like a charm.
PCsync isn't the only synchronization tool out there, and it faces stiff competition from Microsoft's free Windows Live Sync and Sharpcast's SugarSync Free (the vendor also has various paid plans, priced according to the amount of online storage offered). In some ways, even the free SugarSync is superior to PCsync, because in addition to synchronizing multiple PCs and Macs, it also backs up the folders and files online. In addition, the synchronization happens nearly instantaneously, and is done over the Internet, and doesn't require that your computers be connected via a cable or network. Windows Live Sync is similar in that it syncs over the Internet, although it doesn't include online backup. However, neither SugarSync nor Windows Live Sync gives you the same kind of fine-grained control over files and folders to synchronize.
If you want fine-grained control over synchronization, PCsync is the best bet. If you're looking for free synching over the Internet, SugarSync or Windows Live Sync will be better for you.