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Synchronizing Two Hard Drives – Suggestions from Readers

In a recent newsletter article Synchronizing Two Hard Drives, I wrote about Subscriber JJ’s desire to safely and accurately synchronize files between two computers. This week, several other readers wrote to suggest ways he might be able to manage this. JJ’s original request was:

Hello Terry,

Thanks for allowing us to ask questions. My question is this:

I have a PC at my office and one at home. I use the one at home to work from on “sick” days and “bad weather” days. I try to keep the same data files on both PC’s. Sometimes I add files to the home PC that is not on the office PC and visa versa.

What is the best way to synchronize these two hard drives so that no data is lost from either, but yet they both continually have the same data on them. I have an external hard drive that I usually copy my office data files to (almost 8 Gigs!) and then copy the whole thing to the home PC, but I find this to be very bothersome and time consuming. Do you have a better method? I would love to hear it.


Subscriber Hen999ry suggested:

JJ needs a cloud-based file synchronization / backup service.

I use SugarSync to automatically synchronize my data files between multiple computers.

Other possibilities include IDrive, Syncplicity, Windows Live Mesh (Beta), and Dropbox (Beta).

Sbscriber Ultan suggested:

Here is a way to synchronizing Two Hard Drives

This is possible if JJ is the only person accessing the files. If not, as you say, a file could be changed at same time and it is not easy to sync to changes to the file.

Here is how I do it.

— Install MS SyncToy on work PC (free download from MS, requires .Net)

— At work, create a Sync pair between the work hard drive and the external hard drive.

— Run SyncToy before leaving work. Only changed files are copied to the external hard drive.

— At home, if possible work from the external hard drive.

— If it is not possible to work from the external hard drive, install SyncToy on the home PC and create sync pair. Run SyncToy sync before starting and after finishing work.

— When returning to work, run SyncToy sync before being work.

— Repeat as necessary

This is a little bit tedious but does work as long as only JJ accesses the files. Working from the external hard drive when at home simplifies the process a lot (only need to run SyncToy sync at work).

SyncToy is the only free sync tools that I have found that syncs deletions.

Ultan had a great point. If JJ works from the external drive, he’s always got the latest copy. He can copy to the internal hard drive if he likes, but it should always be considered a “backup” with the external drive having the work copy. That solves the issue of a file getting changed and not passed on to the other computer.


  1. It doesn’t seem to work well this way with two PC’s and an external hard drive. Sync Toy seems to want to resync everything each time the external hard drive is sync’ed to either computer, and it ends up overwriting a vast majority of the files (taking hours if not days to write 200+ megs).

    Sync Toy doesn’t seem to check file dates individually, maybe only folder dates. Maybe it’s because the dates the folders were updated signals to Sync Toy that all files in the folder are updated. This method stated above doesn’t seem to work well. Maybe it’s OK if it’s only 8 megs, but 320 megs and rewriting 90% of the data each sync is ridiculous.

    Is there an answer to this with Sync Toy, or should I use another software package to sync home files to my work PC and external hard drive?

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