Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility

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Introduction

File synchronization utilities help you keep updated copies of files or folders in two or more locations, such as different computers, network drives, USB drives, or online storage. While a file sync utility could be used as a simple backup tool (called one-way syncing), its real power lies in keeping an identical set of working files in two or more locations.

An example of this would be keeping current versions of the same data files on both your home computer and office computer (two-way syncing). File sync utilities keep track of which files you create or change, or even delete in one location, and can create, change and delete those same files in the other location.

There are a lot of contenders in this category, but only a few stand out based on the criteria below.

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Rated Products

FreeFileSync  

A well designed and easy-to-use sync program


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Open source)
Very easy to understand and use "straight out of the box."
Very few filter options, no ftp, no auto sync, very sparse help.
Read full review...

Allway Sync  

A very well rounded product with a filter, rule set and loads of features


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
Very robust set of filters and rules, support for FTP.
Monthly file copy limit of 40,000 files, no support for copying locked files.
Read full review...

Honourable Mentions

  • SyncBack supports file compression and can verify file integrity after job completion.
  • Synkron had a lot of votes for this one in the comments section.
  • File Synchronizer is good if you are looking for a minimalistic or simplistic utility.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

I definitely agree with what you wrote MC, and also the approach.

Yes :-)

I was only posting to the effect that FreeFileSync seem to have ended their relationship with Open Candy, which makes the review in this article somewhat misleading. Unless OC themselves have changed the way that they operate, which is something I need to look into properly.

Unpacking the FreeFileSync installer exec shows that OCSetupHlp.dll is not included in this release, along with the other indicators that I mentioned, so I'm reasonably confident in saying that OC isn't bundled with this version.

I didn't intend for a moment though to suggest though that FreeFileSync no longer bundles offers with their installer.

I think MC has a very good point ... even if OC has (apparently) been dumped with respect to v6.12 of FreeFileSync, that's no guarantee that it won't be back in v6.13. Or indeed that OC themselves haven't changed the way they work. As MC says, keeping up with such changes would be a time-consuming activity and even impossible if vendors are looking at ways of tricking users who know how to look for, and avoid, bundling such as Open Candy.

Conversely, inaccurately stating that FreeFileSync bundles Open Candy is imv something that might possibly impact negatively on this excellent website. So perhaps a less specific warning to users is a better way forward? A "more general advisory" could warn users against those vendors who practise bundling while avoiding the need to update articles with every release of a software version, except perhaps in the case of important changes.

Curiously though I did run the "normal" (i.e. non-portable) installation just now (CIS sandboxed) and it gave me no offers at all, which has given me pause for thought as to whether the installer has registered my previous selections. I don't think it can have as I "approve" each registry edit on a case-by-case basis, but I'll have to investigate this in more detail later.

Lastly, I'm at a loss as regards previous posters. I've used the SourceForge installer since FFS moved there and have never experienced anything like that described re; the "crapware" that's mentioned, even on a raw and unprotected O/S. I've never found FreeFileSync to install anything that I didn't want, as long as I pay attention during the install process. I do know though that some alternative download sites are somewhat less than transparent, so I wonder if these comments come from people who get the software from other sites.

It's a difficult call ... I mean FreeFileSync is undoubtedly the best in its class imo and I can hardly blame them if they want to make some income from it.

Bundling seems to be a fact of life these days with a lot of freeware, and personally I don't have any problem with it. As long as people stick to well-known and reputable sites and practise "safe computing" - i.e. system back-ups (especially drive imaging - http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-drive-imaging-program.htm) and careful installations etc - then I don't think we really have a lot to worry about for now.

Thanks for the explanation :). I agree that if FreeFileSync is not being bundled with OC, then we should update the article. But, yes, that also means that we have to be sure that FreeFileSync is not being bundled with OC. As you say, they might not be bundling OC anymore, or, OC might have changed how they work... don't know. Looking at this, MC's approach seems more logical, to just generically give a warning rather than a specific one. Also, when an article does not have an editor, like this one, the updating of the information too is difficult. With reviews maintained by editors, they take care of the updating, but with such reviews, it's difficult to update the information. You are right, bundling software with freeware is increasingly becoming a trend, but yes, unless an opt-out is provided, I do not have any problem. I too did not have any problem with FreeFileSync till now, of having unwanted software on my computer. I guess that either the users who are complaining downloaded the software from some other place, or, the likely possibility is that they were somehow not entirely careful during the install process. Cannot blame them fully, because the software vendors keep changing tactics on the opt-out screens, to make the opt-out process really tricky, to lure users. Have to be really careful.
Have now amended the wording of the cautionary notice. MC - Site Manager.

Yes, it is sad that FFS feels it has to bundle crapware, as the program itself is six star (IMO). Apart from clicking off the installer, my solution to the risk is to take a restore point before installing to be able to remove unwanted software and register entries if necessary. Malwarebytes may also be effective in preventing installation.

FreeFileSync is bundled with Malware!

For FFS there exist two "installers":
This one: http://www.fosshub.com/FreeFileSync.html (11.1) MB
and this one:
https://sourceforge.net/projects/freefilesync/files/FreeFileSync/6.11/

The latter is not the 11.1 MB installer, but some 773 KB helper program. This helper program installs - if you are not very careful and read the fine print - Optimizer Pro and other things. It also downloads the 11.1 MB "real" installer.

Late one night I didn't pay attention and accidentally installed Optimizer Pro and two other unwanted items, one of which was Astromenda, a browser hijacker. It placed itself in about 170 registry entries and was a real pain to remove.

So FFS is great software, but the bundling with malware is unethical.

Thanks for the link. I used the fosshub link. It warned to watch for extras. For 6.14 it asked for approval for Tune utilities i also saw with something else. Nothing else installed.

I notice it now also comes with a Realtime Sync tool. Thats great - this can cover 2 tools I used to use.

FFS WatchOut!
an update FreeFileSync is now OFF my machine for good - installed FFS 4.11 today (from SourceForge source) hoping it would fix 4.10. Again being careful to uncheck any boxes as I installed. This time it installed without error but the program fails to sync with any folders or do the job I need it too. It has also hijacked my browsers with some rubbish called Lasaoren and installed some other rubbish called PC Optimser. FFS and Optismer Programs easy to remove, Lasaoren is proving harder

I think you meant 6.11, since that's the latest version which became available for download today. I installed FreeFileSync 6.11 on my computer today, and it installed without problems. I was successfully able to avoid the bundled extra that was shown during installation. No extras or unwanted program were installed on my computer. And I just synced a pen drive containing my software collection with the one on the computer, and again, I had no problems. So, seems that the problem is local to you. Have you tried uninstalling the software completely, and reinstalling? While installation, were you careful to avoid the extra software that is offered? It's easy to opt out of.

thanks Anupam, yes 6.11 (doh!)

still not sure how all this rubbish got on my machine, Malwarebytes is still running and has listed 9 suspicious items including OpenCandy too so I clearly messed up somewhere. Given I have Win 7 Pro OS my next step will be to see what sync stuff it can do

Yes I have uninstalled but wary of reinstall, really busy today and don't need the hassle of fixing stuff like this

FreeFileSync has been my "goto" for ages, use it daily to keep my pen drives current. Updated to 6.10 today and Avast reported suspicious adware files and blocked some .exe file writes. Now FFS is broken - running Win 7 Pro and Firefox, anyone else had issues? To be clear, afaik I unticked all the unwanted install boxes at every stage

This site is my first stop when looking for software, I have been helped so many times, and decided to give something back by throwing in my 'two penny worth' I was sorry to learn that Allways Sync now ceases to work after 30 days, unless you buy a license. I never install software bundled with junk, so had to pass on FreeFile sync,and I have forgotten why I passed on the other two on the list. My wish list for a file synch application was very similiar to Gizmo's so I fished around, and found a couple of others that seemed to have good user reviews, and no complaints. One was SyncFolders, the other Dsynchronize. both are free.
I tried SyncFolders first,and found that it does everything on the list, except I don't have a network to try it on...maybe someone else can. It has 3 synch functions - Synch (2 way), copy, or back up. Manual or auto - I could just choose in the settings. I could choose a different function for each folder if I wanted, and several options for each folder to synch however best suits me. Also, there are several choices related to deletions, including transfer of a deleted file or folder.to a history folder if I like.Also, options for what I want to happen in 2 way synch if a file has changed in both source and destination folder. There are versioning choices too.
It transferred 15.8Gb to my usb 3 HDD in 9.26 minutes. I don't know how to check for system resources it uses, but I could still use the computer without it slowing down.
I can set it to run as often as I like, 'forever' if I like.
Only thing that is missing for me as a home user, is the option for it to Synch only when I make a change, rather than at set intervals. I've set it for every 10 minutes, because sometimes I can add a lot of files in half an hour, yet sometimes I may not add any for a day or three. Auto is better for me, as I am forgetful. I haven't got around to the other two, because a) I ran out of puff. and b) I would only change now if either of the other two were able to auto synch only when a change occurs. I will see if I can contact the developer of Dsynchronize and ask if it has this option.
Or maybe someone else might have the motivation to check out Dsynchronize before I get around to it.

Based on trying them both with sync'ing 500GB of data between two NAS drives via a Win8.1u PC, SyncBackFree V6 seems a lot faster than FreeFileSync (and SyncBackFree doesn't include Open Candy, either).

I installed FreeFileSync 6.5 on a Windows 7 64-bit Professional system,
opting out of the adware.

After one try I rejected (i.e. uninstalled) it because it took so long
to complete a comparison of two 64GB flash drives. I did not time it,
however, I'm sure it was still working after 5-10 minutes. Back to
FreeFileSync 3.1, which completed the comparison in seconds.

No more will I blindly update a program.

The link for FreeFileSync (both the homepage and download page) I think is dead.

Freefilesynch installs much more ... then you think

Please remove this program from this forum..

This program installs:

c:\program files(x86)\security Update Services\search_checker(as a service)
c:\program files(x86)\security Update Services\winupdsvc.exe
setup_ez_Youtube_Videodownloader_v1.1.5.exe

and tries to install a virus detected by the virusscanner in the file pcspeedup.tmp .

Please remove the link to freefilesynch from your forum

Pieter van Ooijen 13-4-2014

No idea where you got your version from, but it's done no such thing for me.

The portable edition from portableapps-dot-com is also excellent. This freeware is very good imo.

FreeFileSync contains OpenCandy, and therefore, it will show third party software recommendation during installation. Were you careful to avoid that? It can be easily opted out. I have been using FreeFileSync for a long time now. It's an excellent software. However, you need to just take care during installation to avoid the third party product that is suggested. If you get past that, it installs without trouble. I don't have the folders or files that you have written about.
Agreed these additional items can only be acquired if users just click through the install process. PC Speed Up is a common candidate among these bundles. MC - Site Manager. http://malwaretips.com/blogs/pc-speed-up-virus/
It's opening fine for me.

> Very few filter options, no ftp, no auto sync, very sparse help

The filter is actually pretty cool: include/exclude by path supporting wildcards, setting a time span, setting a range of file sizes. These features probably weren't includeded yet when the review was made, so this might need some updating.
It also includes a tool called RealtimeSync which is probably what you mean with "auto sync". The help file has also grown lately and is very useful.

FreeFileSync contains Opencandy now.

5.23 did contain OpenCandy with no visible opt out. However, this has now changed and an obvious click off pops up for Bejewelled Blitz. Open Candy did not appear to install, as it did not appear in Programs and Features, and was easily removed with Malwarebytes.

Thank you. The product details have now been updated. MC - Site Manager.

Not a deal breaker, but be careful to "unlock" your bitlocker drive if you use this built in encryption on Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1.

Spaced on this while using this on two computers and frustrated myself.

Probably not a big deal for most people, but this seems to only be installable on the C: drive.

I use a multiple drive system, with a solid state drive for the initial windows load. Thus, my C: drive has very little spare capacity and I TRY and avoid installing on it (rather I put most on the D:\Program Files (x86) or D:\Program Files

Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of.

>ALLWAY Sync was exactly what I needed for the the job I had.

I work for a non-profit organization who has several independent people working for them with their own personal computers. <

But doesn't the "private use only" EULA disallow that?

This is from the ALLWAY SYNC web site: LICENSE FOR FREE VERSION OF ALLWAY SYNC (ALLWAY SYNC FREE) "Non-Profit Customers (but not other Customers) are allowed to use Allway Sync for free, subject to limitations as described below. All other Customers are allowed to use Allway Sync Free for thirty days for evaluation purposes only." "Non-Profit Customer is defined as a customer who uses Allway Sync in a non-commercial environment for non-profit activity. All Customers who use Allway Sync in a commercial, business or government setting, or in a military institution, or when engaged in profitable activity at home are not Non-Profit Customers for the purposes of this agreement. Customers who are students of accredited universities and high schools are classified as Non-profit Customers even if their school or university is owned and operated by a government." Since this freeware is designed to be accessed from different devices and different locations, as long as Alway Sync is not being used for profit, it can be freely distributed. http://allwaysync.com/license.html

> A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.

The portable installation is in fact already possible with the official FreeFileSync release: There's a checkbox in the installer to do that.

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