Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility

 
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.

Criteria for the Evaluating a Synchronization Utility:

A good synchronization utility would have most or all the following features.

  • Should support two-way synchronization of files.
  • Should be able to replicate any source folder even if the files are in use.
  • Should detect conflicts or file collisions. These occur when a file has changed in both locations since the last sync operation. This requires that a database or journal be kept by the utility.
  • Should propagate deletions and detect file renames. This also requires a log file of previous operations.
  • Should support filters and rules for fine tuning what files are, or are not included in the sync operations.
  • Should show a preview of what is going to take place during a sync operation, and allow the user to easily over-ride any actions desired.
  • Should have a job scheduler and the ability to automatically detect and launch sync operations when a destination becomes active. (Such as plugging in a USB drive)
  • Should support syncing to both local and network locations.

There are are a lot of contenders in this category, but based on the criteria above, three stand out.

 
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Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

FreeFileSyncFreeFileSync is a solid contender here. The thing I like the best with this utility is its very clear and informative interface.

The preview is very easy to understand, and file collisions and deletions are more readily recognizable than many other sync programs. If you require a sync program that can copy files that are in use or locked, FreeFileSync has you covered there too!

Unfortunately it only has very basic filters, no auto sync feature, and no direct support for FTP. My final complaint would be that its help file is a little sparse. Those few flaws aside, I found it to be well designed and easy to use.

Caution! FreeFileSync is now bundled with OpenCandy. See our information page for details.

 

Allway SyncAllway Sync is my second recommendation. It is a very well rounded product with loads of features. It has a very robust filter and rule set and definitely has the edge here over the other reviewed products.

It also offers support for FTP, scheduling, and auto syncing. It has a very thorough help file which can be of great benefit especially to those who are new to synchronization programs.

One draw back I found is that while it does detect file collisions and deletions, it is not very clear how to choose which versions of conflicting files to keep and which to overwrite. You should also be aware that in the free version of Allway Sync, there is a file operation limit of 40,000 files in any 30 day period. So if you have a large amount of files to synchronize on a daily basis you might need to look at a different choice. Also note that it does not support copying locked files as the developers feel it could compromise data integrity.

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

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

FreeFileSync
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very easy to understand and use "straight out of the box."
Very few filter options, no ftp, no auto sync, very sparse help. Now bundled with unwanted components (OpenCandy).
5.23
11.6 MB --> Win32.exe
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Win XP - Vista, Linux

v5.23 released 1 November, 2013

Allway Sync
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very robust set of filters and rules, support for FTP
Monthly file copy limit of 40,000 files, no support for copying locked files
http://www.allwaysync.com/
12.16.9
7.29 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Win XP - 7

Other languages available
v12.16.9 released 10 October, 2013
View version changes here

 
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Tags

free, sync, folder, synchronization, utility, tool

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Comments

by Geo (not verified) on 24. August 2011 - 16:27  (78282)

PureSync has serious issues. If you value your data, you will steer clear of this program. I installed it to sync only 2 files on my computer, which it did quite well. However, I found that it made changes to other files on my computer that were not even assigned to PureSync. In the worst case, I had 2 files that were not assigned to sync. I had copied some of the data in file 1 to file 2. I copied some of the data in file 2 to file 1. Then I deleted the duplicates in both files. PureSync reconstructed file 1 as though I had not made any changes, eliminating the data that I had moved from 2 to 1. That same data that I had deleted from file 2 was still gone. I have uninstalled PureSync and will never trust it again. I suggest that Gizmo's remove it from their recommendations.

by Dude (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 16:07  (78042)

h0ly cr@p, doesn't sound too good. was about to install PureSync but will dig a bit further now. Thanks for sharing and good luck on the recovery. I feel sorry for you.

by BuBBle Head (not verified) on 7. July 2011 - 6:27  (74908)

Good lord. I'm striking that off my list.

by Mica (not verified) on 6. June 2011 - 7:03  (73336)

I gave a try to allways sync, but the imposed limits on this software make it unusable to any even remotely serious user. In your evaluation it says it has a limit of 40000 files for 30 days, but you do not mention it is not the limit on synchronised files. It just detected heavy ??? use (commercial) on my PC.
Usage Statistics past 7 days past 30 days since installation
Files processed 20,394 106,120 330,892
Files copied 46 403 8,215
As You can see, I have 403 changed (synchronised) files in the last 30 days (hardly a commercial environment even for a theoretically one man office). Therefore I suggest removing this software from your lists. I totally agree with Hary above, although I otherwise did not run in serious problems with always sync.

by BJ (not verified) on 12. April 2012 - 6:37  (91950)

big thumbs down for allways sync
It is not very clear that if you have 10000 files and try to sync every week you will have to by the pro key - even if you only edit one or 2 files during that time. Its a good program... but the interface takes time to learn and then when you have finially figured it out, it tells you to buy a pro key. I am p*d off!!!!

by Ritho on 7. June 2011 - 3:16  (73413)

I am aware of the limitations,and allway sync will likely be replaced in the list in the near future. Many people never exceed the file limit, however, because they are only synchronizing documents or other working files between, let's say, a desktop and a laptop.

by Sam/Sydney (not verified) on 21. May 2011 - 11:25  (72434)

We use Dsynchronize (http://dsynchronize.en.softonic.com/) for its simplicity, pretty low on resources, efficient and can run as a service. Running as a service is definitely a plus/must for PCs that might be used by more than one person. We haven't come across the problem as per comments #24347 as all files/folders are never hidden/read-only.

by Minnesota Bob (not verified) on 8. May 2011 - 12:34  (71621)

Hi Ritho,

Just saw that PCMag recommends 'Create Synchronicity':

http://synchronicity.sourceforge.net

Ever heard of it? Opinions?

Thanks,

Minnesota Bob

by AJ (not verified) on 15. May 2011 - 3:12  (71910)

I downloaded the program right after I saw it. It seems to be pretty good especially with its ability to do md5 validation but I also want the experts' opinions on this... Ritho?

by Ritho on 15. May 2011 - 5:30  (71915)

I had to look back at the notes I've made when I have tested various different programs. Create Synchronicity really deserves another look as it has been quite some time since I tried to test it. My notes reminded me that I could not get it to install on my test machine. I wish I would have put a date and what version number I tested, but I suspect it was still in ver 2 or 3 at the time. I looked at the change log and it is in very rapid development, which is quite impressive.

Because I could not get it to install I looked around on net to see what others were saying about it. It did not have much of a following then, and was barely "on the radar." That seems to have really changed as there are a fair number of high-profile reviews on the web with positive comments.

So sorry AJ,this jury is still out for a while, but looking at the features that have been introduced in the last two major versions (i.e. 4.0 & 5.0) it has matured well, and has some interesting features. I'd say give it a shot and then let us know how it goes for you.

by Tim Lorang (not verified) on 3. May 2011 - 15:51  (71349)

Yesterday I installed PureSync after reading these reviews. Set up was easy and I started syncing between my computer's user folder on the Hard Drive with a network drive. Near the end I got a message that I didn't understand. It seemed to say that there was a file in Z drive that was going to be deleted. Since I wasn't sure what the file was I clicked the other option thinking that I could see what the file was and delete it manually if needed.

NOW I have a C: drive on my computer's hard drive and a Z: drive that duplicates every thing in the C: Drive. So now the computer's hard drive is full. Not only that, but when I delete a file in Z: it is deleted in C: The hard drive is not partitioned but when I look at the computer in Windows it shows: Hard Disk Drives(2) Laptop(C:) Laptop(Z:)

PureSync has no Contact Support and no e-mail except to a PR company. (That I can find-perhaps someone has come contact info). They have a twitter account and I've been sending them messages but so far no response.

Any idea how to get rid of the Z: folder or drive? Then get rid of PureSync.

Thank you,
Tim Lorang

[Moderator's note : Email address removed for safety reasons]

by Harry (not verified) on 5. May 2011 - 23:55  (71490)

Hi Tim,

I think the Contact Support you are looking for is on the PureSync home screen under >Help>About> Suggestions, Wishes, Bugs.< which opens an email Puresync@jumpingbytes.com

I sure hope they respond to your requests. I also wrote to them about the "skip locked files" (typically the outlook.pst file), which it does skip, but for some reason, obviously a bug, then go and deletes the backup copy of the .pst file on "folder 2" (destination folder). This type of slip-up makes one really nervous!

Hope the also read posting like this. PureSync having no forum definitely is a drawback.

MFG
Harry

by Anupam on 3. May 2011 - 16:15  (71352)

Please post such requests in the forum, where they can be better answered. You will have to register on the site.

by jmaloney on 30. April 2011 - 21:16  (71192)

I had trouble deciding whether to share my experience under Folder Synchronization (here), Backup Programs, or FTP Clients. I've tried all three types of programs to maintain two personal web sites. After I change files on my PC I need a quick, easy, RELIABLE way to transfer the files from my PC to the appropriate web site. The need is simple but finding free programs to meet it has been hard.

I can do the transfers manually using an FTP client by connecting, sorting my local files by date, selecting the block of changed files, and transferring them. I used to use WS_FTP, but several years ago it started having an error every two or three files. I tried Filezilla, but it would fail on several files per session and determining which files had not been transferred was difficult. I tried backup programs whose names I don't recall, but they weren't suitable.

Finally I had success with file synchronization programs set to sync one way only, from my PC to the Internet host via FTP, using the synchronization programs like backup programs. A different program proved to work best for each of my sites. For the larger site I use East2Sync Free (http://www.easy2sync.com/en/produkte/easy2sync_down.php). After I found the best way to configure it for my site, that program has proven to be the most reliable of all the programs I tried. On long jobs other programs disconnected, but Easy2Sync almost never disconnects. The downside is that the free version only allows one job to be defined and it doesn't process subdirectories.

The other synchronization program that has worked the best for me is Syncback Freeware (http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/compare.html). I use it to maintain my smaller web site and it works great. It allows multiple jobs and it handles subdirectories.

For years on XP I copied new and changed files to a backup drive several times a day by simply double-clicking a shortcut on my desktop than ran the DOS xcopy command with appropriate switches. I haven't been able to get past permission problems using that approach on Windows 7, so I've been using two syncing programs to back up my new and changed files to an external drive: Syncback and SyncToy 2.1 (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=c26efa36-98e...). Syncback is very fast but has permission problems I haven't resolved. I really like SyncToy except for the fact that it is very slow, taking about a half hour to do what Syncback does in a couple of minutes.

Jon

by Ritho on 2. May 2011 - 5:11  (71273)

Very nice mini review of sync programs being used in a specialized application. Thanks.

I will make a few suggestions. Rsync will do pretty much every thing you need and want and much more, but it is a little tough to setup. (It is a console/command line program) There are a few Window's gui based implementations of Rsync. The one I would suggest right off hand is DeltaCopy. http://www.aboutmyip.com/AboutMyXApp/DeltaCopy.jsp As the name suggests it supports only transferring the parts or deltas of files that have changed, as does Rsync, so it should be very fast.

Another sync program you might also want to try is http://www.dirsyncpro.org/ it may also be able to meet your needs, as I have heard of others using it in this application.

by jmaloney on 2. May 2011 - 23:44  (71311)

Thanks for your suggestions, Ritho. Rsync/DeltaCopy looks like a great program for transferring large files. The long jobs I mentioned are from transferring hundreds of little files though. I have no large files, so DeltaCopy won't help me.

However, DirSync Pro looks very interesting as a possible solution to my local USB backup problem. Thanks!

Jon

by Adrian Morse (not verified) on 26. April 2011 - 15:18  (70956)

Been using SyncToy freeware for some time. It is user friendly and reliable but hard to do multiple selections/deselections prior to the sync.

I tried FreeFileSync today. Unlike SyncToy it has the ability to select and deselect multiple files/folders at once. Another great feature is that you can set an option to exclude FOLDERS with certain names/paths .e.g. Exclude "*\Test\Output" will exclude C:\Dog\Test\Output and C:\Cat\Test\Output". Not sure if other sync programs can do this but it is very handy.
My only nag so far with FreeFileSync is that it doesnt recognize renames and instead treats this as a creation on one side and deletion on the other. If you are syncing in both directions this causes the process to take longer; if you are syncing in one direction then it is more of an issue as you can end up with both new and old versions on the same side.

SyncToy handles renames well. So in my own case I plan to first use SyncToy to synchronize renamed files and then use FreeFileSync for the remaining files.

by Syncsearch (not verified) on 23. April 2011 - 5:42  (70745)

Pure Sync: "...The only major feature that I found it lacks is the ability to copy open or locked files in the free edition."
The final v3.0 (as of 19.April 2011) now supports that feature in the free personal edition!
The long and time consuming search ends for me here... I am switching from FreeFileSync to Puresync.

by Syncsearch (not verified) on 26. April 2011 - 22:02  (70979)

I misread the revision history: PureSync can handle open or locked files in all - Windows - versions. So that is still exclusive to the paid version, which costs 15 Euros which is okay, one might think.

However, I have been testing this prog a little bit and the more I worked with it the more awkward I find its UI. It behaves in non standard ways which is not a good thing for a sync sw as there is always the danger of data loss induced by the user.

Things got worse when it mixed up (yes by itself!) the rank of folders (just two) because that led to unintended deletions.

A couple of times the sw freezed in and did not respond any more. That was well more that I needed to make a decision: uninstall!!

A pity as I really expected more. This application promised a lot by offering many, many good features combined with a neat ui (only at first glance). But it failed dramatically for what it actually should do!

Thankfully this experience pushed me to look further - again!
Genie Timeline (free) IS IT! I am over the moon - installed it only today. Utterly happy with it! Stop searching: http://www.genie9.com/Free_products/free_timeline.aspx

I realize now that good sync sw does not need lots of options and features if it is designed sound and thoughtful. Less is more reliable.

by PJK (not verified) on 15. April 2011 - 22:04  (70279)

Has anybody used SyncBreeze and if so, what do you think of it?

by TheSorrow (not verified) on 9. April 2011 - 12:11  (69831)

i am looking a free synchronize software that have crc check i look many synchronize software is dosent have crc check. also need have the feature that usually synchronize software have like preview before run , safe del , easy to manage folder on preview can check uncheck etc.

by Ritho on 9. April 2011 - 18:07  (69849)

I could be mistaken,and please correct me if I am wrong, but because most synchronization programs use the built in Windows copy functions, CRC is being done by Windows itself. I like to see programs use further data verification if possible, like checksums. CRC checks data as it is being copied and checksums verify after it is copied.

by Russ (not verified) on 10. April 2011 - 14:14  (69910)

I am also looking for a sync program that verifies that the file copied matches the source.

I have some 500 Gig of photos on my harddrive. I copy it to backup harddrives via a program I bought years ago called ViceVersa Plus.

However, I've recently looked at some older photos that the data has become corrupt. I see the top half of the photo for instance.

The problem is I don't know when/how the corruption occurred.

I've gone through several source/target harddrives over the years and the corrupt photos are from 10 years ago.

SO in addition to doing a compare after the backup, I'd like the ability to compare source/target files and when identical files don't match, create a report. YEARS ago I remember using backup software that did indeed compare both files to ensure they matched. Took a long time to run, so that's perhaps why it has fallen out of favor?

Note that the file sizes and dates match on the corrupted files!

Thanks,

Russ

by kjsacramento (not verified) on 1. August 2011 - 15:54  (76696)

A comment on the corrupted photos only - I don't believe this has anything to do with sync or backup software as it has happened to me as well without using either. My computer had only programs I had used for years with no problems There were no changes or updates to them other than standard MS Vista operating system, Adobe, Trend Micro Maximum Titanium Security and MS Office 7 updates. I find that Microsoft, Trend Micro and Adobe updates cause a slew of problems and those are the only things that have changed and so I see nothing else that could have caused the damage to the photos. I have also found that patches to my antivirus and uninstalling MS updates has reversed computer problems as they occur. Does that help? We just can't trust the operating systems any more.

by Ritho on 10. April 2011 - 18:24  (69922)

Read about the utility in this article. It works very well and is very easy to use. It will tell you if any file has been corrupted, or is missing in the backup. I think every backup program or file sync program should have a similar functionality built in.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/Brilliant-File-Integrity-Verification-Ut...

by RussAdams on 11. April 2011 - 12:29  (69979)

Thanks Ritho!

I'm in the process of copying all photos to two new USB drives. I'll give this a try and let you know how it goes.

Russ

by canolradd (not verified) on 4. April 2011 - 22:11  (69472)

PureSync seems great but it fails if the source of a backup has EFS-encrypted files and the target lies on a FAT32 file system. The encrypted files are not copied and, worse, the (outdated) target versions of thoes files files are deleted instead of updated.

by canolradd (not verified) on 13. May 2011 - 17:23  (71861)

Even worse. Despite having updated PureSync to version 3.0.2, several inexplicable errors still ocurs. Disclosure: the reason for the error above was found by myself, since PureSync error messages don't help at all. The worst: *everytime* this happens, target files are deleted before the (failed) copy.

by Peter Steier (not verified) on 31. March 2011 - 9:19  (68887)

I have used used two programs so far and lost data: vuBrief and commercial Allway Sync. I have now gone for FreeFileSync. I think data integrity is the most important "feature" of a sync software.

by Marco on 30. March 2011 - 12:27  (68824)

Best folder sync tool for Linux?

For Linux you recommend FreeFileSync, and I did give it a try.

While it has a simple to understand GUI and works well for what it does, I miss two important things:
- it does not appear to let you create different profiles
- apparently there is no way to schedule tasks

So, unless I have not checked the program thoroughly enough, it just seems to be good for the occasional folder sync task, but not if you want to sync certain folders daily, others weekly, and so on.

If you need these functions on Linux, give Luckbackup a try. It is included in most repositories and lets you create profiles and schedules. It also offers, unlike FreeFileSync, a comprehensive help document.

So - maybe you could check it out and offer it as an alternative. Although there are lots of Linux related software review sites out there, I really like the fact that here you find a rating and specific recommendation on what is best. Also, unlike some Linux review sites, here you really seem to focus on how accessible an app is, too, because you review windows apps a lot, as well.

However, maybe you should enlarge the Linux section a bit, to have per category two to three application recommendations.

Marco

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