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Summary:

One of our recent posts prompted the following comment from John: "…can anybody point me towards an easy way to sync files from a networked drive with a USB flash drive? The combination of files on a network and on removable media has me confused as […]

Sync_1One of our recent posts prompted the following comment from John: "…can anybody point me towards an easy way to sync files from a networked drive with a USB flash drive? The combination of files on a network and on removable media has me confused as to which software would work best for me."

We actually covered a more basic scenario back in 2006, so I thought I’d revisit it and tweak it to see if work for John. Sure enough, it works and uses functionality that’s been in Windows for years. Anyone remember the Briefcase?

To illustrate how easy this is, I used two computers: one with Windows XP and one with Windows Vista. On the XP machine, I inserted a blank USB drive and navigated to it with Windows Explorer. There were no files to see of course, so I right-clicked for a menu and chose New, Briefcase. That created a Briefcase on the blank USB drive. Next on the XP machine, I mapped a network drive to the Vista machine. For this experiment, I mapped to the Documents folder on my Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC, which I have set to be Shared.

Once I had those simple set-up steps in place, it was an easy matter of dragging a file on the XP machine from the mapped drive into the Briefcase on the USB drive. You can see in the below screenshot of the USB Briefcase that I have a Word doc set to sync between the Briefcase and the mapped network drive.

Fileinbriefcase

At this point, I can make a change on the file in the Briefcase and use the Update buttons in Windows Explorer to push the changes back to the network drive. I did just that and refreshed my Briefcase view; note that Windows realizes the file needs to be updated on the network drive.

Updatenetworkcopy

Conversely, if I make a change to the document on the network drive and click Update in the Briefcase, I get the window below that shows the local file needs to be updated. Clicking the Updated button pulls the recent copy from the mapped drive right into the Briefcase.

Updatebriefcase

I’m sure there are a number of other ways to do this, but when John asked the question I remembered this oldie-but-goodie.

  1. Thanks Kevin! I just tried this out on my USB stick and it works great between it and my work network.

    I remember briefcase folders from older versions on Windows, but I never had any use for them before.

    Now, all would be great if I was able to also sync those files with my X61…either from the USB stick’s briefcase or the network. I’ve tried to use Vista’s Sync Center, but it won’t let me make my network folders available offline, which is they key step for using Sync Center.

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  2. Frustrated Consumer Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    I’ve always used “Beyond Compare” from Scooter Software for things like this. Probably overkill for just syncing a USB drive but it’s file comparison utilities have been indespensible over the years I’ve used it…

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  3. I use SyncBack SE with a script that requires just a double-click to back up to my PC or tablet.

    When I’m at home, I insert my USB stick and run the script, backing up to C:USB Backup. Then I work live off of the USB stick. I run the script again before I remove it.

    On the tablet I do the same. Even if I lose the stick I’ve at most lost an afternoon’s work.

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  4. I’ve used Microsoft’s SyncToy to sync my files at work to a usb stick and then sync that to my system at home. I previously used Windows’ Briefcase but switched once the SyncToy became available. The latest “real” (1.4) version can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/prophoto/synctoy.mspx. Beta version 2.0 can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/synctoybeta.aspx.

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  5. Thanks, Dave! SyncToy is exactly the kind of application that I was looking for…and at the right price, too!

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