Syncing with multiple Macs


I have a lot of Macs. I have a MacBook Pro that my work gave me, another MacBook Pro that is my personal computer and a 20″ iMac Core 2 Duo that is our family (err, my wife’s) computer. My wife also has a 12″ Powerbook G4 that we use to check email and watch DVD’s when we’re on the road.

I used to find it almost impossible to move between computers with ease… All my passwords, bookmarks, and important files had to be transferred manually (usually on a thumbdrive) each time I worked on a different computer. I’ve found a few resources that help me transition easily between multiple Macs, and synchronize contacts, bookmarks, passwords and appointments and more.

.Mac and iSync

I know a lot of people complain about .Mac and what you get for $99/year. I don’t think an email address is worth a Benjamin, but this surely is. You can sync your iCal calendar, Address Book, Mail accounts, Safari bookmarks and Keychains with several Macs, automatically, using .Mac.

Go to System Preferences and click .Mac. If you don’t have a .Mac subscription, sign up for a free trial.

Once you are logged in to .Mac, click the Sync tab. Here you will see the option to automatically sync several services. Just check the services you want to synchronize and you’re done!

.Mac Preferences

Go to another computer and simply log into your .Mac account. Set the second computer to also synchronize to .Mac and all your settings, appointments, passwords and bookmarks will magically download onto the computer. Once you have several computers setup in .Mac preferences, you can manage them by clicking on the Advanced tab.

.Mac Computers

.Mac uses iSync to synchronize the data, and will notify you of any conflicts and let you manually resolve, or resolve all with a single click. Because Apple offers developer tools for iSync, other applications can build in support for Mac to Mac sync. Transmit, a popular FTP client, has built-in support for synchronizing favorites between computers.

Firefox Bookmarks Synchronization

Foxmarks Bookmark SyncI love Safari (especially the new Safari 3 Beta) but I need my Firefox extensions. As a web developer, I just can’t live without my toolbars and extensions, so I use Firefox as my main browser. Getting my hundreds of bookmarks from one computer to another was a hassle until I found Foxmarks Firefox Bookmark Synchronizer.

Just install the add-on, create a username and password and it will upload all your bookmarks to Foxmarks. Do the same on other computers and all your bookmarks will be synchronized automatically. Bookmarks Toolbar

If you don’t want to synchronize bookmarks, and need access to them from any computer, install the Bookmarks extension. It replaces your Firefox bookmarks sidebar with a bookmark search.

You can go to from any computer, anywhere and login to search your bookmarks, and have the ability to sync between different Macs. I personally use Bookmarks toolbar because I occasionally work on a random PC in the office or when I’m out of town and need to look up a bookmark.

Options for Everyone

Whatever you decide, there are synchronization options available so you have your data and settings no matter what computer you are on.

Do you have any tips for synchronizing your data? If so, post them here!


Brian B.

Confessions of a Multi-Mac Pack-Rat

I also need to sync folders across Macs, as I use my MBP as my exclusive work machine, but I also will use the Mini at home for things too — depending on where I left my MBP in the house (yeah, this is a stretch), but the big advantage to the Mini is the rack of storage that I have shackled to it.

Running Parallels on the MBP, I looked one day and found that my nice new 160GB drive had a whopping 40GB free, and I needed to off-load some of the less frequently used files to the Mini’s disk farm and the Maxtor NAS, but I also want to be able to grab things, work on them, and then put them back — almost a check-out/check-in situation.

Much to my surprise and delight I found that there is a free file and folder synchronization utility that is included in the (free!) Apple Developer Tools, in the utilities folder, called FileMerge.

FileMerge is not a fully automated syncronization tool, but it did help me to make short(er) work of sorting out wonky folders that existed on two machines. I mounted a folder over the network, and then used FileMerge to diff the folders, created a new “synchronized” folder, archived the old one, and then put the new master folder in place on both machines — or in many cases deleted it wholesale on the MBP, thus freeing up the gigabytes of space that I was taking up in more than one place (3 places simultaneously if you count the NAS backups — which adds a little comfort in terms of peace of mind, but it’s not very wise use of the available storage that I have).

I also use .Mac synchronization and also sync my bluetooth enabled RAZR. I have found it to be invaluable in keeping sanity between my machines. The biggest bummer is that my wife, who has inherited my old PowerBook, cannot use .Mac sync because she has a mail-only account (an additional $10/year), and I will have to upgrade to the .Mac Family Pack ($180/year) to give her full sync capability. However, we currently have 5 additional email-only accounts for my mother and kids, so we’re already paying $140 — the additional $40/year for sync and full .Mac features for the others, I think it’s worth it.

I only wish that Apple would provide a monthly billing feature. The annual renewal is always a hard pill to swallow.

Kim G

I don’t think .Mac is worth the price of admission in its currently buggy and feature lacking state. With Gmail (or any online email), Google Calendar (or 30Boxes, etc), Google Docs, Google Reader, and Google Browser Sync all being free, and with Google Gears (allows you to save info locally, aka backup), I don’t need .Mac. Add to the mix programs from 37Signals,, etc… and you’re set.

Brandon Eley

I don’t sync my mail, so I don’t have a lot of experience with those issues. I primarily sync my calendar and address book through .Mac and sync my bookmarks through Bookmarks. I find it works extremely well for me.


I have a .mac account and I sync three macs with this. Usually works okay, but I´m annoyed with some of the bugs that occur. Sometimes events in my calender shifts a few days forward, or my contacts lose their picture. Stuff like that. I find that I can´t trust it completely. I want to study it´s habits and find out why these bugs are happening.


I’m using rsync+ssh to commit my data to my server everytime i switch from my mac mini to my powerbook or vice versa and then I check it out again on the other machine. Works pretty well for me, except the fact that it is not really syncing since you always have to remember if you have to check in or out now and merging of data also isn’t possible.


hello from France,
I’m freelancer graphic designer. Between an imac (work) and a macbook (home), i use Synk Pro with an 2″1/2 firewire external HD, excluding some folders/files (like the work files, p2p settings & files, etc.). Works like a charm.


My issue around having two Macs (12″ Powerbook & 20″ G5 iMac) is that the Powerbook will not receive all of the emails that the iMac will.
I have identical mailboxes and rules, yet some will go to the Powerbook and others won’t.
I find myself trudging to the iMac when I hear designated mailbox sounds because I know that it won’t kick over to the Powerbook.
I’ve done all of the above in Snyc and System Preferences – still doesn’t happen.


Chronosync.. it can be tricky with dynamic IP addresses, but its workable… certainly with static IPs

Mike Perry

What we’re talking about it a little password protected space online, something a lot of us already have. Why doesn’t Apple let us use our own password protected sites to store this information? Why should we have to pay this .Mac tax for what should be a free-to-all feature?

Alternatively, someone could come up with a way to tweak iSync to give us this ability.

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