How are You Managing Data on Netbooks with Other Computers?


benq-joybook-lite-u101-netbook-4Yesterday, the Windows Experience Blog put together a checklist of considerations when buying a netbook. There are some good basics points in there, but there’s a wee bit of Windows-nudging as well. Hey, it’s a Microsoft (s MSFT) blog, so that’s to be expected. The first bit asks “Is it easy to use?” and this particular tidbit caught my eye:

“Are you using this as a companion to your primary desktop or laptop PC? If so, then you’ll want it to have the same interface and experience as your primary machine so you can seamlessly move back and forth without any confusion or hassle and easily transfer and share files between your computers.”

That’s definitely a valid question, although having the same interface and experience isn’t a requirement in my book. For many consumers it does make things seem easier. To me the bigger question is: Will your netbook be a true companion to another computer or is it your primary device? This gave me pause and it really got me thinking about how people are using netbooks with their other computers. More specifically: How are folks managing the data between multiple computers? Put your netbook on the same network as your other computers and you can easily transfer files and data. But are folks really doing that?

The obvious alternative is to use some type of online cloud storage or synchronization tool for data access. That’s what I do, although it’s not an ideal solution for everyone. It requires web connectivity on an as-needed basis and also some heavy faith in third-party services. I have both, so I’m good. But what about you?

I’ve set up a poll to see how you’re using a netbook with data on other computers, but don’t hesitate to elaborate in the comments, too.



I don’t have a netbook per se, but my HP TC1100 might as well be one-albeit one I can write and draw on!

My main computer is a desktop. Q6600 3.2 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, 8800 GT 512 MB, 500 GB HDD-it’s the one that does all the hardware-intensive stuff, as you might expect.

I just registered a Dropbox account, which I’ll probably use to sync my OneNote notebooks with my desktop and back them up in the process.

I do NOT have access to an Exchange server for my PIM data. I literally use Outlook 2007 only because Windows Mobile requires it for PIM synchronization. (My desktop would easily make a nice Exchange Server for sure, but I still have to be able to use it like a normal desktop. I could install Windows Server 2008 since I have it courtesy of DreamSpark, but I may run into issues that I wouldn’t with Vista or Win7. Why can’t they integrate basic Exchange functionality in Outlook for personal use?)

My main method of distributing data between my computers is through the home network, no third-party cloud included. My desktop often acts as a home file server since it has the largest drive by far. Everything works fine that way, even over Wi-Fi, though especially large files really call for an Ethernet connection.

Matthew Block

My company has just released a data synchronization product for Netbooks, called “Easy Computer Sync”.

It uses the USB 2.0 Easy Transfer Cable, which is the fastest way to get data on or off of a Netbook. You can quickly move gigabytes of movies, music, or other data in a matter of minutes, instead of waiting for a slow wireless connection.

And don’t worry, it handles timezone changes correctly! :)

Visit for more information.


My frequenty used data is in a pen drive of 8GB. This pen drive is backup in my master laptop where also the remaining of the data is available. My master laptop is backedup frequently (inluding the backup of my pendrive). I can have additional backups of my pendrive in several other laptops.

I travel with my pendrive.. The laptop I use depends o the ocassion. My pendrive is the source always, I can use the backups in laptops for display only tof he files.

I do not trust syncronization software. I got problems in the past as I travel a lot and this software failed upon moving across timezones.
I do not like to get stuck with web storage services because you get stuck with their systems.


i don’t have much data on my home computer or my netbook. i usually store my important data on a separate external hard drive so i can easily access it without the need to transfer files. and no syncing is required as well. but i put extra care to the device.

hold on… i think i still need to have a backup.

John Tucker

I don’t have a netbook, but I am using SpiderOak to backup and sync data between my laptop and desktop, not to mention to backup the files I use on my laptop. If I had a netbook, SpiderOak would be at the top of my list. Works great!


I think it needs to go beyond syncing just our data, what about our applications and other system configurations? While there would be some inherent complications, it would be great to have tools that would enable us to install or upgrade an application on one machine and have that propagate to the other machine(s) automatically.


— Hamachi Logmein VPN for syncing OneNote notebooks
— Exchange server for email, PIM
— Xmarks
— Windows Live to sync everything else

Gordon Cahill

I also use external and thumb drives. Probably should have had that on the poll.



I really only use my netbook (1000HE) and my touch pro. Sync over BT for most files. I use a USB cable for music and vids tho. I am soooooo glad I made BT a requirement for my netbook.

Doug Mohney

Does a USB drive count as “physically connecting” the two devices?

And I’m still annoyed because the SanDesk/U3 mail sync program doesn’t work all that great when it comes to searching for data bits…


I don’t keep any data on my netbook. I’ve got everything stored on a Windows Home Server and can access it remotely if I need to. Of course that means everything is shared on my LAN if I need access to it that way as well. I also use Xmarks for bookmarks.


I have several machines that I need to keep in-sync, unfortunately it is not feasible to keep my “stuff” in the cloud due to size and other requirements (e.g., versioning.)

Having been fiddling around with UNIX machines since the eighties, my solution is more along the DIY line with existing tools. I draw a distinction between what I produce and what others produce.

I use version control (Subversion) to sync the files I produce (separate repositories for scientific production, personal stuff, etc.) Sync is automatic for some repositories and manual for others that I need to attach an explanation of version changes.

For the stuff that is produced by others (journal articles, scanned books, info on diverse topics, etc.) there is no need for version control so I use rsync. Rsync is setup to automatically sync the machines found on my network.

For off-site backup I use rsnapshot to backup all of this on my backup server and take copies on a portable drive to work every few days or so.


I voted that I share my data over a home network, but I also use an SD Card that I can easily move from laptop to netbook with the pertinent work information I use daily. The SD card is backed up daily to the home network.


I achieve “the same interface and experience” by running OSX on my mini. I use mobile me to keep everything, including my iPhone in sync. I pulled my iTunes and iPhoto library out of my latest time machine backup. It may not be as free as google, but it sure does integrate nicely into OSX, and the HP Mini runs it well. I can screen share back to my macbook, or even our shared mac pro tower back at home, just by clicking on it in the finder. It’s working well for me.

Ricky B.

I voted for the “Local Network” option, and that is somewhat true — I use a great cross platform app called Unison to sync my netbook the same way I sync my larger laptop to my desktop/server — except I can also run it from another network over the net, too.

I wouldn’t recommend this kind of setup for the average person, though.


I’m using Hosted Exchange for my email and calendar and Syncplicity to synchronize the most needed folders. Syncplicity works great, cannot recommend it enough!


I used one of these amazing little devices called a USB thumb drive in multi-Gig capacities for anything I want to easily access from multiple devices. If you’re worried about someone getting hold of it just create TrueCrypt volumes on it or something. Access my main email via IMAP when on the netbook, download it to Thunderbird on my primary machine later. Everything else is on the web.


– DropBox for documents (Word, Spreadsheet, photos, source code, etc)
– GMail for mail
– Google Calendar for events (I can view it in GMail)
– Remember the Milk for tasks (ditto vieweing it in GMail)
– EverNote for notes, web clips, etc
– XMarks for FireFox bookmarks

All of the above are free; at least I don’t need to use their paid services (yet). No explicit sync’ing — everything just works.

Google Calendar/Remember the Milk is nowhere near what I was used to with PocketInformant was on my old PocketPC, but they work OK.

I don’t keep everything in DropBox, only things I want to share amongst my home desktop and my netbook (and accasionally my work computer)


I am another Dropbox user and am very pleased. It is very fast and minimizes conflicts (although it still happens occasionally). I have also switched over to Evernote from OneNote for my note taking because it syncs over the web without any issues at all.


Exchange for exchange-stuff. For files a mash of things. For now normal files on a network drive provided by work, media files manually copied between.

Just looking at the poll list, you can see that nothing is really ideal at present. Except cloud methods but they would have trouble with very large files and seem tricky to set up.

I am waiting to consolidate onto a single laptop which will avoid some of these problems.


I just connect to my home network and copy over files manually, though for video files I need to connect by ethernet since my now obsolete wireless g is too slow lol.


I should also mention my various “low bandwidth” files like documents and and my calendar etc are on the various google services


I’m using hosted Exchange for my mail, calendar and contacts. For bookmarks I’m using Xmarks BYOS, for passwords I’m using ewallet together with my own server and for the rest I’m using the great and secure Spideroak.

Spideroak is great. I can backup both my desktop and my netbook and even my webserver. It’s really secure, not even Spideroak can look at my stuff. Sugarsync and others doen’t encrypt the data. That’s the one thing that prevented me from using similar services before. Only $10 per 100GB.


Oh, and Newsgator for feeds! And I just installed Evernote.

Christian Karlsson

Oh… and subversion of course. :D And I use Google Docs alot. Haven’t found a good way to sync Microsoft Office yet thou. It works somewhat with subversion but it isn’t perfect. Any solution?

Eddie W

We use JungleDisk to back up everything on our systems (funny…I just really thought about it and realized we only have portable systems in the house…) except for OneNote. OneNote folders/files/cache are shared between all the computers and they keep themselves in sync.


I am using DropBox for the files I need to keep in sync. I really appreciate the cross-platform support (OSX, Windows, Linux).


Live Mesh for necessary files, Xmarks for bookmarks, pretty much good to go :)

Currently uploading my picture library to Windows Live also…


I synchronise both my main laptop and my netbook to my Server using Vice Versa. Then Xmarks for Firefox bookmarks and the combo of RoboForm and GoodSync for my logins.

I have been looking at SugarSync as well. They did well in a recent PC Pro Magazine comparative review and seem to have added a 2gb free account more recently.


I use sugarsync to keep my desktop, laptop, and notebook in sync and it works flawlessly. Great service.



I’m using windows home server and exchange to keep data synched between computers


I don’t need to sync my data, because I’m using my Eee Pc 1000he as my primary machine.

I have a desktop, for the higher power needs, but those are few and far between. So, almost all of my data is sitting on my netbook.

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