What is the best way to sync folders on a Mac to folders on a PC media server?
November 26, 2008 6:48 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to sync folders on a Mac to folders on a PC media server across a network?

I'm a recent Mac switcher, but I still use a PC media server in my home. I have a few folders on my Macbook Pro (running Leopard) that I would like to sync to folders on my XP-based media server across my home network. I have looked at a few options, but I haven't yet found one I like.

I tried creating a folder action, but that didn't seem to work very well. I wanted the action to connect to the server first in case I had been using my computer elsewhere and the share was unmounted. However, if the action tried this when the share was actually mounted, it crashed.

Lacie makes a program for syncing that should work, but I read a horror story about it (involving losing all data on the destination drive) and got a little scared to try it.

MS has FolderShare, but it has to run in the background all the time and places an icon not only on the menu bar but also in the dock. It is a beta so I imagine the service will either disappear at some point or become a paid service. I would prefer a software solution to a service-based one.

Any ideas? Free is good, but I would pay a little for a really slick solution.
posted by raddevon to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Automator should have all you need to copy folders and whatnot. Plus, if you put an automator script on the remote machine, then put a shortcut to it on your desktop, when you launch it from the shortcut it will create the network connection for you (assuming it knows the username/password).
posted by paanta at 7:02 AM on November 26, 2008

@paanta Can I put an automator script on an XP system? If so, could you tell me in general what steps I need to have in the scripts?
posted by raddevon at 7:08 AM on November 26, 2008

Take a look at SyncTwoFolders or SuperDuper.
posted by talkingmuffin at 7:23 AM on November 26, 2008

Windows Live Mesh?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:43 AM on November 26, 2008

@talkingmuffin I'm trying SyncTwoFolders right now. It's very very close to what I need. I would just like a couple more options. I would have mentioned it in my original post, but I didn't know because I have never gotten this close. I would like the option to sync only certain file types and the option to exclude nested folders. This is really close. If this is the best I can do, I'm much better off than doing it manually. Thank you!
posted by raddevon at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2008

@blue_beetle Live Mesh looks cool, but I get the impression that I files are synced via the cloud. That's not a great option for me as I'm syncing lots of music and movies.
posted by raddevon at 7:54 AM on November 26, 2008

Dropbox, dropbox, dropbox!
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:11 AM on November 26, 2008

@Mr. Anthropomorphism I use and love dropbox to meet another need, but I need to be able to select the folders to sync and I can't sync to the cloud first for this particular problem.
posted by raddevon at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2008

Sorry, I clearly missed your response to blue_beetle!

It sounds like you're just doing a one-way sync from OS X to XP.

The great thing about setting something like this up on OS X is the variety of ways in which OS X can be automated. You likely have poked around in Automator and did not see what you were looking for.

The next step is AppleScript which, though much more abstracted, allows for much greater control. If that won't do it, it's on to shell scripts with no looking back.

There are also dozens, if not hundreds of designed-for-linux-command-line utilities (you have likely encountered mention of rsync in your research) that are perfectly at home in OS X's BSD-based shell.

Scripting and command line utilities are actually a lot easier to learn than most would think, and as someone with need of more granular control than any made-for-everyone application is likely to provide, I think you're a good candidate to learn them (maybe you have some experience already).

I warn you, the road to geekdom is paved with the desire for control, and once you get a taste of the power that lies under the Mac's pretty veneer, it's hard to go back to merely pointing and clicking the shiny buttons.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 9:24 AM on November 26, 2008

Oh, and in case you hadn't stumbled upon them, definitely take a look at rsync, which you already have access to in Terminal, and Unison which has command line and GUI tools.

It might not be pretty, but there's no doubt they will do whatever you want them to if properly cajoled.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 9:30 AM on November 26, 2008

On the XP end look at deltacopy. It's rsync in a Windows wrapper. Use deltacopy to create an rsync server service on the XP box.
posted by pi3832 at 9:38 AM on November 26, 2008

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