Synch me up
June 22, 2009 12:54 PM   Subscribe

How to best keep my Mac laptop & desktop synched?

So I have a Mac laptop (MacbookPro running 10.4.11) & desktop (um, not sure; I'm on the laptop now). I go back and forth between them. In some periods I'm mostly using the laptop, and in others mostly the desktop. I try to keep them mostly synched up -- every now and then I start up the laptop in "target disk mode" via firwire, and drag and drop.

But that's tedious, requires work on my part (feh!), and is totally fallible. E-mail isn't a problem. But word docs, .pdfs of articles, pictures, and music? Big problem. The two computers are definitely not totally in synch. They don't even have all the same folders. Is there a way to fix this, other than a horrible marathon manual transfer session? What software is available?

Ideally, the software would
a) recognize when two files with the same name are not the same (think older/newer versions of a document)
b) recognize when two files with different names are in fact the same (think .pdfs that got saved with different names)

I apologize if this is a dumb question... I searched older questions, and googled, but everything I came across was several years out of date. This makes me suspect that there is some obvious new solution. I don't have an Apple Time Machine -- I suspect that might be a good idea after I sort this out, right?

posted by kestrel251 to Technology (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about the music and pictures, but for documents you could keep things online via iDisk ( or something like I think iDisk will sync so you have access offline, don't know about syncplicity. Or maybe just use a small bus powered external drive and keep Documents, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. on there?
posted by JulianDay at 1:15 PM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: Are you willing to spend money on the syncing and are you willing to have your syncing go over the internet? Syncplicity has a Mac client. Free version gives you 2 gigs of space, paying $99 a year gets you 50.

If Syncplicity doesn't look like it'll suit you here are two Lifehacker articles [1] [2] that look at multiples services of this type.

I use Syncplicty on my XP machines and haven't had any problems that weren't internet related.
posted by theichibun at 1:16 PM on June 22, 2009

I would set up a MobileMe network but I'm waiting on it until Things can be synced using it. Then I'll be all over it.

Anybody know how secure Syncplicity is?
posted by Beardman at 1:20 PM on June 22, 2009

From the FAQ page

How secure are my files?

We take security very seriously. From the very moment they leave your computer, your files and information about them are transmitted using the same encryption methods banks and government institutions use (SSL). In our datacenter, each file is encrypted using military grade encryption (AES-256) before it is stored and the random key used in the process is then sent off to an entirely different location as an additional security precaution. When someone requests a file, elaborate verification steps at multiple layers of the system ensure that someone is truly authorized to do so.

posted by theichibun at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2009

Dropbox may be what you need.
posted by unixrat at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: Chronosync.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2009

recognize when two files with different names are in fact the same

That may be a tough condition. Essentially, renaming a file is like copying to a file with a new name, and then deleting the old file. You could perhaps write shell scripts to compare MD5 or SHA-1 signatures or the like, but I'm not aware of sync software that handles this as a backup condition out of the box.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks! This'll take more research, but it looks like Chronosync or Syncplicity might be exactly what I need. (And double thanks for the Lifehacker articles.)

Just to clarify -- the problem isn't moving the files. I have an external USB; I e-mail stuff to myself, I have a firewire cable, etc. It's having to do it manually all the time. As far as I can tell, Dropbox would still involve doing it all manually; it's just a bit easier than USB drives, etc. Right? I want something that'll do it for me, insofar as possible (perhaps after an initial session in which I accept & reject changes.)
posted by kestrel251 at 1:54 PM on June 22, 2009

No, Dropbox automatically syncs your folder over the net. Basically you create/change a file on the desktop, it is backed up to the cloud, and the next time your laptop comes online it grabs any new or updated files. Upside is that it is fantastic, and you have local copies regardless of your internet status. Downside is you are limited to 2 GB for the free account, so it may not work in that sense for music and whatnot. Also, you are currently required to keep all your synced files in the My Dropbox folder, so you can't have it look in different places.
posted by shinynewnick at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2009

It's pretty straightforward to get your dropbox to act like your Mac folders.

Just mimic the Documents/Music/etc from your home directory in your Dropbox dir and zip zap it's like you never left. :)
posted by unixrat at 3:27 PM on June 22, 2009

Unfortunately, Syncplicity pulled their beta client for re-engineering, in case anyone is still following this thread. They hope to have it done by next year.
posted by Silvertree at 6:05 PM on August 1, 2009

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