How to Keep two PCs Synched
August 19, 2010 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I have a netbook. I also have a home PC. I would like for the content of them to be largely identical. How can I easily (and cheaply) accomplish this?

(I realize that this question has been asked before, but it seems to have been a few years since the last time, and I'm hoping there are better solutions now.)

I just got a brand new shiny netbook, which I'm toting all over the city using for web surfing and email and typing of class notes. I also have a giant, honking desktop-replacement type laptop that lives on my desk at home and doesn't go out much, but is my primary machine at home.

I would like for these two computers to have the same content, both in files and in things like browser history. It's pretty easy to move files back and forth using Dropbox or a USB drive, but I frequently have moments where I think of an article I read that would be useful to what I'm doing, but I can't easily find it again because I read it on the other machine, so it's not a part of the browser history of the machine I'm currently using. I download articles from the web and edit photos and make changes to stuff frequently, and I'd like to have all of that in both places. I save passwords in my browser and then can't remember them when I go to sign in on the other machine. I make playlists on iTunes and such that I hate having to recreate, even if I have copies of the music both places.

Is there some solution to this, either software or hardware? I'd basically like to run the same computer on two different machines, so that the experience is seamless and identical. Any way to do this? I can afford to spend up to $200 on a product that really accomplishes the goal. Thanks!
posted by decathecting to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Which OS does the Netbook run? What about the laptop?
posted by griphus at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2010

Ooh, ooh, despite being something of a computer n00b, I know a way to do that: If you use Firefox as your browser, there's an add-on called Xmarks which among other things will synchronize open tabs among all the computers on your wireless network. I use it a lot for just that purpose and find that it works great. (Be sure to run the synchronization sequence when you're done using the netbook, or set it to synchronize frequently.)

posted by DrGail at 5:26 PM on August 19, 2010

I dont know of a single product offhand that will manage all that, but a combination of products would:
Dropbox would keep your My Documents folder in sync (that would cover edited pictures if you keep them there)
Chrome and Firefox web browsers both have built in features and plugins that will synchronize open tabs, bookmarks, and passwords. There are also "save for later" tools that are good for that sort of thing (Instapaper comes to mind)
Syncing iTunes: iTunes has built in support for keeping two libraries in sync. I believe it includes playlists. The downside is your music library must be stored on both machines, which could eat into your laptop's disk space and both machines must be on the same network to do the actual synchronization (once everything's synced, you can unplug and head out).
posted by StickyC at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2010

Chrome's browser sinks with browsers on other computers, and the bookmarks themselves are stored (and synced) in Google Docs.

Evernote is a free program for syncing notes and web clippings across computers.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:32 PM on August 19, 2010

Response by poster: Netbook runs Windows 7 starter (though it can be upgraded to the full version). PC runs Windows 7. My primary programs are Firefox, MS Office, Windows Media Player, and iTunes.
posted by decathecting at 5:35 PM on August 19, 2010

If both are connected to the net, I'd samba share the desktop drive, and periodically rsync that to the laptop drive for times the laptop isn't connected to the net.
posted by orthogonality at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2010

Firefox Sync from Mozilla is another way to copy Firefox tabs, history, and bookmarks between computers. It will be built in to Firefox 4, and it encrypts your data before it leaves your computer to protect against attacks on the sync server. (But unlike Xmarks, it does not work with other browsers.)
posted by mbrubeck at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2010

I've been using Firefox Sync on my desktop PC (Windows XP) & my netbook (dual-booting Jolicloud & Windows XP). It syncs the passwords & tabs, but it's not great with my bookmarks--for those I use Delicious.

For syncing articles & other things to read, I've been using Read It Later. It's like Instapaper.

For my writing projects, I use Dropbox, but I also like Google Docs and Zoho Writer.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2010

I have a Vista desktop and an Acer Windows 7 Starter netbook. I use the Read It Later and GMarks Firefox plug-ins on both machines to let me stay in sync. I don't yet use Dropbox but am considering it. This is similar to what others above have answered, so this is just another vote for that approach.
posted by forthright at 6:11 PM on August 19, 2010

nthing Xmarks, it syncs bookmarks, passwords and open tabs.

Two other helpful synchronising add-ons are Zotero and -- both will allow you to save urls that you want to revisit, but Zotero might be better from the point of view of saving whole articles and accompanying notes.
posted by davemack at 6:13 PM on August 19, 2010

I want to do the same thing but haven't found the right technology either. The only stopgaps I have at the time being are:
1) Dropbox - but you have to manually copy the items you want to be transferred to the other computer into an online storage account - it's kind of like using a virtual flash drive.
2) Google Chrome Sync - for bookmarks

I tried using the syncing program of a Maxtor external drive, but it was too simplistic. I move items between folders a lot, and using that program I just ended up with two copies of the file on each computer - one in the old place and one in the new place.
posted by scrambles at 8:38 PM on August 19, 2010

Opera (browser) allows you to "log in" before you start browsing and all of the bookmarks you create (and perhaps history?) etc during that session will be saved to your opera account. Logging in to another Opera browser on another computer will allow you to access that material from that computer.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:08 PM on August 19, 2010

Whilst people have recommended Dropbox, I really do not like the idea of my personal documents (some very personal) being held by a third party on a server somewhere outside of the country, subject to laws and rights that aren't the same as my country, accessible by people I do not know and have no control over and that could go down at any time.

As such, I'd look at something like SyncToy which will keep various folders on your netbook in sync with those on your desktop. Of course you need to have both connected to the home network for it to work - but how often do you have both machines on, your netbook away from home and you make modifications on your home computer?

For browser syncing, I recommend FireFox Sync. I'm less worried about the privacy implications of that one on the basis that my email and banking passwords aren't stored in the browser - so it's not a big deal if someone gets my data from the Mozilla server as they won't be able to get much.

iTunes syncing is going to be a bit of a pain I'm afraid. If you store your music in the exact location on both computers (eg. D:\) then you could probably keep those in sync using SyncToy. Just make sure that you also include the iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Music Library.xml in the syncing (normally found in My Documents\My Music\iTunes) as they contain details about where the files are located and your playlists. If the paths to the music are different between computers then they won't be able to find the files and it'll fail to work.
posted by mr_silver at 2:23 AM on August 20, 2010

They way I handle what you are trying to do across 3 or 4 machines is:

1. chrome with xmarks add on. (previously used FF) - history, passwords, etc across machines.

2. use windows live sync (previously foldershare). sync works well for me, because I use my desktop machines to sync themselves together on my important data directorys. (music, pictures, documents)

by picking specific directories to keep synced across the small laptop & desktop, I can minimise the amount of stuff that goes onto the laptop... i.e. i sync only my 2009 & 2010 pictures to the laptop, while 2010-beginning of time are synced across a couple of desktops that are also on the same live sync set up, but physically in two different house... (fire backup)

Think I have a NAS on the network that does incremental backup of the desktop (which of course is a synced copy of my data files) ongoing as well, although I haven't checked on that recently.....
posted by dripped at 2:38 AM on August 20, 2010

Sorry, one addition - I use google apps for domains, and have consequently found myself using most of the downloaded attachments that I get/use in google docs by opening them up through the gmail interfaces, etc.
posted by dripped at 2:41 AM on August 20, 2010

Bit late to the game but this application looks like a good contender for keeping your documents in sync.

Best of all, it's open source and free.
posted by mr_silver at 1:44 AM on August 25, 2010

« Older Jordan travel advice?   |   Random text --> Mdxrtt Eano Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.