How to make my laptop the same as my PC.
March 1, 2006 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Is there a simple solution for keeping everything the same on my home PC and my laptop? I don't have the time at this point to mess with learning how to network the two.

Is there an easy way to do this? A program perhaps that I can run or something that will allow me to just make a "copy" of everything exactly the way it is on my PC, and then put that "copy" on the laptop so they are exactly the same (same programs, same saved files, same emails, same filters, same settings, etc...), and then, once I'm done using the laptop (say on a vacation for a couple weeks), plug all the updated changes back into the home PC, so that anything new or changed will now be transferred over? I basically want an exact copy of whats on one machine to go onto the other, and then be able to update the first once I'm made changes to the second, and vice versa. Like I said, time is an issue here and I don't really have the know-how to learn about networking in this short amount of time. Looking for a quick and easy fix, if such a thing exists. Thanks.
posted by RoseovSharon to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
There are PC transfer programs, for when you get a new computer and whatnot, but not sure if those copy all the files or just system settings.

Have you considered an external hard drive? They're usually plug-and-play. Might be a pain to get the system and hidden folders, though.
posted by SuperNova at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2006

USB Data Transfer Device

(I am not affiliated in any way with the creators or marketers of this product or the linked site)
posted by felix at 1:45 PM on March 1, 2006

Actually, one of those programs is exactly what you need. Check out Easy PC Transfer and Aloha Bob's PC Relocator. They seem to come with a USB cable so they're sort of "self-networking" but you don't have to worry about it other than connecting the cable.

Google for PC transfer, PC relocator, or PC migration for more options. Double check to make sure you're allowed to transfer more than once; I've seen some licenses that don't allow that and won't let you get around it.
posted by SuperNova at 1:45 PM on March 1, 2006

Sorry to hog the thread, but here's an Information Week article that solves a problem very similar to yours. I think you could use a Relocator utility first, then use these tools to keep things sync'ed up.

Let us know how it goes.
posted by SuperNova at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2006

Two things,

Microsoft Briefcase creats a copy of your files in the so called "briefcase" (looks like a normal directory to anything else) and will sync the files in the one to the other. Not really a good solution for two computers as you must be able to connect the two devices directly for it to work. Works very well for keeping a backup on your thumbdrive and syncing changes back and forth to your computer. (recently acquired by Microsoft) is a better solution for what you want, I think. The FolderShare client runs on both computers, and sync's changes over the internet when you update things. I don't recommend changing files on both machines at once, as I don't know what'll happen, but it works for me to keep about 3 different computers synced.

With FolderShare you create 'collections' that define what files get synced to what locations. You can't have one inside another, which means you can't share My Documents as one collection and have just 'My Pictures' for another one unless you move 'My Pictures' out of 'My Documents'.

With that small rescrition, the client is othewise great. Advanced options include allowing your collections to be accessed via the internet, and also plugging into your desktop seach progams to find files (google desktop, etc).
posted by tiamat at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2006

For keeping files synced between two systems, I've found FolderShare, which microsoft recently acquired and made free, to be extremely easy, probably easier than the techniques in that Information Week article and with the added advantage that it works securely and automatically over the internet, so changes make on your laptop will be automatically backed up to your desktop back home (assuming its running) every time you connect to the net.

As for syncing the programs and all their settings, this is generally a harder problem. The PC transfer programs SuperNova linked might be the best bet.
posted by Good Brain at 1:56 PM on March 1, 2006

I should note, with FolderShare you also get to decide where the collections are stored, so your 'My Documents' collection can be your normal 'My Documents' directory on computer A, and shored in c:\backup on computer B. Very useful as it allows you to backup multiple computers to each other without overwriting things.

One cavet; foldershare will move the entire file, even if the update is only a small one. So sharing your outlook .pst files back and forth would be a problem, as you'd chew up bandwidth and might get behind on the transfers.
posted by tiamat at 1:56 PM on March 1, 2006

I use an external hard drive between 3 machines. I back it up using syncback which I think was from a tip on askme.
This back-up software could easily keep two machines' data synchronised.
I don't think you can effectively synchronise applications, you would find some DLLs or similar installed in windows directories, and attempting to synchronise the windows directories would lead to heart ache due to the config differences due to different hardware.
What I do is basically discipline myself to save all data in a single directory tree, and copy that between machines. This works 75% but fails for things like bookmarks or files that programs insist are saved in their own folders.
I see people have suggested alternatives to a network cable, but I suspect you would be better off spending an afternoon setting up an ethernet cross-over cable between the two systems. I think it will be easier than fooling around with USB cables and probably faster too.
posted by bystander at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2006

tiamat: can you explain how to do this? I use folderhsare, but it seems to default to having the same directory name on both systems...
posted by baggers at 4:07 PM on March 1, 2006

never mind: figured it out!
posted by baggers at 4:10 PM on March 1, 2006

Just wanted to say thanks to all of you for the info. Some of you are so fast, I swear it's as if you started answering my question before I finished writing it! I will look into all of these options, not sure yet which will be best for my needs... thanks again for all the replies.
posted by RoseovSharon at 10:24 PM on March 1, 2006

To complement FolderShare (if you go that route) and Outlook is your email client, you might want to consider a Hosted Exchange Account. Costs about $8/month and keeps your entire Outlook account synced on as many computers as you use: desktop, laptop, office. You've also got (somewhat clunky) web access. I find my email, address book and calendar are 90% of the stuff I want to access to anyway.

Of course if you're not using Outlook then Gmail will do.
posted by zanni at 6:31 AM on March 2, 2006

A word of caution on Foldershare - be careful when you're removing a sync'd library from a machine from a machine on the My Foldershare web page. Foldershare managed to delete 6500 mp3s from my iTunes library into it's trash folder...without preserving the directory structure. I've had to archive the library database, reimport every song back into iTunes, and then replace the new database with the old one.

I've also had fun and games with it corrupting photos in my iPhoto library.

In short - I think it's great for documents, and suspect for anything like iTunes or iPhoto where there is a database that needs to be kept uptodate.
posted by djn1976 at 6:10 PM on March 2, 2006

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