Keeping Mac OS X and Windows in Sync

FileShareKeeping the files on two computers in sync is tough at the best of times. Keeping two files with two different operating systems in sync is a proposal best left to madmen.

Arguably, I don’t fit that description, but I am committed to figuring out how to manage my files between my Power Mac and my X60 Tablet with as much automated synchonicity as possible. Basically, which ever machine I work on, I want the files to be identical in both places.

I don’t want to use a file server, though I’d consider an internet-based hard drive as an intermediary. I want the solution to be automated. And I don’t want to have to massively configure the service or engage in any other related geekery (hey, I’m primarily a Mac user, you know).

I spent the morning screwing around with a variety of WebDAV solutions, and even flirted with the idea of Microsoft SharePoint. Up until about an hour ago, I thought all was lost. Nothing was working. I had decided that Mac and Windows are islands after all.

Then, I came across the perfect solution that completely blew my mind…

Microsoft’s web-based FolderShare service rocked my world. It was everything I’d dreamed of, and more.

In a nutshell, you register two or more computers with the same FolderShare account, specify a directory on each, and FolderShare automagically synchronizes them all. There is no intermediary drive that the data gets stored on, FolderShare simply handles the transfer of the files between computers and the logistics of keeping them all in sync.

Of course, each computer must be turned on and connected to the internet or a local network, as the required connections are peer-to-peer.

Even cooler, the full directory structure of each of the computers that is hooked into a FolderShare account is available via a secure web connection. So if you leave your desktop workstation on at home, you can always log in and grab whatever files you need while on the road by using just a web browser.

Foldershare works equally well on Macs and PCs and, best of all, it’s totally free.

Performance is amazing. I set up two relatively large directories from my Mac account to sync to my Tablet and the whole process took a few minutes. This was, of course, over a local network, so I’d expect the sync over the internet to go a bit slower.

FolderShare manages the sync process automatically in the background, so whenever I make changes on one system, it’ll move them over to the other. You can alter that behaviour so that sync must be handled manually.

I did have some problems with long file names from my Mac not being permitted on the Windows machine, but these were easily fixed (hopefully Vista permits longer names). And, of course, proprietary file formats are pretty useless cross-platform, but I knew that from the start.

I’m pretty stoked that I have managed to synchronize my important work documents across two machines on different operating systems. Now I can work on either platform and not worry about keeping track of what I may have saved where; it’ll just be everywhere.

6 thoughts on “Keeping Mac OS X and Windows in Sync

  1. Sure it does. The product wasn’t developed by them. They just bought it. Maybe they can buy anoperating system that works well.

  2. The issue I’d have with FolderShare is that the files are synchronized by a third party, even if the bits don’t actually stream through their servers. They’d at least have access to the file names, and I might not want someone to know about a file named income-not-declared-to-revenue-canada.xls (strictly a fanciful jest!).I’ve been using the multi-platform Unison for a couple of years now to sync my Linux laptop and server with a Windows PC. Now, it is a bit of work to set up (use the cygwin version on Windows), but it’s fast and has never guessed wrong over a synchronization conflict in all the time I’ve run it. It also works on Mac ( of all, no third party involved.

  3. Looked at the Unison but too complicated for a non techy like me. Tried the MS product at home and away and seems to work OK, but not sure of the security on this. Being MS it may open your hard drive to the world.

  4. Hey Bill, Maybe you can leave a comment that doesn’t suck, it looks like you took yours from the loser community.

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