Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
and Folder Synchronization Revisited
One of my
data backup strategies is to maintain a copy of the data
partition of my hard disk on a USB memory stick. The
live data (as opposed to archived material)
usually adds up to no more than 2-3 GB so there is lots
of room to store the entire contents on a reasonably
sized memory stick.
For some time now, my free backup program
of choice has been Microsofts SyncToy (See: http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/synctoy.htm); however, recently, I have found
SyncToy getting confused and insisting on trying to copy
files between disks when I know that the files have been
synchronized. Unfortunately, the only way I have found to
rectify the situation has been to delete and then
recreate the relevant folder pair. Now, I didnt
mind going through this exercise on a once-in-a-blue-moon
basis but, when the problem kept recurring, I decided
that it was time to move on.
In the Linux world, the equivalent program that I use is
FreeFileSync, an open-source offering from ZenJu on
SourceForge. The promotional blurb states:
FreeFileSync is a free and Open Source folder
comparison and synchronization tool. It is highly
optimized for performance and usability without a
needlessly complex user interface. The really
useful feature for our present purposes is that the
program runs on multiple platforms, so there are both
Linux and Windows versions.
Downloading and installing the Windows version (6.3 MB)
is straightforward. I find it best to tweak the settings
when first running the program. In particular, I disable
the Overview window on the main screen since
this simply lists the folders that are to be synchronized
and this information is effectively displayed as part of
the Relative path column. I also right-click
on the file category listing in the left-hand window and
check Date so that the file categories
displayed are Relative path, Name, Size and Date.
Similarly, I enable the date field in the right-hand
window so that its obvious which is the newer file
in the list of comparisons.
settings for Compare and
Synchronize can be accessed through the blue
and green cog wheels adjacent to each button. The default
comparison method is File time and size (as
opposed to Content) which I find adequate for
my purposes. In the synchronize settings, I opt to leave
the synchronization method as Automatic
(effectively a two-way folder synchronization). This
works well for me since I use the USB memory stick to
synchronize my data files between two different machines.
Since I can create, modify or delete files on either
computer, allowing the program to perform a two-way synch
between the memory stick and a hard drive maintains the
same set of data files on both machines. I also change
the Deletion handling field from Use
Recycle Bin to Delete Permanently. On
my system, FreeFileSync complains that the recycle bin is
not available on the memory stick and permanently deletes
any deleted files so, to avoid the warning message, it is
simpler to have the files deleted. I dont mind this
since, once I decide to delete files, I frequently follow
up by emptying the recycle bin.
The final tweak to the programs settings is to
click on the Filter Files icon and add to the excluded
items. By default, FreeFileSync will exclude files like
System Volume Information and $Recycle.Bin. My preference
is to add .Trash-1000 (the Linux trash folder for my data
drive) and SyncToy*.* (the SyncToy database files for
various folder pairs). I dont need to back up any
deleted files and SyncToy is probably going to disappear
from my system, so backing up its database files seems
somewhat redundant! Once the exclusions are set, we hit
the OK button and check Hide excluded
items which prevents the listed items from being
displayed in subsequent folder comparisons.
Now we have reached the
main event. We want to back up the data drive to the
memory stick. All we need to do is hit the
Browse button in the left-hand window and
drill down to select DataDisk (E:) in order to establish
the first disk for the file comparison. Similarly, using
the browse button in the right-hand window, we select
Lexar (F:) i.e. the backup USB memory stick. Hitting the
Compare button creates a listing of those
files that are different between the two disks together
with an indication, using various arrows, of how the
files are to be synchronized.
For example, in the screenshot we can see a number of new
files on the memory stick that are to copied to the hard
disk (left arrow with plus sign) and also some updated
files on the hard drive that are to be copied to the
memory stick (right arrow) so as to overwrite the older
This preview allows the synchronization process to be
reviewed and possibly modified before any actions take
place. To avoid an individual file being processed one
simply unchecks the appropriate box. Alternatively, the
action to be taken can be changed by hovering the mouse
over the arrow and moving it either to the left or right
to select a different action (e.g. take no action or
delete the file).
Once the file actions are satisfactory, pressing the
Synchronize button causes all the files transfers to take
place and effectively synchronizes all the files and
folders on the subject disks.
This is simply one way in which FreeFileSync can be used
to maintain a mirror of specific files and folders. The
power of the program is in the various optional features
that can be harnessed to undertake the desired tasks. The
beauty of the program is the simplicity of its operations
once the appropriate options have been set.
Author : ZenJu
reformatted: 10/28/2012 15:41:27
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Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON K2G 1S6
opinions expressed in these reviews do not necessarily
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