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LapLink: Still file transfer champ but not for Internet

While LapLink is still great for file transfer, its new Internet features fall short according reviewer David Strom.


Category: File transfer software
Name of tool: LapLink Gold v 11.0
Company name: LapLink Inc.
Price: $110 (upgrade) to $180, depending on whether you want physical media and manuals
Windows platforms supported: 95, 98, NT, 2000, Me, XP
Quick description: A powerhouse file transfer tool.

*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool

Key features:

Extremely easy and straightforward to use.
A wide variety of connection options are supported, including network, modems and various direct cable connections.

New Internet-related connection features are difficult to set up and operate.


LapLink and I have a long history. I first began using the program back in the middle 1980s when it was the only way I could clone the hard disk configuration of PCs that I was supporting for a large insurance company. I can't tell you the number of times that LapLink has saved my IT career when a user in distress left files on one machine and needed them on another, or when a machine was damaged beyond being able to boot but could still use LapLink to resurrect critical files.

The current version 11 shows this legacy and adds some new features, some that are well implemented and some that aren't.

On the up side, the standard file transfer features are solid and work well. If you can figure out a way to connect two PCs, chances are that LapLink will run over this connection. Included in the box are two cables: one for connecting the serial ports of two PCs and one for connecting the parallel ports. You can also purchase an extra-cost special USB-to-USB cable, which will move data even faster between your machines. And of course you can move data across a local area network, between two PCs running dial-up modems and ordinary phone lines, or even ISDN or Infrared connections as well. The program displays a split-screen listing of the folders on each computer. You merely drag and drop the files from one side of the screen to the other and the files begin being copied across the connection. There are plenty of other features for the power user, including ways to speed repeated synchronization of folders and options to only allow transfer of newer files.

But lately LapLink has been suffering something of an identity crisis, reaching out beyond mere file transfer to handle some of the remote control tasks that programs like Carbon Copy and PC/Anywhere have long claimed as their own domain. While it is almost as capable in this area, I would still recommend you look elsewhere if all you care about is remote control.

New to version 11 are two Internet-related features, both of which I had trouble getting to work properly. One is the ability, called SurfUp, to control a PC running LapLink across the Internet via a Web browser. This requires you to open up port 1183 or 1184 (if you want to use your Web browser's SSL connection) on your firewall. The other is the ability to connect two LapLink PCs, when one of them (but not both) is behind a firewall. Both features rely on a special Internet Locator Service that LapLink Inc. runs on its own servers.

Getting the software set up wasn't easy. It took a few tech support calls and careful reading of various online documents on LapLink's Web site. The problem is compounded by the need for remote and host users to work together to set up the appropriate name server listing, passwords and parameters. It is hard work, and I don't see many people getting this to work at all, which is a shame because it offers some real promise.

Still, LapLink remains a file transfer champion. Included with this version are special offers for antivirus and disk cloning software.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

Bio: David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant, and corporate IT manager. Since 1995 he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at

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