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SyncBack a good bet to replace Microsoft's directory synchronization utility

Microsoft's utility SyncToy lets you synchronize two directories with little fuss. But it hasn't been updated in some time and doesn't work in Windows Vista. A good candidate to replace SyncToy is a utility called SyncBack 3.2.

Microsoft's utility SyncToy, which lets you synchronize two directories with a minimum of fuss, is one of the most useful free add-ons Microsoft ever released for Windows.

SyncToy was originally devised to allow administrators to sync the contents of a removable drive and a directory on disk, but people have since adopted it for other applications, such as keeping copies of their music library in sync on another PC.

As powerful and useful as it is, SyncToy has a limited range of options. In addition, Microsoft hasn't been updated in some time, and, most egregiously, it doesn't work in Windows Vista. For these reasons I started nosing around for possible replacements, and one of the better candidates I've turned up is SyncBack 3.2.

SyncBack comes in two editions: a freeware edition that's dropped a few features and a full for-pay edition that costs $25 per seat (and has a 30-day free trial). Setting up a sync job in SyncBack is a lot like the same process in SyncToy: define a pair of folders, a set of actions between them, any file or folder wildcards to use to filter the process, and how to deal with file overwrites. The results can also be set to run at a specific time through a scheduler, and, like SyncToy, the results can be previewed non-destructively.

However, unlike SyncToy, SyncBack:

  • Can synchronize open files through shadow copying.
  • Can perform automatic compression during the sync process, if you want the sync copy to take up as little space as possible.
  • Is supported to or from an FTP server as well as local folders.
  • Performs performance throttling for slow networks.
  • Offers optional 256-bit AES encryption for synced files.
  • Offer Disable hibernate/standby on the host computer to allow syncing when the user is away from the keyboard.

The freeware version has some major omissions compared to the for-pay edition. First of all, the freeware version of SyncBack doesn't support Unicode (UTF-8) filenames or pathnames. For me, this is a sticking point, since I actually have a fair number of files stored with UTF-8 characters (specifically, Japanese and Korean symbols). Also, it doesn't support many of the same security features—for instance, you can only use ZIP encryption, not AES—and won't do shadow copying or network-optimized backups (i.e., only copying changed data across network links).

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to and


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