Windows Live Sync Beta is fantastic!

Given my itinerant lifestyle I end up working from many different computers. I was looking for a solution to move everything to the Cloud but only had imperfect solutions. Thanks to Microsoft Exchange I already have access to all my emails from any computer and many mobile devices. Carbonite gave me a good backup of all my files and remote access to them, but keeping files in sync between all my computers was always a pain. I would change some files in some folders at home, different files in the same folder at work and keeping it all straight was messy and complicated. I would use a mix of emailing myself the files and copying them on a USB stick, but it was manual, annoying and error prone.

I just installed Live Sync Beta and it’s amazing. It’s easy to setup and keep files in sync between many computers and on the cloud. Best of all it’s free! In the screenshot below you can see I setup syncing between my notebook and my work computer for three folders. If both computers are on, the sync is instantaneous.

The software is not without flaws:

  • The interface is clunkier than it should be – I should be able to go on any folder in Explorer and right mouse click “Keep this folder in Synch with Live Sync” instead of having to manually select folders from within Live Sync.
  • In Explorer there should be a little sync icon next to a folder to show that it is being synced.
  • The focus on peer to peer syncing is annoying. I can see why it’s cheaper from a bandwidth perspective, but many of my computers are not on the same network. You can use the SkyDrive to sync through the cloud, but it’s limited to 2Gb and I can’t find a way to buy more storage. I would be more than happy to pay for cloud syncing.

Hopefully those will be solved in the full product release. In the meantime, if you need to keep files in sync between multiple computers, you owe it to yourself to check out the free beta!

Partial non sequitur: It’s hard to believe Microsoft had a gem like this and I had never heard of it until Daniel Rasmus mentioned it to me over breakfast a week ago. I wonder what similar products are lost somewhere in the Microsoft matrix! I also wonder what weird Microsoft politics infected this project. It seems to have had many different owners over time given the many very different blogs on Sync/SkyDrive/Live Mesh within Microsoft (all of which have been discontinued except for the official Inside Windows Live blog). Also, the product used to be focused on syncing through the cloud when it was called Live Mesh instead of through peers. I hope it becomes the focus again soon!

  • I'd second the endorsement of dropbox. We've used it for over a year to keep files synced across platforms, time zones and countries. One of the few products I wholeheartedly endorse.

  • facing the same problem as with multiple locations and PCs, I've been keeping my eyes open on such solutions for quite sometime now! I have a dropbox account but rarely only use it. Used MS livesync solution in the past but don't trust it. Been using Zumodrive for a couple of months now and really happy with it. It's very similar to dropbox in terms of features but got a better UI.

  • Did you consider using Dropbox? I’ve been using it for work and personal for over a year now and have really enjoyed it.

  • Fabrice, nice post. I too am an entrepreneur, small biz owner in Pittsburgh. I have a bunch of computers at home and at work, and like you I had so many pain points with keeping all of my spreadsheets and documents organized and backed up. I relate with your stories of emailing yourself different files hahaha, I used to send copies of valuable pictures to myself on 4 or 5 different email accounts just to make sure I never lost them…talk about chaos! Well anyhow, I found a single solution for all of this: Syncables. I can easily (and even automatically) sync, migrate, access and publish content between Windows, Mac, Linux PCs and portable storage devices like USB’s or external harddrives. It also syncs my entire music library, photos, videos, email, and even browser bookmarks. I actually have Syncables 360 at home for my home network (a couple laptops and a desktop), and Syncables 360 for Workgroups at work. For work, my managers and I have our laptops and netbooks on the same network and we collaborate on documents and evaluating spreadsheets very seamlessly. The interface is really slick, and it works great.

  • MSFT purchased a company called FolderShare several years ago, and have turned it into LiveSync indeed. I've been using this without a glitch all this time, only caveat being make sure the "other" computers are left turned on and connected…