File synchronization software has been around for a long time and comes in many flavors. Programs and services that sync files to the cloud garner most of the attention today. Services such as Dropbox and Backblaze offer consumer and business backup solutions, and both can be used to sync files across multiple devices. But these services require a third-party provider and come with a monthly bill.
What if all you need to do is sync files from one local drive to another? For that you need a local file syncing tool, and that is what we’re going to look at today. There are so many options that we are going to focus on tools that are free-to-use or are open-source software.
What makes a good local file sync tool? The one that can adapt to many different scenarios. But that is not all. A quality tool should have the following features:
- Support for one-way and two-way synchronization
- Support for manual and automatic operation
- Rules that allow files/folders to be excluded
- Support for local drives, removable drivers, and network shares
- Run on Windows and not include any adware
Your needs may vary, but the above requirements cover most usage scenarios. Let’s start with a program that is very simple to use.
SyncFolders provides a simple-to-configure and easy-to-understand interface. Starting up the program takes you straight to the rules tab. Here, you will select a source and target folder and then provide a name for the rule.
One nice touch is the ability to have SyncFolders run a scan. This will provide you with the total size of the data to sync along with any errors it foresees. It is not a bad idea to run a scan on all but the least complex rules you create. The process tab allows you to view the status of the sync or scan process including what folder and files are in use. Users with more than a dozen rules may find the interface too limiting, but this is a top recommendation for those whose syncing needs are simple and desire a solution without any extra bells and whistles.
MirrorFolder can handle sync duties like its competitors. It takes a little more time to configure and has more options than SyncFolders, but it is not too complex for simple tasks.
What sets MirrorFolder apart from other programs is its ability to replicate a RAID-1 setup by automatically keeping two drives in sync in real-time. Most workstations and servers that require RAID-1 do so utilizing a RAID controller. MirrorFolder is an excellent solution for desktop and laptop users who want to keep an identical drive handy from which they can boot if their primary drive fails.
MirrorFolder was created using the “set and forget” principle. It runs as a service in Windows which allows it to handle syncing in the background.
Cost: $39 for a single computer license.
Synchredible is the most full-featured product in this review. But do not be alarmed because Synchredible utilizes a wizard-driven interface to guide you through configuring each task. If you need more details about the diverse options, Synchredible provides you with an explanation. Some people do not like the wizard approach to configuration, but novice users will appreciate it.
Other helpful features include the ability to group jobs and run them as one operation and have task reports mailed to you. You can also pause jobs, which is a feature not found on some of the simpler programs.
Cost: Free for personal use or $25 for professional use.
SyncToy is a surprisingly powerful little tool created by Microsoft. It was originally part of their PowerToys collection, but it quickly caught on as a helpful tool for people with large collections of photos and videos. It can sync files of any type across drives and computers. Microsoft touted it as a way for laptop users to sync their large files to a desktop PC.
One nifty feature SyncToy has always had is the ability to keep track of renamed files, and sync them without any issues. The wizard does an excellent job of walking you through setup of each task, but feels outdated compared to Synchredible.
There are many programs today that sync files to cloud services, FTP sites, and even to SharePoint servers. But they are a lot more complex to configure if all you need is to sync a few folders’ worth of data to another drive or another PC.
Synchredible is easy to use and provides by far the most options without bogging the user down in the details. It is a great option for those just getting started. The other programs here do one of two things well, and may cover your needs.
One last reminder: These programs do not include file or folder encryption of any kind. If you need to sync sensitive data, you will need to handle that with third-party solution.