NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2005
The Computer Corner
by Joe Shipley
Phoenix PC Users Group, Arizona

Synchronize Those Files!
With so many laptops available these days, one of the more common things I come across is the need for people to synchronize their files between their laptop and their desktop. Or synchronize files among several computers on a network.

Let’s say you use a spreadsheet to keep track of information. This spreadsheet is used on a daily basis to show you what you did in the past. Every day you add to the spreadsheet to keep it current. Some days you add information while using your desktop, and others while using your laptop. You want to make sure the same information is available to you whether you’re working on the laptop or the desktop.

If you had copies of the same file on both your desktop and your laptop, each time you added information to the file on your laptop, it would not automatically be added to the version on the laptop. So you’d have to do double work and spend lots of time copying the latest version from one computer to the other.

What File Synchronization does is provide a way for you to update the same file from either machine and make sure that both files are exactly the same. The way to do this is by using Offline Files. You could also use the Briefcase feature on your laptop, but I suggest Offline Files. And I’d make the desktop the “master,” even though the files on both systems will be identical.

To set up your desktop computer to use Offline Files, open My Computer or Explorer, go to Tools, Folder Options, Offline Files and make sure that the Enable Offline Files check box is selected. Select Synchronize all offline files before logging off to get a full synchronization. Leave it unselected for a quick synchronization. While you’re here, also check the box to place a shortcut to Offline Files on your Desktop.

Once this is done, go to your laptop and use Explorer or My Network Places to find those files on the desktop computer you want synchronized. When you have highlighted the shared folder or file(s) you want to work with, click on the File menu item and then click on Make Available Offline. If you don’t see Make Available Offline, you didn’t correctly set up your system to enable Offline Files. Note: To make Offline Files work on a system running XP, you may need to disable Fast Switching. If an entire folder is made available offline, any files in that shared folder now or in the future will automatically be made available offline the next time the computers are synchronized.

At this point you have selected files to be worked on offline. When you want to work on a file that will be synchronized with another computer, you can access the file by opening the folder, Shortcut to Offline Files, select the file you wish to open, and make any changes you desire. When you save the file and get ready to close your system, if you’re connected to the other computer your files will be synchronized. If not, the next time you do connect to the other computer, synchronization will take place.

While this may appear to be very complicated, it’s actually easier than I may have described it. For more information, go to http://www.microsoft.com and enter “Working Offline” in the search box, then select the first result to see a more comprehensive discussion of this topic. By using this feature you can keep important files on one machine while still working with them on another, and knowing that both are identical.

Joe Shipley, Co-Owner of SMART IDEAS!, is a computer consultant, in Mesa, AZ. You can reach Joe at joeship[nospam]@cox.net.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

Click here to return to top