Rob’s toolbox: Free file sync

A little while back I was using a simple way to backup my computer’s data. I used to drag and drop the folders between my original hard drive and the backup. Eventually when I had a great deal of data on my computer it became difficult to keep track of what was backed up and what wasn’t. I could have just continued to drag and drop my folders and files onto the backup drive but I did not want to deal with all of the duplicate warnings that came along when I backed up my data. Strangely enough I never used the Windows built in backup program, before I had a chance to do so I was shown an interesting backup utility called free file sync.

So what is free file sync? Free file sync is a program that synchronizes one hard drive’s data contents to another. It is perfect for backing up data. Free file sync is what is called open source software. Open source software is programs that have their source code (the actual programming code) openly available for the public to view and edit. What is great about open source software is that it is usually developed by a public community of developers, so updates happen very often. This is the case with free file sync as well so updates happen quite often.

Download link for free file sync: http://sourceforge.net/projects/freefilesync/

Free file sync’s GUI shows the two hard drives in two separate tables. On the left is the primary hard drive and on the right is the backup or secondary hard drive.

Free file sync's GUI interface
Free file sync’s GUI interface

Free file sync has some great features:

  • Multiple drives can be backed up at the same time
  • Compares contents of one drive against the contents of another
  • Multiple ways to backup data
    • Two-way
      • Two-way updating is where changes to one hard drive will be reflected on the other when the back up in done. This occurs both ways. For example say I have two hard drives: A and B. I want to backup the contents of drive A to drive B. Free file sync will compare A to B and see what is different and write changes to B depending on those differences. If I create a text file on A then backup to B the same text file will be written to B. But with two-way if I change a file on B then the changes will be written to A when the backup is done. In my opinion this isn’t a good approach if the two drives are a primary and a backup. The only time I would write from the backup to the primary is if I was restoring the contents of the primary drive using the backup.
    • Mirroring
      • Mirroring is where the backup drive is changed to match the primary drive. This is the type of backup method I use and recommend. If I make changes to the primary drive, say deleting a few files and adding some others those changes will be written to the backup when I use free file sync.
    • Update
      • Updating is where new and updated files are copied to the backup drive. Any files that are deleted from the primary drive that were previously backed up will still remain on the backup drive.
    • Custom
      • The custom setting is where the user can configure the way free file sync will back up hard drive contents. There are five options that can be turned on or off to create the custom setting:
        • Copy new items to the right
        • Overwrite right items
        • Leave as unresolved conflict
        • Overwrite left item
        • Copy new items to the left
      • Cross platform support
        • Free file sync can be used on Windows, Mac OS-X, and Linux

For Mac users I recommend using the built in time machine for backing up data and settings.

You can take the contents of an entire hard drive and just place them into a folder on the backup drive. It’s all up to user preference.

Free file sync is easy to use. I will demonstrate its use in the tutorial below.

The highlighted section is where the primary hard drive's contents will be
The highlighted section is where the primary hard drive’s contents will be

 

In the highlighted section click the browse button and select the folder(s) and/or file(s) to backup to the back up hard drive
In the highlighted section click the browse button and select the folder(s) and/or file(s) to back up to the back up hard drive

 

This is where the backup drive's contents will be. Click on the browse button and select the location where you want your back up files to go.
This is where the backup drive’s contents will be. Click on the browse button and select the location where you want your back up files to go.
Click on the comparision button and free file sync will compare the two locations to each other. By default whatever is not on the left side (primary hard drive)will be placed into the right side (backup hard drive).
Click on the comparision button and free file sync will compare the two locations to each other. By default whatever is not on the left side (primary hard drive) will be placed into the right side (backup hard drive).
If you are satisfied with where the files are going to be placed click on the syncronize now button. Make sure to have the backup settings you want. Click on the gear icon next to the sync now button to change the back up settings.
If you are satisfied with where the files are going to be placed click on the synchronize button. Make sure to have the backup settings you want. Click on the gear icon next to the sync now button to change the back up settings. After that click on the start button to begin the syncing of the two drives.
After the syncing is complete free file sync will report how much data was transferred and how long the back up took.
After the syncing is complete free file sync will report how much data was transferred and how long the back up took.

Free file sync is an easy tool to use for backing up a single folder or an entire hard drive’s contents. For the next post I’ll be showing another tool I use that allows me to install and update multiple programs on my computer at the same time. As always if there are any questions or concerns please email me at hackingdefense@icloud.com or leave a comment below.

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