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Sync Your Pidgin Profile Across Multiple PCs with Dropbox

Pidgin is definitely our favorite universal chat client, but adding all of your chat accounts to multiple computers can be frustrating.  Here’s how you can easily transfer your Pidgin settings to other computers and keep them in sync using Dropbox.

Getting Started

Make sure you have both Pidgin and Dropbox installed on any computers you want to sync.  To sync Pidgin, you need to:

  1. Move your Pidgin profile folder on your first computer to Dropbox
  2. Create a symbolic link from the new folder in Dropbox to your old profile location
  3. Delete the default pidgin profile on your other computer, and create a symbolic link from your Dropbox Pidgin profile to the default Pidgin profile location

This sounds difficult, but it’s actually easy if you follow these steps.  Here we already had all of our accounts setup in Pidgin in Windows 7, and then synced this profile with an Ubuntu and a XP computer with fresh Pidgin installs.  Our instructions for each OS are based on this, but just swap the sync order if your main Pidgin install is in XP or Ubuntu.

Please Note:  Please make sure Pidgin isn’t running on your computer while you are making the changes!

Sync Your Pidgin Profile from Windows 7

Here is Pidgin with our accounts already setup.  Our Pidgin profile has a Gtalk, MSN Messenger, and Facebook Chat account, and lots of log files.

image

Let’s move this profile to Dropbox to keep it synced.  Exit Pidgin, and then enter %appdata% in the address bar in Explorer or press Win+R and enter %appdata%.  Select the .purple folder, which is your Pidgin profiles and settings folder, and press Ctrl+X to cut it.

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Browse to your Dropbox folder, and press Ctrl+V to paste the .purple folder there.

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Now we need to create the symbolic link.  Enter  “command” in your Start menu search, right-click on the Command Prompt shortcut, and select “Run as administrator”.

image

We can now use the mklink command to create a symbolic link to the .purple folder.  In Command Prompt, enter the following and substitute username for your own username.

mklink /D “C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple” “C:\Users\username\Documents\My Dropbox\.purple”

sshot-180

And that’s it!  You can open Pidgin now to make sure it still works as before, with your files being synced with Dropbox.

Please Note:  These instructions work the same for Windows Vista.  Also, if you are syncing settings from another computer to Windows 7, then delete the .purple folder instead of cutting and pasting it, and reverse the order of the file paths when creating the symbolic link.

Add your Pidgin Profile to Ubuntu

Our Ubuntu computer had a clean install of Pidgin, so we didn’t need any of the information in its settings.  If you’ve run Pidgin, even without creating an account, you will need to first remove its settings folder.  Open your home folder, and click View, and then “Show Hidden Files” to see your settings folders.

sshot-181

Select the .purple folder, and delete it.

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Now, to create the symbolic link, open Terminal and enter the following, substituting username for your username:

ln –s /home/username/Dropbox/.purple /home/username/

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Open Pidgin, and you will see all of your accounts that were on your other computer.  No usernames or passwords needed; everything is setup and ready to go.  Even your status is synced; we had our status set to Away in Windows 7, and it automatically came up the same in Ubuntu.

sshot-186

Please Note: If your primary Pidgin account is in Ubuntu, then cut your .purple folder and paste it into your Dropbox folder instead.  Then, when creating the symbolic link, reverse the order of the folder paths.

Add your Pidgin Profile to Windows XP

In XP we also had a clean install of Pidgin.  If you’ve run Pidgin, even without creating an account, you will need to first remove its settings folder.  Click Start, the Run, and enter %appdata%.

image

Delete your .purple folder.

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XP does not include a way to create a symbolic link, so we will use the free Junction tool from Sysinternals.  Download Junction (link below) and unzip the folder.

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Open Command Prompt (click Start, select All Programs, then Accessories, and select Command Prompt), and enter cd followed by the path of the folder where you saved Junction.

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Now, to create the symbolic link, enter the following in Command Prompt, substituting username with your username.

junction “C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple” “C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Dropbox\.purple”

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Open Pidgin, and you will see all of your settings just as they were on your other computer.  Everything’s ready to go.

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Please Note: If your primary Pidgin account is in Windows XP, then cut your .purple folder and paste it into your Dropbox folder instead.  Then, when creating the symbolic link, reverse the order of the folder paths.

Conclusion

This is a great way to keep all of your chat and IM accounts available from all of your computers.  You can easily access logs from chats you had on your desktop from your laptop, or if you add a chat account on your work computer you can use it seamlessly from your home computer that evening.  Now Pidgin is the universal chat client that is always ready whenever and wherever you need it!

Links

Downlaod Pidgin

Download and signup for Dropbox

Download Junction for XP

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 04/16/10

Comments (30)

  1. TheFu

    Passwords in Pidin were stored in plain text files, last time I looked. Checking the file permissions so everyone can’t see those is a good idea after all the syncing.

  2. Romanmir

    It should also be pointed out that “mklink” will not link across filesystems or physical discs.

  3. ja

    i had to swap the mklink command sections in quotations for this to work. instead of…..mklink /D “C:\Users\username\Documents\My Dropbox\.purple” “C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple”…………i had to do…………..mklink /D “C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple” “C:\Users\username\Documents\My Dropbox\.purple”

  4. Jaye Sunsurn

    I dunno why but I get “Cannot create a file when that file already exists.”

  5. Jaye Sunsurn

    I perhaps should have been more explicit. Using W7 64bit, and did as the instructions said, I made sure that yes the CMD was running as administrator, that the original .purple in the AppData/Roaming was cut and pasted into my dropbox, and that there was no .purple sitting in the AppData/Roaming before I typed the command. Very strange. I tried reversing them putting my drop box first then AppData/Roaming as ja mentioned that was something that they needed to do. But no luck. This is odd, because it is pretty straight forward, and somewhat idiot proof, but somehow it didn’t work for me, very strange.

  6. Paul

    I’m using Win7 64 and had to move into the AppData/Roaming directory (as admin) and used:

    mklink /D .purple C:\Users\username\Documents\My Dropbox\.purple

    to create the link. It is working fine in Win7, now off to try on Fedora.

  7. Evan

    Much simpler than fiddling with links, you could set the environment variable “PURPLEHOME” to the folder where your “.purple” folder is to reside (e.g., C:\DropBox).

  8. Kibou

    In Windows you can easily change the location of the .purple folder by setting an environment variable, so there is no need for any link or tool. Check:

    http://developer.pidgin.im/wiki/Using%20Pidgin#Wherearemysettingsanddataincludinglogssaved

  9. mov

    I prefer to just setup one machine at home with pidgin and then run it with Xforwarding over ssh from any other machines I am on throughout the day. This is especially useful if you use OTR

  10. Liam

    I connect to a work-internal jabber network on my work profile and don’t want to connect to it at home. Any way to sync but exclude a certain network?

  11. Jasmine

    @Romanmir
    Thanks for pointing that out. I keep My Dropbox on a separate partition from my Win7 install, so that explains why this doesn’t work for me.

  12. WB3000

    I had this set up awhile ago, but since pidgin writes to blist.xml every few minutes, there were constant uploads to dropbox. That downside was more than enough to undo the change, as my connection is not very strong, and I have up/down bandwidth caps.

  13. Nishant

    This article is a really a big help for me. I have been working on 2 machines and was hunting for a way to sync Miranda IM profile across 2 machines. Would like to know as will this method work with Miranda chat client since I am using Miranad and not Pidgin. So please let me know your thought and if possible send me a detailed steps to work with miranda

  14. Žygimatnas

    Hey, what GTK theme are you using for styling your windows 7 pidgin? :)

  15. Matthew Guay

    @Žygimatnas – I’m using the Clearlooks-DarkLime (http://art.gnome.org/themes/gtk2/1364) GTK theme. Beautiful theme, and much nicer than the Windows default GTK theme IMO ;)

  16. Tim

    I’m getting the same problem as Jaye Sunsurn, I’m also using W7 64bit

  17. Dabbith

    Just a note, the XP Junction command is wrong. -d is to delete a junction, leave the -d out and the rest of the command is right. The screenshot shows the right command.

    junction “C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple” “C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Dropbox\.purple”

  18. Matthew Guay

    @Dabbith – Thanks for noticing this … we’ve got it corrected now!

  19. Lew A

    Your mklink is reversed (at least it was for me Win7)… need to have the AppData link first and the DropBox target second.

    Thanks for the tip, working great now :)

    Lew A

  20. Cadence

    My primary Pidgin installation is in XP, so I cut and pasted my .purple folder into My Dropbox. I reversed the order of the folder paths when creating the symbolic link, so it read:

    junction “C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Dropbox\.purple” “C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple”

    I got the following error:

    Error setting junction for C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Dropbox\.purple:
    The data present in the reparse point buffer is invalid.

    Hints? Help?

  21. Matthew Guay

    @Cadence – Try swapping your folder paths and see if that works. You should need the path to Application Data first, and the Dropbox one second.

  22. Gabriel Novo

    There’s a utility called Link Shell Extension (http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html) that gives you a GUI to execute the commands in your article. I use it with Dropbox for similar purposes.

  23. Jeremy

    Sweet! Thanks for this. I have been doing this with my Thunderbird profile to keep emailed synced between computers. One more step on the way to full portability :)

    Cheers,
    Jeremy

  24. JonnyBoy

    I highly recommend Kibou’s suggestion above to use the Windows environment variable instead of messing around with symbolic links or junctions. Not only does it solve the problem of having your Dropbox in another partition/disk, it’s a lot safer.

    Thanks for the article Matt, I got my WinXP, Win7 and Ubu10.10 all synced now! :-) I’m one happy camper

  25. Ryu_Kurisu

    Shouldn’t the folder be put in the “Private” folder? Or is the main Dropbox-folder also not viewable for everybody?

    I’m not on multiple computers, but this is also great for fresh installs (and that is pretty everyday work (not everyday, but every few/six months)) and when you’ve got 2/3/more accounts to set up, it is just a hassle.

    Note to self: find out how to make this into a bash script so I can run it with a fresh install (so many things I change to Ubuntu =D )

  26. hDave

    I could not get the PURPLEHOME environment variable to work on Ubuntu. Did a simlink and it worked instantly.

  27. Peter

    Hey guys…have you looked at the screenshots? On both of your XMPP accounts, there is a SLASH at the end.

    I’ve had the same issue and I can’t connect to Google Talk as a result…

    Any suggestions/thoughts on this? This is the first time I’ve seen this other then on my own machine. I wonder if there’s an issue with Pdigin putting in a slash like this if syncing in this nature?

    Laters!

  28. Matt

    I just installed a new ssd with ubuntu 11 and am trying to transfer my pidgin data from my old hard drive as well as all my old thunderbird stuff which was also in ubuntu 11 with both dropbox and ubuntu one. I am having no luck. I tried the suggestion above but it did nothing for me.

  29. drawkcaB

    Great article, id always meant to get around to those but wasnt until I stumbled on this that I actually ticked off the to-do list. Like some others, I took the Environment Variable approach (windows7 machines).

    Wondering if anyone has the gripe as me. I sync between a multi-monitor desktop, and a laptop – so the positioning of the buddy window is vastly different between machines. But alas .purple/prefs.xml stores the x + y locations of the buddylist which of course gets sync – a continual chore of resetting my preferred buddy list position on each machine.
    My first appraoch was to try and selectively sync (not sync) the prefs.xml however Dropbox only allows selection of directories not files in Selective mode.
    Im hoping theres a Pidgin method to disable positioning memory of the buddy list? Though google has failed to turn anything useful up

  30. OldManRiver

    All,

    I tried this procedure except I’m starting from my Ubuntu Box and syncing to Win XP.

    However the symlink to Dropbox constantly failed. How does one correct that. Will not work without the symlink. Since starting with U-Box, going to Win the “ln -s” on the U-Box must work before going to Win to run the “mklink”

    Appreciate any thought on this.

    Thanks!

    OMR

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