Recently Microsoft has been indecisive with it’s Live Mesh / Sync cloud based services. After introducing Live Mesh Public Beta and some renaming, it’s now called Live Mesh 2011, and we’ll show you how to get started with it.

Microsoft Live Mesh 2011 allows you to use “the cloud” to sync, store, and share you files between PCs and Macs. If you were testing the Live Mesh Beta, you should have recently received an email from Microsoft letting you know the Beta will stop working March, 31st 2011. The following is an excerpt from their email.

“You’re receiving this message because you used the Live Mesh beta from Microsoft. On March 31, 2011, the beta of Live Mesh will end, and the Live Mesh beta will stop working. After March 31, you won’t be able to access any files stored online in your Live Desktop or connect to your PCs remotely using the Live Mesh software. Your files will also stop syncing between your computers and your Live Mesh online storage. Please read below for actions we recommend you take.”

Keep reading for how to install and use the latest version of Live Mesh.

Install & Setup Live Mesh 2011

Live Mesh is included in the Windows Live Essentials 2011 suite (link below) and if you’re using the beta, you’ll need to uninstall it first. With the Live Essentials installer, one thing to point out is a new screen that offers to install the entire set of programs, or just the ones you want. Unless you want to install everything for some reason, just select the ones you want to Install.

Remember to uninstall the beta first if you’re using it, and you’ll need to install it on each computer you want to sync up.

When installation is complete you can start using your new programs Including Live Mesh — You might need to restart after installation.

You’ll find it in the Start Menu under All Programs \ Windows Live.

Alternately you can type Mesh into the Search box and select Windows Live Mesh from the results in Vista or Windows 7.

The first time you launch it, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Windows Live ID. If you find you’re using it a lot, you might want to select to remember your ID and Password and sign in automatically.

Now you can start using Live Mesh 2011 to sync data between your computers and other compatible devices.

Sync Files & Folders Between Computers

First we’ll take a look at syncing data between Windows computers — there’s also support for Macs but we weren’t able to test it out at the time of this article. Launch Live Mesh and click on the Sync a folder hyperlink.

Then browse to the folder you want to sync and hit the Sync button.

Now select the computer(s) you want to sync your folder with.

The synchronization kicks off…you can see it running on each computer you’re syncing with.

Then after the process has completed, you’ll be able to see the files were synced successfully.

Live Mesh runs in the background and monitors the synced folders for any changes. Any time you add a new file or folder to the synced directories, both machines will be updated. You can open it from an icon that lives in the Notification Area on the Taskbar.

By default, Network Locations aren’t able to be synced with Live Mesh 2011, however, it is compatible with Server 2003, 2008, and Windows Home Server Version 1.

Sync Folders with Live Mesh & SkyDrive

One of the often overlooked free online storage services from Microsoft is SkyDrive. With the new version of Mesh, it borrows 5GB of storage you can use to sync your data.

Open Live Mesh and select Sync a folder, navigate to the folder you want to sync, and click the Sync button.

This time instead of clicking another PC, you want to select SkyDrive synced storage and click OK.

You’ll see a message that the files are being synced and after the process completes.

To see the folders and files you synced to your synced storage, click on SkyDrive synced storage and sign into your Live account if prompted.

Here we can see the Excel documents folder that we synced to our SkyDrive. Click on the folder to view its content.

Now you can access the files and download them, or open directly on your machine. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to open them in MS Office Web Apps from the Synced Storage section of SkyDrive, which is inconvenient, and a bit confusing.

You’ll also see other machines the files are synced with, the sync status, and the amount of space you have in SkyDrive synced storage.

Sync Folders with Other Computers & SkyDrive

You can actually choose multiple machines and your SkyDrive Synced Storage at once. For instance, if we wanted to sync our Office Docs folder between other computers and SkyDrive Synced Storage, click on Select devices.

Then select where you want to sync the folder. Here we are going to select our Netbook and SkyDrive Synced Storage.

Remotely Connect to Another Computer

Another neat feature with Live Mesh 2011 is the ability to remotely connect to another computer. So for example maybe you want to connect to to your Work computer at Home or vice-versa.

If you haven’t done so already you’ll need to click on Allow remote connections to this computer on each of the machines you want to access remotely.

For example here in our list of computers, not all of them are set up for remote access.

Click on Connect to this computer, then wait for the connection to be established.

Here we connected to our Netbook — both running Windows 7. Now you’ll be able to access your other machine just like as if you were sitting in front of it.

From the bar at the top of the Live Mesh remote screen you can control different aspects of the other computer like sending Ctrl+Alt+Del.

When you are remotely connected to another computer, and another person was using it, they’ll be locked out.

If you want to show the desktop and what you’re doing, select Show my action on “computer name”.

Click on the magnifying glass icon to change the size of the display while you’re connected to another machine.

Here is an example where we connected to a Vista computer.

When you’re done with a session just disconnect from the other machine.

Sync Program Settings Between Computers

Another thing you might want to do is sync Internet Explorer and MS Office settings between machines. In Live Mesh 2011 under Program Settings, click Turn on syncing next to each one you want to sync. Do this for each machine you want program settings synced to.

For one of our computers, IE 9 has the standard MSN bookmarks, and we turned on IE syncing.

And it quickly brought over bookmarks from the other PC.

This should get you started with Windows Live Mesh 2011 to sync your files and folders between computers. The service is still rather clunky, semi-confusing, and some users might just want to stick with Dropbox for folder syncing.

Live Mesh 2011 will work with Vista, Server 2008, OS X 10.5 or higher, Server 2003, and Windows Home Server Version 1…unfortunately they left out the love for XP.

Download Windows Live Mesh 2011

How about you? Have you tried out the new Live Mesh? What is your opinion of it so far? Leave a comment and let us know.