How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Sync Files Between Your Devices?

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The proliferation of personal devices makes it increasingly probable that you’ll have a device in your hand that doesn’t have the file on it you want. How do you keep everything synced between your devices?

This week we’re curious about the tricks, techniques, and tools you use to keep files synchronized (or at least available in same capacity) across your constellation of personal devices and computers. How do you keep your music, photos, and other files organized and synced across everything so that you’re never left wanting to show off a family photo or listen to a new single?

Sound off in the comments and then check back in on Friday to see how you fellow readers manage the problem in the What You Said followup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/15/11

Comments (108)

  1. Eric

    Word/Excel Docs: Google Documents
    Calendar: Google Calendar
    Email: Gmail
    Music: Google Music
    Misc. Files: ZumoDrive
    Bookmarks: Google Toolbar on every PC and Gmarks on Android
    other: “Fox to Phone” for quick text or page transfers

  2. Ryan V.

    Music: Google Music Beta
    Files: SugarSync/Google Docs
    Photos: Mobile – SugarSync, Desktop – Picasa Web
    Calendar, Contacts, Email: Android GApps

  3. notovny

    Ich bin ein Dropboxer.

  4. Peter

    I don’t have a phone, my only main device is a desktop. But to sync my files with my WD external hard drive (My Passport Essential) I use SyncToy by Microsoft. It’s free, easy, and works pretty well.


  5. stephenowitz

    2 laptops (work and home) and an iphone and I swear by dropbox and evernote.

  6. Michael

    Live Mesh
    Google apps

    Bookmarks – the sync capability built into chrome. Chromemarks on android.

  7. gyffes

    ditto fer da dropbox among my various computers, though Evernote and Googledocs mesh nicely with my favorite iPhone/iPT note-taking app: AwesomeNote.

  8. Sean

    For syncing file’s an other data is simply use the standard file management built into the OS.

    Under Windows that would mean Explorer.

  9. Marios

    I used to use Windows Live FolderShare, but upon releasing Mesh I had experienced some issues, so now I sync my computers(desktop-laptop-netbook) via my ubuntu server using UNISON(Documents,Pictures,Music,Videos folders). I have written some custom scripts that keep everything up-to-date everywhere.

  10. Megagamerx1

    Nothing for phone,
    Gmail\Evolution Mail linked together for contacts
    GCal\Evolution Calendar linked together for calendars,
    Ubuntu One for files,
    Chrome Sync for browse preferences,

    @Marios: SUPERNERD :D (that’s not an insult, a compliment!)

  11. errors

    Calendar/News/Contacts/Mail: Google
    Files: Dropbox, SugarSync

  12. simba

    I use Dropbox for all common files that I sync between my two computers. For my music I use Spotify. Mail, calendar and bookmarks are synced with the help of google and there awesome services :-)

  13. Derek


  14. RvdP

    I use Dropbox with ‘selective sync’ to sync my files & docs across laptops and iPhone.
    My contacts work great with Google contacts syncing them to my iPhone and using myphone+ to add additional photo’s. I have the iOS 5 beta running with iCloud so I might take the step to switch my contacts to iCloud.
    Photo’s I take with my iPhone are recently being synced directly to my Laptop (Win7) where I’m running the iCloud sync tool to upload and download photos. If I want to publish any I use Facebook or PicasaWeb.
    For my Calendar I use Google Calendar (but I am thinking of switching to iCloud calendars aswell).
    Syncing my music I use Google Music, although I am still waiting for an iOS app for that :)

  15. Asgaro

    Smoke signals.

  16. menax

    Word/Excel Docs: Windows live
    Calendar/News/Contacts/Mail: Windows live
    Files: SugarSync

  17. bkj216

    Dropbox, and Google for everything else

  18. Yoshiyah

    I use Dropbox for small documents and graphics file. I have this set-up on my Acer AspireOne Netbook as well. I use Firefox Sync to keep bookmarks updated, and use a MyPassbook Essentials 500GB to keep large video, audio, and ISO files backed up.

    I prefer to use the MyPassbook Essentials as the drive for storing large data, as Dropbox does not provide enough storage. Even if I purchase extra storage.

    I am not a big fan though of Web Based mail, and prefer POP3 or SMTP mail. I guess I am old school in that regards.

    I do not own a smartphone, so that is something that I do not have to worry about. I actually never realized how hard it is to keep all your data backed up and synchronised across multiple platforms.

  19. Will

    I use Dropbox to sync photos and documents to my two laptops. Google Docs to the web and my HTC In redible. I sync my contacts with Gmail. Android2cloud and Chrome to Phone for web pages. Chrome sync to my two laptops.

  20. Wayne

    I have all my documents stored on MobileMe’s iDisk and use a WebDAV share to access them on my Windows 7 desktop and other computers. With my iPad , there is also iDisk support built in. Calendars, eMail, Contacts are also synched through MobileMe. Works seamlessly. Browser bookmarks are a little tricky though since MobileMe will only sync with Safari or Internet Explorer, neither of which I use. So I use xMarks. This allows MobileMe to sync from my iPad to Internet Explorer and then xMarks syncs them to Chrome and Firefox for me.

  21. Jeremy

    For all my personal stuff: Dropbox. I only have 4GB from referrals, but it’s all I need to keeps most stuff managed between my phone and my laptop/netbook.

    However, at work we use google docs to share collaborative documents, data lists and the like, as well as an ftp server when I have to transfer/sync a PSQL database dump to somebody else.

    In the past I’ve used SkyDrive and Windows Live, but dropbox makes it easier for me, especially porting between android, linux and windows 7.

    However, if there are ever any large file transfers, my personal ftp or one of the businesses ftp servers is the only thing I’ll use.

  22. Aaron

    For larger files I use Dropbox. I access these mostly from my phone, but often other PC’s. I also love the retro data transfer device: the USB cable.

  23. hotnikkelz

    Google Bookmarks: using Deng’s Google bookmarks extension in firefox, and YAGBE in chrome
    Dropbox and Skydrive and external drive for everything else

  24. Urichhai

    Dropbox and Sky Drive and Usb HDD. Depending on file size and security issues.

  25. Rick

    I have an iMac, Mac Book and a Ubuntu workstation. I use Bazaar version control system and a local web server to sync and update all my work and personal “projects” (web design, documentation, inventory tracking, et al.)

    I also use Dropbox and Ubuntu One mostly for those one time sharing events or as convenience when I don’t want to sync or save something long term.

  26. hankchristian

    Google docs, DropBox,

  27. SDreamer

    Microsoft Sync Toys. I don’t like the idea of my stuff floating up in the cloud, especially with all the rampant hacking these days.

  28. Ryan

    RSS/Email/Calendar: Google
    Bookmarks/Passwords: Lastpass/Xmarks
    Documents: Dropbox
    Photos: Facebook/Dropbox (depending if I want to share them with people or keep them private)

    I would use google to sync my music but it doesn’t work in the UK :(
    At the moment I use an external hard drive to store my music and backed up to another external hard drive as I have about 350 GB and keep the music I listened to most on my Android for in the car.

  29. Christopher Masiello

    Music – iTunes to phone
    Notes – Evernote
    Calander & Contacts – Google Sync
    Files – Dropbox

  30. Ryanb58

    Music – S-droid
    It’s a very simple program to use… I like it a lot.

    http:// tech – fyi . n e t

  31. TheMrBugz

    Dropbox from ipod touch to netbook to laptop
    and external drive for the bigger files

  32. Kent

    Chrome sync
    I pay for GoodSync from Siber Systems because when you want to sync, you don’t want a backup utility or a simple drag and drop. I use GoodSync for USB drives and my NAS.
    MediaMonkey for my Zen
    LastPass for web logins from any browser (Chrome, FF, IE)

  33. Bastie

    I have 2 extra TB hard drives in my PC in to four partitions I have one for photos and one for music one for documents and one portable programs and that do not the use the main hard drive And use Sync Toy to backup Photos and Music to external drives

  34. Firas

    Only Calendar, Contacts, Email: Android GApps

  35. Kevin Scott Schlanger

    I use Google Docs for documents. Am I the only onw who does this?

  36. tupaorc

    hmm dropbox and google…google music only in us:( and of course cable and flash disk:P

  37. MJ

    At this time I use Microsoft SyncToy for syncing and backups, but I’m going to test Dropbox, not as a replacement but as an additional tool.

  38. Jon

    Dropbox for the small files
    Thunderbird and lightning for emails and calendars (+ google calendar to sync it with my CRAPberry)
    Microsoft’s Home Group for the printers (+ hamachi if I am outside of home)
    Skype for small files and pictures
    The Tornado for big files

  39. Eitan


  40. Prem

    laptop and USB HDD – my 2 major devices . I don’t have any important data on my smartphone .

    and i just use “xcopy /s/e/c/h/y/d ”

    no installations . works on all windows box . simple and sweet . works like a charm . my favorite .

    I too use google extensively … but don’t want to have all my stuff on the net . I hate it .

  41. Ltat42

    SyncBack Pro

  42. Joxter

    I don’t sync, I manually put the files I want where I want them.

  43. Dan

    Music: iTunes to iPod Touch
    Note: Evernote (all devices)
    Calender, Contacts, News: Google (all devices)
    Bookmarks: Firefox (all devices)
    Files: Dropbox (all devices, but I hate it that you can’t sync to Android tablet, just download and upload)
    Passwords: Lastpass (all devices)
    Backup: Synctoy to external drive, automated

  44. sefcug

    No phone.

    Working files: Dropbox
    UserGroup presentations/newsletters:
    Other Documents: Zoho and/or Skydrive
    Bookmarks: and Xmarks
    Images: Flickr or Picasa
    Notes: Evernote

  45. Irman Ahmad

    Live Mesh and Dropbox

  46. Khalil

    Dropbox files
    Google sync calender and contacts
    Xmarks bookmarks and passwords
    Jump drive for evrything else

  47. Tyler

    I use Dropbox to keep files synced between my computer and iPod touch.

  48. Sachin Kumar

    Music – iTunes to phone
    Calander & Contacts – Google Sync
    Files – Dropbox,SkyDrive

  49. George

    I use Syncromaster. It compares folders from one device to another and can update either so both are the same. It will update the older file, or make the target folder the same as the source. It allows a preview. I use a big USB flashdrive and can keep “My Documents”, “Desktop”, or any other folder backed up. The GREAT thing is that if you remove a file on your computer, it will remove it on the the target folder as well.

  50. Vibin

    I use Wuala.

  51. Dan

    Windows Live Mesh

  52. dragonbite

    Music = starting with Amazon Cloud Drive / Cloud Player
    Files = Dropbox (and UbuntuOne)
    Documents = Google Docs
    Images = PicasaWeb
    Bookmarks & Apps = synchronized Chrome, Chromium and Chrome OS
    Email = GMail via IMAP and web interface
    Calendar = shared Google Calendars

  53. Art€

    I use Dropbox with 4 Gb from referrals for all my general files stuff don’t sync music nor photo’s. I use FoxSync for syncing all my Favourites on my Browser. Finally I use Dmailer (USB) drive also between computers.

  54. Antriksh

    I don’t have an iOS or an Android device as of now. I use Dropbox to sync stuff between a Windows Vista laptop to and from Windows 7 on another laptop and also to and from Ubuntu on the Win7 laptop. I have 4.8 GB for free and everything’s perfect.

    I use Firefox Sync to sync by browser.

    Life’s great.

  55. DaveR

    I use Allway Sync to my USB stick, it works fine and analyses the differences before I sync, so it can include deleting files across multiple machines.

  56. kim

    Dropbox for all kinds of things. (Would also use Sugarsync, but it doesn’t support Linux.)
    Lastpass for passwords.
    Xmarks for bookmarks, although I’m going to try Firefox Sync soon.
    Evernote for things like shell commands I might want someday.
    Google Beta for music, once I get it uploaded. I have an Amazon account too, but Google gives you more space.

  57. Mike

    I use Xmarks to keep my firefox browsers in clean bookmark shape.

    I carefully have my important personal data back-ed up (via bulk copies over my local network). I am beginning to use some Windows 7 file capabilities that may make make my life more simple in the future.

  58. NedW

    I use AJC Sync to sync my work and personal files to 4 computers, a network drive and 2 portable drives. It’s fast, foolproof and I’ve never had a problem with it. I also sync the same files to a USB drive and have it with me all the time.

  59. Michael K Pate

    My devices – Home Desktop, Work Destop, Notebook, Netbook, Android Phone-Droid X, iPad

    Mail/Contacts/Calendar/Music – Google
    Files – Dropbox
    Photographs – Flickr
    Browsers – both Chrome and Firefox Sync
    Bookmarks – Delicious,Trunkly, and Pinboard
    Evernote – Notes

    I have been experimenting with Tonido but haven’t got it running the way I want just yet.

  60. Pirgnori

    I use:

    EasySync to backup my folder and files to external hard drives at home. ES is easy to set up and use, manually or scheduled, and to restore folder/files.

    Mozy for online backup; it works like a charm and allows easy restoration of folder/files.

    I keep most folder/files in MyDocuments, so that’s the key folder that gets backed up.

    For an image of my computer, taken once a week, I use Acronis True Image Home, which has a fantastic Try&Decide feature, which allows to you to install a program and then return to a time before that program was installed. Good, too, if you catch a virus: just go back to a time before the virus struck. This feature has saved my bacoon many times.

  61. durr

    With magic spells

  62. Bader

    Google docs, dropbox, springpad, google calendar, gmail… as for offline syncing I use goodsync

  63. jkdwiz

    Ubuntu one
    & Xmarks

  64. Lee

    I have an android phone, a desktop PC, a laptop, and an iPod touch. I use dropbox to sync my files.

  65. Deniz Sevki Kayabay

    iTunes for my iPod, iPad & iPhone but that really gets boring to do the rest.
    I do SYNC my documents, everyday, or even several times a day between my computer, my HDD external & iPad using some old fashioned way. I sort my Document folder on DATE:TIME bases & I copy the latest files or the files which had the latest changes to the other device. I do that so often that now it seems like driving. I don’t even think about it just do it.

  66. William

    SugarSync keeps my files synced on all devices.
    LastPass keeps passwords and bookmarks
    Google Calendar for Calendar
    Nothing for email yet.

  67. Dan

    I use Allway Sync “n” Go in several ways. Frequent automatic synchronization with my data stick so I can pull it out and go anytime. Daily sync with an external drives for back-ups and occasional research beyond what is on my data stick. There are ample selections in set-up that allow generating deletes, or just adding files on a one-way sync, or updating both locations with the most recent document on either drive. Drop box is also very useful for when away from the office without my data stick and for sharing with people in remote locations. It works excellently but requires a little more effort.

  68. Donna

    Dropbox and Evernote ! (Mac book Pros, VM with Windows, iPad, iPhone, various useless work PCs)

  69. Alan

    SugarSync syncs several computers and my phone and it works great!
    Chrome sync & Firefox sync for my book marks
    Gmail means my email is the same on all devices
    Google Calendar for calendar items
    Nothing for passwords yet but I would love to find something…

  70. BobbyPhoenix

    Dropbox = Files
    Gmail = Emails (7 accounts across 6 providers all filter to Gmail)
    Xmarks = Bookmarks
    Amazon MP3 Cloud = Music

  71. Greg

    Allways Sync (Home Network) Excellent Program keeps backups, can do flash drives, hard drives, network shares. loads of options
    Dropbox for Phone/Documents

  72. Josh

    Devices: Laptop, work desktop, personal desktop, Android phone, Android tablet

    Music: iTunes to iPod Touch (going to dabble in Google music someday)
    Notes: Evernote
    Calender, Contacts, Mail: Exchange Active-sync
    Browser: Chromes built in sync, Chromemarks for the Androids
    Passwords: Lastpass
    Files: Dropbox
    Backup: Windows Live Mesh to backup my pictures and large files between my computers.
    The Rest: I have a couple flash drives and usb drives for moving everything else

  73. Snert

    I don’t sync. I don’t need to.
    Maybe I’m a dinosaur but my different devices are for different uses.
    Case in point – I consider my phone a ‘smart’ phone because it works.
    What the hey, I’m 59 and I remember when the first conputers weighed several tons and a newfangled tv remote was hard wired.
    I’m not agin new technology, I use it the way I want.

  74. ed

    do i need to sync stuff ? what are the benefits ?

  75. Brandido

    I use Windows Live Mesh. It syncs anything you want, you can set it to only sync specific folders or, like me, sync everything. mydocs, music, videos, emails, even favorite webpages. I have a desktop and 2 laptops, all win7. I can take my netbook to school and download lectures and notes and they are instantly sync’d with my computers at home. A word of advice for when your first setting it up, try to have all your files you want sync’d in one place at the beginning. I spent a few weeks having to delete duplicates, mostly empty duplicate folders and playlists.

  76. Joel

    Google docs, i tunes.

  77. David White

    Thanks to M$, I use Dropbox & SugarSync between 6 devices & M$ Mesh P2P only feature between my main Win7 machine and my HTPC (Vista)

  78. David White

    I also backup my HL2DM Dedicated Server to the cloud only via SugarSync

  79. JIm

    Dropbox and iDrive.

  80. raburruss

    dropbox and skydrive and the good old flash drive, but mostly dropbox.

  81. cam2644

    Firefox sync. Dropbox. Evernote and Uber note.
    Picasa Web for photos.
    Zoho Mai,Zoho Calendar and Zoho docs

  82. lynnceline


  83. jkglad

    Remote desktop, team viewer, flash drive, external hard drives. It’s great, isn’t it? A few years ago we didn’t have so many choices.

  84. Scott

    dropbox, gmail, chromes syncing ability, google calendar and it never hurts to do some manual house keeping from time to time with cc cleaner or some similar software.

  85. C_3PO

    Email/Calendar; Windows Live on all my desktops
    Xmarks; for FF and Chrome
    Dropbox and Evernote on Android + PC’s
    Windows Live Mesh; (I occasionally use)
    SkyDrive; (personal stuff) and Google docs (Work and job applications + shopping info)
    Amazon; for all my Mp3 purchases

  86. Eric

    Google for email, contacts, calendar, music, photos.
    Dropbox for active documents.
    Syncplicity/SugarSync for archived documents.
    Still looking for video – really just need P2P – would use Windows Live Mesh but I’m mostly on XP. I like where FTPbox is going, but still too new and buggy (esp since no subfolder syncing)
    Xmarks & Chrome Sync for browser/bookmarks.
    Google Docs for document sharing
    Evernote for notes & info.

  87. A

    Windows Live Mesh all the way.

  88. Furryface

    Bluetooth between cell phone and computer. DropBox for file sharing with others.

  89. Tom

    I only have a desktop and netbook to keep in sync so I do it manually using either a usb thumb drive or my home wireless network directly. Most of my friends use dropbox but I don’t trust my personal files out there in “the cloud”.

  90. Bobby


  91. rangerevo8

    Windows Live Mesh

  92. sproket90

    Dropbox – changed my life



  93. Eric

    I use Dropbox for everything. Even the wallpapers all my computers cycle through all day are in there.

  94. Jack

    Dropbox is the way to go.

  95. astral_cyborg

    Dropbox for online syncing.
    SyncBack and PureSync for offline syncing.
    MyPhoneExplorer for the mobile phone syncing.

  96. V K Mahajan

    I tred to down load MS Sync Toy. It gives error and just does not down load. After trying every thing , I just gave up. VKM

  97. cactusdr

    A thumb drive. In a world of hackers, all it takes is one time for a servers database to be compromised and you quickly learn how not to trust your “LIFE” to a world of wireless bytes. Unfortunately, we have become dependent on simplification instead of concerning ourselves with potential consequences.
    I use a cell phone for making and receiving telephone calls and that’s it, so it’s not an issue that I can’t sync my phone with a thumb drive. A Micro Thumb….now that’s an idea!

  98. Sarasvati80

    I haven’t started to think what I want to use yet, cause I’m still cleaning my stuff… I have a netbook and a desktop. I’m probably gonna get a eee note or a livescribe pen for school, and I would like to synch all that. Although, I want my netbook to have Linux on it, and my desktop is on win 7.

    I use dropbox with a friend for projects, and I use to “synch” both of my computers by transfering files with an external drive.

    I dunno what I should use yet…

  99. Callum Booth

    I use Dropbox for nearly everything. Me and my friends also use it as sort of a Team Foundation Server-type setup, so any programming projects we collaborate on are synced through a shared folder.

  100. JimmytheJackal

    For my laptop and desktop:

    Chrome’s built in sync and Lastpass to keep my browsers in sync.
    Dropbox for small files.
    External HDD for bigger files and folders.

  101. vicsar

    I use Dropbox and SyncBack to have my files synchronized in different locations while keeping a backup of them in an external hard drive.

  102. billy

    try freefilesync, to syncronise your files

  103. Someone

    I have a question how do you transfer music or photos from a mobile (nokia) to an iPad whit out using a USB cabel or a computer is it posible?

  104. Graham Day

    Not free, but the best.

  105. Vahid

    Sugarsync does it all for me.
    Dropbox is nice, but Sugarsync is nicer, because i can just tell it which folders i want synced to the cloud, and also which folders i want synced in a different device.

    Just started testing SyncDocs (to Google Docs) to see if it gets the job done.

  106. Evan F

    Just found out about Gobbler ( It’s pretty cool stuff for musicians backing up/collaborating.

  107. CH

    2GB is enough for a semester!^^

  108. Susan

    Well. I, to, use Dropbox, but I also heavily rely on Google’s services/sync: Picasa for my pics; Music Beta for music; Google Docs for letters/docs; I also use Google Chrome on all of my computers and I have them all in sync with the other, and I have an Android phone that also is in sync with everything else! I love love love Google and their services; I was a Pilot for Google’s CR-48 pilot program, and I now realize even more all about “living in the cloud”!!! =)

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