Monday, 20 February 2012

FreeFileSync - Getting Started

FreeFileSync is a small, simple program for synchronising the files in two locations. For example, if you store files on C: but keep a copy on a USB flash drive as a backup, you can use FreeFileSync to keep the files up-to-date in both locations! That's the advantage over just copying the files. Also, you don't copy all the files each time, you just copy the ones that have changed or that are new. For further explanation click here.

There are of course many file/folder synchronisation programs available, the choice is yours which one you chose. In this article we'll focus on FreeFileSync - more details can be found at: 

As an example of using FreeFileSync, we'll synchronise the files from a folder on the C: drive to a folder on a USB drive (this could be a flash drive or an external hard disk drive). We will only cover the basics, this is just a guide to get you started with FreeFileSync.


At the time of writing, February 2012, FreeFileSync is at version 5. I downloaded FreeFileSync_v5.0_setup.exe, it was about 10MB in size.

Insert your USB drive.

Double click the setup exe file (FreeFileSync_v5.0_setup.exe)

Accept the license agreement

Click Portable - this doesn't install to your computer, instead it allows you to run FreeFileSync directly from your USB drive.

Change the installation path to your USB drive and folder name FreeFileSync. This is where the program files will be stored. In our example J:\FreeFileSync, see the screen shot.

Click Install

Simple Folder Synchronisation
After it has finished installing, in Windows Explorer browse to your USB drive and into the folder as shown in the image below:

Double click FreeFileSync.exe

It will ask you 'Do you want FreeFileSync to automatically check for updates every week?' - click No

On the left you'll see 'Compressed view' - just to make the screen easier to read, click the X in the corner of this box to turn it off.

At this point your screen should look like the following:

The FreeFileSync screen is split into two main columns; left and right. I've marked these in orange in the above screen shot.

In the left box type or use the Browse button to select the folder you want to synchronise/backup.

In my example (above) you'll see I've selected C:\Docs. For you this could be any folder.

NOTE: By default when selecting a folder, all files and folders below that folder will be synchronised. 

Create the first folder on the destination drive (USB drive):

You only need the first folder but it's good to do this otherwise all the files from below C:\docs would go into the root (beginning) of the USB drive.

On the right hand side enter your destination folder - in my example J:\Docs:

Click Compare - in my example (above) it compared the files in C:\Docs with J:\Docs. Because this is the first time I am synchronising these folders, the right hand pane J:\Docs is empty (there are no files on the USB drive yet).

Click Synchronise

Click Start

When it has finished it will play a tune and say Completed - click OK.

The next time you want to synchronise the folders:

  1. Insert the USB drive
  2. Browse to the USB drive \FreeFileSync
  3. Double click FreeFileSync.exe
  4. Enter the source into the left (C:\Docs in my example)
  5. Enter the destination into the right (J:\Docs in my example)
  6. Click Compare
  7. Click Synchronise

Save the configuration
Once you have the source and destination folders on the screen, click Program | Save configuration

Save the SyncSettings.fss_gui file to your FreeFileSync folder on your USB drive (J:\FreeFileSync in my example).

The next time you start FreeFileSync you can click Program | Load configuration and select the SyncSettings.fss_gui file.

Sychronisation - an example
I've created a new file in my C:\Docs folder called new.txt. I've started FreeFileSync, clicked Program | Load configuration and selected the SyncSettings.fss_gui.

I clicked Compare and this is what I see:

You can see that FreeFileSync is detected the new file (new.txt).

Click Synchronise 

It will copy the new file to the USB drive.

What next?
When you need to synchronise your files (back them up perhaps!) then do the following:

  1. Insert the USB drive
  2. Browse to the USB drive \FreeFileSync
  3. Double click FreeFileSync.exe
  4. Click Program | Load configuration and select SyncSettings.fss_gui
  5. Click Compare
  6. Click Synchronise
This can be made easier still of course, in a future article I'll explain more! 

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