Best Free Folder Synchronization Utility

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Introduction

File synchronization utilities help you keep updated copies of files or folders in two or more locations, such as different computers, network drives, USB drives, or online storage. While a file sync utility could be used as a simple backup tool (called one-way syncing), its real power lies in keeping an identical set of working files in two or more locations.

An example of this would be keeping current versions of the same data files on both your home computer and office computer (two-way syncing). File sync utilities keep track of which files you create or change, or even delete in one location, and can create, change and delete those same files in the other location.

There are a lot of contenders in this category, but only a few stand out based on the criteria below.

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Rated Products

FreeFileSync  

A well designed and easy-to-use sync program


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Open source)
Very easy to understand and use "straight out of the box."
Very few filter options, no ftp, no auto sync, very sparse help.
Read full review...

Allway Sync  

A very well rounded product with a filter, rule set and loads of features


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
Very robust set of filters and rules, support for FTP.
Monthly file copy limit of 40,000 files, no support for copying locked files.
Read full review...

Honourable Mentions

  • SyncBack supports file compression and can verify file integrity after job completion.
  • Synkron had a lot of votes for this one in the comments section.
  • File Synchronizer is good if you are looking for a minimalistic or simplistic utility.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

Currently seems to be a problem finding home website of FreeFileSync. The Help tab within the program results in unable to connect and if you follow the download link given here it takes you to SourceForge. There is a link there but that also results in "Unable to connect". I've had the program since version 8.3 but occasionally go to the website to consult the manual. There are a few blogs about the program but there not quite as good as the developers proper manual.

Maybe it's a temporary issue or maybe the project has been terminated.

Based on comments of others here I thought I'd give Synchredible a try. However my "go to" file download site, Softpedia, only seems to have the commercial version. A search found the developers site and they do have a "Free for private purposes" file to download.

FreeFileSync site has changed. Here is the new site:

https://www.freefilesync.org/

I have been downloading from above site since quite a long time now. There is actually a message displayed at the top of the Sourceforge site for FreeFileSync, which you probably missed. It says:

As of 2017-01-30, this project may now be found at http://www.freefilesync.org/.

Have updated the product details, will show the correct site now. Thank you for your post.

I've been a long-time user of Karen's Replicator. Yesterday I was sad to learn that one of the Microsoft May 2017 patches has made Karen's Replicator unusable. (Briefly, from what I gather, the patch made it so that KR can't create a new folder on the destination drive. Which means it can't create a back-up copy of any file created in a folder that didn't exist before your PC received the offending May patch.)

So of course I came to Gizmo's Freeware to see what is recommended. Based on comments, I evaluated Synchredible. It was looking pretty good until I ran into a problem I was unable to solve. (The problem was that it kept trying to resynch files that didn't need to be synched, because the files were identical. These are old files that I brought over from another system. The problem might be that the file "modify date" is 2009 while the file "create date" is 2014. I wanted to see if that situation was confusing Synchredible, causing it to want to always recopy the files. Otherwise, I had no explanation.)

However, the point of this post is not to dwell on that, but rather their support situation. The company Ascorp (in Germany) has a not-very-active forum. I was going to create an account in order to ask a question or two. Unfortunately, their forum registration form wouldn't let me create an account. (1) The form included a captcha that you had to respond to, but neither Firefox nor IE would display the graphic. Only after I told IE to "display insecure content" would the graphic appear. (2) For some reason, the form said that "the community" wouldn't accept my e-mail address, and please use a different e-mail. Well, sorry, but that's my e-mail (the same one I use for my account here at techsupportalert).

So I have a problem I can't solve with the app and no way to get on the forum to ask a question. That doesn't work for me.

If I have a better experience with another app, I'll report it back here for the benefit of those who follow.

Following up from a couple of days ago, I am very pleased with SyncBackFree, which is in the "honorable mentions" category of this review. SBF won't appeal to everyone. It has a bit of a learning curve as there are a LOT of options. I like software that puts the user in charge, and SBF certainly does that.

In a nutshell, you create one or more "profiles" (i.e., tasks) for the back-up, synchronization, or mirror you want to perform. It will do pretty much any file operation you can think of, contingent on the status of the files & folders in the source & destination drives. It operates on demand or, via Windows Task Scheduler, on the schedule you set. You can set filters at the file and folder level, and you can either skip or include files or folders that are created after you set up the filter. You can set a warning so that you don't delete a bunch of your backup files inadvertently..

A particular strength of SBF is the comprehensive, context-aware help utility. On the flip side, the after-the-fact reporting could be more flexible and robust. By default, SBF provides a recap of the most recent run of each profile. I would prefer that it didn't overwrite the previous log, and instead offer to retain all logs for "x" number of runs or "y" number of days. The intrepid user can work around the issue, but native support would be better.

Some options (e.g., encryption and versioning) are reserved for one of the two paid-for versions. But the free version does a lot. I recommend it for those whose back-up needs might be a little more complex than average and/or for those who like a fine level of control over their critical apps.

*****
My main need is that a back up program absolutely mirrors the FOLDER and FILE timestamps
After all, isnt that the point of a folder and file backup program ??
Such a simple need, but I have not found one free backup program that does this
*****

I have to rely on a commercial backup program to faithfully mirror the timestamps of the original files
Let me know if you find a freeware back up program that can perform this very basic process

You need to check back up programs, such as Free File Sync, are doing a complete job, and not missing files, by using a separate folder/file comparison utility

Also some synchronisation freeware works well enough, but are very slow.
Its often not evident you are using a slow program, until you have found a faster one !
I used to use SyncBack SE, a freeware sync program, and thought it was pretty fast
Then I realised it was very slow, when I found a better and faster alternative
When you are backing up large amounts of data, from locations containing more than 1.5 TB of data, slowness of syncing can be a major problem

FreeFileSync (FFS) seems a reasonable program
I havent checked the results yet with a folder/file comparison program to make sure files arent being missed
However, in my experience, this software does not retain the original timestamps of the source folders
I just installed FFS and did a sync - the backup folders have todays date and time, not the timestamp of the original folders !

Another interesting find is DSynchronize, which has a portable version, so you dont have to muck up your registry.
However, unless I am mistaken, this software also doesnt retain the original timestamps of the source folders

Fast Copy is my go to program for file copying, it is very fast, and retains the timestamps of the original folders AND files
However, the user interface of this freeware isnt very friendly
Fast Copy also doesnt provide a summary before the copy to know what is already on the destination folder, as all good sync programs do

No idea why the time stamps would not carry across to your backup in FFS. Must be something with your system or settings. I can see no option to update backup file to today's date. I presume you are mirroring? My backup is identical to the nearest byte to my original, apart from files and folders that I filter out.
Jon (also in Australia)

Australia, thanks for your comments. I am managing about 3 TB of data, so I certainly do appreciate speed.

In the checking I've done so far, SyncBackFree doesn't seem to be missing any files. My biggest folder has 250,000-plus files (including subfolders) and the numbers agree between my source and destination. But I will test more thoroughly, based on your cautionary words.

If you are running in interactive mode, SBF does give the user a report of exactly what files & folders will be copied, created, and deleted. You can review the report and abort the run before any changes are made. In fact, there is a Simulated Run mode that does just that. I think that is a fairly common feature.

To your other point, SBF does not retain the original creation date on the newly-created file or folder copy, although it does retain the original modification date. I agree it would be nice if that info was preserved, but it's not a particular requirement in my case. (SyncBackSE is one of the 2 paid versions of the same program. I didn't install or work with that version.)

Based on earlier user comments, I opted not to evaluate FFS. If SBF hadn't worked out for me, TrueSyncFree was next on my list, although I did see a comment or two that TSF had skipped files.

I have been a FreeFileSync user for a long time. No more. Synchredible is great. Enough so that I bought the premium version in order to support the developer.

Agreed on FreeFileSync. I'm not going to use a data sync tool that is sharing activity with external servers.
Synchredible looks good but wouldn't backup to a NAS as it won't see it.

I also use a Backup on Save tool. Used FileHamster for years bit its not being updated and uses old .NET. Yardis sort of works but seems to get confused.

As a followup, I've been using Aomei Backupper for imaging my boot drive. Just discovered their version 4 has added Real-time Sync in the scheduling section. This will allow me to use it for Backup on Save functions as well - this is for key files to be automatically backed up with each new version. It avoids loosing a days work if something goes wrong between daily data backups. It's saved my bacon a couple of times.

Synchredible is a good sync tool too though. Cleaner interface than FFS.

G'day David - please explain what you mean by "sharing activity with external servers". What information does it share IYO? With whom? I only sync with partitions on or drives attached to my computer. I don't really see how it is meant to share activity with any one else, particularly as I obviously do not need to be online to sync. I use FFS every day and find it excellent. I even spend a few dollars once or twice per year to support Zenju who has responded well to the few issues I have had, Jon

Hi Jon
The free version of FFS now has ads. That requires sending data to ad servers and returning with the ad content. What that data includes, I don't know but there is often an effort to "target" the ads, meaning they share some user data. I have 0 interest in having adware on my computer, especially when I have no way of knowing what is being shared with who. Many examples illustrate that once that door is opened, collected data tends to expand. There is also issues with opening a door for malware if the unknown ad companies are compromised.

If you've supported FFS, perhaps he gave you a code that turns that off?

I understand why developers are doing this. Its become common for free apps on cell phones and is widespread online. Most people have no clue how much of their user data is being collected and shared unknowingly. But I'd rather not invite that onto my desktop. To use an analogy, it's one thing to have someone listen in on a conversation in a restaurant. It's quite another to have it happen in my living room.

I have been using FreeFileSync for quite sometime now. I haven't seen any ads yet. To confirm, I just opened FreeFileSync, but cannot see ads anywhere in the program.

Are you using current version? I stayed with the old version for awhile to avoid this new "feature" but have now replaced it.

Yes, I am using the latest version.

Then apparently you either paid something (see comment below) or have an exceptional firewall.

Neither. I am using Windows Firewall, and it's the free version of FreeFileSync, and not the donation one.

Curious. That's not been my experience. In any case, I've migrated to a tool I prefer.

Thanks David - yes I did pay something for the new version (9.0) in mid-April, which may explain the lack of adware. The paid version has no ad or crap ware attached. Glad to hear (from others) that Syncredible is good. Will switch to that if FFS gets too intrusive (or expensive), but in the meantime, all my filters and time shifts work well in FFS, and my various backup relativities are saved. It is also remarkably fast - I backup around 100 MB per day to OneDrive - takes 0.5 seconds approx. So for the time being I plan to subscribe every six months or so. Jon

Oh curious. I Googled for the NAS issue and someone mentioning reinstalling Synchredible and then it worked. And indeed it did. I can now sync to my NAS.

Thanks for the recommendation!

FreeFileSync has been updated to version 8.10 (2017.03.11).

I can also vouch for the free version of Synchredible; it truly is incredible and can handle tremendous folder trees without choking as so many of the other programs do.
Many of these programs can handle a few hundred files in a very few folders, but then start making big mistakes the more you throw at them.
I was also able to download and install Synchredible without getting any undesirable hitch-hikers in the process.

FreeFileSync 8.7 has been released (2016.12.06); the full changelog may be found at http://www.softpedia.com/progChangelog/FreeFileSync-Changelog-111247.html .

FreeFileSync suits my needs. I find it easy enough to use and it has a pretty simple and intuitive GUi. I've used it on and off for years and always keep coming back to it. I like it so much I donated $20 to the developer.

Unfortunately that payment does not include upgrades. If I do upgrade to any future versions it reverts to the bundleware version, so I'm sticking with version 8.3 indefinitely.

It's a pity they don't just provide a "Pro" version that includes all future upgrades.

Added:- If the pop-up nag to update annoys just add the following two lines to the host file:

127.0.0.1 a2ss35.a2hosting.com

127.0.0.1 www.freefilesync.org

Happy update/calling home to mother-ship blocking:)

FreeFileSync is excellent - at least six stars. My MalwareBytes identified OpenCandy as a PUP, but I agreed to install anyway. In practice, no open candy, no malware. But quite why I don't know. As a precaution, I took a registry backup before installing. But this time, and the last two or three, there has been no click-off malware button during the install, and nothing untoward has installed. Actually the program is so useful, that I will go back to donating for each new version - not very much I admit, but I do donate more for major upgrades, eg, when FFS goes to version 9. I am looking forward to the day when Zenju can give OpenCandy the flick and just rely on donations.
Sorry CANCEL THAT - my normal morning MWB scan found:
PUP.Optional.OpenCandy, C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Local\Temp\is-7Q1NL.tmp\OCSetupHlp.dll, , [9d20b1482376ab8ba2b3512123e1ce32]
Encouraging is that it doesn't seem to have done anything, but I have anyway deleted it. I will also post to the FFS forum. I have therefore reduced my FFS rating to 5 stars.

The application Unchecky is quite useful in helping to deal with PUPs (such as OpenCandy) that may be included with an application one would like to install. During the installation process, it helps steer one along the path to the options (if they have been provided) to deselect the PUPs that may have been bundled with the app. It also writes exclusions to the HOSTS file, preventing the PUPs from phoning home (http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/OS-Enhancements/Unchecky.shtml). The app automatically updates itself.

Also extremely useful (in many ways) is the venerable WinPatrol, as another commenter has mentioned (http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/Popup-Ad-Spyware-Blockers/WinPatrol.shtml).

Both are highly recommended (if not essential) for every Windows box, IMHO.

FreeFileSync has now become a malware site. Unless you make a donation when downloading the program, you will get an anti-virus program installed without any notification or way to opt out, and a search bar. If not for Winpatrol, I would not have know the anti-virus and search bar where being installed. Please stop recommending this software.

It is now common practice for freeware programs to come bundled with unwanted components. This is why we have an installer warning message next to the download link and publish articles such as this.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-else-have-you-just-download...
When you run the installer it is necessary to block any outgoing connections in order to prevent these from downloading additional material although the fact this is happening is clearly stated during the install process.
http://i.imgur.com/Oa5iFkG.png
You can easily make a test install first using one of the freeware programs such as ToolWiz Time Freeze. MC - Site Manager.

I would add a third to this list that gives the other two a run for the money with its free version: http://synchredible.com

Though only garnering an Honorable Mention, SyncBack Free has been updated to version 7.6.4.0 (2016.03.16); VirusTotal reports it to be 100% clean.

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