David Artiss

SyncToy – the end of an era!

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I’ve mentioned more than once before in my blogs about SyncToy – the free backup and synchronisation tool from Microsoft. I use it, by default, as a simple but reliable backup tool – with a command line version running in the background it keeps my PC synced with my NAS drive.

The only problem with it has been its bulk – version 2 requires Microsoft SQL Server, with all backup data maintained as a database. However, with this (and the latest version of it, now out of Beta) has come decreased speed. A recent update from my portable drive to the NAS took about 4 hours (the vast majority of which was SyncToy just looking for any changes – very little was in copying the differences).

Today I was introduced to SyncBack – a freeware alternative. There are also two improved, but not free, versions. Now, this kind of freeware I usually avoid because they tend to be simply crippled versions of the paid-for versions, with functionality lacking that I require. None-the-less I decided to give it a go.

For a start it’s not as pretty as SyncToy. It’s also not as sophisticated as SyncToy in its methods of determining changed files and folders – no database here. But what it does it does…. damn quick. Often the problem with copying tools is that they tend to leave traces of files and folders behind on the destination drive where something has been deleted from the source. SyncToy’s databases got around this – SyncBack appears to by a simple means of checking everything and then going back and clearing up the remains. It’s not sophistiacted but it works.

There is a command line version but you may not need that as there is a guide scheduling function but, if you do, it’s even better than SyncToy with the ability to schedule a whole load of backups to be run in one go. There’s also options to backup to an external FTP address, it works on network drives, you can compress the destination files and even email results.

So, I’ve transferred all of my copying from SyncToy to SyncBack. I’ve also taken the time to make it a bit slicker by reducing sub-folders down and splitting backups into smaller versions to avoid backing up excessive amounts of data  – one of my single SyncToy backups when split and optimised in SyncBack went from 28.4 GB to 11.1 GB, and no data that I required backing up was lost.

One thing I don’t like about SyncBack, however, is the facility to select sub-folders. With a large folder of sub-folders the list can become unweildy – SyncToy has the ability to collapse and expand folders so that you can more easily manage this. SyncBack doesn’t.

But, hey, that’s nothing compared to the glorious goodness that is the rest of SyncBack. I’m a convert.

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Categories: Product Review

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  1. Just to let you know, SyncToy does not require SQL Server. I think you are thinking of SQL Server Compact which is a very small install compared to SQL Server. In fact, in version 2.0 that we recently released, it does not even require this separate install.

  2. Quite correct Liam – I have Visual Basic 2008 Express installed and I think SQL Server came with this. None-the-less, adding that to the SyncToy install, it’s still over twice the size of SyncBack.

    Any comments on the speed of SyncToy? Any plans to improve it?

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