Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

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ReedW Contributing Member • Posts: 993
Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

I'm interested in a free, simple and reliable Windows program to back up files on a local hard drive to an external drive. Ideally, I would enter a source (local) and target (external) directory, click Go and the program would determine which files were different and copy the source files to the external drive.

A recent thread mentioned the FreeFileSync program:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4672217

I did some web searching and found few mentions of it or recent reviews. Many articles on the best sync software don't mention it and many of the reviews I found were very old.

I'm interested in hearing any feedback on FreeFileSync and other free alternatives.

Simon Garrett Veteran Member • Posts: 7,435
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
1

ReedW wrote:

I'm interested in a free, simple and reliable Windows program to back up files on a local hard drive to an external drive. Ideally, I would enter a source (local) and target (external) directory, click Go and the program would determine which files were different and copy the source files to the external drive.

A recent thread mentioned the FreeFileSync program:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4672217

I did some web searching and found few mentions of it or recent reviews. Many articles on the best sync software don't mention it and many of the reviews I found were very old.

I'm interested in hearing any feedback on FreeFileSync and other free alternatives.

It's clearly still being updated; latest update 31st August 2022. Googling found me quite a few reviews of it including recent ones, mainly favourable.

I've never used it, and I use the command-line robocopy tool built in to Windows.

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Simon

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Billiam29 Senior Member • Posts: 2,537
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

As Simon just mentioned, I also use robocopy included with the Windows OS. It's command line nature may not meet your criteria for "simple" though. You can look at this post if you want to see how I use it:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/60726771

I looked into Free File Sync and found nothing wrong with it or any bad opinions about it. The only reason I decided not to use the program is that I want more detailed/granular logging than Free File Sync offerred at the time I looked at it. I don't know if things are still the same in that regard or if they may have been updated.

Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,151
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
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I use FreeFileSync. I even donated. I like it.

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Eh Photographer Regular Member • Posts: 140
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

Allway Sync - Simple to use and does everything I need as a photographer and for simple home office needs.

They do have a free, limited version but their Pro version is quite reasonable at $25.95. I bought my license in 2009 and it has moved to each new computer I have built (6) since then. I have no affiation with the company, just a happy end-user.

dmartin92
dmartin92 Senior Member • Posts: 2,493
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
1

Eric Carlson wrote:

I use FreeFileSync. I even donated. I like it.

Yes, I use FreeFileSync too. It’s fine.

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LynniePad
LynniePad Veteran Member • Posts: 3,758
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

ReedW wrote:

I'm interested in a free, simple and reliable Windows program to back up files on a local hard drive to an external drive. Ideally, I would enter a source (local) and target (external) directory, click Go and the program would determine which files were different and copy the source files to the external drive.

A recent thread mentioned the FreeFileSync program:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4672217

I did some web searching and found few mentions of it or recent reviews. Many articles on the best sync software don't mention it and many of the reviews I found were very old.

I'm interested in hearing any feedback on FreeFileSync and other free alternatives.

I’ve been using Robocopy for some time now, it’s free, as it’s a built-in Windows program. It runs incremental/cumulative backups, and takes advantage of multi-threading. Typically, adding a day’s work to the backup takes less than a second.

Robocopy has many options/switches and this can be daunting. My configuration is available if you are interested.

Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,151
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

I use RoboCopy for work (in IT). I prefer the nice GUI and features of FreeFileSync for home.

Usually I either use RoboCopy for scheduled jobs, or for ad-hoc copy situations at work.

With FreeFileSynce, I setup up my sync once, the way I like, with all the inclusions, exclusions, versioning, and other settings, then just run it whenever I want.

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Vernon D Rainwater Forum Pro • Posts: 14,996
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
1

Eric Carlson wrote:

I use FreeFileSync. I even donated. I like it.

Same for me.  It is excellent.

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Vernon...

OP ReedW Contributing Member • Posts: 993
Thanks for the feedback!

Thanks to everyone for all of the feedback. I'll give FreeFileSync a try and see what I think, and look at the alternatives suggested if for any reason I'm not satisfied with it..

On a completely unrelated note, I'll mention Siren, an excellent file renaming utility for Windows. I've been using it for years, perhaps 10+, and absolutely love it.  The file naming patterns are reminiscent of the C programming language print statement formats and similar scripting languages such as awk.

http://www.scarabee-software.net/en/siren.html

OP ReedW Contributing Member • Posts: 993
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

LynniePad wrote:

I’ve been using Robocopy for some time now, it’s free, as it’s a built-in Windows program. It runs incremental/cumulative backups, and takes advantage of multi-threading. Typically, adding a day’s work to the backup takes less than a second.

Robocopy has many options/switches and this can be daunting. My configuration is available if you are interested.

Surprisingly, as a long-time user of Windows (since version 2-ish) I've never heard of Robocopy.  If you don't mind I'd like to see your configuration setup and I'm sure others would be interested as well.

LynniePad
LynniePad Veteran Member • Posts: 3,758
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

ReedW wrote:

LynniePad wrote:

I’ve been using Robocopy for some time now, it’s free, as it’s a built-in Windows program. It runs incremental/cumulative backups, and takes advantage of multi-threading. Typically, adding a day’s work to the backup takes less than a second.

Robocopy has many options/switches and this can be daunting. My configuration is available if you are interested.

Surprisingly, as a long-time user of Windows (since version 2-ish) I've never heard of Robocopy. If you don't mind I'd like to see your configuration setup and I'm sure others would be interested as well.

Robocopy has been around for a while, Win7 at least. I call it “magic” backup.

Run this script as a desktop shortcut…

Robocopy “e:\shared\current files” “f:\data\current files” /e /dcopy:t /MT:8

Drive e: is an internal SATA SSD, while drive f: is an external USB3.1 SSD

/e copies subdirectories, including empty ones.

/dcopy:t maintains identical time-stamps.

/MT:8 enables multi threading.

These options do not delete files in the backup copy, even if they have been deleted from the working copy. Not an issue, considering the way we work.

The initial run takes a while, of course, but subsequent runs takes (typically) seconds. It’s ideal for a particular member of my family who does heaps of word processing. A couple of clicks and everything is saved.

I use a similar version for my photo files. They live on a HDD, so copying is a little slower.

I’m so confident of the stability that I recently used the accumulated backup to set up data on a new server. - “All Good”, as they say.

SC489 Senior Member • Posts: 1,548
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
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I use SyncToy which has a useful graphical interface.

https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/151459-how-use-synctoy-data-backups.html

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PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 19,520
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

I have seen/tried a number of sync programs over the past couple of decades, starting years ago with Rsync.

I've ended up doing a simple batch file in Windows using the Windows scheduler and robocopy.

Here are some details in case you go this path. It's actually quite easy to use.

First, I have a batch file in one of my folders, and I point to it with the Windows scheduler. Doesn't really matter where it is located.

Within the file, I have these commands, including a few comments to remind me what the options do. I am initially backing up files from two main folders and all the subfolders. One source folder is called DownloaderPro and is where I temporarily save new files while I initially post-process them. Once done with that (could be months) I move them to their permanent location on a dedicated hard drive (E:), and that is the second source folder.

I also back up several other folders used for web pages.  I have options to skip files I don't need to back up.

The target folders are on a NAS. The NAS itself has a sync program I used to back the files up to a second NAS.  I have my own DNS to resolve the NAS name to an IP address, but you can map a drive to the IP address directly if you want.

The batch file is named copy2qnap.bat. I used QNAP devices for NAS.

*******

rem M:=\\Supernas2
net use m: \\supernas2\Multimedia2
rem net use m: \\192.168.101.96\
rem
rem Working SSD drive to QNAP first

robocopy d:\downloaderpro m:\downloaderpro /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xf d:\pagefile.sys /xd d:\database d:\nxcache d:\temp d:\temp2 d:\$recycle.bin d:\recycler "d:\System Volume Information"
robocopy d:\working m:\working /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xd "d:\System Volume Information" d:\pagefile.sys
robocopy d:\webpages m:\webpages /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xf d:\pagefile.sys /xd d:\database d:\nxcache d:\temp d:\temp2 d:\$recycle.bin d:\recycler "d:\System Volume Information"
robocopy d:\videos m:\videos /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xd "c:\System Volume Information"
rem
rem copy photos to QNAP
robocopy e:\photos m:\photos /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xf d:\pagefile.sys /xd d:\database d:\nxcache d:\temp d:\temp2 d:\$recycle.bin d:\recycler "d:\System Volume Information"

rem robocopy r:\intranet m:\intranet /MT:64 /R:2 /E /XO /TIMFIX /FFT /xd "r:\System Volume Information" r:\pagefile.sys
rem /E=copy subdirectories, including empty ones
rem /XO=exclude older files (only copy newer ones if same name)
rem /TIMFIX=fixes file times on all files, even skipped ones
rem /FFT=assumes Fat File Times (2-second precision)
rem /xd=eXclude Directories
rem /R:2=only two retries on a failure (default is 1 million)
rem /MT:64=enable 64-bit multithreading

**********

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Chris Noble
Chris Noble Veteran Member • Posts: 5,007
Sync is not backup
4

ReedW wrote:

I'm interested in a free, simple and reliable Windows program to back up files on a local hard drive to an external drive. Ideally, I would enter a source (local) and target (external) directory, click Go and the program would determine which files were different and copy the source files to the external drive.

Sync is very different from backup and should not be confused with backup.

If you corrupt a file, you may not realize it for a while, and if you rely on a sync copy it's too late as the corruption will propagate to the sync copy.

A real backup is always time-stamped and does not delete previous backups until directed to by the backup settings.

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Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,151
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.
1

LynniePad wrote:

Robocopy has been around for a while, Win7 at least. I call it “magic” backup.

Since Windows NT 4.0 resource kit. A really long time ago. It's great for IT work, and for people who grew up using the command line, though not necessarily ideal for people not used to using a command prompt.

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Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,151
Re: Sync is not backup

Sync, with versioning is pretty close. And fulfills my primary data backup needs.

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Chris Noble
Chris Noble Veteran Member • Posts: 5,007
Re: Sync is not backup

Eric Carlson wrote:

Sync, with versioning is pretty close. And fulfills my primary data backup needs.

Yes, but the versioning option is very complicated compared to typical backup software.

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Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,151
Re: Sync is not backup
2

Chris Noble wrote:

Yes, but the versioning option is very complicated compared to typical backup software.

It's super simple. I set up the versioning to go to a separate folder on the backup drive(s), and if you find the current version of one of your files has a problem, just go to the same path under the separate directory to find previous versions. Simpler than restoring a backup.

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LynniePad
LynniePad Veteran Member • Posts: 3,758
Re: Free Windows file sync programs? FreeFileSync, etc.

Eric Carlson wrote:

LynniePad wrote:

Robocopy has been around for a while, Win7 at least.

Since Windows NT 4.0 resource kit. A really long time ago. It's great for IT work, and for people who grew up using the command line, though not necessarily ideal for people not used to using a command prompt.

Yes, but some early versions were rather limited. I mentioned Win7 because it was likely the first version that many users employed. Wikipedia discusses the history.

I’d suggest that the computer skills required for command line operation are rather less than those required for wrangling LR and PS, and for the many other complex activities often recommended by our correspondents. Craig, for example, makes my head hurt. 

I’ve been using Robocopy for backup since 2019 with good results. There does seem to be some reluctance to use the program, but it’s ideal for my requirements.

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