backup · Windows · Windows Vista

SyncToy the GUI Alternative to Robocopy


This article written in early 2008 for a beta release of SyncToy is out of date.

In my last post I spoke about the benefits of using a Microsoft tool known as Robocopy for large file transfers, backing up and synchronisation. Well for those who are not comfortable with using a command line interface program or those that simply prefer the convenience of using a GUI. Well Microsoft has released an alternative, though less feature rich, free PowerToy known as SyncToy.

SyncToy currently comes in two editions, 1.4 and a 2.0 that is currently in beta. This article will cover the 2.0 beta which is more feature complete and should be stable enough for most user environments. It is currently available for both Windows XP and Vista and can be downloaded from Microsoft Download Centre.

Some of SyncToy 2’s benefits include

  • The ability to mirror two directories including the renaming and deletion of files and directories
  • The ability to copy from left to right directory or vise versa
  • Support for network UNC paths
  • Support for external devices such as flash drives, cameras, or even music players
  • Ability to preview changes before they are committed to
  • The option of copying all deleted files into the Recycling Bin
  • Filtering by file names, extensions and attributes

How to use SyncToy 2

When you run SyncToy 2 you are first greeted by a menu displaying your folder pairs.

So select Create New Folder Pair and this dialog should appear.

This enables you to select the two directories you wish to synchronise. Generally Left Folder should be your source and Right Folder should be your destination. You will then be asked what do you wish to do with these files. Synchronize, Echo or Contribute. Hovering your mouse over each radio text will give you a a brief description. But normally if you want to clone directories use Synchronize . Otherwise use Echo. If you don’t ever want files to be deleted during the echo synchronizing then you should use Contribute.

Name your folder pair and that will be it.

If you want you can customise the options for your pair including file filtering.

Else you can just preview it to make sure it works as expected.

Now if the preview was successful you can press Run and your synchronisation will now take place. That is all there is too it!

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2 thoughts on “SyncToy the GUI Alternative to Robocopy

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the post. I have found Robocopy to be a lot more reliable that SyncToy. Although Synctoy is good for home backup routines, Robocopy is my syncroniser of choice as it is more setup and forget than SyncToy

  2. I don’t think calling SyncToy a GUI alternative to Robocopy is even remotely accurate. The way they work is completely different and SyncToy was only really built to test out Microsoft’s new sync framework. SyncToy is not reliable for use as a backup tool, but does serve as a good example of what the new framework can do.

    If we compare SyncToy’s echo mode with Robocopy’s mirror mode, try the following experiment: Delete a directory or set of directories on the right hand side, run SyncToy and have a look, anything missing??? That’s right, SyncToy did not replace the missing directories on the right hand side. Second experiment, update a file on the right hand side… you would expect it to be updated with what’s on the left after running SyncToy since your backup is on the right hand side… again, SyncToy doesn’t work in this scenario and refuses to replace the file on the right – what’s more, no renames or anything of that file on the left will now get carried across to the right-hand side.

    With Robocopy, it will always recopy anything that is missing or different on the right hand side and your backups won’t get out of sync like they can with SyncToy. SyncToy works by Sync’ng everything done on the left to the right. This of course assumes that nothing ever touches the right hand side as things can get out of sync then. In other words, SyncToy is not reliable, and I would not recommend it for backup purposes.

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