Backup Your Documents to another Computer Using Synchronization

April 1, 2012

One of the easiest ways to backup your data on your computer is to copy it to another PC in your home. However, with this approach you have to make sure the “copied version” of your data is always fresh and reflects the current version of your actual data. Otherwise it risks becoming digital junk on your hard drive; simply using up your free space which at some point you begin to wonder whether or not it can be deleted.

The simplest way to do this is using synchronization software. My favorite synch software tool that I’ve been using for a few years now is GoodSync Pro. GoodSync is not a backup software company, but rather a company that’s taken the task of copying software between different locations so that it’s extremely reliable.

A Tutorial on Creating a Two-Way Synchronization Job

The following tutorial will detail the steps required to copy your “My Documents” folder, with all its subfolders and files, to another computer on your home network. Once the initial copy of this data is completed, it will then verify this data from each computer on a daily basis, making sure that both side have the same data.

The Home Network Environment

Verify free hard drive space available on the destination computer

The example I’ll show will back up the document data from the desktop computer in my office, to the laptop computer my wife uses. This scenario only works if the destination computer has enough free space to hold the amount of data in your documents folder. So you need to verify this first before going any further.

Various ways exist to check your hard disk space, but for our example we’ll simply use Windows Explorer, right-click on the top-level documents folder and select the context menu option for properties. It may take a few minutes, but this will give us the total hard drive space used by this data. There has to be this much free (and more) on the destination computer.

Determine where to store the replicated data on the destination computer

The next step is to decide where on the destination computer we want to store a copy of our documents data. Since we want to follow best practices, it should be copied to the “My Documents” folder. However, I don’t want to mix up my document data with my wife’s document data so we’ll make use of the Windows user accounts.

I create a user account on the destination laptop computer the same as on my desktop. This way, an added benefit of this procedure would be that I could work from both machines and the data would be available. However be advised that the risk with this scenario is that you don’t want to change the SAME data in both places. This would result in a synchronization conflict later on, as the GoodSync software would not know which copy to keep. This is not an issue for us, as I’ll change the data 99% of the time from my desktop computer. So the laptop is more or less just a backup copy.

Setup GoodSync Connect

Technically speaking you could synchronize with another computer on your home network without completing this step. However, you would have to understand how to change security permission on the destination computer in order for your sync job to access it properly.

Fortunately GoodSync as a special kind of connection called “GoodSync Connect” which accomplishes this for you. It takes all of the pain out of having to understand Windows security between two different computers.

All that’s needed is to follow the instructions at: GoodSync Connect Tutorial.

Create a New GoodSync Job

This will be a “Synchronize” job meaning changes from both sides are replicated. If you know for sure that change will never be made on the destination side then the “Backup” or one-way option may be best.
New GoodSync Job

Configure the “Left Side” of the Synchronization Job

After clicking the Ok button in the previous screen you’ll be presented with an empty job. Click on the top, left Browse button to begin configuration of the left side:
Browse button to begin configuration of the left side

Then select the “My Computer” option in the left navigation pane, and scroll down on the right until you find the documents folder for your user:
Find the documents folder for your user

Configure the “Right Side” of the Synchronization Job

Configure the Right Side of the Synchronization Job

This time on the left side pane select the “GoodSync Connect” option. Since you have already installed and configured GoodSync Connect per the link above, you should see both of your home network computers on the right side pane. Select the destination computer.
Select the GoodSync Connect option

Navigate down thru the folder structure of the destination computer until you find the folder you want to replicate your data to:
Navigate down thru the folder structure

Both Sides of the Synchronization Job are now configured

You should now see the navigation path for both sides of the transfer:
Both Sides of the Synchronization Job are now configured

Configure Additional Job Options

Under the job menu is a menu option called “Options”, click on this:
Configure Additional Job Options

By default the General Option settings screen will display. Confirm they are set the way you want them. Note: The “Save deleted/replaced files, last version only” is a good option to set if you have enabled the “Propagate Deletions” option also, but it will continue to use up that hard drive space.
Propagate Deletions option

Schedule this job to run automatically

When finished, click on the “Auto” menu option in the left pane to set the scheduled job. Click the “Logged In Mode” option to schedule a new job. As soon as you do this the next screen will pop up:
Schedule this job to run automatically

Click the “New” button to define a new schedule and set the time of day as needed, click “Ok” when finished:
Define a new schedule

You will be prompted to enter your username (should display by default) and password for the job to run under:
Prompted to enter your username

The final schedule settings will display. Click the Save button to continue:
The final schedule settings will display

Analyze Both Side of the Synchronization Job

Back at the main job screen you’re now ready to click the Analyze button. This will scan both sides of the job to see which files have been changed.
Analyze Both Side of the Synchronization Job

Synchronize the Files

Click the “Sync” button to do the initial synchronization process. Depending on how much data you have it may take some time.
Synchronize the Files

Synchronization Process Complete

That’s it! Next time it should run automatically at your scheduled time. Check it periodically to make sure there are no problems.