Disaster Recovery

DIY: Free Windows backup tool Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a free and reliable backup solution. See how to create a new, scheduled backup to an external drive using the tool.

It isn't always easy to get people to back up their systems. Sometimes end users are being lazy, but sometimes the problem might be that the backup tool is difficult to use. A free, volunteer-developed tool called Synchronicity can have end users backing up (with scheduled backups) with ease without having to spend all day configuring those backups.

Synchronicity's features

  • Easy to use interface
  • Backup easily to USB
  • Inclusion/Exclusion
  • Scheduled backups (with automatic rescheduling of missed backups)
  • Mirror
  • One-way incremental
  • Two-way incremental
  • Multi-profile support
  • Plenty of documentation (including hidden features)
  • Portable
  • Advanced features (such as dynamic destinations, time offsets, loose timing, file size comparison, and more)
In this quick tutorial, I show how easy it is to create a new, scheduled backup to an external drive using the Synchronicity tool. Note: The requirements for Synchronicity are .NET 2.0 or greater and the admin password (if applicable) to the machine.

Installation

Download the package with the installer included, double click it, and walk through the installation. Once it's installed, there will be a new menu entry in the Start menu called Create Software. In that menu, you will find the Create Synchronicity sub-menu, which includes the Create Synchronicity executable (and the uninstaller). Click Create Synchronicity to start the setup process.

Create a new backup

When you start Synchronicity, you will see the main window (Figure A). From this window, click the New Profile button, which will ask for a new profile name. Figure A

This window will list all configured profiles. Multiple profiles can be saved for various backup jobs.
Once the new profile name is added, the Profile Settings window will open (Figure B). In this new window, you must configure the following:
  • From: Target to backup.
  • To: Destination to backup to.
  • Subdirectories: Subdirectories for both From and To.
  • Synchronization Method: Which way is the backup sync'ing.
  • Include/Exclude
Figure B

Not many backup solutions are as simple as Synchronicity.

For folder locations, you can use the following path formats:

  • Absolute: D:\Path\to\folder
  • Relative: ..\..\folder
  • UNC: \\IP_ADDRESS\folder
  • Volume Name: "Drivename"\folder

Once To and From have been set, click the Local folder tree button to reveal the directory structure. In this directory tree, you can include/exclude specific subfolders. If you need to include/exclude specific files, you must uncheck Copy All Files and then select what you want to include or exclude.

In the include/exclude section, you can use the following:

  • Files by extension: As in tar; zip
  • Files by full name: As in "File.exe";"File2.exe"
  • Regular expressions: /File[0-9]+\.(doc|xls|ppt)/

After you complete those steps, the new job will be listed in the Profiles section. If you click on that job, a drop-down will appear where you can do the following:

  • Preview
  • Run (Synchronize)
  • Change settings
  • Delete
  • Rename
  • View log
  • Clear log
  • Scheduling
If this is to be a scheduled job, make sure to select Scheduling. When doing this for the first time, you will get a prompt that says Synchronicity must be run as a startup program. By enabling a profile for scheduling (Figure C), Synchronicity will register as a startup program. Figure C

If you want Synchronicity to catch missed backups, you must check the box for the feature.

Bottom line

Synchronicity is one of the fastest ways to help get end users (and clients on a tight budget) to back up their files and folders. Synchronicity will not image a machine, but for some users just getting that data backed up is a huge step forward.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

9 comments
re.carter
re.carter

I also use TrueCrypt both on the backup drive and also on my laptops drive for any private data - I mirror that private data drive as the single encrypted file, but have to unmount it first before using SyncToy....

jonc2011
jonc2011

FreeFileSync is worth a look. Doesn't schedule but very user friendly. I started using it when my MS SynToy stopped working a couple of years ago. FFS now adjusts for timezone shifts which is of critical importance if you move your computer between timezones. I put my backup (of my whole data drive 30 gig) into a TrueCrypt volume, in case my external drive is stolen. I don't think this would be very easy to automate.

north face store
north face store

An individual human existence should be like a river???small at first, north face store narrowly contained within its banks, north face outlet store and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, north face outlet locations the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, north face outlet they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose the north face outlet their individual being.

LaFong
LaFong

As its name implies, this tool is for syncing (/cloning/mirroring) folders. For admins, "backup" means being able to restore older versions of files, not just the latest. For left-to-right differential, it does says "In this case, the right folder somehow keeps an incremental history of changes that occurred on the left."--I'm not sure what that means exactly. There is the dynamic destination feature, however that would seem to require a full sync for every dated folder, taking up a lot of time and disk space. rsync, which is also mainly for syncing, can also be set up to create dated destination folders, but it allows making the the dated folder incremental, and can use hard links as a form of deduplication, saving a lot of both time and disk space. Unfortunately, hard links are not available in Windows. A tool called Syncrify seems to offer syncing ability, versioning, and incremental deltas. Neither of these sync tools can backup and restore Windows itself.

senhaku
senhaku

I've been using Microsoft SyncToy for a long time. Worked well for me for backup/sync on demand. The 2-way sync part was especially helpful for carry data around between my PC and USB memory stick. Thought if using cloud storage, but since my internet bandwidth is not unlimited and cheap, I'll use it mainly to share stuff with others. The attractions of Synchronicity for me is the ability to schedule the backup and comprehensive logs. The downside is the lack of 2-way sync/backup. I would use it for backing up my local drives on a regular basis automatically, but for portability of my data, I'll continue to use SyncToy.

mgmorgan01
mgmorgan01

My question is and will always be: How good is the backup/restore process?

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

In my time I've tried hundreds of them. All have their strong and weak points, each has features I've wished others had thought of, some log better than others and some are pure agony to try to use. One in particular I can think of (I'm looking at *you*, Microsoft Synctoy) are easy to configure and a nightmare to change that configuration. Bottom line: with all the options out there, what makes this offering stand out from the Cobians, SyncBacks, and GoodSyncs?

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I never use this app in the past but according to the screenshot and explanation, the restore is as easy as to copy back the data to the original location because this backup software works in syncs methods just like Beyond Compare. I will test, this is good for small companies with small budgets or for home users.

jlwallen
jlwallen

I think from an admin perspective you can do with any of the backups you mentioned. I think Synchronicity tends to be a bit more user friendly. And I realize this doesn't matter to most users who need backups, but the fact that it's open source means the chance of it dying off or becoming a paid-for software are slim to none. The reason why I believe this is because this backup is a good solution and, should the developer up and quit, it could be picked up by another developer or even forked.

Editor's Picks