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Chrome Sync: Configure once, work everywhere

Sign in to Chrome and sync your bookmarks, tabs and settings across all your devices.

Google's Chrome browser provides a fast and secure browsing experience on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, as well as Android and iOS devices. The Chrome OS is essentially a Linux kernel plus Chrome.

Chrome Sync keeps your browsing experience consistent across multiple platforms. These days, many people use more than one computer. The average number of working computers per household in the United States is slightly under two, according to a survey released in April 2012 by Arbitron and Edison Research (PDF). That doesn't count systems used at work, or smartphones, or tablets.

Chrome Sync can sync apps, auto-fill information, bookmarks, extensions, omni-box history, password, settings, themes, and open tabs. This can save people time tweaking settings or searching for information.

Bookmark a site on your desktop; open the bookmark later on your phone. Add the Evernote web extension from the Chrome Web Store to your desktop system at work; watch the extension appear when you log in to Chrome on your laptop.

Enable sync

Here's how to enable Chrome Sync on your systems. Only configure Chrome Sync on secure systems under your control, which would typically be work or home systems.

Administrators: You have the ability to enable or disable Chrome Sync for users. Log in to your Google Apps control panel at http://google.com/a/yourdomain.com. Go to the "Organizations & users" tab, then choose the "Services" sub-tab. Look for "Google Chrome Sync" in the list of services. You can choose to turn the service ON or OFF for users.

1. Install Chrome

On desktops or laptops, install Chrome from http://google.com/chrome. On iOS or Android, install Chrome from the App Store or Google Play Store, respectively.

2. Sign in to Chrome

From your desktop or laptop, run Chrome. Go to the wrench menu in the upper right. Choose "Sign in to Chrome..." from the drop down menu. This should open a new "Sign in to Chrome" web page.

Enter your email and password. If you are using a Google Apps account, be sure to enter your entire "you@yourdomainname.com" in the email field.

If you have turned on two-step verification, you should be prompted to enter an application-specific password. (Learn more about two-step verification in last week's post.) If you don't have two-step verification enabled, go to Step 3.

To create an application-specific password, log in to your Google account at http://accounts.google.com/login. Choose Security from the left menu, and then click on "Edit" next to "Authorizing applications and sites". Scroll down the page until you can see the empty box with a "Generate password" button next to it. Type a name for your computer and browser, e.g., "Chrome desktop work", then click the "Generate password" button. The 16-lower case letters will be what you need to enter as your application-specific password.

3. "You're now signed in"

You should see your email address and a "You're now signed in to Chrome" message in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser.

For most users, that's it!

4. Customize Advanced Chrome Sync settings

If you want to customize the Chrome Sync settings, click on "Advanced..." in the lower left of the sign in confirmation message box.

By default, Chrome sync settings are to "Sync everything". Everything means: apps, autofill, bookmarks, extensions, Omnibox history, passwords, settings, themes, and open tabs. Syncing everything provides the most consistent experience across devices.

To improve security, uncheck the boxes next to "Autofill" and "Passwords". You might also uncheck "Omnibox History" if you don't wish your browsing history to sync across devices.

5. Configure Chrome Sync on other devices

Repeat the above process for each desktop or laptop you want to sync.

Android and iOS devices don't require the same level of configuration. You will need to log in to Chrome on Android and iOS with your username and password. If you use two-step authentication, I recommend you generate an additional two-step authentication code for each mobile device.

You can access your synced bookmarks from your Android or iOS devices. And, if you bookmark a page on a mobile device, you may then access that page from your synced Chrome desktop.

What devices do you use Chrome Sync on?

Also read:

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

9 comments
behihoo
behihoo

Like everything else Google touches, this is a buggy system that is not ready for prime time. 

Example? I had an extension installed that was syncing to all my chromes. The extension (Smooth Gestures) one day decided to spam my google searches. So, I uninstalled it. Now each time I start chrome on each of my machines, it gets reinstalled. 

The "solutions" offered online require deleting the user profile, deactivating sync on all machines, and other extremely impractical workarounds. 

Unfortunately, Google still seems to be run as a startup with nerds in their dorm rooms writing beta code.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

I assume Chrome sync means you are always signed in to Google, on all devices. I always sign out of Gmail/Google when I'm not using them, because I just feel they don't need to know 100% of my web activity.

Regulus
Regulus

'XMarks' will sync you across not only all of your computers, but also ALL of YOUR BROWSERS! (Firefox, Chrom(ium), IE & Safari). Couple this with 'Last-Pass' (pass word solution) which is 'mother company' of XMarks and you're ready to work anywhere, including on Mac's & Linux. (Your mileage may vary.....)

dgoodale
dgoodale

Yeah....awesome feature. I have no idea how I activated it last week. I was at home getting ready to do some research for a project I was working on. I went to my trusty "search" favorites to look up some info on a seldom visited site and the bookmark was gone......no, ALL my bookmarks were gone. They had been replaced by my "favorites" from work. 15 years of favorites, gone. Replaced by COMPLETELY DIFFERENT favorites based on my need at work. Yay.....I was SO happy....NOT. So, thanks for the article. It showed me how to turn off this amazingly destructive feature.

hometoy
hometoy

This has provided me a consistent environment whether I am at my home computer, on my Chromebook or at work.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use Chrome Sync? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks?

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

I was an XMarks user, and it seemed like the cat's pajamas, but I eventually lost confidence in it as it became slower and more erratic. Also, you have to pay for the mobile versions. I switched to Firefox sync, which works seamlessly on my two desktops, two laptops, and two mobile devices. Firefox sync seems to work just like Chrome sync as described in this article.

lunakid
lunakid

@dgoodale  Hehh, just like my story!

Now all I have is a bunch of bookmark folders with vaguely familiar names, which are duplicated and even cloned to like 5-8 instances, containing either nothing or a few old items from obsolete environments.

lunakid
lunakid

Now I either no longer manage bookmarks (mostly I can just find the stuff I need again), or do it manually, like 20 years ago. (Left XMARKS a few years ago, maybe time to retry.)