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.


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.