Working and playing across multiple computers can leave your important data scattered. Laplink aims to centralize your digital life with PCsync 6 ($19.97 Direct), the latest version of its file migration and synchronization software. PCsync 6 lets users quickly and easily synchronize files and folders between PCs using a network, wireless network, or USB connection. The only drawback? While you can transfer files between a PC and a Mac, the software currently doesn’t support Mac-to-Mac connections.
The buzz these days around file-synchronization is all centered around cloud-based services these days—PCSync is unusual in its local approach. Dropbox and SugarSync, for example, are highly capable apps and their reach is global. Still, there’s something to be said for a local approach, in terms of privacy, security, and data integrity. Certainly there are individuals who will never trust their data to the cloud—our own Crankiest Geek John Dvorak is famously cloud skeptical, for example. And businesses had better be sure that they’re not breaking any government-mandated compliance regulations before they sign up for a cloud-based service. PC Sync may be a bit old-fashioned in its approach, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Easy Set Up
Setting up PC Sync 6 was as simple as installing the software onto a Windows 7 desktop (it’s also compatible with any PC running Windows XP or later, or any Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.4 or later), filling in the registration information, entering a serial number, and deciding if a remote computer should require authentication to connect. After launching the program, I was greeted with a screen that displayed the methods for connection (Local PC, Ethernet, Cable, Network, or USB), with a pane showing synchronization jobs (empty, on first viewing, of course). PCsync can be installed onto three computers at once.
I then connected a Windows 7 laptop to the desktop using an Ethernet cable, and then clicked the “New” button under PCsync 6′s “Connection” header, then “Automatically detect from network”, and entered the user name and password of the primary machine. When I connected to the host from a remote PC, I was prompted to log in with the host computer’s user name and password. Once I finished setup, I was greeted by a PC Sync home screen split down the middle to show both systems’ files structures. Anyone familiar with Windows Explorer will instantly recognize the tree structure and be able to navigate with ease. I also successfully connected using USB, but I had to dig up a Type-A Male to Type-A Male cable, which are less likely to be lying in your cable drawer than a typical Type-A to Type-B (Laplink sells a non-bundled Laplink-branded USB 2.0 cable for $39.99), and wirelessly, once I input the remote system’s IP address.
File Transfer and Synchronization
To copy between computers, simply drag–and-drop files or folders from one side of the window to the other. A freshly created 5MB folder containing a batch of photos taken with a typical point and shoot digital camera synced to the host PC in under 10 seconds via USB. You can also move the information to the target computer while simultaneously deleting it from the source computer by holding the Shift key while dragging. It’s that simple.
PCsync 6 can also automatically synchronize the content of two folders located on the same or different computers (the former is handy if you’re working on a project and like to duplicate the content for a friend or colleague). By selecting New under the Synchronization Jobs header, you select a folder on the host and remote machine, click Next, and set the synchronization options. The latter allows you to set up a two-way sync, a sync from the host computer to the remote computer, or a sync from the remote computer to the host. You can also select the method for resolving file name conflicts: you can choose skipping (bypasses the sync), overwriting (replaces a file with a new one of the same name), or a handful of other methods. PCsync 6 is far more streamlined than the cumbersome SugarSync ($4.99 – $49.00 Direct, ), a cloud-based file synchronization program available for Mac OS X and Windows that starts at $2.49 per month for 10GB of storage. However, PCsync lacks SugarSync’s file versioning, which can restore an older version of a file. PCsync users can get around this by running backup software with built-in file versioning.
PCsync 6 automatically synchronizes any file or folder placed within its structure, which bests SugarSync (it only automatically synchronizes files dropped into its “Magic Briefcase” folder). Besides automatic synchronization, you can schedule the process to occur on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, should you not want to sync to occur right away, but at specific times. You can even filter the type of files you want to sync by image, video, audio, text file, or Microsoft Office file. On the “New Sync Job Summary” screen, you can name the sync job and opt to include sub folders, hidden folder, and read-only, system, previously skipped, and hidden files. Once that’s all set up, returning to the “Synchronization Jobs” screen, highlighting the job that you’ve created, and clicking “Run” begins the process. Clicking “Edit” lets you tweak your parameters.
After installing PCsync 6 on a Mac, and then connecting that machine to a PC, the Migration Wizard lets you set up the initial file transfer from Windows to OS X (or vice versa if your host machine is a Mac). The app presents two choices: Standard and Advanced. Standard lets you select the Windows folders that you want transferred to the Mac; Advanced enables you to change the location of transferred files, and schedule migration times. I found it remarkably easy to move files; Selecting “My Documents” and then “run the Synchronization software” caused a Windows 7 folder (and sub-folders) to appear within the Mac’s new “Windows PC” folder, which lives in “Documents.” Curiously, there’s no way to transfer and sync files from Mac to Mac. SugarSync doesn’t possess such a migration tool, either.
Priced at a wallet-friendly $19.97, Laplink’s PCsync 6 can benefit everyone who’s looking to make vital files accessible from any of their computers or to migrate files from one system to another. I wish the software included Mac to Mac compatibility, and mobile access (the hallmarks of cloud storage services such as Dropbox ($4.99 – $49.00 Direct, ) or SugarSync) would be required for me to declare this app a must-buy, but even so it’s still a solid, flexible data-organization program.