SyncToy for Windows XP

SyncToy for Windows XP

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If you're like me, you probably have thousands of digital photos and documents that you want to backup or copy to external media. In my case, I copy everything to an external 160GB XIMETA NetDisk for safe keeping. I have used the free version of Allway Sync in the past, and I've had very good results. However, we recently released a handy tool for Windows XP called SyncToy, and based on my few days of experience, it appears to do everything I need. Here are a few of its features:

  • Provides easy and flexible copying, moving, and synchronization of files in different directories
  • Manages multiple sets of directories at the same time
  • Can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another
  • Keeps track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder

Configuring SyncToy is as easy as setting up one or more folder pairs and corresponding actions for each pair. For example, I might setup one pair to synchronize changes between two folders (which works both ways) and setup another pair to simply echo changes from one folder to another (echo is the action I use for backup purposes). If you want to get more specific, there are additional options that can be configured.

If you'd like to know what operations SyncToy would perform on your folder pairs, you can run the convenient preview feature. The preview feature analyzes the folders, then tells you what it would do if it ran, but—most importantly—it doesn't actually make any of the changes. This is a great way to get comfortable with the tool before letting it loose on your precious files. And if you want to automatically process your folder pairs, there's even a topic in the help file (lookup Schedule in the index) that explains how to schedule SyncToy to run on a periodic basis.

Download SyncToy v1 Beta for Windows XP or to learn more, grab the whitepaper titled: Synchronizing Images and Files in Windows XP Using Microsoft SyncToy.

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  • I have to side with Clint Kirk... But for different reasons.  I want to have multiple users sync a networked folder to an external device.  I noticied that failing to delete the file SynctoydirectoryID.txt causes the files not to replicate correctly.  While I think the file in the directory is poor form, being able to select a different file name with a registry key may be a quick and dirty solution for those of us wanting to use it now.  Also a warning when first using the product would be nice.

    The other thing that needs improvement is permission for non-admin users.  Sure you can raise the .Net trust for Synctoy but the installation should at least ask to do it for you.
  • Not being able to delete directories kills it for me.  Who the heck wants a million empty directories lying around anways?  And can you truly call it synchronization if it doesn't?

    Spend the $20.00 and buy the Allwaysync Pro.  Its worth it in my opinion.
  • I have SyncToy set up to synchronize from my laptop to desktop with the laptop as the left folder.  After every synchronize my laptop is littered with 200k syntoy files - what is going on?

    Unless this is a setting that needs to be switched off it totally ruins SyncToy.
  • Picked this up after a bit of searching...


    SyncToy does not provide a user interface to schedule folder pairs to run at designated times. However, there is a method to schedule tasks using the Microsoft© Windows© operating system.

    To schedule a task using the operating system:

    1. From the Start menu, select All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Scheduled Tasks.

    2. Select Add scheduled task to start the Scheduled Task Wizard. You will see a list of possible programs to run.

    3. SyncToy may appear as an option in the list. If SyncToy does not appear in the list, click Browse and go find it.

    4. The wizard will next prompt you to enter how often you want to run the scheduled SyncToy (for example, daily, weekly, et cetera). Select a frequency.

    5. The next page asks when to start the task. Select a start time.

    6. The next page asks for the user name and password to run the program under. Enter your user name and password.

    7. The final page contains an option to open the properties dialog when the wizard ends. Select this checkbox.

    8. Modify the Run textbox to include the –R command line option. –R all by itself will run all folder pairs that are active for run all. If you want to run just a single folder pair, add –R“My Pair” to the end of the command line. Note: there is a space before the hyphen but not one after the R. If the folder pair name contains a space, surround it with quotation marks, as the example above shows. For another example, assume that SyncToy is in the folder named C:\My Folder and that you want to run a folder pair named "My folder pair." Enter the command line as follows, including the quotation marks: "C:\My Folder\SyncToy.exe" -R"My folder pair." Note that there are two sets of quotation marks in this case: one is around the path to the SyncToy program file and the other surrounds the folder pair name.

  • To people reading this page..

     If you are still having difficulty running SyncToy when not logged in, the fix is fairly simple.  You are required to have a password on the user account from which Synctoy acquires its permissions.  Without a password, the Account must be logged in.  With a password, make sure the 'Run  Only when logged in is checked, click Apply, and enter your password.  That should do it.


  • I have noticed that SyncToy keeps overwriting some of the files I have not modified every time I run the tool. Have you experienced that? I have looked everywhere, but I have not found a solution. It is a problem when one of those files is very large. I am using version

  • Another potential problem with SyncToy is that if a file is changed on both the LHS and the RHS between syncs, it sems to just overwrite with the most recently modified rather than alerting you to the fact that it has changed on both sides and that you need to do something mannually to merge the file.

    Another really useful faeture would be to have the option to change the direction of an overwrite on a manual basis per file.

    Reyna's response (Monday, March 27, 2006 6:24 PM)to HiggiML (Saturday, February 04, 2006 7:25 PM) and MikeLaughlin (Wednesday, March 22, 2006 1:34 AM)comments was interesting, any update on that?

    If these three things were able to be written itno wynctoy - it would be very useful. Would people recommend Allway Sync as the best GUI syncer that won't make an overwrite where changes have been made on both sides without warning you?

  • !SOLVE! the problem of userinteractive mode:

    Watch at, a user has developed a console wrapper for the synctoy.dll. Thus, you don't have to start the frontend for the sync-prozess and thus, you won't get the error anymore. (search for synctoy)

    Need to say, that you have to compile it, it's just sourcecode...

  • MCE file back-up/synchronisation:

    SyncToy - does not run properly on MCE PC (unable to determine if other instances of SyncToy are running) so have it running on an XP PC instead which has a schedule to regularly wake from sleep state - if it's asleep (normally hibernation) and then wake up the MCE PC from its sleep state (normally hibernation), wait 40 seconds and then synchronise (echo) the data files (Music, Pictures and video) - ignoring the Temp file/dir in Record TV.

    The XP PC only has one account with no password but XP by default can not add a scheduled task running under a local account without a password. Also, XP Sync toy does not appear to run properly under another account (with a password) that is not logged on! So need to disable security policy: 'Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only' - now you can add a scheduled task under the local account without a password!

  • With over 33,000 total views, my August 9, 2005 announcement about the release of SyncToy is one of my

  • SyncToy v1.4 shipped today and you can download the new bits at the link below:

    In addition to some minor bug fixes, we focused on the following tasks for this release:

    ·         Vista Compatibility

    ·         .NET Framework 2.0 Compatibility

  • MCE2005:

    Having upgraded to 1.4 fixes the 'unable to determine if other instances of SyncToy are running' error!

    However - after completing a successful scheduled task run SyncToy crashes! Have sent M$ the crash dump. SyncToy does run OK if ran manually and will close OK without crashing - it is only when run as a scheduled task will SyncToy crash upon closing after a successful run!

  • That's odd.  I did not encounter the problem with scheduled task as you mentioned.

  • SyncToy opens an annoying Explorer window on every startup and won't uninstall. It has even messed up System Restore so that there seems to be no way to get rid of it.

  • I have been using SyncToy to backup my hard drive with pretty good success. But today I decided I wanted to exclude one large directory from the backup.  The GUI is there for excluding subdirectories, but it seems to completely ignore it.  I unchecked the directory that I was interested in excluding from the backup, but SyncToy continued to include that subdir in the synchronization.  Why?

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