Synchronise files with FreeFileSync

Synchronise files with FreeFileSync 8.4

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We all know the importance of making regular backups or system images, but sometimes you may just need to backup a music folder, or maybe some documents that frequently change. You may bring home folders or files from work that will be changed and have to replace the original remote ones. In this guide we are going to look at how to keep two or more folders identical by using FreeFileSync in Windows. FreeFileSync has many advanced features and this guide will concentrate on the basic functions, but you should explore the more advanced options as you learn.

Warning: This free program, similar to many others, offers additional software during installation. The use of "Unchecky" SEE HERE is advisable to automatically decline these offers, or alternatively take care when selecting install options (see instructions below). If by chance your security software issues a warning about the downloaded install file it is only because of the extra software bundled with FreeFileSync. The additional software is NOT malware, just possibly unwanted. FreeFileSync itself is absolutely malware free if downloaded from the above link.

There are many commercial and free file syncing programs available, and FreeFileSync is a freeware offering that has a proven history and a strong following. FreeFileSync runs on all modern Windows, both 32 and 64 bit, Linux, and Mac OS X. It also works across a network and has just about any feature a normal user would ever need.

This list of features is from the FreFileSync website.
  • Synchronize network shares and local disks
  • Synchronize MTP devices (Android, iPhone, tablet, digital camera)
  • Synchronize via SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol)
  • Detect moved and renamed files and folders
  • Show disk space usage with directory trees
  • Copy locked files (Volume Shadow Copy Service)
  • Detect conflicts and propagate deletions
  • Compare files by content
  • Configure handling of Symbolic Links
  • Automate sync as a batch job
  • Process multiple folder pairs
  • Comprehensive and detailed error reporting
  • Copy NTFS extended attributes (compressed, encrypted, sparse)
  • Copy NTFS security permissions
  • Support long file paths with more than 260 characters
  • Fail-safe file copy prevents data corruption
  • Cross-platform: Runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
  • Expand environment variables like %UserProfile%
  • Access variable drive letters by volume name (USB sticks)
  • Native 64-bit support
  • Manage versions of deleted/updated files
  • Prevent disc space bottlenecks via optimal sync sequence
  • Full Unicode support
  • Highly optimized run time performance
  • Include and exclude files via filter
  • FreeFileSync portable and local installation available
  • Handle daylight saving time changes on FAT/FAT32
  • Use macros %time%, %date%, et al. for recurring backups
  • Case-sensitive synchronization
  • Built-in locking serializes multiple users synchronizing the same network folder
  • ... download and use for free!
You can download FreeFileSync from the link at the top of this guide and it's around 11MB for the Windows installer. Download the installer to a folder of your choice, navigate to it and double left click the .exe file to begin the installation.

Accept the license Agreement


Accept or change the proposed install location, and click on next.


Accept the install options and click next.


Please be aware that this program install offers additional software that may or may not be wanted. Ensure you untick the option for installing whatever else is offered. Then click next.


The installation will now begin and should only take a moment or so to complete. There will be two new desktop icons

and we will only use the green "FreeFileSync" shortcut for this guide. We may cover more advanced features including "RealTimeSync" in a later guide.

To open FreeFileSync double left click the green "FreeFileSync" icon and the following screen will appear. Simplify the interface by closing the two boxes as shown below.


The default program options should be OK to start with, meaning its set to do a two way sync. Let's say we have a music collection that we edit and update on two computers, but we want to ensure both copies of our collection are identical.

For this we will perform a two way synchronize, and a two way synchronization means bidirectional syncing.
Newer files will replace the same files in either direction.
Both folders will be identical after synchronization.

To commence our two way sync select:
  1. Browse to folder at location one, or drag and drop the folder. This can be a local, external drive, or network folder.
  2. Browse to folder at location two, or drag and drop the folder. This also can be a local, external drive, or network folder.
  3. Click on "Compare" Note that clicking "Compare" does not make any changes to either folder, it only proposes what changes will be made when "Synchronizing" takes place.
Once "Compare" is clicked the time taken to compare is dependent on the size of the folders, and connection speed between the two folders. Once compare is complete the total number of files compared and the files to be moved are listed. A summary is shown on the bottom right of the interface. Mousing over the small icon under the camera will explain why the file will be moved.


Once you've reviewed the proposed changes click.
  1. Synchronize on the top right.
  2. Then start in the summary box.

After the sync finishes another box will display the results. Close it to return to the main interface.


Another great feature where FreeFileSync is useful is if you may have a master folder with a music collection, photos, or documents you may wish to make an exact copy of for sharing or safekeeping. This is called "Mirror Synchronization" and it differs from "Two Way Synchronization in as much as:
  • Any files in the source folder that are new or different will be copied to the destination folder.
  • Any files in the destination folder that no longer exist in the source folder will be deleted, and this includes sub folders and files.
To initiate a Mirror Sync:
  1. Click on the green gear icon.
  2. Select mirror from the dialogue box that opens
  3. Click OK. After you click OK the main Synchronize tab will display "Mirror" instead of "Two Way"

With any syncing options FreeFileSync you can sync between two folders, or any number by selecting more folders from the main interface as shown below. In this example we will synchronize between our master copy, which is our Source folder, and three network drives set as our Destination folders. Click the Synchronize button.


At the completion of the sync the progress box will change to "Completed" with an overview of what was achieved. Click on close to return to the main interface.


Should you wish to confirm the synchronization was successful, click "Compare" again and wait till review takes place. If all folders are identical, the message "All files are in sync" will be displayed as in the picture below.


To close the program, click file, then exit. You have now successfully used FreeFileSync.

If you have any questions about this guide, or any other computer questions please feel free to ask in our forums.
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Appreciate the detailed info / screenshots on deselecting option bundled software & how to use freefilesync.