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What are your thoughts on utilities like SyncToy for backing up?

Question: What’s your thoughts on SyncToy as a backup tool?

SyncToy is a free utility from Microsoft that synchronizes the contents of one folder with another. It’s no toy and it can actually be a very useful part of a backup strategy.

Note that I said “a part” of a backup strategy.

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Why only part?

SyncToy only copies the data files that you tell it to copy. No more and no less. For instance, you can’t use SyncToy to backup Windows itself.

And in this case, SyncToy only runs when you tell it to do so. It’s possible to schedule it using Windows, but scheduling is not part of the utility itself.

Making backup files or backup copies of files can be a very useful part of a backup strategy.

A utility like SyncToy can bundle up a number of manual steps into a single run of the program. Say you work on documents in My Documents. You can have SyncToy automatically copy anything that changed to another folder on some other drive. It may be your external backup drive; but after setting it up, you have to remember to run SyncToy or walk through the steps to schedule it using Windows Task Scheduler.

As long as you realize what you are and are not backing up, and when you are and are not backing it up, tools like SyncToy are great. As a matter of fact, they’re so great that years ago, I actually wrote my own command line utility that is very similar. And it’s something that I continue to use to this day.

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5 comments on “What are your comments on utilities like SyncToy for backing up?”

  1. Leo, does SyncToy create an EXACT copy of your primary folder? Let’s say your primary folder has files A through F, and your backup folder has files A though G, when SyncToy copies the primary folder over backup folder, will file G be deleted from the backup folder? Thanks…

    • I can’t say for certain, as I’ve not actually used the tool (like I said, I have my own :-) ). I will say that deleting properly in cases like this is VERY VERY hard (hence I elected not to do it with my tool). It actually requires that additional data be kept and tracked to make sure you’re not accidentally deleting something you really wanted to keep. I’m impressed that tools like DropBox and btSync and others get it right.

      I would simply say this: try it out. It’s a fairly simple test to perform.

      • Synctoy has various options that are set by selecting from English language phrases. For example, you can select the condition

        when the file exists in the destination folder but not in the source, Synctoy should

        a) copy the file to the source folder
        b) delete the file in the destination folder

        so the answer is that Synctoy will do what you tell it to do. If you want an exact copy then Synctoy will delete orphaned files. If you want to sync both source and destination so that each contains the most recent copy for the files in both then you can tell it to do that as well.

  2. I’ve been very happy with Allway Sync ( as part of my backup strategy: Two machines in my house have identical sets of data drives and I designate one computer as primary and mirror to the other computer nightly. This not only gives me a backup of everything in case of drive or machine failure, but also gives a handy 24-hour “undo” if I accidentally delete or modify something I didn’t mean to. I also use it to copy daily database backups off my web servers. I haven’t begun to explore all the possible options in terms of cloud synching. It does have pretty flexible inclusion/exclusion filters. It’s also free for “moderate personal use” (up to 40000 files per 30 days).

  3. I completely agree with James Heinrich regarding Allway Sync as a superior tool to SyncToy. I used SyncToy myselffor years, and also recommended and even set up SyncToy for other users. But on occasion, SyncToy would have a glitch that would cause me to rework it. So I tried Allway Sync, and that is strictly what I am using now. In addition, during installation it has the option of adding a scheduled synchronization feature. I set that up on one person’s machine so far (because he would never start the manual sync, no matter how often I told him to); and the scheduled sync has worked flawlessly ever since (Windows 7, 64 Bit). So give it a try!


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