how to sync files between two computers


I just bought a used PowerBook G4 (chose this as a result of the helpful guidance on this forum–thank you for your help) and now I’m trying to figure out how to sync my files between the PowerBook and my Imac.

My idea is to sync a folder, named, say, “Cabinet” on my Imac to another folder, named something like “Xfer” on the PowerBook. I envision that this folder will contain my files which pertain to the book I’m writing.

My reason for the different names is just to help me keep things straight.

I have a software called DataBackup by a company called Prosoft which says it will do syncs, but it doesn’t give any instructions on how to do this and I can’t find any mention of it in the menus. This software seems to mostly focus on doing industrial-strength backups, not syncing files. What it does say sounds like you have to sync to an external drive and then sync that to the other computer. I have a thumb drive I could use for this, but it sounds awfully complex for someone as simple-minded as me.

Is there a better way? I need something as close to automatic as I can get. If not, can anyone help me figure out how to do this with the software I have? FWIW, I do have .mac.

Thanks for your patience and your invaluable advice.


Moved to “Software by Other Folk” as the Technical Support forum is for technical support relating to Scrivener. Hopefully someone will be able to help.

I have used Synchronize X Plus for several years and never had a problem. You may either backup a disc (create an exact Finder copy) or synchronize files between two machines (duplicate the latest files). The company is Qdea, and it offers several variants of the Synchronize software. X Plus is basic and less expensive.

VersionTracker lists several other types of synchronizing software. One, Backup Action 1.0, is free and gets a 5-star rating. … &submit=Go

I work on two different computers, too (the desktop and portable Macs). Using an automatic syncing program would be nice, but very dangerous in my case. It happens often that I open an old, unfinished project on one of the two Macs, just to see what there is inside, and this automatically changes its date to today. If it was the older copy, an automatic backup program based on dates would overwrite the newer copy with this older one.


Ya, that is exactly why i changed my autosave prefs to MUCH longer than the default 2 secs. Just opening it would change your modify date.

Regarding backup software, SmartBackup is real user-friendly. Synk Pro is powerful stuff.

My method: Wherever i work, i save to my flash drive. If i switch computers, i just copy from flash and put it back when i’m done. This ensure that i have at least 2 copies of my most current work, and 1 of the older version. Of course you still want to do the full computer backup to some other big drive, but it’s my writing that i care most about.

This is something I do manually because I rarely change a great deal of a project when I’m out and about. It’s usually either new work, or a rewrite of a file or two. It’s easy to drag and drop an .rtf or .txt file in the evening over our local network.

If I do make more extensive changes, I have a section that I’ve blocked off in the Project Notes where I date and track those changes so I won’t forget to update my “Master” project file on my Mini. This includes any notes, internal links, updates to character logs, etc., that I’ve made while I’m out.

So far it’s working, but it’s important (in my case, at least) to keep things simple. I find that I can get befuddled quickly if I don’t keep up with making sure my “Master” project stays up to date.


I’ve read your posts, and I’ve been mulling them over, trying to decide how to do this. Paolo’s comments really hit a nerve. The reason I originally thought of using an automatic sync software is to avoid the problems I knew I would create for myself if I did this manually. But he pointed out that even magic bullets are still bullets, and they can hurt you.

During the next few months, I’m going to be working very long, stressful hours. I’ll have lulls when working on my book would not only be possible, it would be therapeutic, a real sanity-saver. But I’ll also be tired, rushed and distracted. Add to that the fact that when I write everything drops away from me and I go so deep into my own head that the world almost ceases to exist for me, and you have a recipe for backing up the old file over the new one or some other destructive mistake.

Here are some thoughts I have. I would appreciate your evaluations of these ideas, since you people have actually done what I’m only talking about.

First, I have two thumb drives of equal capacity but different appearance. I could just put them on my keychain and then use one to back up from the laptop and the other to back up from the imac. The hope in this is that (If i can just keep in it my mind which computer I used last.) it will make it a little bit harder for me to do myself in.

The backup software I have (DataBackup) will sync files. I’ve tried it on a couple of things, and it works well and it’s really fast. But I can’t make it sync to idisk. This is probably due to my inability to figure it out, but that’s where I am.

I do have a subscription with .mac. I could also (maybe) upload the file to .mac every time I finish so that I always have the right one to pull down when I open it back up on the other computer. I don’t like this solution very much because: 1. iidisk is slllloooooowwwwww, and 2. I’m not sure I would always have Internet access at work, and 3. it’s too easy to get confused and destroy part of your work.

I also heard about a software called chronosync. I tried it, and it seems to work well, even though it’s kind of slow. Any thoughts on how to use it?

There is a free service with Microsoft for syncing files over the Internet which has gotten some favorable reviews.

Any thoughts? Remember: tired, distracted, and a real feeb about tech stuff.

Thank you,


This might help.




I am working on two computers and like you I needed a reliable solution. I settled on Chronosync which you can configure to your needs. You only need to do this once and then you can almost forget about it.

A word about speed: Chronosync is among the faster sync programs, it is the drive that is keeping speed down and giving you the impression of slowness. Keychain drives can vary a lot in in read write speed, I suggest getting an external Firewire enclosure with a 2.5 harddrive inside. If your computers support Firewire 800 buy one that supports this standard - it will be as fast as your computers drives, otherwise Fw400 is ok too.

I moved all the folders that contained data I wanted in sync inside a parent folder that I called “Prionsdata”, you might want to choose something else :slight_smile:
I did this on one computer and copied this folder to the other computer, thus making sure they were identical. I then set up a rule inside Chronosync to watch this folder. if you wanted to, CS lets you specify what metadata to compare.
Let this run for a while but trigger the rule manually. CS will do a testrun and show you what it will want to do to the files (move them, update the left one, delete one on the right etc). If everything works to your liking, you can automate everything, e.g. trigger that rule once the external drive becomes available (very handy). I begin the day by plugging the harddrive into computer 1 and make a tea. Because only changed files are synchronized, everything is ready in thirty seconds or so (Fw drives are fast).
Before I go home I trigger another sync and take the external drive with me. Ditto for home. Done.

Chronosync has a rather responsive and helpful developer.

Hope this helps

One thing to keep in mind: Some database-like programs are allergic to changes to files that are not stored in the database itself. For these cases it is best to specify the direction of change (left-to-right as opposed to bidirectional).
Oh, and have that external drive formatted for Apple (HFS file system) otherwise daylight saving hours will get you trouble…


I’m going to ask some stupid questions. Apologies.

First, what is a firewire? Is that a special cable to connect the computers? I’ve seen the term used numerous times, but never knew exactly what it meant.

I checked the specs, and both my computers will do firewire.

I have a little 100g drive that you can hold in your hand by Memorex. It plugs into the computer using two usb ports, instead of one. It’s a couple of years old, but I used it as a backup for an old laptop, and then my teen-aged son took it (major punishment) and used it. In all that, it’s never even burped, so I guess it’s a sturdy little thing, capable of being lugged around in my briefcase. Is this anything like firewire? Could I use it instead of what you’re talking about?

I don’t understand anything you mean when you talk about “enclosures.” Is that a box the drive is in or something?

Sorry to be so dense.



More questions.

What is Mac HFS file system? Is that just where you re-format the drive, or is it something special?

How do you write a rule in chronosync? By that I mean, what verbiage do you use when you write this rule? Be as specific as you can. I’m totally blank about this kind of thing.

Thank you for helping me,


Thought I would help out…

USB: your drive should work as a backup drive, but you may need to use Disc Utility to reformat it to HFS+ system. Keep in mind this will wipe out the drive, so save anything OFF it first then you can put back on later.

FireWire: If you have a Mac, you have FW. It is a faster more reliable way of transfer. Different cable also. Better, but your USB should be fine. Especially for backup of text files.

Enclosure: usually refers the the drive enclosure for an external drive. ex… FireWire enclosure, USB enclosure, etc.

I do not use the particular backup app so I guess Prion will help you there :slight_smile:

Good Luck, hope this helps.


I don’t think any amount of technical advice will help here, because when we’re tired, rushed, and distracted we don’t behave rationally or consistently. So here’s a suggested workflow:

  1. Toss the idea that it’s important to write your book on two different computers.

  2. Choose the computer that will hold the master Scriv file. Call it computer A. Write only on it, and at the end of each writing session, use Scrivener to File: Make Backup To…a folder called Backups. (Select the ZIP format, to compress the backups.)

  3. As needed, copy those ZIP files to computer B (or thumb drives), but only to archive them. Don’t revise them, because then they’re not in synch with the stuff on computer A.

no apologies needed, ask away. I will try to be as helpful as I can.

Yes, Firewire is a certain way to transfer data through a cable, USB is another. Both use different cables. Try Wikipedia, here is Firewire:

In general, Firewire tends to be faster and more robust but unless you want to transfer loads and loads of data, just take what you have.

As I said, if the harddisk inside is doing fine and the space is sufficient for your needs, just take that external disk that you already have.

Yes, exactly, an external harddrive that you connect to your computer via a cable consists of a 2.5 inch harddrive (notebook harddrive) and the box that contains some controller chips and a socket for the cable, sometimes also a connector for the power suppy if needed. That is what I refer to as enclosure. I wrote that specifically because I thought you might already have a harddrive which you do, in fact you have both.

You aren’t. Now, if my collection of short stories progressed only half as easily as this post, I’d be glad. The point is: make technical tools your friend as long as they reduce your workload and avoid them when they don’t.
Bottom line: you have everything you need it seems and don’t need to buy anything to try and find out if this suits your needs.


Every harddrive needs a so called filesystem, think of it as a certain kind of cupboard. They all serve the purpose of storing stuff for you but different models do that in slightly different ways.
By default, Mac harddrives use the HFS filesystem, Windows computers use what is called FAT32. Now, being smart, the designers of Windows decided to basically ignore everything going on outside and so Windows can only read and rwrite to FAT32 formatted harddrives whereas Macs can talk to harddrives using either system. The upshot is that Mac formatted harddrives are not readable to a PC and thus it is easier to blame the Mac users even though Windows is the culprit here.

Since you are using a Mac you cannot tell which filesystem it is using by looking at if it is working. If you have a PC running windows plug it in there and try if it can be read. If a PC is able to use it it is formatted for PC (i.e. FAT) and will cause trouble when you are using synchronization methods relying on timestamp accuracy.

You can also open also open a program on your Mac called “Disk utility” that sits inside a folder called “Utilities” inside your Applications folder. On the left hand side of the window there is a representation of all the different hard drives, USB drives etc currently active on your computer.

If you click once on the icon representing the external drive it will either say
MS-DOS filesystem (FAT16 or 32)
Mac OS Extended (i.e. HFS+)

Please do this and tell us what you find. And don’t be afraid, you cannot break anything by just looking under the hood.

Oh, and don’t let all this intimidate you. It is easy and we are just making sure you won’t run into problems later on which is what I did and THEN things started being complicated quickly…
As I said you do this once and once only. After that it is as simple as plugging in the drive and relaxing.

More about CS in another post, must rush home now.


I’m more paranoid than most (when it comes to computer issues), so I have a .mac account (set up to sync regularly), Chronosync (ditto), and I will often email a file to myself for an off-site back up in addition to the .mac one.

But that’s all for backup, not really syncing my .scriv projects. I think if you use both snapshot and backup to… from within Scrivener, then even if you do get confused a time or two, you’ll still have the work.

Once Scrivener can handle Applescript, of course, things will probably get a lot easier. Until then, whatever process you choose, my advice is to:

  1. Keep it fairly simple so you won’t put off doing it when you’re rushed or stressed out.

  2. Keep consistent about using it.

One problem people run into is that they save to USB sticks one week, then change and back up to .mac the next, then try a third process the following week, so they never really know where they are.

Not sure if Automator would help this process or not. Might be worth looking into (but it’s something I keep putting off so I can’t help you there).


Another option is to set the “faster” of the two cpus as a “server” and network the two together. Work of the “networked drive” (Faster CPU’s HD) and you have only one copy to worry about.

Or you can use Apple’s .Mac account and use their iSync to sync the two computers, or use

Back To My Mac

Many methods to this problem, the biggest probelm is finding what method best works for your scenario.

Myself I don’t like “auto backups/syncs” that much unless I am doing daily backups of a server. The reason is if it is a file or a folder that is critical to my work I would rather manually back it up and verify the backup manually to ensure no data loss or corruption has occured.

That is definitely on my list to try once I have two machines with Leopard on them. I still haven’t upgraded my Powerbook to Leopard (and may not). But I am looking at a Macbook at some point, then I could try this. It sounds wonderful.

Anyone actually using it?


It’s a fat file.

Thank you–and everyone who has posted–for your generous help.



I just had the strangest thing happen. I posted what I thought was a reply to your question, and it went to another question on this forum altogether. I have no idea how I did that, but it kind of shows what a tech feeb I am.

Anyway, the little hard drive is a fat file.

Also, it’s not a Memorex. I got the name mixed up with one of the thumb drives, which is a Memorex. This little hard drive is a Maxtor Mini iii. I don’t know if that matters.

Thank you,