We have SyncToy listed on our Best Windows Software page – it’s popular and it works. FreeFileSync, a free and open-source sync program, isn’t as well-known, but it has SyncToy beat. As a longtime SyncToy user, I was impressed by FreeFileSync’s performance, support for locked files, features and portability.
How They WorkFreeFileSync and SyncToy both perform the same functions. Specify a pair of folders, usually on different storage devices, and the application will synchronize files between them. You can configure either application to sync changes in both directions or in only one direction. Both applications can use a database to detect deleted files so they’re deleted in both folders and not automatically recreated.
Each application has customizable options, so you can add exceptions to prevent certain files in these folders from being copied. Each application can check whether files have changed by examining their date (faster) or by their contents (slower, but can be more accurate).
With larger amounts of data, FreeFileSync’s edge should be even more noticable.
Copying Locked FilesIf you’ve been using SyncToy for a while, you’ve probably encountered one of its most annoying limitations: it can’t copy locked files. If your web browser is open, you won’t be able to synchronize your browser data. To take a full backup of your application data, it’s best to close every program and let SyncToy run – but who has time for that?
More FeaturesFreeFileSync isn’t completely bloated with unnecessary options, but it offers more features than SyncToy. While it offers three synchronization modes, FreeFileSync offers the same three – and also allows you to create a customized synchronization mode with your own rules.
FreeFileSync can also automatically shut down your computer or perform other actions when a sync completes.
SyncToy also requires you to recreate your folder pairs on each computer you use, while FreeFileSync has the ability to export your configuration and import it on other systems.
The VerdictFreeFileSync trumps SyncToy on all fronts. Perhaps it’s not surprising, given that SyncToy isn’t something Microsoft is focusing on – it hasn’t been updated since 2009. Maybe it’s time to take it off our Best Of page and add FreeFileSync? I can’t see a reason to use it over FreeFileSync.
Is there a reason either one is better? Let us know in the comments.