Synchronize files in Windows XP

Many people still use the "low tech" way to synchronize files in Windows XP. They copy them onto a floppy for transfer. Others hook their laptop into the network and manually copy files over the network.

There's nothing wrong with that, except that there's a much simpler way to synchronize files in Windows XP.

If you want to keep files synchronized between your laptop and your office environment, you're much better off using something called "Offline Files" in Windows XP.

Offline Files automatically deals with situations where files are changed both on your laptop and on the network location. How would you manage synchronization when it's possible that neither copy is in it's original state ?

100% availability

The Offline Files functionality is extremely useful if you want to work with your files when they are not always available 24/7. Think of files on a network that periodically goes down for maintenance or files on a desktop pc that you want to access while traveling with your notebook.

Offline Files is designed to be an improvement over the Briefcase function from previous Windows versions.

The feature is only available in Windows XP Professional, not in Windows XP Home Edition. However, only the computer that needs to maintain and synchronize the Offline Files needs Windows XP Professional. The computer that stores the original files can be running any operating system.

You must first turn off "Fast user switching" to start using Offline Files to synchronize files in Windows XP. Don't know if "Fast user switching" is enabled ? If your computer is part of a network with a domain, you don't have to worry about it. Fast User Switching is not an option in domains.

Not part of a domain ? Do the following :

Now you're all set to synchronize files in Windows XP.

You can return to this dialog any time to delete offline files with the "Delete Files" button. Use the advanced button to setup how your computer needs to react when the connection to another computer on the network is lost.

Make the selection

Next, you need to select which networked files and folders you want available on your local hard drive :

If this is the first time that you do this, the Offline Files wizard will allow you to set some extra configuration options. If you selected a folder that contains subfolders, you will need to specify whether you want to include these as well.

When you work offline

If you synchronize files in Windows XP like this, the files will appear as if they were online even when they are not actually available. You can access them the same way you usually do. If they are available via the network, you get the "live" copy; if they are not available, you get the offline copy. An icon in the notification area will inform you if you are working offline.

Connected to the network

As soon as you connect your laptop to the network again, you need to synchronize your files. Windows does it automatically for you if you have set the configuration options to automatically synchronize at logon and / or logoff.

You can also manually synchronize files in Windows XP :

When both your local copy and the network copy of a file have changed, Windows will ask what you want to do. When only one of the copies has changed, it will overwrite the un-changed copy.

Alternatively, you might want to ...

Another way of accessing your files in your office environment is by using remote control software. Windows XP has its own built-in remote access feature, called remote desktop (RDP), but that is often limited when your office network uses a firewall.

This limitation can be overcome by using a third party remote access software like Citrix GoToMyPC. It works like a charm and passess through most firewalls, because it uses the standard http internet port to remotely access your pc.

Access your PC from anywhere - try GoToMyPC® free now

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