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Geek Throwdown: How to sync two or more Macs?

Enter the Octagon

Here’s an experimental new feature: The Throwdown. Take a problem that lots of people face and tell us your personal favorite way to deal with it — in as much detail and with as much persuasion as you can muster.

Today, a lot of us are living on two or more Macs -- which is great, except for the challenge of keeping the contents and settings of multiple machines effortlessly in sync.

Now before you pop in, holler "dot mac," and jump back on your Segway®, consider that many folks (including your author) are looking for a lot more than simple document syncing and perfunctory preference sharing. How about if your needs are more nuanced:

  • Can it intelligently sync "~/Library" stuff like "Preferences" and "Application Support" for your apps (so that Quicksilver, for example, is with you and tweaked to perfection wherever you go)? Is it smart enough to know which items not to sync?
  • Can it do smarter comparisons than "which one is newer?" -- consider that someone on 4 or 5 Macs may run into complex versioning problems that currently make .Mac very confused. For text, can it do diff3-style merging?
  • Will it update often enough (and automatically enough) that I can trust when I sit down at a new machine, I'll know everything's up to date without checking (or manual re-updating)?
  • Can backups be easily automated? And is it easy to restore across all machines?
  • Does it work for people on airplanes? If your solution requires a live internet connection for active usage (e.g. traditional WebDAV), what happens when that access is no longer available?

You get the idea. You have a system; now tell us about it. Bow to your sensei, then spare no detail.

How do you sync your Macs?

rsync? ChronoSync? Synchronize? Unison? Something you made yourself?

What are using to sync your Macs, and how are you using it?

RayTBrown's picture

I Also Agree

I use 4 different macs (1 "mother-ship" desktop in the home office, 1 "family-fun" machine with all the iLife goodies, 1 "Trusty-but-Out-of-Date" Business desktop at the office, and 1 "Combination-of-the-above" Laptop). In addition, I share data with a 5th at the office - a dying laptop that now serves as a gateway to the multi-function printer and a central location for files that my coworkers require. (We have a small, 5-man company).

My wife, who also works for the company has a mac laptop - and it contains everything she needs: business, personal, fun, games, etc. I bought her an external drive for Christmas.

As for Syncing: I have tried .Mac syncing and all it has ever managed to do is completely @#$% up my Mail account settings on each machine and destroy all my work to clean-up and consolidate my address book and bookmarks. The last time I synced I cried as I watched many hours of work get flushed. (BTW - I did NOT make any mistakes about which one was allowed to overwrite the other. .Mac errors persist when it can't figure out that you have more than one outgoing mail server and that the work one's might be different, for example and IMO.)

I have also tried the external drive method. This is a royal pain, but it works. However, it only works on Docs. It doesn't do anything else (like allow you to have 2 working versions of Aperture and a central collection of pictures, for example.)

As it is,..I have stuff on one machine and other stuff on another. And I have to live with it. Every six months or so, I "try" to solve this, spending hours and hours in the home office -- running back and forth to the "family" machine to check my progress -- in the attempts to make my life easier, to make it so that when I sit at any one of the lovely macs I have come to know, that all things look and act the same, that all the data is exactly as it should be ... puh! Somewhere around the 4th day of this, I realize I need a shower and that someone, anyone in California really, needs to be killed. In an effort to save my sanity, I make the joke that I would send them a personal letter explaining my issues,...but I can't @#$%ing print because the home machine is looking for the office printer!!!

Sadly, I give up my efforts and resort to a 4 mac world. I confirm to myself that life will be better when ALL of the photos are on one machine and ALL of the business documents are on their own and ALL of the music is shared by the third, etc, etc...

Then I grab another cup on unneeded coffee and kiss my wife. She smiles and looks into my tired eyes - knowingly.

Then she says, wanna see the photo gallery I just built? Ugh!

Syncing Sucks! Period. Stay away. Let each mac do what it wants and buy extra storage. You'll be happier.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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