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How to Sync Desktop, Documents, Public, or Downloads between Macs

1. INTRODUCTION

2. BEFORE GETTING STARTED

BACKUP

IDENTICAL VERSIONS OF macOS

SYSTEM FILES AND APPLICATIONS

3. STEPS TO SETUP AND RUN

STEP ONE: CREATE A NEW TASK

STEP TWO: CHOOSE THE OPERATION

STEP THREE: ENABLE ADMIN ACCESS

STEP FOUR: CHOOSE THE LEFT AND RIGHT TARGETS

STEP FIVE: ENABLE SYNCHRONIZE DELETIONS

STEP SIX: ENABLE ARCHIVING

STEP SEVEN: CUSTOMIZE THE OPTIONS PANEL

STEP EIGHT: EXCLUDE FILES OR FOLDERS

POSTSCRIPT

STEP NINE: RUN THE TASK

4. WHAT TO WATCH FOR

CONFLICTS

SCHEDULING

ERRORS OR PROBLEMS

5. 3 THINGS TO REMEMBER

6. WORKFLOW

SWITCH FROM LEFT TO RIGHT MAC

SWITCH FROM RIGHT TO LEFT MAC

7. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

CHRONOSYNC HELP

GUIDES

TECHNICAL SUPPORT

1. INTRODUCTION [top]

This guide explains the procedure for creating a ChronoSync synchronizer task to keep each of the following Home subfolders in sync between two Macs.

  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Public
  • Downloads

This guide is linked as part of the "Sync The Home Folder Between Macs Using ChronoSync" Guide but can be used stand-alone to setup a task to keep any one or more of the above folders in sync between two Macs.

If you are syncing 'Pictures' then follow this Guide instead: "Syncing The Pictures, or Movies folders between two Macs"

If you are syncing 'Music', then follow this Guide instead: "Syncing The Music folder between two Macs"

2. BEFORE GETTING STARTED [top]

As a reminder from the Sync Home Folder guide, there are some cautions you should take before embarking on keeping one or more of your Home subfolders in sync:

BACKUP [top]

Before running any sync for the first time, make sure to backup all data on each Mac in the event something goes wrong. Since home-to-home files syncs are usually bi-directional syncs (syncing files both directions), this is especially important. When running any sync, ChronoSync can archive any changed or deleted files, but it is a lot easier to restore files from a backup rather than restoring from the ChronoSync archive. ChronoSync, Time Machine, or any other backup application can be used to perform the backup of each Mac.

IDENTICAL VERSIONS OF macOS [top]

Home folder syncs must only be done between identical versions of macOS. For example, do not attempt to sync between Sierra and High Sierra, and avoid syncing between different versions of the same OS (10.13.1 vs 10.13.2).

Ensure all apps such as Photos, iTunes and Calendar are the same version, as well.

SYSTEM FILES AND APPLICATIONS [top]

Never attempt to sync files outside of the home folder such as 'Applications', 'System', or 'Library' between two Macs. Problems can arise if Applications or System files are synced that can easily result in application failure or a corrupt OS. In syncing two Macs, the focus needs to be on the home folder and the data files stored therein.

Also, this guide assumes you already have ChronoSync installed on your primary Mac, and ChronoAgent installed on the Mac you will be syncing these folders to. If you don't already have this setup, just review the 'Setup Steps' in the "Sync The Home Folder Between Macs Using ChronoSync" Guide.

Many of the steps performed can be accomplished by using a standard file sharing connection and you technically don't need to install ChronoAgent. However, ChronoAgent offers better performance, security and reliability versus a standard file connection. It also eliminates common problems, such as permission errors, that typically occur when using standard file sharing.

3. STEPS TO SETUP AND RUN [top]

STEP ONE: CREATE A NEW TASK [top]

Launch ChronoSync. Upon launch, the ChronoSync Organizer window is displayed. Choose 'Create a new synchronizer task' to create a new task. If the ChronoSync Organizer window isn't visible, choose 'File - > New -> Synchronizer' from the menubar or use the shortcut keys COMMAND-N. Give the task a meaningful name such as 'Sync Desktop Folder Between iMac and MBP' if this is going to be used to sync your desktop folder between the Macs.

One of the greatest advantages of ChronoSync is the usage of documents. Just like a word processing document, a ChronoSync document can be saved as a double-clickable document. Once you set up a synchronization, all the information that you specified in the document is saved - even synchronizer options! Furthermore, this document keeps track of changes between every sync which allows ChronoSync to know what has changed since the last synchronization.

Sync Bidirectionally

STEP TWO: CHOOSE THE OPERATION [top]

Choose 'Synchronize Bidirectional' from the Operation popup menu. A bi-directional synchronization is performed by selecting the most 'up- to-date' file between the two targets and making sure that file is synchronized to the other target.


STEP THREE: ENABLE ADMIN ACCESS [top]

Choose 'Mounted Volumes (Admin access)' from the 'Connect to:' popup menu in the Left Target Pane. Since our example utilizes a connection to ChronoAgent running on another Mac, Admin Access grants ChronoSync the authority to update file ownership and group membership settings to match the user account on each of the two Macs.

Admin access allows you to access file ownership

STEP FOUR: CHOOSE THE LEFT AND RIGHT TARGETS [top]

Understanding the concept of targets is important to simplify the synchronization set up. We often refer to the targets as the source and destination, or left and right. Generally, the source target or 'Left Target' is the Mac that ChronoSync is installed on. The destination target or 'Right Target' is the Mac running ChronoAgent that you connect to. It can be helpful to have a meaningful name instead of 'Left' and 'Right' Target. To use more meaningful names, just click on the 'Left Target' and 'Right Target' labels and specify a custom name such as 'iMac' and 'MacBook Pro' to make things more understandable.

On the Setup panel, choose the targets. This is done by clicking the respective "Choose..." button for each of the targets. This will drop down a file selection sheet for you to choose the desired folder.

In this example, choose the Desktop folder for the Left Target by navigating to your home folder, selecting the 'Desktop' folder, and clicking 'Select'. You can also substitute the 'Public', 'Documents', or 'Downloads' for the chosen folder, if that is the desired folder.

Choose connection profile to sync to remote mac

For the right target, click the 'Connect to:' popup menu and locate the name of the ChronoAgent Connection Profile you created when performing the 'Setup Steps' in the “Sync The Home Folder Between Macs Using ChronoSync” Guide. If you don't have your connection profile setup, then review the Setup Steps in the above guide to learn how to create the Connection Profile.



Now that you have the ChronoAgent connection set, click the 'Choose' button in the Right Target pane and navigate through the folders on the remote Mac to locate the 'Desktop' folder you want to sync to on that remove Mac. (Of course, you can also substitute the 'Public', 'Documents', 'Downloads', 'Movies' for the chosen folder, if that is the desired folder.)

Setup panel with target selected

STEP FIVE: ENABLE SYNCHRONIZE DELETIONS [top]

In most cases, you will want deleted files from one target to also be deleted from the opposite target. To do this, turn ON the “Synchronize deletions” checkbox. When this option is turned ON, ChronoSync will delete files in the opposite target whenever it detects a deletion, keeping the two targets identical. Please note that no files will be deleted during the first synchronization because ChronoSync does not yet have a past history of what files exist.

Enable Archiving

STEP SIX: ENABLE ARCHIVING [top]

Enable "Archive replaced files" as a safeguard so all deleted items will be moved to an '_Archived Items' folder. This is useful in case a mistake is made and you want to retrieve a file that was replaced or deleted. Manage the size and growth of the '_Archived Items' folder by visiting the 'Archive Handling' section in the Options panel.

STEP SEVEN: CUSTOMIZE THE OPTIONS PANEL [top]

Visit the Options panel and customize any settings to tailor the sync for your specific needs. Refer to ChronoSync Help for details on the options listed within this panel.

Customize Options

STEP EIGHT: EXCLUDE FILES OR FOLDERS [top]

NOTE: The image below is only for example. It does not indicate which files or folders should be excluded

Exclude files from sync

Sometimes there are certain types of files you do NOT want synchronized. An example would be if you did not want to sync some personal documents to the other computer. To do this, select the particular folder or file in the Analyze view, right-click (or CONTROL-click) the selection, and choose "Exclude". You can also choose "Exclude" from the Actions menu. An exclusion is denoted by an "X" in the status column and means that the file will not be considered during the synchronization process. When you exclude a file it will be ignored during the sync and when you select a folder, all of its contents will be ignored.

POSTSCRIPT [top]

If you are following the “Sync The Home Folder Between Macs Using ChronoSync” Guide, then repeat the above Steps 1 through 8 to create a separate synchronizer task for each of the Desktop, Documents, Public, and Downloads folders you wish to keep in sync between the two macs, then return to Step 4 in the above-linked home folder sync document.

If you are using this Guide stand-alone to setup a synchronizer task to keep any one or more of the above folders in sync between two Macs, then continue here with Step 9.

STEP NINE: RUN THE TASK [top]

Once you have all the above-mentioned settings in place, perform the synchronization. This can be done by choosing the "Synchronize" icon in the toolbar of the task.

NOTE: It is recommended that you run a Trial Sync the very first time you perform the synchronization. That way, you can peruse the Trial Sync results to make sure you haven't made a simple configuration mistake such as selecting an incorrect target. If it looks like a lot more files than you expect will synchronize, or a sync in a direction you didn't expect, you should take a step back and double-check your configuration.

4. WHAT TO WATCH FOR [top]

CONFLICTS [top]

Make sure to always synchronize each time you switch working to the other Mac. If you fail to do this, conflicts may arise. A conflict is when the same file has changed on both computers. Since you have to choose between one file or the other, you would lose the changes made to one of the files. If a conflict does arise, then choose the file from the computer you last used.

SCHEDULING [top]

Since you need to synchronize every time you switch Macs, it is not practical to schedule your Home to Home task container. Instead, you should manually run the sync every time you switch Macs to ensure the two Macs always stay in sync. Doing this will take some getting used to, but it's a habit that should be practiced.

ERRORS OR PROBLEMS [top]

If you encounter any errors or have any problems you can contact us by using our support form.

5. 3 THINGS TO REMEMBER [top]

Since this is a bi-directional sync designed to keep files and folders in sync between two Macs, you should pay attention to your workflow.

  1. Make sure to always synchronize each time you switch working to the other computer.
  2. Always run every sync from the source Mac using the same task container.
  3. If a conflict should arise, choose the file from the computer you last used.

6. WORKFLOW [top]

Working on two Macs simultaneously can result in unusually high numbers of Conflict errors being reported and there may be difficulty merging the changes that can occur to the same files on both Macs. Instead, consider this workflow:

SWITCH FROM LEFT TO RIGHT MAC [top]

  • Using Left Mac.
  • Run Sync from Left Mac (The ChronoSync Mac).
  • Choose "Left Files" for any conflicts.
  • Begin using Right Mac.

SWITCH FROM RIGHT TO LEFT MAC [top]

  • Using Right Mac.
  • Run Sync from Left Mac (The ChronoSync Mac).
  • Choose "Right Files" for any conflicts.
  • Begin using Left Mac.

If you have any problems while using our products or have any questions about this guide, contact us by using our support form.

7. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG [top]

For most people, the above steps will work flawlessly for synchronizing your Desktop, Documents, Public, or Downloads folders. However, we live in an imperfect world and sometimes things just don't work out as expected. If you encounter any problems following this tutorial, here's some tips that may help you get back on track:

CHRONOSYNC HELP [top]

From the "Help" menu in ChronoSync, you can try some of the following search terms (minus the quotes):

"Options"
"Bidirectional"
"Targets"

GUIDES [top]

Check out the following guide that might be helpful to you:

TECHNICAL SUPPORT [top]

Contact our technical support team and just ask! We don’t mind — we're here to help!