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So I'm a recently converted Mac OS X user. I have an iMac which I use when I work at home, because it's comfy and powerful. I also have a white Macbook for when I'm working away. Right now, I'm constantly having to transfer files back and forth between the computers in order to always have the latest version of each file on both computers.

I do it manually, so my question is: what's the best way to keep 2 Mac OS X installations synchronised automatically?

On Windows I used but they don't have a desktop client, which is what was keeping all my computers in sync. I would prefer a free solution, if that exists.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Check out DropBox. It's what iDisk should have been. The free plan might even be enough for your needs.

Windows Live Sync or Windows Live Mesh would also be worth investigating -- they're both free and have clients for OS X.

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+1 for Dropbox. – las3rjock Sep 2 '09 at 21:54
just tried Windows Live Sync. Does not want to install on my Mac Os X 10.6. too bad. Might be fixed in the near future. Thanks for the tip though, i'll keep an eye on this tool ! – pixeline Sep 2 '09 at 23:52
The latest version of windows Live Sync works wonder! Amazing useful free application! Can't believe microsoft can actually do things right :) – pixeline Nov 17 '09 at 21:01

I've already upvoted DropBox for its ease of use. There are some possible objections:

  • *It uses a central DropBox server to store items.** Benefit: built-in off-site backups. Synchronizing two machines in the same room will require uploading to the central server from one and downloading to the other. You may also have concerns about somebody else having access to your files -- this is mostly theoretical since they encrypt the files before storing (security entry in faq).

  • Cost The first 2 GB is free, beyond that you need to pay monthly. The pricing isn't high, but it may be more than you want to pay.

  • One Folder Dropbox synchronizes a single directory on your computer (typically /Users/username/DropBox). It's possible to synchronize other files using symbolic links (see DropBox wiki entry on this).

If you want something that's entirely under your control, I would look for something based on rsync -- a proven unix file sync utility which comes with OS X. If you're not comfortable at the command line, there are some GUI frontends available, such as arRsync -- I've not tried that, just found it via google search for "rsync mac gui".

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following your advise i tried arRsync. Nice tool for backuping to an external harddrive, but it does not work between networked computers - which is what i need. Thanks though ! – pixeline Sep 2 '09 at 23:51
The underlying rsync tool definitely supports network sync using ssh between computers (or its own rsync protocol but that requires running another server process on each machine). Look more through rsync GUI options, there's likely one which also offers network sync. – Doug Harris Sep 3 '09 at 11:41

Try Unison (the file sync) tool.

Unison is a file synchronization program. It is used for synchronizing files between two directories, either on one computer, or between a computer and another storage device (e.g. > another computer, or a removable disc). It runs on Unix-like operating systems (including > Linux, Mac OS X, and Solaris), as well as on Windows.

More information is here: Unison

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Just tried Unison, but i find it a little too rough around the edge. – pixeline Sep 2 '09 at 23:57

since it involves synchronizing your working data, I would just recommend you to go for MobileMe straightaway.

It's not that expensive if you look at it, and it has extremely strong integration with OS X. Syncing is a pinch too with iSync and iDisk.

In short, you and your kind of situation will find MobileMe worth every single penny.

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If Dropbox or other online synchronization methods aren't good enough (or you have privacy fears) there is the option of using Mac OS X Server on the iMac and setting up the MacBook to use a portable home directory and then your home folder will be exactly the same on both. It's definitely a much more pricey option ($500USD) and has a bit more overhead but if you have multiple computers and a decent network (namely not 802.11g or 10base ethernet) it's pretty solid (I've got a client who does this between his two iMacs and his iBook for himself, his wife and two kids).

Ease of use and if it's just documents however I'd recommend Dropbox - it works superbly for myself personally. (I'll leave it to other answers for the pertinent details)

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it's possible to arrange a portable home directory without Mac OS X Server. There have been other questions and answers/pointers about this - see… – jrg Sep 5 '09 at 23:33

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