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I'm thinking of eventually, when I have more money, buying a laptop, so it's more convenient for me to work at school or wherever I eventually get hired. Eventually, maybe. I don't think I'll have sufficient money anytime soon, but I'm still curious about this, and I've been wondering for a long while.

So, here. I find laptops really uncomfortable for home use, and would only use the laptop for when I'm away from home. But then I'd be worried about forgetting my files and such. Plus, having two computers to set up can be a bit of a pain.

I'm wondering if it's possible to set two computers to basically be one. To make them have every Windows setting and update, every app, every file, everything, synced locally through Wi-Fi/Ethernet whenever the devices are close. When I install something on one computer, have it "magically" show up on the other one as soon as it's turned on, without any prompts. Perhaps a bit of wait on startup, but local transfers are really fast, aren't they?

That way, I could start working at school, and continue working at home. Install a game at home, and be able to play it at school if I'm bored and not busy during a break. Download a movie at home and watch it on the bus without hassle. See instant messaging histories on both, no matter on which computer it was created. Change the settings on a work app, and have it be the same on the other computer.

And in a dream world, maybe be able to define some things that will stay different on the machines, such as having the laptop ask for a password but not the desktop PC, or settings that depend on screen resolution.

I'm absolutely not sure it's even remotely possible to do this, since it would just be too good to be real, but I figured it doesn't hurt to ask.

I know there are cloud services like Dropbox that more or less allow this, but it's not perfect:

  • Files are stored online, which isn't necessary for what I want.

  • There's a limit of how much you can have on that. Dropbox gives, I think, 2 GB when you start. No way a 1-TB hard drive fits there.

  • It's generally a set folder that you sync. You can't say "sync my whole PC".

  • It's through the Internet, and my Internet transfer is limited to 60 GB per month. If I were gonna transfer every single change made to either computer through the Internet, I would certainly go way beyond that. And it would be pretty slow.

I know Windows 8 allows you to sync settings saved on one computer to another by logging in with your Microsoft account, but this is only Windows settings and modern UI apps, and I'm not even sure ALL Windows settings are synced. Sounds too good to be true. But even if that's the case, it's sort of insufficient.

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Just get a laptop.

Instead of trying to sync it to a desktop, you can connect a regular keyboard and monitor to the laptop, and then use the laptop as if were the tower portion of a desktop. Now you can just disconnect the keyboard and monitor any time you want to take the whole computer with you, no syncing involved.

This is way easier than trying to keep two full operating systems synced.

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@Sam In reverse order... what screen size disadvantage? I recommended he connect it to an external monitor. What cost disadvantage? He's buying one machine instead of two. Performance disadvantage can be overcome if you're willing to spend, which he should save enough on buying his next desktop to at least minimize. – Joel Coehoorn Jan 7 '13 at 1:03
I had thought of this, but all this plugging and unplugging is a bit of a hassle. And laptops don't even have so many ports, generally. I'm not sure everything would fit. Mouse, keyboard, printer, mic, speakers, webcam, and I don't know what else... And well. My desktop computer has recently been upgraded, and another upgrade is on the way. After that process is done, i'll have done a full upgrade, replacing every part with much better ones. A total of 900 $. 500 of those were a gift just for that purpose (hugest gift ever o_o), but still. I wouldn't just ditch my desktop PC. :p – Ariane Jan 7 '13 at 1:25
Another alternative is any business grade laptop usually has some kind of docking bay/port that means you have a single connector to do this sort of function; doesn't really apply since your desktop sounds needed however – Justin Jan 7 '13 at 1:34
@Ariane Often it's just 3 connections: video, power, and a single usb connection, because you keep a hub for the rest of your desktop peripherals. Soon it will be just two, when you can start getting usb3-enabled monitors and hubs. – Joel Coehoorn Jan 7 '13 at 1:42
@JoelCoehoorn: Uhm, aren't hubs, I don't know, evil? They split data and such. I was told to avoid those except for unimportant peripherals or just for keeping the cables/ports handy (ipod, phone, etc. plugs but the devices are not always there). Everyone: Anyway, so you think there's no way at all of doing that kind of syncing? That's sad. – Ariane Jan 7 '13 at 1:47

This wouldn't meet all of your requirements, but you could resort to using Remote Desktop to connect to the desktop computer from the laptop when you're out.

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Sounds slow/inefficient... And most importantly, requires constant Internet access. :/ – Ariane Jan 7 '13 at 1:21
Windows 8 has an updated RDP system, one feature of which is working better over WAN connections. – Joel Coehoorn Jan 7 '13 at 1:44
I like RDP, use it alot myself, it eliminates all those synching problems. However, I do understand that an internet connection is more difficult than my LAN connection. – Guy Thomas Jan 7 '13 at 8:28

Just sync the files you need/use. I use an application called allwaysync as I could not find any other way to synchronize in three directions that was efficient.

The downside is you would have to run this manually to sync up your files, but if you run it before you leave/make a habit of it then you won't have any issues.

Alternatively depending on the type of documents/size requirements of things you always need with you you could try something like dropbox.

With Windows I have never heard of a way for it to be possible to completely copy and keep in sync 2 installs (i.e. new programs are installed on both, etc).

I have the same issue of laptops not being enough for home use but while I was at university I required a laptop, and syncing the files I needed worked quite well. If my music/photos didn't get synced I could live without it for a day and have slightly older versions on the laptop, and I did most of my university work from my laptop and synced it when I was done working on it for that session, and it also results in a backup of sorts since your data is now replicated in two places.

If you transfer large amounts of data with allwaysync you need the paid version, I got it a while ago since I use it to sync up around 2.4TB of files across 3 computers.

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Mmmh, well, sounds easier, but still, quite manual, and not, you know, "full". Though thanks. Good to know. – Ariane Jan 7 '13 at 1:49

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