I've had a Macbook for some time, and recently got a Mac Mini too (both as desktop & media player computer). When setting up the Mini, I copied mostly everything (in target disk mode) from Macbook to it; that was a really smooth way to get up and running.

Now, I use both machines pretty randomly, at whim. Thanks to many web services like Gmail or Google Notebook, it often doesn't matter at all which computer I'm on. But with local files (text documents, photos, etc), it's a little more problematic. Simply keeping and using the files on both computers will obviously get them out of sync pretty soon. And manually copying files around to have the most recent version on each computer does not sound very attractive either.

So what's the best way to share or (automatically) sync home folders between two (or more) Macs? Either the whole home directory or just certain subdirectories of it (if that's more feasible) — both would be fine. Samba share or something?

NB: MobileMe might help here but I'd prefer a free option. Also, an external NAS might be the ultimate solution in a way, but for now I'd like something that involves only these Macs (besides, I've had bad experiences with a Maxtor network drive: too noisy; software for controlling it was crappy; it couldn't automount when coming out of sleep, etc).

The Macs are on the same wifi network, and having the Mini up all the time, as a server, wouldn't be a problem.


Depending on what files you are wanting to syncronize in your home folder you could get away using Dropbox and symlinks.

The new LAN sync feature on newer versions (the 0.7.x line) will make syncing faster as well since it doesn't need to sync to Dropbox's servers and then back down to your other computer before the files are available.

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 Mac mini 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 for server) 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).

It is possible however to set up a remote home directory without Mac OS X Server: SuperUser Question: 16129, How to configure a remote home directory on Mac OS X?

  • Thanks! I think I'll be looking at Dropbox first, sometime soon, to see how well it covers my needs.
    – Jonik
    Sep 13 '09 at 11:24
  • Dropbox is very easy to use, you can't go wrong with it :)
    – alex
    Sep 13 '09 at 11:59
  • I've finally tried it; Dropbox is totally sweet! I now have my documents and e.g certain application support directories up there on dropbox, symlinked appropriately on both computers. As a bonus I can access the stuff on my phone, and over the web anywhere I am. As for downsides, the free option has rather limited storage. And of course you sort of need to trust Dropbox, Inc. to use it…
    – Jonik
    Nov 8 '09 at 14:11
  • what about google drive? is it has some cons vs dropbox? prons are more storage and google brand is more trustful. Dec 15 '12 at 10:57

You can use Unison File Synchronizer. Details from Wikipedia:

  • It runs on many operating systems, and can synchronize files across platforms, so that for instance a Windows laptop may be synchronized with a Unix server.
  • It detects 'conflicts' where a file has been modified on both sources, and displays these to the user
  • It communicates over the TCP/IP protocol so that any two machines with an internet connection can be synchronized. This also means that the data transferred can be secured by tunneling over an encrypted ssh connection.
  • It uses the rsync algorithm developed by Andrew Tridgell. This algorithm transfers only the parts of a file that have changed, and so is faster than copying the whole file.
  • It is designed to be robust in the event of a program or system crash or a communication failure.
  • It is open-source.
  • Have you tried to sync an entire home folder with unison? Given that the two machines are running the same os ver, will this work? That is, are there any machine-specific files stored in a users home folder? Mar 19 '12 at 0:53
  • Sorry but the way its homepage looks made me drop it quite fast from the list of solutions I was willing to investigate.
    – sorin
    Feb 19 '15 at 10:40

I use Folders Synchronizer from SoftBe and find it to be excellent.

  • Thanks; it doesn't seem to be free ($40 for full and $20 for lite version), which is what I preferred, but I might try it out anyway.
    – Jonik
    Sep 12 '09 at 15:14

Suggested sync applications: Carbon Copy Cloner, ChronoSync, SuperDuper. I think CCC pretty much works with everything enabled for free. I also like its ability to recreate the recovery partition on a Mac disk; I think that's unique among backup/sync programs.

There is also an app called SyncTwoFolders, but it's slow, uses the Finder and is not going to pick up any invisible files/folders in whatever you are synchronizing. It's pretty good in a pinch to do a quick folder sync, though.

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