Syncing Data on Multiple Macs

Sync Madness.jpg

So I suddenly find myself using two different Macs. I’ve worked on different computers before but never had two as primarily my workstations. As a result, I’m trying to figure out the best way to keep my data all synced up. This problem is made a bit easier by the fact that the MacBook Air gets used almost exclusively for writing, email, and a few other applications I use for work. As such, I don’t need to sync iTunes data, movie files, and other things that eat bandwidth like candy. The system does, however require that it be reliable, easy, and not ever lose anything. One Scrivener file could have several days worth of work in it. I can not “accidently” sync it out of existence. So as I research this issue I see three viable alternatives:

iDisk

This was actually recommended to me by a friend. I already keep a local copy of my iDisk. This really should be enough. It is always syncing to the .Mac server and when I move from one machine to the other, everything should be there. An advantage of this system is its ease. There are no extra steps required. It is seamless. My concern with this approach is the possibility of something funny at .Mac “syncing” the local copy to zero or (even more likely) a prior version of a file from the other machine. Now I know this is not supposed to happen. However that is not good enough. I can’t have it happen ever. Another concern with this approach is TimeMachine. I know TimeMachine does make a copy of the local iDisk but it is a sparse image and digging an old file out of it is not exactly the simple process I currently enjoy with TimeMachine.

Flash Drive

I have a flash drive on my keychain. I was advised by one Apple Genius friend how he much prefers keeping files between two Macs on a thumb drive instead of iDisk because he doesn’t like the performance hit. I don’t find the performance problem with iDisk to be much of an issue. I also worry again about security. It would be so easy to lose a thumb drive. Granted there would be a local copy on the last machine the file got used on but it still seems a bit klugey. You have to think about what files to copy over every time you sync and I will inevitably forget one or two (or five or six).

Local + iDisk

As a compromise, my current process is to keep documents in the documents folder like I always did. I add a few steps however. I run Chronosync whenever I’m leaving or starting a machine. The Chronosync file is called “iDisk” and compares the current iDisk image with select folders in my Documents folder. It then updates the iDisk with those files. In addition to word processing files, it also syncs over to the iDisk a copy of my OmniFocus database. I then move to the other machine and let iDisk pull down the new files, run ChronoSync again and I’m good to go. This system involves a few more steps but seems more secure (so long as Chronosync doesn’t torch me) and gives me actual TimeMachine backups for the data.

I’m new to all of this “two Macs” business and would love to hear how other people are doing it. Leave a comment or drop me an email.

30 Comments Syncing Data on Multiple Macs

  1. anthonyjross@mac.com

    As with so many of the issues you raise in your posts David, I am very interested in how you make your way on this one. Indeed, I think that you are highlighting a missing link in my Mac workflow evolution. I love the .mac synchronization of my .mac email flawlessly on all three of the Macs that I use regularly. However, without having really invested too much time in trying to work with iDisk, my impression is that there is not a comparably simple and reliable means of synching data files and for that reason I keep all my working data files (about 30-40 GBs) on one MBP that goes where I go (and I keep it backed up with Time Machine and Superduper on two external drives, one at work, one at home). Were there a synching option easy and reliable as .mac email, I would run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a MB Air; and such data synching would open a lot more avenues for more flexible use of my various Macs. Looking forward to hearing more about how you get over or around this hurdle.

    Reply
  2. anthonyjross@mac.com

    As with so many of the issues you raise in your posts David, I am very interested in how you make your way on this one. Indeed, I think that you are highlighting a missing link in my Mac workflow evolution. I love the .mac synchronization of my .mac email flawlessly on all three of the Macs that I use regularly. However, without having really invested too much time in trying to work with iDisk, my impression is that there is not a comparably simple and reliable means of synching data files and for that reason I keep all my working data files (about 30-40 GBs) on one MBP that goes where I go (and I keep it backed up with Time Machine and Superduper on two external drives, one at work, one at home). Were there a synching option easy and reliable as .mac email, I would run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a MB Air; and such data synching would open a lot more avenues for more flexible use of my various Macs. Looking forward to hearing more about how you get over or around this hurdle.

    Reply
  3. anthonyjross@mac.com

    As with so many of the issues you raise in your posts David, I am very interested in how you make your way on this one. Indeed, I think that you are highlighting a missing link in my Mac workflow evolution. I love the .mac synchronization of my .mac email flawlessly on all three of the Macs that I use regularly. However, without having really invested too much time in trying to work with iDisk, my impression is that there is not a comparably simple and reliable means of synching data files and for that reason I keep all my working data files (about 30-40 GBs) on one MBP that goes where I go (and I keep it backed up with Time Machine and Superduper on two external drives, one at work, one at home). Were there a synching option easy and reliable as .mac email, I would run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a MB Air; and such data synching would open a lot more avenues for more flexible use of my various Macs. Looking forward to hearing more about how you get over or around this hurdle.

    Reply
  4. anthonyjross@mac.com

    As with so many of the issues you raise in your posts David, I am very interested in how you make your way on this one. Indeed, I think that you are highlighting a missing link in my Mac workflow evolution. I love the .mac synchronization of my .mac email flawlessly on all three of the Macs that I use regularly. However, without having really invested too much time in trying to work with iDisk, my impression is that there is not a comparably simple and reliable means of synching data files and for that reason I keep all my working data files (about 30-40 GBs) on one MBP that goes where I go (and I keep it backed up with Time Machine and Superduper on two external drives, one at work, one at home). Were there a synching option easy and reliable as .mac email, I would run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a MB Air; and such data synching would open a lot more avenues for more flexible use of my various Macs. Looking forward to hearing more about how you get over or around this hurdle.

    Reply
  5. anthonyjross@mac.com

    As with so many of the issues you raise in your posts David, I am very interested in how you make your way on this one. Indeed, I think that you are highlighting a missing link in my Mac workflow evolution. I love the .mac synchronization of my .mac email flawlessly on all three of the Macs that I use regularly. However, without having really invested too much time in trying to work with iDisk, my impression is that there is not a comparably simple and reliable means of synching data files and for that reason I keep all my working data files (about 30-40 GBs) on one MBP that goes where I go (and I keep it backed up with Time Machine and Superduper on two external drives, one at work, one at home). Were there a synching option easy and reliable as .mac email, I would run, not walk, to the Apple Store and get a MB Air; and such data synching would open a lot more avenues for more flexible use of my various Macs. Looking forward to hearing more about how you get over or around this hurdle.

    Reply
  6. adam@zeitsiff.com

    Hi David. I am curious to hear more of a detailed explanation of your current “2-Mac” backup solution. I too am new to “2 Macs” – and in fact, I am very new to Macs in general. I’m getting it down fairly easily, but I’m a bit stuck on the best way to truly Sync my iMac and my MBA. I signed up for a .Mac account and have my iDisk setup on both machines. However, from what I am reading, using the “automatic” iDisk Sync built into the OS isn’t as reliable as I may need (I’m syncing just Word, Excel, PDF’s and other day-to-day business documents).

    From what I read in your Blog post, you are using ChronoSync to Sync your local documents directly to your web-based iDisk folder…? Or to your local iDisk image, and then letting iDisk Sync its local image back up to the server? Then, when you get to your 2nd Mac, you are using iDisk’s Sync to bring the most recent files down to the local iDisk image on your Mac, and then using ChronoSync to sync this over to your local Documents folder on the 2nd Mac?

    Do I have this right? Thanks in advance for all you do for the user community.

    Reply
  7. adam@zeitsiff.com

    Hi David. I am curious to hear more of a detailed explanation of your current “2-Mac” backup solution. I too am new to “2 Macs” – and in fact, I am very new to Macs in general. I’m getting it down fairly easily, but I’m a bit stuck on the best way to truly Sync my iMac and my MBA. I signed up for a .Mac account and have my iDisk setup on both machines. However, from what I am reading, using the “automatic” iDisk Sync built into the OS isn’t as reliable as I may need (I’m syncing just Word, Excel, PDF’s and other day-to-day business documents).

    From what I read in your Blog post, you are using ChronoSync to Sync your local documents directly to your web-based iDisk folder…? Or to your local iDisk image, and then letting iDisk Sync its local image back up to the server? Then, when you get to your 2nd Mac, you are using iDisk’s Sync to bring the most recent files down to the local iDisk image on your Mac, and then using ChronoSync to sync this over to your local Documents folder on the 2nd Mac?

    Do I have this right? Thanks in advance for all you do for the user community.

    Reply
  8. adam@zeitsiff.com

    Hi David. I am curious to hear more of a detailed explanation of your current “2-Mac” backup solution. I too am new to “2 Macs” – and in fact, I am very new to Macs in general. I’m getting it down fairly easily, but I’m a bit stuck on the best way to truly Sync my iMac and my MBA. I signed up for a .Mac account and have my iDisk setup on both machines. However, from what I am reading, using the “automatic” iDisk Sync built into the OS isn’t as reliable as I may need (I’m syncing just Word, Excel, PDF’s and other day-to-day business documents).

    From what I read in your Blog post, you are using ChronoSync to Sync your local documents directly to your web-based iDisk folder…? Or to your local iDisk image, and then letting iDisk Sync its local image back up to the server? Then, when you get to your 2nd Mac, you are using iDisk’s Sync to bring the most recent files down to the local iDisk image on your Mac, and then using ChronoSync to sync this over to your local Documents folder on the 2nd Mac?

    Do I have this right? Thanks in advance for all you do for the user community.

    Reply
  9. adam@zeitsiff.com

    Hi David. I am curious to hear more of a detailed explanation of your current “2-Mac” backup solution. I too am new to “2 Macs” – and in fact, I am very new to Macs in general. I’m getting it down fairly easily, but I’m a bit stuck on the best way to truly Sync my iMac and my MBA. I signed up for a .Mac account and have my iDisk setup on both machines. However, from what I am reading, using the “automatic” iDisk Sync built into the OS isn’t as reliable as I may need (I’m syncing just Word, Excel, PDF’s and other day-to-day business documents).

    From what I read in your Blog post, you are using ChronoSync to Sync your local documents directly to your web-based iDisk folder…? Or to your local iDisk image, and then letting iDisk Sync its local image back up to the server? Then, when you get to your 2nd Mac, you are using iDisk’s Sync to bring the most recent files down to the local iDisk image on your Mac, and then using ChronoSync to sync this over to your local Documents folder on the 2nd Mac?

    Do I have this right? Thanks in advance for all you do for the user community.

    Reply
  10. adam@zeitsiff.com

    Hi David. I am curious to hear more of a detailed explanation of your current “2-Mac” backup solution. I too am new to “2 Macs” – and in fact, I am very new to Macs in general. I’m getting it down fairly easily, but I’m a bit stuck on the best way to truly Sync my iMac and my MBA. I signed up for a .Mac account and have my iDisk setup on both machines. However, from what I am reading, using the “automatic” iDisk Sync built into the OS isn’t as reliable as I may need (I’m syncing just Word, Excel, PDF’s and other day-to-day business documents).

    From what I read in your Blog post, you are using ChronoSync to Sync your local documents directly to your web-based iDisk folder…? Or to your local iDisk image, and then letting iDisk Sync its local image back up to the server? Then, when you get to your 2nd Mac, you are using iDisk’s Sync to bring the most recent files down to the local iDisk image on your Mac, and then using ChronoSync to sync this over to your local Documents folder on the 2nd Mac?

    Do I have this right? Thanks in advance for all you do for the user community.

    Reply
  11. david@macsparky.com

    You got it right. I have all my applications pointed at the local documents folder. I don’t access the iDisk directly, although I do have syncing turned on. So when I know I’m done with the MacBook Pro and switching over to the air, I fire up Chronosync and sync up the local “documents” items with their counterparts on the iDisk. Chronosync only updates those files that have changed.

    Then when I log into the MacBook Air, I load up chronosync and it pulls those changed files down to my MBA local “documents” folder and I’m good to go. It can be a little more tedious than just using the iDisk, but I think it is probably safer.

    Like I said though, I’m just figuring it out and I’m sure the process will get refined as I go on.

    Reply
  12. david@macsparky.com

    You got it right. I have all my applications pointed at the local documents folder. I don’t access the iDisk directly, although I do have syncing turned on. So when I know I’m done with the MacBook Pro and switching over to the air, I fire up Chronosync and sync up the local “documents” items with their counterparts on the iDisk. Chronosync only updates those files that have changed.

    Then when I log into the MacBook Air, I load up chronosync and it pulls those changed files down to my MBA local “documents” folder and I’m good to go. It can be a little more tedious than just using the iDisk, but I think it is probably safer.

    Like I said though, I’m just figuring it out and I’m sure the process will get refined as I go on.

    Reply
  13. david@macsparky.com

    You got it right. I have all my applications pointed at the local documents folder. I don’t access the iDisk directly, although I do have syncing turned on. So when I know I’m done with the MacBook Pro and switching over to the air, I fire up Chronosync and sync up the local “documents” items with their counterparts on the iDisk. Chronosync only updates those files that have changed.

    Then when I log into the MacBook Air, I load up chronosync and it pulls those changed files down to my MBA local “documents” folder and I’m good to go. It can be a little more tedious than just using the iDisk, but I think it is probably safer.

    Like I said though, I’m just figuring it out and I’m sure the process will get refined as I go on.

    Reply
  14. david@macsparky.com

    You got it right. I have all my applications pointed at the local documents folder. I don’t access the iDisk directly, although I do have syncing turned on. So when I know I’m done with the MacBook Pro and switching over to the air, I fire up Chronosync and sync up the local “documents” items with their counterparts on the iDisk. Chronosync only updates those files that have changed.

    Then when I log into the MacBook Air, I load up chronosync and it pulls those changed files down to my MBA local “documents” folder and I’m good to go. It can be a little more tedious than just using the iDisk, but I think it is probably safer.

    Like I said though, I’m just figuring it out and I’m sure the process will get refined as I go on.

    Reply
  15. david@macsparky.com

    You got it right. I have all my applications pointed at the local documents folder. I don’t access the iDisk directly, although I do have syncing turned on. So when I know I’m done with the MacBook Pro and switching over to the air, I fire up Chronosync and sync up the local “documents” items with their counterparts on the iDisk. Chronosync only updates those files that have changed.

    Then when I log into the MacBook Air, I load up chronosync and it pulls those changed files down to my MBA local “documents” folder and I’m good to go. It can be a little more tedious than just using the iDisk, but I think it is probably safer.

    Like I said though, I’m just figuring it out and I’m sure the process will get refined as I go on.

    Reply
  16. iconaholic@gmail.com

    I do pretty much the same thing between my Macs.

    .Mac to sync preferences, bookmarks, contacs etc. Then use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between the different Macs.

    I also use ChronoSync to backup important files (quite a lot of my home folder but not everything) to my iDisk every night for an off site backup.

    Reply
  17. iconaholic@gmail.com

    I do pretty much the same thing between my Macs.

    .Mac to sync preferences, bookmarks, contacs etc. Then use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between the different Macs.

    I also use ChronoSync to backup important files (quite a lot of my home folder but not everything) to my iDisk every night for an off site backup.

    Reply
  18. iconaholic@gmail.com

    I do pretty much the same thing between my Macs.

    .Mac to sync preferences, bookmarks, contacs etc. Then use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between the different Macs.

    I also use ChronoSync to backup important files (quite a lot of my home folder but not everything) to my iDisk every night for an off site backup.

    Reply
  19. iconaholic@gmail.com

    I do pretty much the same thing between my Macs.

    .Mac to sync preferences, bookmarks, contacs etc. Then use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between the different Macs.

    I also use ChronoSync to backup important files (quite a lot of my home folder but not everything) to my iDisk every night for an off site backup.

    Reply
  20. iconaholic@gmail.com

    I do pretty much the same thing between my Macs.

    .Mac to sync preferences, bookmarks, contacs etc. Then use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between the different Macs.

    I also use ChronoSync to backup important files (quite a lot of my home folder but not everything) to my iDisk every night for an off site backup.

    Reply
  21. macsparky@coolfusion.com.au

    It seems the “.Mac for lightweight data, Chronosync for heavy data” approach is a common one- I certainly use it.

    The issue becomes when to sync- i.e. as often as convenient, and whenever you go in/out of the office.   This is important because syncing (even just the comparison phase) doesn’t happen ‘instantaneously’, and when you multiply this delay by the number of separate things you wish to synchronise, it does add up.

    I like the idea of syncing when a volume connects, -it’d be nice to have a ‘before disconnect’ option; of course it’d be weird to wait for CS to fire up and do its thing before the volume is ejected, but I’d be happy to pay that price! There’s got to be a hack somewhere out there to do this!

    Reply
  22. macsparky@coolfusion.com.au

    It seems the “.Mac for lightweight data, Chronosync for heavy data” approach is a common one- I certainly use it.

    The issue becomes when to sync- i.e. as often as convenient, and whenever you go in/out of the office.   This is important because syncing (even just the comparison phase) doesn’t happen ‘instantaneously’, and when you multiply this delay by the number of separate things you wish to synchronise, it does add up.

    I like the idea of syncing when a volume connects, -it’d be nice to have a ‘before disconnect’ option; of course it’d be weird to wait for CS to fire up and do its thing before the volume is ejected, but I’d be happy to pay that price! There’s got to be a hack somewhere out there to do this!

    Reply
  23. macsparky@coolfusion.com.au

    It seems the “.Mac for lightweight data, Chronosync for heavy data” approach is a common one- I certainly use it.

    The issue becomes when to sync- i.e. as often as convenient, and whenever you go in/out of the office.   This is important because syncing (even just the comparison phase) doesn’t happen ‘instantaneously’, and when you multiply this delay by the number of separate things you wish to synchronise, it does add up.

    I like the idea of syncing when a volume connects, -it’d be nice to have a ‘before disconnect’ option; of course it’d be weird to wait for CS to fire up and do its thing before the volume is ejected, but I’d be happy to pay that price! There’s got to be a hack somewhere out there to do this!

    Reply
  24. macsparky@coolfusion.com.au

    It seems the “.Mac for lightweight data, Chronosync for heavy data” approach is a common one- I certainly use it.

    The issue becomes when to sync- i.e. as often as convenient, and whenever you go in/out of the office.   This is important because syncing (even just the comparison phase) doesn’t happen ‘instantaneously’, and when you multiply this delay by the number of separate things you wish to synchronise, it does add up.

    I like the idea of syncing when a volume connects, -it’d be nice to have a ‘before disconnect’ option; of course it’d be weird to wait for CS to fire up and do its thing before the volume is ejected, but I’d be happy to pay that price! There’s got to be a hack somewhere out there to do this!

    Reply
  25. macsparky@coolfusion.com.au

    It seems the “.Mac for lightweight data, Chronosync for heavy data” approach is a common one- I certainly use it.

    The issue becomes when to sync- i.e. as often as convenient, and whenever you go in/out of the office.   This is important because syncing (even just the comparison phase) doesn’t happen ‘instantaneously’, and when you multiply this delay by the number of separate things you wish to synchronise, it does add up.

    I like the idea of syncing when a volume connects, -it’d be nice to have a ‘before disconnect’ option; of course it’d be weird to wait for CS to fire up and do its thing before the volume is ejected, but I’d be happy to pay that price! There’s got to be a hack somewhere out there to do this!

    Reply
  26. daisy_surfing@mac.com

    I don’t know what you guys are calling light and heavy but for reference, I have about 10GB of working documents (word, powerpoint, excel) + images which I keep in sync.

    I like to keep things as simple as possible so just use .Mac’s automated syncing ,it’s instantaneous enough for me. I use it across an Imac and a Macbook Air – the only thing I do is double check the last time the machine synced with Idisk before I shut down.

    For backups, I still haven’t got around to working out Time Machine (!) but I’m not sure I’d trust it either. I do have a weekly schedule set up on Back up, but I’m paranoid so do a regular manual back up, as the syncing means there’s a local copy, it only takes a teeny bit of time to copy the entire Idisk to another part of my Imac’s hard drive and/or an external disk. It does eat up hard drive on my Idisk but I have tons left and when I start running low, I’ll delete some of the older back ups.

    Reply
  27. daisy_surfing@mac.com

    I don’t know what you guys are calling light and heavy but for reference, I have about 10GB of working documents (word, powerpoint, excel) + images which I keep in sync.

    I like to keep things as simple as possible so just use .Mac’s automated syncing ,it’s instantaneous enough for me. I use it across an Imac and a Macbook Air – the only thing I do is double check the last time the machine synced with Idisk before I shut down.

    For backups, I still haven’t got around to working out Time Machine (!) but I’m not sure I’d trust it either. I do have a weekly schedule set up on Back up, but I’m paranoid so do a regular manual back up, as the syncing means there’s a local copy, it only takes a teeny bit of time to copy the entire Idisk to another part of my Imac’s hard drive and/or an external disk. It does eat up hard drive on my Idisk but I have tons left and when I start running low, I’ll delete some of the older back ups.

    Reply
  28. daisy_surfing@mac.com

    I don’t know what you guys are calling light and heavy but for reference, I have about 10GB of working documents (word, powerpoint, excel) + images which I keep in sync.

    I like to keep things as simple as possible so just use .Mac’s automated syncing ,it’s instantaneous enough for me. I use it across an Imac and a Macbook Air – the only thing I do is double check the last time the machine synced with Idisk before I shut down.

    For backups, I still haven’t got around to working out Time Machine (!) but I’m not sure I’d trust it either. I do have a weekly schedule set up on Back up, but I’m paranoid so do a regular manual back up, as the syncing means there’s a local copy, it only takes a teeny bit of time to copy the entire Idisk to another part of my Imac’s hard drive and/or an external disk. It does eat up hard drive on my Idisk but I have tons left and when I start running low, I’ll delete some of the older back ups.

    Reply
  29. daisy_surfing@mac.com

    I don’t know what you guys are calling light and heavy but for reference, I have about 10GB of working documents (word, powerpoint, excel) + images which I keep in sync.

    I like to keep things as simple as possible so just use .Mac’s automated syncing ,it’s instantaneous enough for me. I use it across an Imac and a Macbook Air – the only thing I do is double check the last time the machine synced with Idisk before I shut down.

    For backups, I still haven’t got around to working out Time Machine (!) but I’m not sure I’d trust it either. I do have a weekly schedule set up on Back up, but I’m paranoid so do a regular manual back up, as the syncing means there’s a local copy, it only takes a teeny bit of time to copy the entire Idisk to another part of my Imac’s hard drive and/or an external disk. It does eat up hard drive on my Idisk but I have tons left and when I start running low, I’ll delete some of the older back ups.

    Reply
  30. daisy_surfing@mac.com

    I don’t know what you guys are calling light and heavy but for reference, I have about 10GB of working documents (word, powerpoint, excel) + images which I keep in sync.

    I like to keep things as simple as possible so just use .Mac’s automated syncing ,it’s instantaneous enough for me. I use it across an Imac and a Macbook Air – the only thing I do is double check the last time the machine synced with Idisk before I shut down.

    For backups, I still haven’t got around to working out Time Machine (!) but I’m not sure I’d trust it either. I do have a weekly schedule set up on Back up, but I’m paranoid so do a regular manual back up, as the syncing means there’s a local copy, it only takes a teeny bit of time to copy the entire Idisk to another part of my Imac’s hard drive and/or an external disk. It does eat up hard drive on my Idisk but I have tons left and when I start running low, I’ll delete some of the older back ups.

    Reply

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