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:


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.