How do I work with Microsoft Briefcase on my Windows PC?
I need to keep a set of files in sync across my laptop and desktop computer and a colleague told me that I should use Microsoft Windows Briefcase. I have no idea what that is or how to use it. What's the scoop on Briefcase?
This is a question in the class of "thanks, I didn't know about that either" and I have to say that while I'd seen Briefcase referenced in the Windows interface, I had no idea it was a slick, well-designed folder synchronization tool that worked across two devices whether they're on the same network (the ideal) or whether you have to use an intermediary removable device like a thumb drive. Neat.
What's better is that it's built right into Windows 7 so there's no software to download, no special utility to install, nothing you need to grab from Windows Live, etc. No third party apps = more secure and malware-free system = good. Very good.
There's no magic cloud feature involved, however, unlike something like, say, Microsoft's SkyDrive system (or Dropbox, a popular third-party alternative). This means that at some level, you have to do the work, but once you have it set up, all that entails is selecting "Update All" when you're ready to sync. I'll show you...
First step is to create a Windows Briefcase, which is done by right-clicking on the Desktop then selecting "Briefcase" from the "New" menu:
Do that and you'll see a cute little leather briefcase icon on your desktop:
As the tooltip explains, its purpose in life is to sync a folder across two computers. That's good, that's what we want. Now, just drag a file or two into the folder. Works just like a regular folder.
In fact, Microsoft explains the function of briefcase thusly the first time you open it up:
Okay. Sounds good!
Let's use the feature to sync a folder between my PC desktop and my Kingston Elite 3.0 DataTraveler (32gb, USB 3.0. Rockin!) by dragging the folder onto it in the File Explorer:
Ah heck, that's not right. We don't want to move the folder, but copy it. How to do that? It's a little Windows trick, actually: after you drag the folder, but before you actually let go of the mouse button, push the control key. Suddenly "Move" changes to "Copy":
That's the trick! Now you have a copy of the folder on the removable device. Done.
It took me a few minutes to figure this little trick out, btw, so don't be dismayed if you didn't know you could do that in Windows!
Make some changes, add some additional files, whatever. Now to sync the folders, right-click and choose "Update All":
It'll show you what's changed:
Everything's as we expect, so click "Update" and the two folders will resync up. Easy. Now repeat the process when you plug the thumb drive into your laptop or home PC and you'll have everything magically in sync between the devices.
Not a zero-effort solution, but quite manageable and anything that helps keep data in sync across multiple computers is terrific, and the fact that it works even if they aren't connected directly? Very useful.
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