Four ways to sync your computers

How to put every file at your fingertips

Transferring files is a pain. Faster Internet connections and bigger e-mail in-boxes allowed many people to simply send themselves documents and retire clunky floppy disks and one-time-use CD-Rs. But it’s still a chore to move documents from one computer to another. From a home PC to the office. From your desktop to your laptop.

While there’s no single solution for always having your files at your fingertips, many services have tackled the problem from different angles. Here are some of the best:

Windows Live Sync: Microsoft’s free service automatically moves files from one computer to another.
Interested? First, download the Sync software on each computer. (It works on PCs and Macs.) Then select a folder that you want mirrored on both machines. Every time you save a file to that folder – let’s say a work presentation that you were polishing up at home – the system instantly sends a duplicate version through the Internet to the other computer. That means no more “I forgot it at home!” moments.

Live Sync works really well for individuals, but it can get confused when multiple people try editing a file at the same time. Also, the system only works when both computers are turned on and hooked up to the Internet.

If that’s too much to ask, Microsoft has another, similar tool: Live Mesh. This does pretty much the same thing, but instead of immediately transferring the files, it houses them on Microsoft’s servers. You can then log in from any computer (or mobile phone) and sync at your leisure. The downside: There’s a cap on how much Microsoft will hold onto at any one time.

Both syncing programs have the added bonus of automatically backing up your work.

Simplify Media: This pick is all about sharing. Its first feature lets you access your music library remotely. The software digitally plugs into iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player. Once in place, you can listen to your MP3s on any computer. For example, if you don’t want to clog up your laptop’s puny hard drive with gigabytes of music, Simplify will play songs that are located on your beefier family computer. The company also released an iPhone/iPod Touch app, which lets you listen to any tunes that you forgot to transfer.

The second and more interesting feature will tap into your friends’ music collections. Persuade your jazz-aficionado buddy or indie-loving teenage son to install Simplify and you can enjoy all of their songs. You cannot download MP3s from their library (that’s illegal), but you can listen to your heart’s content – even if they are playing a different song. Just as with Live Sync, this only works if both computers are connected to the Web.

EverNote: Now in its third iteration, EverNote has grown from a simple note-taking tool into pseudo-syncing software. The basic pitch remains the same: easily save notes, pictures, or snippets of Web pages in a folder that automatically follows you from PC to Mac to Linux to cellphone.

Then, it allows you to search all of your clippings. EverNote can even pick out words from images, such as names from snapshots of business cards or handwritten notes from a photo of your office’s whiteboard.

The free service throws in a few ads, but the $5-a-month version expands the features to any type of file (particularly Word and Excel). This “premium” edition effectively turns EverNote into a syncing tool and bumps up its monthly caps from 40 megabytes to 500.

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