How to Sync Your Data Across Multiple Devices

Work with the most current files from wherever you are

If you use more than one device, you need some sort of syncing solution or strategy to make sure you always have the most recent email, documents, address book, photos, and files updated wherever you go. Here's how to sync folders across multiple computers using cloud storage and Bluetooth.

Cloud-Based Storage Apps

With file syncing and web-based apps, you can work on a document on one computer and then, moments later, log in to another device (laptop or smartphone, for example) and continue working on that document where you left off.

Web apps like Dropbox, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive synchronize folders among your devices while saving copies of the shared folders online. Changes made to files in that folder from one device are updated automatically on the others. You can also enable file sharing, use a mobile phone to access files, and in some apps, open the files on the website.

With web-based apps, you save your files to a remote server (the cloud) where you can retrieve them later. All you need is an internet connection, whether through your internet service provider or your phone's data plan. A popular web-based solution is Google's suite of apps (Gmail, Docs, Photos, and others). Use Google's apps by themselves, or use them as part of Google Workspace, which offers deeper integration.

Yahoo offers a similar group of apps. Microsoft Outlook gives you online access to your calendar, email, contacts, and more through cloud storage.

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Desktop Software for File Synchronization

If you're not comfortable with your files being stored online, install software that synchronizes files locally or over a private network. Shareware and freeware file-syncing applications include GoodSync and SyncBack. Besides offering robust options for file syncing (keeping multiple versions of replaced files, setting a schedule for syncing, compressing, or encrypting files), these programs typically allow you to sync with external drives, FTP sites, and servers.

Use Portable Devices to Sync Files

Another option to keep your latest files with you at all times is to use an external device such as a portable hard drive, a USB flash drive, or your smartphone. You can either work with files on the portable device or connect the device to your computer via Bluetooth or a USB cable to sync files, email, contacts, and calendar items.

Sometimes, copying files to and from an external drive may be your only option if you want to sync your home and office computers and your company's IT department doesn't allow the installation of non-approved software. In such circumstances, they might not allow external devices to be plugged in, so check with the IT team for your options.

Sync Email Accounts With IMAP

Regarding email, choosing the IMAP protocol in your email setup (in, for example, Outlook's desktop program) is the easiest for multicomputer access. It keeps a copy of all emails on the server until you delete them so that you can access the same emails from different devices.

If you use POP, which downloads your emails to your computer, most email programs have a setting in the account options to leave a copy of messages on the server until you delete them. This way, you get the same benefits as IMAP.

Transfer Microsoft Outlook (PST) Files

If you need to synchronize a locally stored PST file between two or more computers, you'll need a third-party solution like GoodSync. Alternatively, you can export emails from Outlook on one device and import them on the other.

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