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How to migrate from windows live mesh to skydrive

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader’s Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

Windows Live Mesh is set to shut down on February 13, 2013. If you still depend on Windows Live Mesh, you’ll need to find some alternatives soon. Remember to download your files before the deadline, too!

While SkyDrive is the successor to Windows Live Mesh, it has a different design philosophy and offers less features. Many Live Mesh users may be surprised at the missing features when they transition to SkyDrive.

Sync Files Across PCs and Share Folders, Fetch Any File

If you only use Windows Live Mesh to synchronize a folder of files between your computers and store them online, Microsoft’s SkyDrive is the perfect replacement. It gives you a single, Dropbox-style folder that automatically synchronizes whatever you put into it. The contents of this folder are also available on the SkyDrive website.

SkyDrive also offers the ability to share folders with others — you’ll find the sharing options on the SkyDrive website, not within Windows Explorer on your desktop.

For a more detailed overview of how the new SkyDrive works, read: How to Sync Files & Fetch Unsynced Files with SkyDrive

Sync Any Folder

Unlike Windows Live Mesh, SkyDrive does not offer the ability to synchronize any folder on your computer. If you still want to do this, you can create a symbolic link (also known as a “symlink” or “soft link”) with the mklink command.

You’ll have to run the same command on each computer you use. While this is not the ideal solution and isn’t as user-friendly, it will allow you to sync any folder on your computer with SkyDrive.

Peer-to-Peer Syncing

SkyDrive no longer offers the PC-to-PC syncing feature found in Windows Live Mesh. Microsoft wants to encourage you to use the cloud and store your files there, not on your local computers. You can still synchronize your files between your computers — but you’ll have to go through the cloud.

LogMeIn’s Cubby offers a DirectSync feature that can synchronize files and folders directly between your computers, skipping the cloud entirely. Many former Live Mesh users seem pleased with this service.

Remote Desktop Access

SkyDrive doesn’t have an integrated remote desktop feature. If you only want remote access to your files, you can use the Remote Fetch feature in SkyDrive. With Remote Fetch, you can remotely “fetch” any file from a powered-on computer. This is ideal if you only need remote access to your files.

If you need full remote desktop access, you’ll have to use another solution. Windows includes a built-in Remote Desktop feature, but it’s more difficult to use over the Internet and the remote desktop server isn’t available in Home versions of Windows.

To use Windows’ Remote Desktop feature securely over the Internet, you may want to try a VPN solution like LogMeIn Hamachi. Once you’ve set up a VPN and connected to it, you can use the Remote Desktop feature in Windows and remote desktop into other computers connected to the VPN.

Internet Explorer Favorites Sync

SkyDrive does not offer synchronization of the favorite websites you have saved in your Internet Explorer browser. However, if you’re using Windows 8, favorites synchronization for Internet Explorer 10 is now built-in.

If you’re using a previous version of Windows, you’ll need a different favorites synchronization solution. We’ve covered a few other options, including placing your Favorites folder in the SkyDrive folder or using the third-party Xmarks browser add-on.

Microsoft Office Settings Sync

SkyDrive does not offer the ability to synchronize your Microsoft Office settings between your computers. If you like this feature, you’ll be happy to know it’s now integrated into Office 2013. Users that depend on Live Mesh to synchronize their Office settings between computers should upgrade to Office 2013 for a more seamless experience.

Do you prefer another alternative to the Windows Live Mesh features listed here? Leave a comment and share any solutions you’ve found!

Tim Schiesser Neowin @scorpusv · Jan 14, 2013 19:39 EST · Hot! with 49 comments

Back in December of 2012, Microsoft announced that it would be retiring its Windows Live Mesh file syncing technology come February 13, 2013, meaning the remaining 25,000 or so Mesh users would have to migrate to SkyDrive for similar features. The aforementioned date is final, as this is the time when Microsoft will be fully shutting down the service, including remote desktop functionality and file syncing.

Before all this happens, it’s advisable that you download all the files that you stored in Windows Live Mesh–on February 13, 2013 they will all be deleted from the cloud. Microsoft notes that if you continued to use Mesh syncing, these files should already be up-to-date on your computer; if not, there are instructions available on how you can download your data.

If you’re worried about lost functionality from the switch to SkyDrive, don’t fret: basically all the features of Live Mesh are covered by other Microsoft services. SkyDrive takes care of syncing files to the cloud and downloading them in other locations, as well as sharing folders with family and friends. The remote desktop features are covered by Windows’ Remote Desktop Connection, or (as Microsoft recommends) LogMeIn Pro.

February 2013 concludes a phase-out period for Live Mesh that started back in February 2012, where Microsoft announced that SkyDrive would be superseding it. In Windows Live Essentials 2012, Microsoft removed the application in favor of the SkyDrive for Windows desktop app, and since then the user base for Mesh has dwindled, making the final death next month not a huge concern.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Wikimedia

Windows Live Mesh will be retired by Microsoft on February 13, 2013 in favor of the company’s SkyDrive cloud hosting and synchronization service. Microsoft has set up a support page for Mesh customers that informs them about the migration process to SkyDrive. The company notes that files synchronized with Mesh won’t be available online anymore starting the date of retirement. The copies on the local system are unaffected by this for obvious reasons, and the first thing that Mesh users need to make sure of is that they have synced all files stored online with local systems to avoid losing access to these files in the migration process.

The company notes in an email sent out to all Mesh users entitled “The future of Windows Live Mesh” that 40% of Mesh users are already using SkyDrive actively.

Microsoft highlights how Mesh users can download files from the Devices website of the Mesh service instead of using the file synchronization software to do so.

The support page details how Mesh users can get started with SkyDrive:

  • Download the SkyDrive desktop software
  • Get a SkyDrive app for a mobile phone
  • Use the SkyDrive.com website directly to access and upload files

SkyDrive may be in many aspects the better syncing solution as it is providing users with additional storage and support for mobile devices for instance. Mesh on the other hand supported the synchronization of any folder on the system much like Cubby does. This option is unfortunately not provided by SkyDrive at the time of writing. With SkyDrive, users get a root folder that will be synced automatically with the online storage. You need to place all files into the folder or use trickery in form of symbolic links to add folders from outside the directory structure to SkyDrive.

Mesh users also had access to a remote access feature which SkyDrive does not support in this way. Microsoft recommends to either use Remove Desktop Connection, a program built in to many recent versions of Windows, or Log Me In Pro, a software by the developers of Cubby.

What Microsoft failed to address on the support page was Mesh’s Lan syncing feature which SkyDrive in this form is not offering as well. It is interesting to note that Cubby Pro is offering that feature as well in form of DirectSync.

Microsoft will kill Live Mesh on Wednesday, so current users have only a couple of days left to jump ship to SkyDrive or a similar service.

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He’s written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He’s the author of two tech books–one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.

Still using Windows Live Mesh? You won’t be much longer.

Come Wednesday, the online storage and syncing service will draw its final breath , leaving Mesh users without a home. So, where can you go if you’re currently using Mesh to back up, store, and synchronize your files?

A variety of online storage sites are available. Microsoft’s SkyDrive is one obvious choice since it already offers some, but not all, of the features of Live Mesh.

How do you switch from Live Mesh to SkyDrive? And what are the potential pitfalls? Let’s go through the process.

First, shut down Live Mesh on your PC. To do that, right-click on the Live Mesh icon in the Windows System tray and choose Exit from the popup menu.

You then need to uninstall Live Mesh. Head to the Programs section in Control Panel. You most likely installed Live Mesh as part of Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials 2011. Look for Windows Live Essentials in the Programs list and uninstall it.

Windows will ask if you want to uninstall the entire suite or just certain components. You can choose to remove them all since they can be reinstalled through the latest Windows Essentials 2012 suite. You may also find a Windows Live Mesh ActiveX control, which should be uninstalled as well. You’ll then be prompted to reboot your computer.

After your PC has rebooted, launch your browser. If you want to install just SkyDrive, open the SkyDrive desktop app for Windows page and click on the Download now button. Otherwise, if you want to install the full Windows Essentials 2012 suite, open the Windows Essentials Web page and click on the Download now button.

Installing Windows Essentials will prompt you to either install the entire suite or choose which applications you want. Make sure to at least select SkyDrive from the list.

After the installation, select Microsoft SkyDrive from the Start menu, or the Start screen if you’re using Windows 8. You may see a message that SkyDrive is being updated to the latest version. You’ll then receive a Welcome to SkyDrive screen. Click the Get started button. Sign in with your Microsoft account.

The next screen confirms that your SkyDrive folder will be created under your Users folder. But you can change this to a different location. In my case, I set the SkyDrive folder under my Documents folder. Click Next.

You then determine what you want to sync. You can sync all of the folders under SkyDrive or just certain ones. Click Next. The final “Fetch your files from anywhere” screen gives you the ability to access files on this PC from another computer. You can then click Done.

You’ll now need to move any folders you want to back up and sync to the new SkyDrive folder. Only folders stored under the SkyDrive folder are included in the synchronization.

And that’s about it.

SkyDrive Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

You can now repeat this process for any other computers you want to synchronize with SkyDrive. I have one desktop and two laptops running SkyDrive. On each one, I included folders for my Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and a few other file folders. Those files are backed up to SkyDrive and also synced among my three computers.

So, does SkyDrive provide all of the features of Live Mesh. No, not quite. SkyDrive does offer some advantages over Live Mesh. For example, you can access your SkyDrive files from virtually any computer or mobile device equipped with the SkyDrive application.

But in other ways, SkyDrive falls short when compared with Live Mesh.

Live Mesh lets you synchronize your Internet Explorer favorites among different computers. SkyDrive doesn’t offer that option. Instead, you need to use a third-party tool such as Xmarks. Xmarks is actually a better option since it can sync favorites and bookmarks across a variety of different browsers.

Live Mesh lets you synchronize any folder on your computer regardless of its location. SkyDrive forces you to move your synchronized folders so they become subfolders of SkyDrive. In some cases, that may not pose a problem. After I moved my Word document and Excel spreadsheet folders, I simply opened Word and Excel and changed the default save file locations. In other cases, moving entire folders may be more problematic.

Live Mesh offers peer-to-peer syncing, so you don’t have to store your files online to sync them among different devices. SkyDrive forces you to store your files in the cloud to sync them.

Live Mesh allows you to synchronize styles, templates, and other settings from Microsoft Office. SkyDrive doesn’t offer that option. Office users would have to migrate to Office 2013 to gain the same benefit.

Live Mesh offers a remote desktop feature so you can access another PC in your Live Mesh network. SkyDrive doesn’t provide remote desktop capabilities. Instead, you have to use the Remote Desktop application built into Windows.

Related stories

  • Microsoft: Come next February, Live Mesh will be dead
  • Microsoft replaces Live Mesh with SkyDrive in Windows bundle
  • Dear Microsoft: Please don’t take away my Live Mesh
  • Microsoft beefs up SkyDrive with more features
  • Microsoft smooths out some of SkyDrive’s rough edges

In a blog posted last December, Microsoft confirmed the upcoming death of Live Mesh and recommended that people switch to SkyDrive.

That news triggered comments from many disappointed users complaining that SkyDrive lacked several of Live Mesh’s best features.

In response, the author of the blog, David Kornfield, actually went so far as to suggest a couple of third-party alternatives such as LogMeIn Pro for remote access and Cubby for peer-to-peer syncing.

But something’s definitely wrong if you have to recommend another company’s product because your own is insufficient in key ways.

I was a diehard fan of Windows Live Mesh and will be sorry to see it retired. I’ve since adjusted to SkyDrive with help from Xmarks and other third-party tools.

Microsoft has been tweaking SkyDrive over the past several months, so the product continues to improve. But like other users, I wish SkyDrive were more robust and flexible at this point, especially with Live Mesh preparing to take its final bow this week.

SkyDrive’s desktop app has been rightly supplemented with the new and revamped web interface. Overall, the change has been very impressive so far. However, if you are somebody who loved using Windows Live Mesh and admired its ability of allowing you to sync files and folders from their actual locations, you must be missing that on SkyDrive.

Like Dropbox, Google Drive and the like, you have to move contents to the SkyDrive folder in order to sync them. And though you can continue using Live Mesh with Essentials 2011 suite, it has been discontinued with the latest 2012 version.

Hence, we plan to discuss a solution as proposed by Jan Hannemann that lets you emulate a Mesh like behavior and sync folders to SkyDrive without moving them to the SkyDrive Directory. And while we are at it, we also discuss a cool tip towards the end for those who wouldn’t want to use this process due to some of its limitations.

Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Download the Sky ShellEx extension; either 32 bit version or 64 bit version as required by your machine’s compatibility. Here’s how to find out which one of those you have.

Step 2: Unzip the contents of the downloaded file and run the application setup.

Step 3: There’s no Step 3. You are done. Want to know what just happened? An option named Sync to SkyDrive just got added to the right-click context menu for your folders.

So, now you can right-click on any folder on your machine and synchronize it to the cloud without having to move it manually to the designated directory.

What the system actually does is that it creates a symbolic link to that folder and makes SkyDrive believe that the folder under sync is actually residing in its destination.

You can discontinue the syncing process at any time by visiting the SkyDrive directory, right-clicking on the concerned folder and choosing Stop Sync to SkyDrive.

Limitations

Well, there are a few limitations to this extension. However, I feel we can take the good and live with these not-so-important features.

  • The Sync to SkyDrive option does not show on the context menu of a file.
  • A synchronized folder does not show any image or icon to determine that it is already taken care of. The right-click menu still shows Sync to SkyDrive. So, in order to check you will have to visit the SkyDrive directory.

Bonus Tip – Add SkyDrive to Send-to Menu in Windows

If you are ok with SkyDrive’s default behavior and do not require such a workaround then we have something else that may interest you and help you in your day-to-day productivity.

You would agree to the fact that all that you wish to sync has to be moved to the SkyDrive folder, right? This means, you either have to perform a drag and drop action or a copy paste sequence. To make the movement quick and easy, you can add SkyDrive’s location to the right click Send to menu.

Does that not make moving files and folders to SkyDrive easier? It certainly does.

Conclusion

The Sky ShellEx extensions shared by Jan are simply awesome. Though you can create symbolic links manually, putting that effort for each request is kind of hectic. And then the right-click option also lures you to use it. Hope you find this useful.

Last updated on 02 February, 2022

The above article may contain affiliate links which help support Guiding Tech. However, it does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains unbiased and authentic.

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Microsoft continues to exhibit cognitive dissonance in its approach to the cloud, with conflicting storage capabilities

Let’s say you sit on a design team at Microsoft. Let’s say that you want to help IT folks on the road move their data into and out of the cloud. So you start by offering branded cloud storage that works with all Microsoft products, right?

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors’ 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld’s Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

In yet another demonstration of how to confuse customers in droves, Microsoft has released details about its cloud-based synchronizing capability, now christened Windows Live Mesh. To understand the confusion, it helps if you know the history.

The new Windows Live Mesh represents a mashup of two older products: Windows Live Sync (formerly known as FolderShare) and Live Mesh (which grew from Ray Ozzie’s FeedSync).

Windows Live Sync runs on Windows XP and Mac OS X systems and later. Part of Windows 7’s Live Essentials, it emphasizes synchronizing files across computers, sharing files with other people, and getting at your files remotely from any computer connected to the Internet. As you make changes to files in a synced folder, Windows Live Sync changes those files on any other connected computer that has permission to use the folder. Windows Live Photo Gallery tied directly into Windows Live Sync.

Live Mesh took a different approach. Like Live Sync, it runs on Windows XP and Mac OS X systems and later, but it also runs on Windows Mobile 6. It has a remote desktop capability, which lets you use any Internet-connected computer to log on to a Mesh computer or phone and control it. Unlike Sync, Live Mesh is firmly based in the cloud: You can log on to the Mesh website and access your synchornized data. Perhaps most significantly, Live Mesh has an API, so developers can write programs that (at least in theory) take advantage of the Mesh capabilities.

The mashup didn’t go smoothly. Microsoft had naming problems — the combined product went from Mesh to Sync to Mesh again. Then there was the storage limitation. At first Microsoft said storage would be limited to 2GB, then to 5GB. Typical Microsoft marketing nits.

The big problems go far deeper.

This new Windows Live Mesh doesn’t support Windows XP. Full stop. If you have an XP computer that you want to include in your sharing and syncing, you have to use a competitive (some would say “better”) tool, such as DropBox.

The new Windows Live Mesh doesn’t work with Windows Mobile — you can’t mesh with a phone. It doesn’t have an API, so developers can’t fix Mesh’s problems. Migrating from the old Sync or Mesh to the new Mesh is fraught with problems. Windows Live Photo Gallery doesn’t do Mesh. Gallery users are stuck in a disconnected parallel universe.

Which brings me to the biggest problem of all: the storage disconnect. Windows Live Office/Office Web Apps and Windows Live Photo Gallery both use Windows Live SkyDrive for their storage. It’s easy to stick a file in SkyDrive, change it with an Office Web App, then pull it back down to your PC, for example. Upload a photo with Windows Live Photo Gallery and it goes into SkyDrive no sweat. But heaven help ya if you want to open a Mesh file with an Office Web App, or touch it up with Gallery, or attach a Mesh file to a Hotmail message.

SkyDrive and Mesh are completely separate. They’re both cloud storage. Both from Microsoft. Both accessible via a browser. But when it comes to working with files ensconced in each, they’re on different planets. SkyDrive is SkyDrive and Mesh is Mesh, and never the twain shall meet.

Microsoft has three completely independent cloud storage systems, and they don’t talk to each other, much less work with each other. Windows Live Hotmail offers unlimited storage. SkyDrive has 25GB. Mesh has 5GB. Why? What were they thinking?

This article, “Windows Live Mesh: Out of sync,” was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Woody Leonhard is a columnist at Computerworld and author of dozens of Windows books, including “Windows 10 All-in-One for Dummies.”

The service will be shut down in February 2013, the company announced

Windows Live Mesh, Microsoft’s file synchronization and remote desktop application, will be retired on February 13, 2013, so all users are now recommended to make the move to SkyDrive.

The decision to retire this new service was pretty simple, Microsoft said, as SkyDrive is now integrated into devices and apps “in a way that makes saving to the cloud, or using your cloud files, simple and seamless.”

What’s more, the number of users still relying on Windows Live Mesh has dropped significantly in the last couple of years, mostly because users have decided to switch to SkyDrive. Or at least, that’s what Microsoft claims.

“So while Windows Live Mesh was at one point used by a few million people, most have made the move and there are now less than 25,000 active users of Windows Live Mesh,” David Kornfield, product marketer, said.

“We’re announcing today that Windows Live Mesh will be officially retired on February 13, 2013, and we’re starting to communicate with the remaining Mesh users and provide a set of instructions on how to keep their files in sync and alternative options for some of the features they’re still using.”

The company has also released a small guide on how to access three of the main Windows Live Mesh features in SkyDrive, thus trying to make the transition easier for all users.

This is the third service that’s retired in just a couple of months, as Microsoft has also announced that it would pull the plug on Windows Live Messenger and Silverlight.net.

Windows Live Messenger will be shut down in early 2013 and all users would have to make the switch to Skype and its integrated Messenger, as the company tries to mix the two platforms and thus provide a much more reliable and effective instant messaging solution.

Microsoft chose to kill off Live Mesh, its PC-to-PC syncing service, late last year. Of course we knew this was coming when Windows Essentials 2012 was released without the Live Mesh app as a part of the suite, but for some reason, the company waited to hold off making the official announcement until a bit later.

The reason for the move is clear — Microsoft wants customers to migrate to SkyDrive. Although it’s unquestionably a great cloud service, SkyDrive doesn’t provide P2P syncing like Live Mesh, instead forcing customers to use the cloud as an intermediary. Sounds fine, but it only comes with 7 GB of free storage, or 25 GB if you were grandfathered in as an early adopter.

Ironically, as I was nosing around for alternatives for my lost Live Mesh over the long holiday weekend, I stumbled upon an old friend: SyncToy. Yes, it is still alive and available for download from Microsoft. Although the free PowerToy hasn’t been updated since November 24, 2009, I was pleased to find it plays just fine with Windows 8 and even still asks, upon installation, if you want to share information via the “Customer Experience Improvement Program”.

For now, Microsoft is not forcing users to upgrade from Live Essentials 2011, but that will likely happen in the future. I cannot imagine the company will continue to keep SyncToy available for download either — it’s clearly neglecting the app and I doubt my “customer feedback” will actually be read by anyone.

Still, you can grab it now and be ready when the company begins forcefully upgrading customers to Windows Essentials 2012, killing off your Live Mesh for good.

Microsoft has some cool products hiding behind ridiculously confusing names. Users of the very nifty Live Mesh file and desktop syncing beta, for example, were told their service shuts down in March 2011. Where should they migrate? Windows Live Mesh, of course.

Live Mesh Connects Folders and Desktops Across Windows PCs

Windows only (for the moment): Microsoft has thrown open the doors to a “tech preview” of its…

Microsoft is emailing Live Mesh beta users and explaining how they can transition their files to Windows Live Mesh. It involves not a small bit of re-configuring the folders you want to sync, the settings you’d like for each synced folders, and waiting while your folders all move over to the new Windows Live Mesh servers.

If that was the only hiccup in an upgrade, that would be minor, if annoying. Windows Live Mesh certainly looks intriguing, using 5 GB of your 25 GB of free SkyDrive space for file syncing, working on Windows and Mac systems, offering syncing of settings for Internet Explorer and Office apps, and continuing the fairly seamless and easy to set up remote desktop function we loved in the original .

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But it’s the naming, and duality of names, that puts people off—people including your Lifehacker editors, if I do presume to speak for most of us. The fact that somebody pulled the trigger on a mass user email saying, essentially, “Live Mesh is dead, so use Windows Live Mesh” is pretty astounding. To then require that users pull off what amounts to a manual transition of folders they wanted to set-and-forget for syncing is just salt in the weirdly worded wound.

Update: The transition to Windows Live Mesh also involves users of Windows Live Sync, somehow, but it hurts my brain too much, and I’ve run out of time, to try and figure out how that’s involved.

There’s certainly an ecosystem building behind the Windows Live brand. SkyDrive is the storage hub, Hotmail is the messaging center, the Windows Live Essentials apps are the desktop components, and the continually popular Windows Live Messenger (once MSN Messenger) is the live message component that ties into a surprising number of these elements. But keeping the legacy names, and requiring that “Windows” be tacked before each product, is a big part of what makes it all feel so loosely amalgamated

“Windows Live Hotmail” sounds just plain awkward, what with having three adjectives tacked onto your email service. Very few people, too, won’t notice the built-in cultural clash of installing “Windows Live Mesh” on your Mac. SkyDrive was, to be sure, likely an expensive URL to grab from the squatters and patent trolls, but why not simply label your 25 GB of free online storage largess as a “Windows Live Drive”? Bundling together the Movie Maker, blog-focused Writer, photo Gallery, and other desktop apps into one big “Live Essentials” bundle was a smart move, and one that freed up the Windows 7 desktop, and one that Apple does likewise with its iLife apps. But to get people interested in Live Essentials, there needs to be a clearer explanation of how these apps tie into the larger Live ecosystem. Just “Live,” that is—after a few minutes, any user will get that it’s a Windows-focused ecosystem.

Windows Phone 7 is, by many accounts from even the most cynical, a huge step forward in the firm’s mobile and cloud competency. One hopes they’ll stay away from saddling the phone with connected services that take up an entire breath to get out.

The thing is, we were as invested in Live Mesh as anybody, probably more so. We’ve been avid followers since back when it was only us and the hamsters and the gerbils. In December of 2007 we told you to “Pay Attention to FeedSync”, then we followed Ray Ozzie to Mix to see what was on the Horizon, and we’ve been devoted Live Mesh users ever since.

Truth be told, we’ve been hearing rumblings for months that the new Live Sync wouldn’t carry forward the 5gb (or even 30gb for some select few) of cloud sync that Live Mesh users were used to. But we understand (we think) why the change was necessary. Some bean counters at Microsoft, for one thing, started doing the math on how much storage would be required to accommodate the flood of new Live Sync users coming with Wave 4, and that was the end of that. Paul Thurrott, in his delightfully cynical way, describes it best:

…it’s pretty clear that the 25 GB limit is and has been a bit of a game, because Microsoft has also made it very, very difficult to populate that storage within anything meaningful to actual users. Just ask anyone who’s tried to upload documents or photos in bulk about how difficult it is using Microsoft’s almost non-existent tools. (Only a web uploader is provided, and there is no automated method/Explorer add-in at all.)

Windows Live Sync, of course, does provide an automated way to put stuff in the cloud. So now that Microsoft has made this process easy in certain scenarios, they’ve also taken away storage instead of adding it, as one might expect when Live Mesh/Sync is combined with Windows Live SkyDrive. It’s just another game: It can be huge but inaccessible or tiny but accessible, apparently.

Quite a number of readers commented on David Treadwell’s blog post highlighting Live Sync, with a number of concerns. Jeremy Mazner from Live Sync (actually: Principal Program Manger Lead for Live Sync Client Runtime, ouch) responded to many of them, and we’ll try to sum up his responses here:

  • Some stuff about how 2gb is really ok, after all
  • Live Mesh users will have at least 6 months after the beta ends and Live Sync is released to move content from Live Mesh to Live Sync (or where ever). Installing Wave 4 will uninstall Live Mesh and install Live Sync, you can’t have both on the same machine.
  • No plans to add remote desktop for the Mac
  • Sharing between Live Mesh and Live Sync, or the old Live Sync and the new one, are not possible
  • You can’t move files from the Live Sync part of SkyDrive to the other part of SkyDrive “in this release”

Microsoft still needs to offer a way to provide cloud storage for your synced files, and users seem willing to pay if a pricing and a billing model could be worked out (hey, there’s this thing called Azure, with cloud storage and a billing model and sync and…, ever hear of it?). We haven’t heard much recently about an SDK, and we’re hoping that developers both within and beyond Microsoft will be able to extend Live Sync.

We’re also perplexed, four years after Windows Live Favorites was released, why we still don’t have an easy built in way to store IE favorites in the cloud. This seems to be the perfect use of that 2gb: fill it with Favorites, Office settings, and Messenger conversation history, and call it good, with a business model for more cloud storage sync on top of that. We used to have Windows Live Favorites, and after that the Windows Live Toolbar, and now no cloud sync at all?

But we’re excited to try out the new Live Sync. We think going with just one sync product is the right move, we (begrudgingly) understand the massive scale issues with giving people large cloud storage, and we’re willing to wait (but not another year or more!) for more features to be added.

What do you think about how you’ll be using Live Sync? Let us know by voting in our new poll (in the sidebar on the right), and fire away in the comments.

Microsoft is shutting down its syncing and remote desktop tool, Live Mesh. Here are some good alternatives.

Microsoft recently rang the death knell for Live Mesh, and when it’s retired on February 13, 2013, so will important features like peer-to-peer offline file syncing and remote desktop access. Those are features not found in SkyDrive, the online syncing tool Microsoft wants you to use instead. Don’t worry, you can get Live Mesh-like functionality with a few other apps and workarounds.

Syncing files between computers without storing them in the cloud: SkyDrive’s automatic syncing is pretty good, but it forces you to store everything online. One of Live Mesh’s best features is its offline computer-to-computer syncing. Several other apps fill in this need:

  • Cubby from LogMeIn can sync to both a free 5GB online storage and/or privately across your Windows and Mac computers. It’s free and the direct syncing is unlimited.
  • For syncing just between Windows PCs, SyncBack is pretty powerful and offers lots of options for your syncing jobs. You can also use the program to schedule backups. There are free and paid versions available.
  • One other alternative is GoodSync from SiberSystems, which can sync between Windows and Macs, as well as sync your files to online storage services such as Amazon S3 and Google Docs. The free version, however, only syncs 100 files, while the Pro version costs $29.95 or $39.95.

Take a look at the syncing features for the programs above to see which best meets your needs.

Selecting which folders to sync: The programs above let you select which folders you want to keep in sync, as opposed to the single folder location SkyDrive offers. If you want to use SkyDrive for syncing online, though, and want selective folder syncing, you can use a utility called SkyShellEx to enable that. An alternative syncing and storage option that has selective folders syncing is SugarSync.

Remote desktop access: If you want the ability to remotely log into and control your computer from afar, Microsoft suggests two alternatives: the Remote Desktop Connection built into Windows or LogMeIn.

Whatever apps you choose to replace Live Mesh with, don’t forget to save any and all Mesh files you synced online before the February end date.

This story, “How to get the key features of Live Mesh, now that Microsoft is getting rid of it” was originally published by ITworld .

Melanie Pinola is a freelance writer covering all things tech-related. A former IT admin and occasional web developer, she is also the author of LinkedIn in 30 Minutes, a Lifehacker writer, and the Mobile Office Technology expert at About.com.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

When you think of Web apps and services, Microsoft doesn’t immediately come to mind. Lately, though, the company has been rolling out a slew of them, including several that match or beat competing offerings from Google, Yahoo, and any number of startups you’ve never heard of.

Which of those Microsoft services are the best? We’ve tried them all, and we’ve selected five free hidden gems.

You’ll notice that most of these services carry Microsoft’s “Live” brand. If you’re like most people, you’re probably thoroughly confused by the Live lineup, and by what Live actually means–especially since Microsoft has muddied the waters with the newer “Live Essentials” moniker. For the record, Windows Live is a central online location for accessing the Live services and applications. Windows Live Essentials is a subset of the Windows Live brand that houses downloadable applications, including Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Messenger, and others.

Windows Live SkyDrive

How’s this for a deal: Get 25GB of online storage, at no cost, with no strings attached. That’s what Windows Live SkyDrive offers. Just create folders on the site and upload files to it. You can share any of your folders with colleagues, as well. The site’s design is simple and straightforward.

That isn’t to say SkyDrive is flawless. You can’t use it as a virtual drive–it won’t appear on your PC as a drive, so you can’t save files directly to it within a program like Microsoft Word. That’s a minor point, though. You can’t argue with 25GB of free storage, especially considering that neither Google nor Yahoo currently has this kind of service. While Google is rumored to be working on a similar service called GDrive, Yahoo’s Briefcase provides only 25MB of space, and is shutting down at the end of March anyway. So right now Windows Live SkyDrive is as good as online storage gets.

Windows Live Sync

If you have more than one PC and you want to keep files and folders on them synchronized, you need this service. After you download and run a small piece of software on each PC, head to the Windows Live Sync Web site and tell it which folders on which PCs should stay in sync.

You can synchronize your personal folders as well as your shared ones. Whenever any of your PCs are connected to the Internet, they will automatically sync the specified folders with one another. In addition, you can connect to any synced computer from any other computer to browse through the remote system’s entire hard disk and to download files.

Note that unlike some of the fee-based sync services we looked at last year, Live Sync does not keep copies of your files in the cloud: It merely serves as a conduit between PCs. Since it involves no online storage, however, it puts no iimit on the amount of data you can sync. And, of course, it’s free.

Live Mesh

Here’s a free Microsoft service for people who do want to keep their files in the cloud. Though Live Mesh is more powerful than Windows Live Sync, it’s also a bit more complicated.

Rather than synchronize files and folders from PC to PC, you create folders in Live Mesh and then have all of your PCs synchronize with those folders. With this arrangement, you can access the files and folders from any Internet-connected computer. You have an exceptional amount of control over the synchronization, too–for example, you can choose to synchronize only the files modified in the last 30 days, or those under 500MB. Live Mesh supports remote control of any PC in your mesh, as well. So far, Microsoft has announced no plans to charge for storage–or to limit the amount of data you can store.

Microsoft Office Live Workspace

Office Live Workspace will help anyone with a small business or in a workgroup who needs a simple way to collaborate on projects. With this service you can create and share documents, schedules, to-do lists, and more.

You start by creating a shared “workspace.” You can choose from 11 prebuilt ones–such as a Project Workspace, a Meeting Workspace, or a Travel Workspace–or you can create your own from scratch. Each workspace has templates already created for it, including PowerPoint presentations, Excel worksheets, and Word documents. Group members can work on the documents and save them for colleagues to see and edit. To edit the Office documents, you’ll need to install a free Office add-in, although anyone can view them without the add-in or Office.

Why use this rather than Google Docs or Zoho? One big, exclusive benefit is its direct integration with Microsoft Office–right within the Office suite, you can save files to your workspace, and you can use the Office programs to edit files in your workspace. On top of that, the template-driven approach to creating documents and workspaces is superior to anything you’ll find in Google Docs or Zoho.

Microsoft’s Virtual Earth 3D

Okay, this one isn’t a Web service, strictly speaking–it’s a desktop app that works with a Web service. But it’s a good one: Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D.

Because Google Earth is so predominant in this arena, not many people bother with Microsoft’s product, and that’s a shame. This downloadable application works in concert with Windows Live Maps to give you dramatic and compelling 3D views of places around the world. Using simple controls, you can fly in and out of cities in full 3D. You can also go on guided tours that other people create, and you can make tours of your own. You can save your tours for future visits, too, or share them with other users.

The views are richer and more compelling than what Google has to offer, so if you’re looking for great 3D mapping, this is the service to try.

To use Virtual Earth 3D in concert with Microsoft’s Live Maps service, you must download the Virtual Earth 3D software, from either Windows Live Maps or Microsoft’s general downloads site.

Microsoft says that the software will work with a 1GHz processor and 256MB of RAM, but recommends a 2.8GHz or faster CPU and 1GB of RAM. Go with the recommended specs or better, or else you’ll find the app very slow going.

Microsoft has cooked up yet another version of SkyDrive with several useful features, but it’s missing the key benefits of Windows Live Mesh.

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He’s written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He’s the author of two tech books–one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.

Microsoft giveth, and it taketh away. At least, that’s how it looks with the latest incarnation of the SkyDrive online storage service.

Unveiled this week, the preview of the new SkyDrive kicks in several improvements over its Web-based predecessor.

The old SkyDrive Web site separates documents that you upload from those synced via Live Mesh, creating a limited and clumsy workspace. The new preview edition ensures that all files are stored in one place, whether they’re uploaded or synced from your PC.

You can now view and open all your SkyDrive files directly from Windows Explorer, eliminating the need to log into your SkyDrive Web site. You can also view and access the folders and files of any remote PC that’s part of your SkyDrive cloud network.

Further, Microsoft has added a paid storage option. As your needs grow beyond the initial 7GB for new users and 25GB for existing users who opt in, you can pay for more space.

Related stories

  • Microsoft adds paid storage tiers to SkyDrive cloud service
  • Microsoft SkyDrive aiming to outcloud iCloud
  • Live Mesh 2011

The company has also developed a preview of SkyDrive for OS X Lion and mobile apps for iOS and Windows Phone.

OK, all of that sounds great. So what’s the problem?

In beefing up SkyDrive, Microsoft has also jettisoned the best parts of its Live Mesh syncing service.

Separate from SkyDrive, Live Mesh is a free peer-to-peer service that lets you sync specific folders and files across all your PCs. It’s a valuable tool for anyone who needs to access the same documents on multiple PCs.

The beauty of Live Mesh, though, is that you can sync any folder anywhere on your hard drive without having to move or copy it to a specific location. You simply tell Live Mesh which folders to keep in sync on each PC, and it does the rest.

The new SkyDrive will sync your files. But unlike Live Mesh, it won’t sync specific folders from anywhere on your PC.

Instead, it creates a folder on your PC called SkyDrive. Any subfolder or file you wish to sync has to be moved to that specific location. So what was once an automated process now becomes a manual and laborious task. It also can easily create problems for applications that want to store content in your Documents folder, for example.

In its recent blog on the new SkyDrive, Microsoft tried to justify removing the individual folder syncing. The company said that such an option “introduced too many unresolvable complexities across different PCs, with the path on one PC synchronizing to entirely different paths on other PCs and the cloud.”

Sorry, I don’t buy that. I don’t think it’s too difficult to figure out where your documents and photos and other files are stored on one PC versus another PC, especially if they’re running the same operating system.

Microsoft does offer some suggestions for people disgruntled over the removal of this feature. But none of them are as smooth and convenient as the option offered by Live Mesh.

Further, Live Mesh doesn’t require you to store your documents in the cloud. You can use it strictly on a peer-to-peer basis, syncing documents just among your own PCs. But SkyDrive forces you to store your files online, a concern for anyone who doesn’t want their content in the cloud for safety or security reasons.

Live Mesh also lets you keep your Internet Explorer favorites in sync among your various PCs. But that too is missing in action from the new SkyDrive. Microsoft specifically says that the IE favorite syncing is unavailable in SkyDrive but is part of the Windows 8 beta, aka Consumer Preview. That’s fine for folks running Windows 8. But what about people who plan to continue using Windows 7?

Or course, Live Mesh is still alive and well at this point. Microsoft hasn’t announced any intention to bump it off. But the writing is clearly on the wall. Since the new SkyDrive offers both file storage and syncing, there won’t be much room at the table for Live Mesh.

But before the service formally kicks the bucket, I hope Microsoft will listen to loyal Live Mesh users. Many have already responded to the company’s blog complaining about the lack of peer-to-peer and invididual folder syncing in the new SkyDrive.

I’m sure Microsoft anticipated some backlash since it specifically set up a Web page explaining the new SkyDrive to Live Mesh users. But instead of trying to justify the changes, why can’t Microsoft transfer some of the key benefits of Live Mesh over to SkyDrive, at least as an option?

SkyDrive is still in preview mode, so there’s plenty of time to tweak it. If not, then I’m sure I’ll be able to find another good file storage and syncing service out there somewhere.

If I had to name just one tech tool that has completely transformed the way I work, it would have to be Dropbox. But Dropbox only gives you 2GB of free storage (3GB if you jump through some hoops and spam your friends about the service) before you have to pony up $10 a month for an upgrade to 50GB. And I’m way too cheap for that. But with a couple of free downloads, you can get Dropbox-like simplicity in Windows Explorer with Microsoft’s free SkyDrive storage service.

What makes any given cloud storage tool useful is its integration with the OS. On nearly every platform I can think of, Dropbox has achieved a brilliant level of OS integration so it works just like any other folder on your hard drive. (To the extent that such a thing is possible, anyway.) By itself, Microsoft’s SkyDrive is mostly a web-based kludge, requiring you to work through a browser to manage your files. So even though it gives you 12.5 times more free storage than Dropbox, it requires additional tools to make it work well. Fortunately, there are a couple of good options to help you take advantage of SkyDrive.

Windows Live Mesh

Part of Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials pack, Windows Live Mesh lets you share and sync folders via SkyDrive on Windows and Mac OS X in much the same way as you would with Dropbox. Unfortunately, the Live Essentials version only lets you sync 5GB of your total SkyDrive capacity, which detracts somewhat from its allure.

SDExplorer

Another tool, SDExplorer, simplifies SkyDrive dramatically, and gives you full access to all of your SkyDrive capacity. SDExplorer comes in two versions: a feature-limited freebie and a robust premium version. The free version imposes limits on the size of files you can upload (50MB or less per file), won’t let you move files and folders around within SkyDrive, and won’t let you manage folder sharing within the app. The premium version, which runs $14 for a single-PC license and $20 for a multi-PC, single-user license, lifts all these restrictions and adds support for shared managing shared documents in Windows Live Groups. The drawback to SDExplorer is that it doesn’t actually sync your SkyDrive folders to your PC. It just gives you access to them over a live Internet connection.

Between the two options, I’m partial to SDExplorer, because–for me, at least–SkyDrive’s capacity is its primary attraction, and limiting the amount that I can sync renders it relatively uninteresting. Plus, Live Mesh isn’t really ready for prime time on the Mac, and I’ve experienced weird issues getting the Mac version to share the same folder with the latest Windows version (oddly, the older beta version Live Mesh still works fine across both).

Overall, however, neither Windows Live Mesh nor SDExplorer really gives you as much multiplatform usability as Dropbox does. While SkyDrive is getting great integration on Windows Phone 7, it remains mostly a browser-based experience on other smartphone platforms, with serious limitations.

So, should you dump Dropbox for SkyDrive? It depends. If you live almost exclusively in Windows and don’t need much mobile access to your files–or if you use Windows on the desktop and Windows Phone 7–then SkyDrive is a no-brainer. But if, like me, you’re constantly moving between various platforms in the course of a day, Dropbox is still the king of cloud storage.

No one from Microsoft will go on the record saying it, but it’s looking more and more like Live Mesh may be on its way to being phased out.

It’s been a long strange trip for Live Mesh, Microsoft’s cross-PC synchronization service. It’s gone by a slew of different names, including Windows Live Sync, FolderShare, and way back in 2008, codename “Horizon.” And it’s morphed almost as many times in terms in terms of its promised feature set.

Currently, Live Mesh is considered part of the Windows Live Essentials bundle of software and services, which also includes Windows Live Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, Family Safety and the Bing Bar. But I’m thinking the next version of Live Essentials — whatever that looks like, given that some of the Live Essentials services seem likely to become Windows 8 apps — may not include a standalone Live Mesh offering at all.

Live Mesh 2011 allows users to sync their documents, photos and other files across their PCs and Macs, as well as with SkyDrive. It enables users to connect remotely to PCs that are online in order to “fetch” content from them. And it allows users to sync program settings and IE favorites across PCs.

A subset of Live Mesh’s functionality is in the midst of being folded into SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, the local Windows and Mac SkyDrive apps, which are available, as of this week, in preview form; and the smartphone versions of SkyDrive apps available for Windows Phone, iPhone, and likely someday soon, Android phones. (The SkyDrive team is releasing updates on roughly a quarterly basis these days, a far cry from the once every two/three years release pace that many of the Windows Live properties have followed up until now.)

“As we discussed recently, we are excited to bring the DNA of SkyDrive and Mesh together to provide our customers with seamless access to their content,” said a company spokesperson when I asked whether Mesh will be completely supplanted by SkyDrive. “We think you will find SkyDrive to be increasingly useful over time.”

Microsoft’s apparent goal is to wean current Mesh users from that service and move them to SkyDrive. On April 23, Microsoft posted a comparative chart entitled “SkyDrive for Mesh users” that highlighted the ways in which many of Live Mesh’s feature equivalents are being incorporated into SkyDrive.

The way that SkyDrive handles syncing is quite different from how Live Mesh does it, which is something not reflected by the chart. With SkyDrive Live Mesh, users can sync between PCs without going to the cloud to do so. A number of commenters on this week’s Building Windows 8 blog post about SkyDrive reiterated that they considered this feature a differentiator from other syncing services, and something that will be sorely missed.

With Mesh, users have more granular control over how much of their content they sync. That goes away with SkyDrive, as poster Christopher Copeland noted in the comments:

“I think we need a property / attribute on each folder that indicates if it is synchronized or not with each device (a la Mesh)… I am OK with providing a consistent Path per install. but putting up to

25GB across each machine with no ability to segment what goes where (personal vs. business for example) is a non-starter for me and this service as my ‘end all be all’ — and I really wanted it to be!”

The new SkyDrive apps also currently don’t allow users to see any folders that other users share with them. As one commentator on the latest Building Windows 8 blog post on SkyDrive noted, “without this feature, I cannot stop using DropBox.” (Microsoft’s response: Hey, that’s “a great feature request.”)

In terms of the favorites-sync capability, Microsoft notes via the aforementioned chart that this capability is being built into Windows 8 (Not that this will help Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, but that seems to be the full-steam-ahead strategic direction.)

I’m hearing that most if not all the Softies who were previously working on Live Mesh (and haven’t already moved to other teams and/or left the company) are now working on SkyDrive. Microsoft is touting (via its job postings) that “each month over 100 million people around the world use SkyDrive to store their most important data totaling 4,004,294,335,813,908 bytes and growing.” All the signs do seem to be pointing toward Microsoft dropping Live Mesh in favor of SkyDrive in the not-too-distant future, but no one from Redmond is yet saying that in any official capacity.

Live Mesh users: Are there any features you’d like to see moved to SkyDrive or altered in SkyDrive that would keep you loyal if and when Microsoft does pull the plug on Live Mesh?