How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Windows/Mac/iOS/Android: Storing and syncing your files to a cloud service like Dropbox is great for most people, but if you'd prefer a little more privacy, AeroFS is a service that allows you to sync the contents of a folder between devices and access it from anywhere without storing your data on a third-party server.

AeroFS works exactly like Dropbox in that you create a folder on your computer, and that folder's contents are synced between all your other computers. You can also access that folder on any computer or Android device you have with AeroFS installed. Your data's never uploaded to a server, but it's accessible from anywhere provided you have your login credentials and at least one of your computers is online. The free Hybrid Cloud version of AeroFS allows you to sync between three computers, but you can upgrade that for $10/month. You can also upgrade to a fully private cloud if you want , which is also accessible from any iOS device . The setup process is incredibly simple, which makes it a lot easier to manage than some of the previous methods we've mentioned. If you're interested in creating your own Dropbox-style syncing service that doesn't rely on public servers, AeroFS is worth a look.

How Can I Sync My Files Without Having To Store Them Online?

Dear Lifehacker, I love Dropbox, but there are some files I'm just not comfortable keeping in "the…

I am looking to drop Windows Live Mesh and have been playing around with Ubuntu One. So far I love it, but I can’t seem to find a way to sync folders between my computers and bypass the online (5GB) storage. I have about 150GB I need to sync between 5 computers, only about 4GB worth of it needs to be on the cloud.

Is this possible? I remember reading somewhere that in 11.10, this might be possible. If this feature is not implemented yet, does anyone have any idea when we can expect to see this?

2 Answers 2

There is a command-line program called rsync which is able to efficiently synchronize data between different computers over a network (or between folders on the same machine). If you’re not afraid of command line, you can use that straight away.

There are also numerous wrappers around rsync, such as Conduit, GRSync, gtkrsync, unison, luckybackup, mrb and possibly others. They all available in Ubuntu repositories so you can just install them via Software Center and see which one you like most.

Those applications are not specific for Ubuntu 11.10 and have been available for quite a while.

it is possible try apps such as conduit or unison or check here

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged ubuntu-one sync or ask your own question.



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In the recent years, we all come to love online file storage and syncing services. They let us store whatever data we have on the cloud, and sync automatically to every connected devices. So all of our important data are always with us wherever we go and whatever devices we use. So what’s not to love?

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloudWhile all of us love those services, some of us are a tad concerned about storing sensitive information over the cloud file storage and syncing services. An existing law enacted in 1986 called The Electronic Communications Acts, law enforcement entities can obtain your data stored on cloud storage without having a warrant. Sure, there are a lot of ways like using client-side encryption manually over your data, or using services like Wuala and SpiderOak which will not store any encryption key on their servers. However, if law enforcement entities order you to hand over your password, then all encryption keys will be useless.

Now, that’s an extreme example. Not everyone of us are Mafia ring leaders but all of us definitely have sensitive documents like bank account information, tax returns, contracts and trade secret documents. What do we do when we want to have those files in every devices and computers we use without using the cloud? Enter direct syncing. Direct syncing is a way you can sync between your devices without storing any data on the cloud. There are a few ways to do this, so here is how.

1. Use AeroFS – From Free

While it might sound something like a sci-fi movie name, AeroFS is actually a very cool personal cloud service. Basically, AeroFS will allow you to automatically sync anything you place within AeroFS folder to all other connected devices. It will carry the data over encrypted connection and also do end-to-end encryption using AES-256 with 2048-bit RSA algorithms. So there is no way AeroFS will see what your data really is. Since there is no reliance on public cloud, AeroFS can transfer and sync data at maximum possible speed that your Internet connection allows. You can even use that over LAN! One awesome thing here is that anything sync using AeroFS will not be stored on their servers. All your data resides on your devices, and if you decide to share a folder with someone, then you have to explicitly invite that person to share. Oh and best part of it all? AeroFS will not limit how much data you can sync. If you have 100GB of media files, go for it. 1TB? Heck yeah, provided that your connection can take it. Or your sanity.

For personal use and unlimited syncing, it is free to use between 1 to 3 teammates. For team plans, it is $10 per month per teammate. AeroFS promises to bring optional cloud storage should you choose to store your data on the cloud too. But there is no news on it yet.

2. Cubby – From $6.99

A new and really cool file storage and syncing service from LogMeIn, Cubby lets you do two things: direct syncing and cloud file storage plus syncing. A free version will get you 5GB of online cloud storage although you can earn up to 25GB via referrals but what we are really interested in is its paid plans. Cubby’s paid plans start from $6.99 for 100GB of online cloud storage and this is what you need to pay to get DirectSync feature. Yup, it is a premium feature so you will have to pay for it. You won’t regret it though, since Cubby’s online storage is really affordable if you compare it to SugarSync, SpiderOak or Dropbox. Plus Cubby Locks feature will let you hold your own encryption key, so that Cubby or anyone apart from you can read your data.

Once you have upgraded to Pro version, then you can enable DirectSync feature on any folders on your computer. It will skip the cloud entirely and sync directly to any other connected devices. It works as peer to peer file transfer. One good thing with Cubby is that it will keep your file structure, as moving a folder into Cubby won’t really move the whole thing around your computer. An issue we have encountered is syncing speed, but you can speed it up by seeding the same data to other devices you want to sync to, and let Cubby do incremental data changes syncing. We have done a review on them here. Check it out.

3. GoodSync – From $29.95

GoodSync is really simple to use but extremely powerful synchronization tool which you can use to connect several computers in peer-to-peer fashion. So basically, when you are moving data, there is no servers they are passing through. It also ensures that the speed is maximized. It works on all three operating systems and even has iOS and Android apps!. Since GoodSync uses block-level transfers, GoodSync will always analyse the files that have been changed since last sync and only the data blocks that have changes will be transferred, making the sync even faster. It won’t transfer the entire file just because you changed something in it. GoodSync Pro for Windows will cost $29.95 while other OS users will have to pay $39.95. You can then use GoodSync on as many computer as you want. The only limitation will be your own connection and storage space on each computers. Awesome!

4. Tonido – From Free

Tonido basically lets you have remote access to all files on your computer once you have installed Tonido Desktop client app. You can do that from a web browser, a smartphone or a table. When you sign up, you will get your own personalized URL and you have to use it to access your computer, but of course with your username and password too. If you are looking to sync, then you can install Tonido Sync Client software on other computers so that they will sync with data from the main computer. On free plan, you can have up to 2GB of files in the sync (not bandwidth, but the actual total file size). But if you upgrade to Pro account which costs $29 a year, then you can have up to 100GB. This is a tad annoying since all your files locate on your computer, so the limit feels arbitrary. Business plan will cost you $129 a year and allow you to sync up to 200GB of files. The pricing isn’t as expensive if we compare to other file storage and syncing services but let’s not forget that Tonido isn’t storing any data on their cloud. If you have upgraded to a Pro or Biz plans though, you can mount remote computers with Tonido installed as a drive on Windows, or us WebDAV to access the computer from any other operating system.


If you want to sync without storing data on the cloud, there are actually a few more ways than we have mentioned. BitTorrent has released BitTorrent Sync, which is still in beta. And there are other peer-to-peer methods you can use too. But the four ways we have discussed above are the easiest for you to setup without going through complicated technical setups. However, if you just want a really secure file syncing and storage service, then we recommend you to take a look at SpiderOak and Wuala. They both will encrypt your data at your computer, and your password plus encryption key will never leave your computer.

If you know any other tricks for direct syncing, or have questions, then don’t hesitate to let us know.

Dear Lifehacker, I love Dropbox, but there are some files I’m just not comfortable keeping in “the cloud”, like my tax returns and bank statements. I also have huge media files that I’d like to sync between my computers but can’t use Dropbox for because it would put me over my account limit.

I saw your Dropbox alternatives article, but it looked like all of those services also store the files online. Is there a way to keep my files in sync without having to store them on someone else’s servers? Signed, Syncing Without Servers

You point out a lot of good reasons why people look for alternatives to Dropbox and similar online syncing and storage services, including added security risks and costs when you’ve got a huge amount of data to sync up. Some workplaces and campuses don’t even allow Dropbox or other external servers to be used at all, for intellectual property reasons or, again, security.

So what can you do? Thankfully, there are several tools you can use to sync your computers directly, bypassing the need for you to use an online server as a middleman. Here’s an overview so you can choose the best one for your needs:

If You Need To Sync Windows PCs and Macs: Windows Live Mesh or GoodSync

Windows Live Mesh is a unique tool in that it offers both direct PC-to-PC syncing and online storage space on Microsoft’s SkyDrive. You can select, on a folder basis, local syncing and/or store up to 5GB of files on SkyDrive. Live Mesh even has a feature to let you remotely control your Live Sync-connected Windows computer.

The program has a very simple setup and interface: select your computers’ folders, network drives, Microsoft Office settings or Internet Explorer program settings to keep in sync across all your computers and the app runs seamlessly in the background. You might not even know it’s running. However, if you want more granularity (logs, file versioning, scheduling, etc) or control, Live Mesh isn’t your app.

Here’s the bad news: Microsoft’s SkyDrive team has stated in a Windows 8 blog post that direct PC-to-PC syncing won’t be an option when SkyDrive is integrated with Windows 8 (major bummer!). You can install Live Mesh and use it for now for local syncing, but there’s a good chance local syncing won’t work when Windows 8-plus-SkyDrive rolls out officially later this year, so it’s probably best to look for alternatives.

GoodSync from SiberSystems (the makers of password manager Roboform) keeps Windows PCs and/or Macs in sync and can also sync your files with FTP sites, Google Docs, SkyDrive, Amazon S3 servers, WebDAV servers and removable drives. There are lots of configuration options to set how and when you want your files to be synced. The latest GoodSync 9 update added remote file access and faster syncing with block level synchronisation (i.e. syncing only your file changes).

Here’s the catch: The free version of GoodSync only allows for syncing 100 files and three sync jobs, while the Pro version allows unlimited syncing. Think of a sync job as, basically, the folder and subfolders that you want to keep in sync from one location to another). The Pro version is $US29.95 for Windows or $US39.95 for Mac. You only need one licence to sync two or more computers, though.

If You Only Need To Sync Windows PCs: SyncBack or SyncToy

For syncing Windows computers only, take a look at SyncBack, another feature-rich syncing tool that can schedule backup jobs too. Besides keeping Windows PCs in sync, SyncBack can sync your files with an FTP server, external drive or network drive.

This oldie but goodie (voted one of the most popular offline backup tools) comes in several versions — SyncBack Freeware, SyncBackSE for $US34.95, and SyncBackPro for $US54.95. Even the freeware version has options like filters for what to include or exclude in your sync jobs, email or HTML log files, and settings for programs to run before or after your sync jobs (many more options for the paid programs, of course). It may take time to learn all the settings (same as with GoodSync) and could use and updated and more intuitive interface, but it gets the job done.

Also worth consideration, however, is Microsoft’s free SyncToy, previously mentioned as one of Lifehacker readers’ favourite syncing tools. The small utility basically pairs two folders (whether they’re on a hard drive, network or USB device) for mirroring folders. It doesn’t have scheduling built in, but you can use Windows Task Scheduler to run it on a schedule. If other syncing programs seem too convoluted for you, SyncToy might be a relief. However, it hasn’t been updated since 2009.

Perhaps Your Next Syncing App: AeroFS or SparkleShare

AeroFS promises to be a great private and optional online backup storage service, but it’s currently in private beta so we can’t say for sure yet. Features promised, however, include optional online storage and special subfolders (“backup libraries”) encrypted with AES-256 encryption. It’s a distributed, peer-to-peer system, so there’s no middleman server, yet you get unlimited storage. AeroFS says they’ll be issuing invites again next month, so stay tuned.

Finally, SparkleShare is another tool we’ve been keeping our eyes on. The free, open source project lets you roll your own Dropbox-like service, using the open source version control system git as the backbone. The program works by basically creating a “SparkleShare” folder on your computer (there are now builds for Linux, Mac, and Windows), and any new files you put in that folder will be pushed to the remote git repository. Other SparkleShare users connecting to that folder will see that file appear in their SparkleShare folders and get a notification. It’s very similar to Dropbox, but you can share your folders locally or to others without dealing with the cloud. We’re getting ready to test SparkleShare ourselves but you can try the project out yourself to see if it works for you.

As you can see, there are a few options for syncing your files and getting around the cloud requirement. Which should you choose? That depends on your operating system and whether you want a lot of features and settings (e.g., SyncBack or GoodSync) or something simpler (e.g. SyncToy or possibly AeroFS when it launches).

PS Have a favourite syncing tool that we missed or other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

With OneDrive Files On-Demand, you can get to all your files in SharePoint in Microsoft 365 without having to download them and use storage space on your device.

Turn on Files On-Demand in OneDrive

Select the white or blue OneDrive cloud icon in the Windows notification area.

Note: If you’re on Windows 10, your computer already has the OneDrive desktop app on it, but you’ll need to turn on Files On-Demand in OneDrive settings.

Select Settings .

Select Settings > Save space and download files as you use them.

Work with files in Files On-Demand

When Files On-Demand is on, you’ll see new status icons next to each of your SharePoint files. You can now copy or move files from your computer to SharePoint in Microsoft 365 right from your file system.

Save space on your device by making files online-only.

These files are only available when you’re connected to the Internet, but don’t take up space on your computer.

When you open an online-only file, it downloads to your device and becomes locally available.

You can open a locally available file at anytime even without Internet access.

I have a family member currently using Windows live mesh to sync a relatively large amount of files between computers. It is way over the Ubuntu One 5 GB limit and the Live Mesh 2 GB limit. However, Live Mesh gives him the options of syncing all the data he wants without storing it on Microsoft’s servers. Does Ubuntu One have an equivalent option, performing just the sync computer-to-computer and not computer-to-server and server-to-computer? Do you have other recommendations? It does not necessarily have to be Ubuntu One, but I need it to be cross platform, working across Windows and Ubuntu. We also have computers outside of uour home network we need to sync to. This is one of the few things keeping him from switching to Ubuntu, and I’d be very grateful for any help.

1 Answer 1

In Unix, a “standard” program to synchronize directories on two machines is rsync .

Rsync is a fast and extraordinarily versatile file copying tool. It can copy locally, to/from another host over any remote shell, or to/from a remote rsync daemon. It offers a large number of options that control every aspect of its behavior and permit very flexible specification of the set of files to be copied. It is famous for its delta-transfer algorithm, which reduces the amount of data sent over the network by send‐ ing only the differences between the source files and the existing files in the destination. Rsync is widely used for backups and mirroring and as an improved copy command for everyday use.

Turns out there’s a Windows version of rsync called cwRsync. Here are some info on installing and using cwRsync (though it’s more focused on using rsync for backups)

As you don’t want to involve any intermediate servers in the process, one of the issues you’ll have to deal with is configuring some sort of port forwarding to enable direct access to one of the machines from internet (provided the machines you want to sync are in different local networks). From there, everything should be quite straightforward.

Another option mentioned in this answer to a similar question is Unison – using it over internet would also require configuring port forwarding. Which, generally, is a must for any server-less solution.

Ваши файлы могут быть легкодоступными, даже если вы в транспорте или в отпуске. Для этого сохраните файл в папке Dropbox на компьютере, и он автоматически синхронизируется с данными на вашем мобильном устройстве. Синхронизация файлов в облачном хранилище доступна для различных устройств и платформ, от компьютеров с операционной системой Windows и Mac, до мобильных устройств, включая iPad и Android с мобильным приложением Dropbox.

Благодаря тому, что автоматическая синхронизация новых и измененных файлов выполняется везде, Вам больше не придется тратить время на отправку новых версий файлов соавторам. Чтобы Вы были уверены в том, что важные файлы полностью синхронизированы, они помечаются зеленой галочкой.

Синхронизация файлов под вашим полным контролем

Случайно обновили что-то раньше, чем нужно? Не беспокойтесь: Ваши данные не будут потеряны. Более ранние версии файлов сохраняются в течение 30 дней (или 180 дней для пользователей тарифного плана Dropbox Business), так что Вы всегда сможете восстановить предыдущую версию Вашего файла.

Получите автономный доступ на всех ваших устройствах

Программа для компьютера позволяет работать с синхронизированными локально файлами и папками даже при отсутствии выхода в Интернет. При выходе в Интернет Dropbox автоматически выполнит синхронизацию Ваших файлов и папок со всеми последними изменениями. Вы также можете выбрать файлы для доступа в автономном режиме со смартфона Android или iPhone и даже iPad.

Экономия места

Освободите дисковое пространство путем отправки файлов в облакоблагодаря умной синхронизации от Dropbox. Вы по-прежнему сможете просматривать каждую папку и файл с рабочего стола, даже несмотря на то, что они будут синхронизированы с облаком и сохранены. Когда Вы захотите открыть их, файлы будут автоматически синхронизироваться на Ваш жесткий диск — но только когда вам это необходимо.

Что такое синхронизация?

Данное слово образовано от глагола «синхронизировать», которое означает событие, происходящее одновременно в более чем одном месте. Технически при синхронизации устройства, например, телефона или планшета, с компьютером все данные на Вашем компьютере автоматически синхронизируются с данными на конкретном устройстве. Вы можете быть уверены, что все Ваши данные, будь то фотографии или рабочие файлы, будут доступны на разных устройствах. Синхронизация данных помогает еще больше защитить Вас от потери данных, поскольку они сохраняются более чем в одном месте. С помощью Dropbox Smart Sync Вы также можете сэкономить место на жестком диске, удалив старые или «устаревшие» папки, которые Вы не используете регулярно, и сохранив их в облаке.

Что такое умная синхронизация Dropbox?

Умная синхронизация Dropbox — это функция, обеспечивающая экономию места на жестком диске за счет переноса старых файлов и папок с жесткого диска в облачное хранилище. С помощью умной синхронизации можно просматривать и получать доступ ко всему, что находится в Вашем аккаунте Dropbox на компьютере, не расходуя при этом место на жестком диске.

Как синхронизировать файлы и папки в Dropbox?

Синхронизировать файлы и папки Dropbox на всех устройствах можно с помощью приложения Dropbox. Войдите в свой аккаунт Dropbox на каждом устройстве, затем добавьте свои файлы и папки в папку Dropbox на компьютере, телефоне или планшете. Последняя версия всех ваших файлов и папок будет доступна на каждом устройстве.

Note: This Quick Start is for OneDrive for home and personal accounts. For work and school accounts, see OneDrive for work or school Quick Start.

Use OneDrive in your browser

Sign in to and select OneDrive.

Select the app launcher icon , and then select OneDrive.

Pick a file or folder by selecting the circle in the upper corner of the item, and then select a command at the top of the page.

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Upload files or folders to OneDrive

You can store over 300 types of files on OneDrive. With Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome:

Select Upload > Files or Upload > Folder.

Select the files or folder you want to upload.

Select Open or Select Folder.

With other browsers:

Select Upload, select the files you want to upload, and select Open.

If you don’t see Upload > Folder, create a folder, and then upload the files to that folder.

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Note: If you have the OneDrive sync app installed, you can also upload with File Explorer. Select the files you want to upload, and drag them to OneDrive in the File Explorer Navigation pane.

Save a file to OneDrive

Select File > Save a Copy > OneDrive – Personal.

Select Enter file name here and type a name.

If you want to save to another folder, select Browse, and select the folder you want.

Select Save.

The next time you open the Office app, you’ll see your saved file in the Recent list.

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Note: Requires Microsoft 365, Office 2019, or Office 2016.

If you don’t see OneDrive – Personal in the list:

Select Add a Place

Select OneDrive and sign into your Microsoft account.

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Use OneDrive on your desktop

If you use Windows 10, OneDrive may have already asked you to sign in to sync your files.

In File Explorer, select OneDrive – Personal.

If OneDrive isn’t setup, see:

How to sync files between computers without storing them in the cloud

Need more help?

Get online help
See more support pages for OneDrive and OneDrive for work or school.
For the OneDrive mobile app, see Troubleshoot OneDrive mobile app problems.

Contact Support
If you still need help, contact support through your browser or shake your mobile device while you’re in the OneDrive app.

Got feedback?
OneDrive UserVoice is your place to suggest the features you’d like to see us add to OneDrive. While we can’t guarantee any specific features or timelines, we will respond to every suggestion that gets at least 500 votes.

Very small private school computer lab has a dozen Windows 10 Pro workstations in a workgroup setup. no server or NAS at this time. Internet access is very limited.

All workstations in the lab have a single drive with 2 partitions: C:\ and Z:\

Reboot/Restore software is used to protect the C:\ drive. Units are rebooted and refreshed nightly, so any new files on the C:\ drive are lost.

The Z:\ drive is left unprotected so that students can save files on the computer between reboots.

What I would like to end up with is that the Z:\ drives on all 12 units are synced, so that no matter what station they’re on, their files will be available.

Eventually I’ll be setting up a NAS unit for the purpose of file sharing. Any possibilities in the meantime?

Remember: must be LAN only (so no dropbox, etc. cloud stuff) and no servers, just these workstations.

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7 Replies


They move between computers during the day? Normally students visit the lab, do their thing and are done for the day. If they are in and out tell them to use Flash drives. They are cheap enough now days. You could probably buy 1 for every student for cheaper than something to get all the drives to sync or a NAS. A flash drive was on my 2nd graders school supply list.

I use this free open-source software for personal use for merging files:

It has a syncing feature, but I have not used/nor checked if the Syncing can be done automatically. If it cannot, you might be able to setup a script to run the syncing to become mostly automated.

Hope this may help.



davidr4 wrote:

They move between computers during the day? Normally students visit the lab, do their thing and are done for the day. If they are in and out tell them to use Flash drives. They are cheap enough now days. You could probably buy 1 for every student for cheaper than something to get all the drives to sync or a NAS. A flash drive was on my 2nd graders school supply list.

The real issue I see, with the Z drive sync, is that any kid can get to any other kid’s files. That seems like a really bad idea.


What we’ve run into in the past is that Student 1 uses computer A at some point and saves files. Student 2 comes in and uses computer A, and while there, Student 1 comes back. Now Student 2 can’t access their files until Student 2 moves.

Using flash drives they keep would be ideal, yes. But I also know that middle-school through high-school students are subject to lapses of thought like most users and once they lose their flash drive, there goes their work.

Granted, access to everyone’s files isn’t ideal, but they’ve had it that way in the past. I’m trying to get incremental changes that they can deal with.

Eventually we’ll likely move to Google Apps for Education, but their internet isn’t up to that yet.

I’d just found MS Sync toy before posting, so I haven’t had a chance to mess with it yet.