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Published on 07.27.06 by Brent Trahan

Windows XP Powertoy SyncToy

Learn how to use the SyncToy Powertoy to easily backup files on your computer.

61.pngA major problem I see happening to people every day is data loss.  I can’t tell you how many times people tell me how they’ve lost all their digital photos, video, documents, and much more because of a virus or computer failure.  Most of the time there is nothing I can do to help them get it back.  This guide shows you how to use the SyncToy Powertoy for Windows XP.  This Powertoy lets you easily sync (or backup in this case) files to another location.

Download the Powertoy

Microsoft offers what they call Powertoys for Windows XP free of charge.  You can download the SyncToy Powertoy here.

Once you’ve downloaded the Powertoy, install it on your computer.

Using the SyncToy Powertoy

Once you’ve downloaded and installed SyncToy on your computer click Start, All Programs, and click SyncToy.  You will see a window similar to the screen shot below.

Please Note: I’ve noticed SyncToy has a pause before opening on some computers.


Create a New Folder Pair

Click the Create New Folder Pair button to create your first folder pair.

A folder pair is two folders: the folder you’re syncing (backing up) (left), and the folder that’s holding the files you’re syncing (right).


Once you’ve clicked the Create New Folder Pair button the first step is to locate your left folder.  Always think of the left folder as the folder you’re syncing (backing up).

Click browse and browse to the folder you want to sync on your computer.  A good example of a folder to keep synced is you’re My Documents folder where you should be saving your photos, videos, and all other documents.

Once you’ve picked a folder to sync click next.


Your next step is to pick the location of your right folder.  Your right folder is the place where your files are being synced to (backed up).

Your right folder can be a folder on your computer (not recommended) or a folder on another computer across a network.

Keeping a backup of a folder in another folder on the same computer is not recommended.  What good is a backup if it’s lost when your computer crashes or a virus wipes it out?  A backup should be kept on another computer or device.

After you pick your right folder, click next.

What Type of Sync


Now it’s time to pick what type of sync you want to perform on this folder pair.  There are five kinds.

Synchronize: New and updated files are copied both ways.  Renames and deletes on either side are repeated on the other.  What that means is if files on either the left or right folders are changed in any way the changes are copied to the other folder.

Echo: New and updated files are copied left to right.  Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.  What that means is anything you do in your left folder is repeated in your right folder.  This is one of the types of sync that are good for a backup.

Subscribe: Updated files on the right are copied to the left if the file name already exists on the left.  An example of using this action is like so:  You like to keep a copy of a handful of important documents with you when you travel. New files are added only very rarely, but existing files are updated often, and you want SyncToy to make sure that the files in the left folder are updated with changes made to those same files in the right folder.

Contribute: New and updated files are coped left to right.  Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions.  What this means is everything you do except deleting files in your left folder is copied to your right folder.  This is my choice for the type of sync to backup files with.

Combine: New and updated files are copied both ways.  Nothing happens to renamed and deleted files.  This works exactly like Contribute but instead of only copying changes from the left to right folder it copies changes both ways.

Since I’m backing stuff up I’m going to select the Contribute type of sync.  I like this type of sync for a backup because it doesn’t delete files that have been backed up previously.  Occasionally I’ll delete a file and want it back months later.  I can always go to my right folder and get it because no files are deleted in the right folder when using the Contribute type of sync.  Files are just added.  This type of backup can grow very large because no files are ever deleted.  Make sure the location of your right folder can handle the load.

Once you’ve selected your sync type, click next.


Name your folder pair and click Finish when you’re done.

Managing Folder Pairs


Now when you open SyncToy the screen shot shown above is similar to what you’re going to see.

All of your folder pairs will be listed on the left side of the SyncToy window.  Click the folder pair in the left column to see its status and change its options.

You can run a sync between the two folders manually by clicking the Run button.  When a sync is run it will look like the screen shot below.  You can also run a sync between all your folder pairs at once by clicking all folder pairs in the left column and clicking run all after all the folder pairs you want to sync are checked off.



You can make a test run by clicking the Preview button.


The preview will show you what files will be backed up.  You can run a sync from the preview window by clicking run.

You can change the type of backup of a folder pair at any time by clicking change action in the main window of the folder pair.


There are a few options you can change for each folder pair you create.  Click change options to view them from the main window of SyncToy.


When active for run all is checked you can run this sync with other syncs at the same time by clicking the run all button in the all folder pairs section (next to your folder pair list in the left column).

When save overwritten files in the recycle bin is checked any files that SyncToy over rights are placed in the recycle bin as a backup.

Check off check file contents if you want SyncToy to compare the file contents of files in the left and right folders against each other and perform the necessary actions with that data.

If you don’t want SyncToy to sync any subfolder(s) in a folder that’s being synced click select subfolders and uncheck any you don’t want synced up in your left folder.


Recommended Folders to Keep Synced

What good is knowing how to backup your files if you don’t know what to backup?  Below are a few folders I recommend backing up.

There are 3 folders I recommend backing up.  They are the My Documents, Desktop, and the Favorites folders.  The path to each folder is listed below.

C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\My Documents

C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Favorites

C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Desktop

Replace UserName with the user name you use to login to Windows with.

Automating SyncToy

The SyncToy can be run at a specific time on a regular basis without you telling it to run using Scheduled Tasks.

Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and click Scheduled Task.

Double-click Add Scheduled Task.  Click next in the scheduled task wizard. 

Click browse in the next window and browse to C:\Program Files\Microsoft\SyncToy\ and select SyncToy.exe.  Click Open.

Check off how often you want the SyncToy to run a sync on your folder pairs and click next.

Set the time and a few other options in the next window.  The next window’s options depend on what you set in the previous window.

In the next window give the user name and password of a user account that has administrative privileges on your computer.  By default the user name you are logged into right now is what is in the user name field.

Check off Open advanced properties and click finished.

In the next window type “C:\Program Files\Microsoft\SyncToy\SyncToy.exe” –R in the Run field and click OK. Now the SyncToy will run a sync on all the folder pairs that are checked off in the All Folder pairs section at the specified time you just set.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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One Response to “Windows XP Powertoy SyncToy”

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  1. Marie says:

    I was using your tip to have a slideshow with music already start/run when copied to a cd.

    I did follow the instructions about copying

    to Notepad and savie as autorun.inf (all files) But when I put the Cd in I get a dialogue box saying Windows cannot find a file with ….default.htm

    What am I doing wrong

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