Make Cloud Syncing Work For You

Cloud storage is great for documents and pictures you want to use from different computers and tablets, but having to wait to download the files you want to work on gets annoying, so the cloud services now have software to sync your files back and forth. Whether you’re using SkyDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox, here are our top tips for getting the most from cloud sync by making those apps do more of what you want, plus some extra services.

Pick the folders you sync. SkyDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all create their own folder and the files in that sync to and from the cloud. Files in your usual hierarchy of folders don’t sync at all. There are a few ways to deal with this.

Move all your folders into the new cloud service folder. If you want everything to sync to the cloud and you have enough cloud storage space and enough disk space on all the machines you link to that cloud service, this is a simple way of doing it. Most cloud sync tools put their folder location into the Favorites pane in Explorer, so it’s easy to get to.

Add the folders inside the sync folder to Libraries. Introduced in Windows Vista, Libraries are a handy way of grouping together folders in different places without moving them. If you have an images folder buried where your blogging tool expects it, and another in the hierarchy that suits the tool you use for your Web site and another one where your scanner saves files, you can add them all to the Picture library so it’s easy to find. Add the SkyDrive camera roll to your Pictures library and you see your images in the same place, without moving them. Set the default save location for the library to put new pictures in a cloud folder.

Add folders inside your cloud sync folders to a Library to see them with your usual files.

Change the location of special folders so they’re inside sync folders. If youdon’t want everything in the cloud, how about just the important folder hierarchies like My Documents, My Pictures or handy folders like Downloads or even the Desktop (where lots of people still save files they’re working on)? Redirect those folders into the cloud sync folder for your service. Right-click on the folder you want from the list under your user folder in Explorer; choose Properties and then the Location tab. Click the Move button and pick the cloud sync folder.

Redirect your desktop to Google Drive and you’ll have the same icons on each PC that syncs and your desktop files in the cloud.

Map your SkyDrive rather than syncing. If you’re always online, and you don’t want to fill up your PC with the files you have in the cloud, you can still get quick access to them - in Explorer where you get drag and drop and previews and familiar copy commands, rather than a Web browser with its own interface. Open Explorer to My Computer and right-click on a blank area of the window so you can choose Add a network location, then click through to Choose a custom network location. When you see the dialog for entering the network address, open SkyDrive in your browser and pick any item in your SkyDrive files. Choose Share, then Get a link then View only. Copy the URL and paste it into a text file because you have to edit it.

The URL will look something like!56792&authkey=145subab291. Copy just the numbers and letters between the first = sign and the exclamation point (here that’s 2281167ADE5E897CE) and paste that into the network location dialog. Type in front of it: that looks like - but don’t use that link because it won’t work for you!).

Extract the identifier that lets you map your SkyDrive as a network location and you can open it in Explorer.

Click through the rest of the wizard and give the location a name. Just remember, you have to be connected to open your SkyDrive and this doesn’t sync the files to your PC.

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  • rj300
    Great tips on cloud sharing. I find dropbox isn't as nifty as a newer service called 4Sync (which stems from the worlds largest online storage site 4shared). 4Sync gives me 15gb of free storage just for registering and is extremely easy to use, I highly recommend it over the other alternatives you have listed above.
  • riow
    Google Drive doesn't support junction sync! Your info is wrong!
  • Anonymous
    Thank you very much for this article!
    I loved using imesh, but today M$ decided to end it >.<
    Since SkyDrive offers the largest free solution, you technique makes it all possible.
    I hate, but really hate, the cloud storage system that makes you copy all your folders to the "cloud" folder. Its annoying!
    With your lovely shell extension its all possible again!
    Thanks again!
  • Alexei_R
    There is new Dropbox-like service called Copy, provides the same features and much more space - 15GB + 5GB for signing-up by invitations + 2GB for Twitt
  • JohnWang
    Otixo is a good tool, now it needs to pay, can trial for 15 days.
    I find a free online app for consolidating cloud drives: DropInOne and supports such as dropbox, google drive, skydrive.
  • brent212
    Dude, why would you write an article about something that you haven't even verified works? A quick google search would have let you know that this won't work with Google Drive.
  • Hitesh Dhola
    Thanks but that was too compicated... I prefer this option ..