Cloud services like OneDrive and Dropbox are dead-simple to set up and make multi-device file syncing an absolute breeze — but those services force you to stash your files on the company's third-party servers. For some people that's just not an option, or at least an option they'd rather do without.
But there's another easy alternative that lets you automatically sync files between devices even if you don't trust the cloud: BitTorrent Sync Beta.
What is BitTorrent Sync?
Harnessing the distribution power of the BitTorrent protocol, BitTorrent Sync Beta — which I'll call BTSync from here on out — lets you sync files across devices or share them with friends using peer-to-peer file sharing technology. Files are also encrypted in transit, and since there's no real cloud service there are no storage limits beyond the hard drive size of your devices.
BTSync is also flexible. You can specify which folders to sync between devices. You can share documents with other BTSync users in read-only mode (meaning they can't change the file on your devices). Advanced users can even use BTSync to track document versioning.
But there are some downsides to BTSync. You can't sync specific files with specific devices. With BTSync, you either sync a folder among your devices or you don't. You also need to have your devices powered on and signed in for BTSync to work; the BitTorrent protocol relies on both devices being active to share files.
Perhaps most notably, the program isn't very newbie-friendly — though BitTorrent Sync chief Erik Pounds says the team is "laser-focused on making BitTorrent Sync drastically easier to use."
All that said, BitTorrent Sync is a terrific option for folks who want to sync data without relying on cloud services and third-party servers — if you know how to use it. Let's dig in.
Getting BTSync running is easy. Download the software from the BitTorrent website, then install it, keeping all the default options intact. When that's done, you'll see a "secret'' — a long string of letters and numbers — for the initial Sync folder. Don't worry about it! You can retrieve it later.
Once you're done with the installation, BTSync opens automatically. With BTSync installed on the single PC, you're essentially limited to adding local folders you'd like to have synced with other devices via My Sync > Add Folder.
Next, you need to install the software on other devices. BitTorrent Sync supports a wide range of mobile and desktop operating systems, but we'll focus on syncing with another PC first.
Syncing files with other PCs
Syncing data across PCs relies on the "secret" code mentioned earlier. Let's say we want to share some videos that are on a PC called OFFICE with another PC called DEN. The videos on OFFICE are located at C:\Users\PCWorld\AwesomeVids.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.