Automatically Back Up Files to USB Drive

SyncToy is a tool from Microsoft which allows you to synchronise files easily between two folders, either two local folders, or one local and one on an external drive (including a USB flash drive). It is completely free, and while may not have some more premium features of sync tools, is great for making easy file backups.

Installing SyncToy

Installing the SyncToy software is fairly simple. It can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Download Center for both 32 and 64-bit systems.

Step 1 – Download SyncToy 2.1 from the Microsoft Download Center (or search for it on You will need to choose either the 32 or 64-bit version, so make sure you know what system your are running in Settings > System > About.

Step 2 – Once the download is complete, double-click on the SyncToy setup package and follow the instructions to begin the installation. You will need to agree to some standard software license terms to continue through the setup.

Step 3 – When you get to the the point of choosing the install destination folder, you will have the option to install SyncToy for everyone who uses the computer (all users) or just to install it for the account currently being used.

Step 4 – After this, a few more clicks and the installation is complete. You can then close the setup wizard and you should see the SyncToy 2.1 icon on the desktop (or whichever folder you chose to download it to). Double-click the icon to begin using it.

Set Up and Use SyncToy 2.1

You are now ready to begin choosing the folders you want to synchronise with SyncToy 2.1. These can be two local folders, or to a folder on an external drive.

Step 1 – With the application open, you will be asked to choose a create a new folder pair (these are the two folders that the app will sync between). If you want to sync to an external drive, make sure it is plugged in and there is a folder created on it.

Step 2 – Click on Browse one each of the left and right folders in turn and navigate to the folder you want to sync. The folder path will be shown in the text field for each one. You can then click Next to continue with the setup process.

Step 3 – Next, you need to choose the method of synchronisation:

The Synchronize option will sync any and all new, deleted or renamed files. What this means is that if you alter any file in either folder, the changes will be synced to the second folder.

The Echo option works in almost the same way except that changes are only applied from the left folder to the right, and not the other way around. If you make changes to files in the right folder, those changes will not be synced to the left folder.

The final option is Contribute, and is probably the safest option for important files that just need a backup. You can rename (but not delete) files in the left folder to update the right folder. Changes to the right folder won’t affect the left folder at all.

Step 4 – Click Next and give your folder pair a name (e.g. “Backup”) and click Finish. You can now start syncing files between the folders at the click of a button. You can create multiple folder pairs simply by following the process again. You can schedule a sync in the app options.

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Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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