Setting up central Documents and Downloads folders in a Windows homegroup

Hello everyone,

I've been trying to set up central "Documents" and "Downloads" folders for the two desktops and one laptop that I have and which are chatting away to each other in a miniature Windows network (homegroup). The reason for this was that I sometimes use one PC, sometimes another, to edit documents and download things, and, at least for the Documents folder, I wanted to be sure that I always used the latest version of a document. This meant getting rid of each PC's "own" Documents and Downloads folders, that is, make them point to a central location.

Of course, the obvious way to do this is via some sort of NAS. I put a hard disk into a USB-to-SATA enclosure and hooked that up to the USB port of my Internet modem/router. The Documents and Downloads folders of the individual PCs were redirected to this poor man's NAS. This worked; all PCs could "see" the disk and could work off it. I couldn't do anything about permissions, though, as these were regulated by the operating system of the modem/router, which turned out to be a version of Linux and which could not be reached by ordinary mortals like me. But - it worked, albeit slowly - the modem/router and the hard disk enclosure only have USB 2.0.:sad:

However. I try to be energy conscious and a disk rattling along day and night all days and nights was not to my liking. I looked at it a few times during the first night it was hooked up (couldn't sleep from all the excitement, of course), and it was really doing something all the time, not just spinning idly, although I wasn't asking it to do anything and all PCs were off. So I decided to pull its power cord when not in use (it's a 3,5" disk, and the enclosure has its own power supply). But this brought on problems when I put the power back on. The modem/router considered the disk to be a completely new addition to the family and thought up a new share name for it in my network, every time I did that. Of course, the PCs didn't understand that all by themselves, so I had to re-share the disk every time, so to speak. That was no solution.:noway:

Then, I came across the term "offline files". I figured out that I could designate the Documents and Downloads folders on one of the PCs to be the originals, as it were, and let the other two computers synchronize with them. It appeared Windows could do this all on its own, although there are several third-party solutions available, some of them free. Without synchronizing, the "boss" PC would have to be on every time I wanted to use one of the other PCs; with synchronizing, this isn't necessary. I only have to make sure stuff is synchronized when I want to use one of the PCs for editing or downloading.

I ran into trouble the first couple of times I tried to set this up. I think the cause was some pathnames that exceeded the 260 character limit. Those have been eliminated, and now things seem to work smoothly. It was a hell of a job getting rid of the files from the failed syncs, involving lots of "take ownership"-ing and "filexile"-ing, but I finally got it done. I removed the CSC folder from the Windows directory, which is used for this task, on both synchronizing PCs because they kept on generating error messages, hoping that the folder would be made anew when starting up the next time.:hide: It was. :up: On one of the desktops, Windows is even pointed to a folder on its second (data) disk, because that's bigger than the first (system) disk, for the synchronization folder. This works via a symbolic link. Of course, I've endlessly searched the Internet for solutions to the problems that came up, and they appear to be solved - for now.

So, what do you think of this setup? Is it any good? *-) Your comments are greatly appreciated.

Regards, Jaap.


Windows Forum Team
Staff member
I would invest in a dedicated network NAS box. You can find some cheaper ones for around $300 In idle they use around 20 Watts and they are easy to manage.

I would invest in a dedicated network NAS box. You can find some cheaper ones for around $300 In idle they use around 20 Watts and they are easy to manage.
Hi Neemobeer,

thanks for replying.

Regards, Jaap.

Let me come back to my first posting in this thread, dated July 1.

Sorry for leaving this thread alone for so long; readers might think I really found a solution. "Now things seem to work smoothly", I wrote, optimistically. Well, that lasted for about one night. Next day, I started to play around with my synchronization-via-Windows. What I had hoped and expected, was that I could set up "Documents" and "Downloads" folders on all three of my PC's and that these would be synchronized with each other, meaning that I could work locally on every PC in its own "Documents" and "Downloads" folders and let Windows take care of synchronizing them across the homegroup. Well… that was not what happened. It turned out that you can't say: "Keep this Documents folder on PC 1 synchronized wih that Documents folder on PC 2". What happens is that, on PC 1, files from synchronized folders on PC 2 are kept in a separate folder on PC 1, andf that is the only place where they can be reached, via the Sync center, on PC 1 if PC 2 is offline. That was not what I wanted.

I looked around for other solutions and came across FeeFileSync. This seems to do exactly what I want for free: you tell the program what pair of folders on which two PCs you want synchronized, and that's just what it does. It's relatively easy to set up and it seems to work fine. There may be one or two glitches (the synchronization doesn't always start automatically as soon as the two PCs involved are available in the network), but I think I'll get that straigthened out. I consider Windows' own synchronization mechanism primitive, compared to this.

So, once again, "things seem to work smoothly". We'll see how long it lasts this time… :wave:

Regards, Jaap.

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