Synching with Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive

Patrick Marshall

Have you ever been in a meeting or hotel room and suddenly realized that the only copy of an all-important document was on your home/office PC?

Both Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive provide cloud storage and a remote-access path to your files, but Live Mesh is the more flexible of the two.

These two apps/services each have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, Live Mesh lets you sync files between PCs without placing them in cloud-based storage — something you can’t do with the popular Dropbox [site]. SkyDrive has less flexible file-synching capabilities but works with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Keep files synched on multiple systems with Mesh

Packaged as a part of Windows Live Essentials, Live Mesh is an underappreciated gem that lets you directly access your home computer while you’re on the road. A free download (site), Live Mesh is surprisingly simple to set up and use.

Once Live Mesh is installed, you’ll need a Windows Live ID to sign in. You’ll also want to install Live Mesh on every PC you want as part of your Mesh network. From the main Live Mesh window (shown in Figure 1), click the Go to Windows Live Devices link to see a list of your Live Mesh–enabled devices. You’ll also see Mesh synced storage — up to 5GB of free, online space. (Although this is part of SkyDrive, it’s completely separate storage.)

Windows Live Mesh main window

Figure 1. Windows Live Mesh's main window lists folders synched with other PCs and the cloud.

Live Mesh syncs data on a folder-by-folder basis. In the main Live Mesh window, click the Sync a folder link to add folders to your Mesh network. That pops up a typical Explorer folder/file selection window. Select a folder or folders and click the Sync button; a Select Devices dialog box appears (shown in Figure 2). If you haven’t set install Live Mesh on other PCs, the only device listed will be SkyDrive synced storage (which is, in this case, just another name for Mesh synched storage).

Device Select

Figure 2. Live Mesh lets you sync a folder with specific devices.

Once your Mesh network is set up, you’ll have a safe backup of all your important files — especially if all your systems are not in the same location. And in the unlikely event all your local copies are lost, you still have backups (up to 5GB) in the cloud.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2012-10-04:

Patrick Marshall

About Patrick Marshall

Patrick Marshall is a regular technology columnist for The Seattle Times. He has also written for Government Computer News, InfoWorld, PC World, the Congressional Quarterly, and other publications.