How to automatically sync your PC folders with your Android

Ever wished you could keep a folder on your PC synced up with you Android? I have an active folder on my PC where I save my favorite songs that I always listen to, and I would like any MP3s I add to it to also appear on my Android. Or for example you might want to sync your favorite TV show(s) that you download so that they are automatically available for watching on your Android, etc.

This post will describe how you can set this up so it happens automatically without your intervention based on certain rules (for example sync every night, only when connected to WIFI). If you’re thinking ‘Dropbox’ then you’re partially correct: we will use Dropbox for this, in conjunction with 2 other free programs that make it possible to (a) sync a PC folder without moving it into the Dropbox folder, and (b) to schedule folder syncs on your Android so they take place automatically.

Sync PC folders with AndroidBut first I want to answer the following question: Why is this tutorial is a lot better than just using the Dropbox app?

Because (a) it describes how to sync any folder on your PC, and not just folders you move into Dropbox, and (b) because it describes how you can do automatic syncing (say in the middle of the night while you sleep), without you having to intervene manually to download stuff as you would with the Dropbox official app. In the morning, when you wake up and get on the bus, the latest episode of your favorite TV show or whatever will have already been synced to your Android, ready for you to watch, without wasting valuable time and bandwidth downloading it.

The general outline of the process: two parts

Part 1. Setting up Dropbox

Install Dropbox on your PC, then connect the folder that you want to sync with Dropbox

We will describe how to do this without ‘physically’ moving your folder that you want to sync to Dropbox. We will use the miracle of ‘cloning’ a folder (also called symbolic links) to do so without copying or moving the folder contents to Dropbox and without needing to duplicate your files. We will use a wonderful freeware called ‘Link Shell Extension’ to do this very easily. One caveat though: your Dropbox folder must be on an NTFS formatted hard drive.

Part 2. Set up folder syncing on the Android.

Cloudpipes’ is a free app for Android that can log into your Dropbox account in the cloud and sync the folders that you want to your Android. It can perform this automatically, according to a schedule and contingencies that you can set.

Be careful of a couple of things; namely, making sure that folder syncing is not going to eat up your monthly bandwidth with your carrier if you pay for bandwidth (i.e. ensure that it syncs only when connected to WIFI), and

Here’s how to do it step by step:

Part 1: Setting up Dropbox

Note: I am sure the process described here (using symbolic links) works on Mac and Linux, but this tutorial is for Windows.

Step 1.1) Download and install Dropbox if you don’t have it.

Check file systemStep 1.2) Check whether your local drive(s) are NTFS formatted. If the drive where your Dropbox folder resides is not NTFS formatted, then the only folders you will be able to sync with your Android will be those folders you are prepared to physically move inside the Dropbox folder (in which case, jump to part 2 from here). If your Dropbox folder is on an NTFS formatted drive, you will be able to sync any folder you like without moving it.

To check your partitions’ file systems, simply open ‘My Computer’ then select the drive. The file system should appear below (where the red arrow is pointing in the screenshot to the right), or you can find out by right clicking ‘poperties’ for the drive. If you want to convert a FAT formatted drive to NTFS, here’s a Google Search with many articles that can help.

Step 1.3) Some questions to ask yourself before proceeding regarding folder size: is the folder I want to sync larger than the free space I have in Dropbox? Is the folder I want to sync larger than the free space I have on my Android, whether in internal storage or on an attached SD card?. Make sure that you have room in both and go to the next step.

Step 1.4) Download and install Link Shell Extension for Windows. Make sure you install the correct version for your OS (i.e. 32 bit vs. 64 bit). You may need to install the necessary runtime dlls, from the same page.

If you use Windows XP you will need to additionally install the symbolic link for Windows XP driver to enable symbolic links under XP. (Note: I do not have access to a Windows XP machine; this article will use Windows 7).

Step 1.5) Navigate to the folder you want to sync on your PC, and right click “pick link source” which should now be an option. In the example below, I want to connect a folder called ‘Melange’ where I put my favorite MP3 singles to Dropbox, without actually moving it or copying it to the Dropbox folder. Later, I will setup auto syncing of that folder on my Android.

Link-Shell-Extension-Pick-Link-Source

Step 1.6) Navigate to your Dropbox folder. You are going to create a ‘clone’ of your folder inside the Dropbox account, such that your folder will be in two places at the same time (the original path, plus the Dropbox folder). Note that the data itself will not be duplicated; it will exist only once on your hard drive.

Open your Dropbox folder, then right click ‘Drop as’ then ‘Symbolic Link’. (Or you can create a Junction if you like).

Create a Symbolic Link in the Dropbox folder

Step 1.7) You should now see a symbolic link of your folder has appeared in your Dropbox folder. It will now start uploading/syncing with Dropbox etc.

This folder is not a copy of the original. For all intents and purposes, It is the original folder, existing in a second location. The files take space on the hard drive only once. (I know, it’s a little unintuitive, but very useful).

We’re done with the first part, having connected the folder you want to sync to your Android with Dropbox. The next steps describe how to set up syncing on Android.


Part 2: Set up folder syncing on the Android

Step 2.1) ask yourself “do I want to sync a folder that is too large for my Android’s available storage”. If so, then you shouldn’t do it, obviously.

Step 2.2) Install CloudPipes for Dropbox Android App.

Step 2.3) Authenticate it with Dropbox. Run the app and enter your Dropbox credentials. If you already have the official Dropbox app installed on your Android you can click ‘login using official Dropbox app site’ in place of typing in your username and password. Click ‘allow’ when you get the screen on the bottom right.

CloudPipes1 - authenticateCloudPipes1 - accept authentication

Step 2.4) Add your first pipe

Run CloudPipes and click on the plus (+) sign in the upper right to add your first pipe

CloudPipes3 - add your first pipe

Step 2.5) set up your pipe

CloudPipes4 - pipe settings 1CloudPipes5 - Create a folder in AndroidCloudPipes5 - pipe settings 2

  • Name: enter any name for your pipe. In the example here, I am calling it ‘MP3 Singles’
  • Type: Download or Upload. Self explanatory. The latter (upload) is when files are generated on your Android and uploaded to your Dropbox folder
  • Source location: browse Dropbox for the folder you want to sync (i.e. the folder that was set up in the first part above).
  • Destination location: browse to the folder on your Android where you want the files to be synced. Browse to ‘external_sd’ If you want to sync to an external SD card installed on your device. If you need to create a folder use the folder icon on the top right. In this example, I call this folder ‘Music’.
  • Operation: self explanatory. Moving will move your files out of the Dropbox folder, Copy (Overwrite) will copy your files every time, consuming bandwidth every time, Copying (rev checking) will only copy files from Dropbox to my folder when they have changed, which is what I will use for this example.

CloudPipes7 - pipe settings 3CloudPipes8 - your first pipe is ready

  • File Filter: if you want to sync only certain file types, set up a filter here. If you only want MP3 and OGG files, for example, you would enter “*.mp3;*.ogg” in the form. Press the ‘presets’ button for some quick presets Pictures/Music/Videos/Documents. I will use the default *.* filter (all files) because I want everything in my folder synced (and it contains only audio files anyway).
  • File Size: this filter can be extremely important, in order not to have your bandwidth overwhelmed. You can request only files that are smaller or larger than a certain file size be synced.
  • Schedule: very important. Set the frequency of syncs, every x hours, or everyday vs. certain days of the week. For my example, I set it to sync everyday at midnight in the example discussed here.

Click ‘Save’ and you’re (almost) done.

Step 2.6) More settings *very important*

You need to decide on two more settings that are quite important. Click on the three dots on the top right then go to ‘settings’. In ‘Power Settings’, decide on whether you want it to sync only when connected to WIFI, and only when plugged in.

CloudPipes9 - more settingsCloudPipes10 - WIFI and plugged in settings

If the folder you want to sync contains big files, I suggest you check both, especially if you pay for your bandwidth usage (as I do), and if you think the syncing process might take a long time that could drain your battery.

Step 2.7) Run it manually, if you want.

CloudPipes11 - run manuallyYou can click on the pipe you just set up in the list, and run it for the first time.

I am actually unsure as to whether running it manually might override the setting you set up for the sync in step 2.6 above (where, in the example here, I set it to run only when connected to WIFI and only when plugged in).

You don’t actually need to run it manually of course, you could simply wait for the scheduled time and have it do it’s thing.

Final note: Cloudpipes is a relatively new app, and it is being improved and bugs ironed out continuously, so keep that in mind.


That’s it, you’re done. Any comments, thoughts, or questions? Please add them in the comments section below


 
 
 
Supercharge your right-click menu with these ten UNIQUE utilities
Create Stylish Resumes Online with Resumup
Sep 4, 2012
Samer Kurdi
6
flattr this!
  • David
  • http://cloudpipes.wordpress.com Habeeb

    Thanks for the excellent writeup. I designed Cloudpipes for this exact scenario as you have described. I am still working on it in my spare time and would love to hear any feedback you have.

  • Samer Kurdi

    @ Habeeb: thanks for a great app. Love Cloudpipes!

    @ David: thanks for pointing that out!

  • Tino

    I think sugarsync is a more flexible choice.

  • Pingback: 10 must have FREE Android apps (part2) - freewaregenius.com

  • chosa

    Hi, I’ve done everything according to the instructions, when I copy the files to the original folder, file is “copied” to the dropbox folder, but file dont upload to dropbox “cloud”.