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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault System
I recently bought a MacBook, and have run into the same issue that everyone who owns a desktop and a laptop has: how do you keep the machines in sync? I found out that it's pretty easy, thanks to FileVault. When you enable FileVault, the system creates an encrypted disk image of your user folder, which is automatically mounts when you log in. You can copy this disk image from machine to machine, which transfers your entire user folder in one blow.

There are some setup gotchas, though:
  • Your user name and UID has to be the same on both computers. My UID on my iMac is 503 (lots of users on the box), while my MacBook UID is 501. I created a two fake users on the MacBook to bump the UID number up to a matching value (they start at 501, and each user created increments the next uid).
  • You have to turn FileVault on for the user on both machines. FileVault takes a bit of time to do its stuff. Note that you should move anything you don't want to transfer out of your home directory, like your iTunes music library, iPhoto library, movies, etc. You can keep them there, but your transfer times will go way up.
  • You need to be able to log in as another user on both machines. This is because you shouldn't copy your FileVault image if you're using it.
  • For best results, you should enable ssh's auto-login via the authorized_keys2 hints. Note that you'll have to add the key twice, once when your user is logged in, and once when your user is logged out. Mac OS X doesn't mount the disk image if you're only logged in via ssh.
  • For best results, keep everything that isn't in your user folder synchronized (or at least mostly the same).
After everything is set up (whew), the basic idea is simple: log in as another user, and copy the disk image from one machine to another. Then log out and log in as yourself. You need to log in as the other user so Mac OS doesn't mount it.

You can use this script to automate the process somewhat. You need to put a copy on each machine, then adjust the REMOTE_HOST and LOCAL_HOST variables to the remote and local machines, respectively.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault | 21 comments | Create New Account
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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: heathpitts on Jun 16, '06 08:00:14AM
I do basically the same thing using FolderShare. http://www.foldershare.com. the only difference is that it is done automatically while you are online. The computers can still be encrypted using filevault.

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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: bradleyd1971 on Jun 17, '06 08:54:08AM

Call me silly, but I switched to the Mac to get away from MS...

I don't like the idea of using any of their software that is going to open ports on my computer so that files can be transferred over the Internet. Even if your machines are both behind a NAT router/firewall, you still have to contact the Foldershare servers to login.

If this software was from any other company, I might consider it... but I don't trust any Internet aware software that MS develops.



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: heathpitts on Jun 19, '06 09:28:33AM

That's cool if you feel that way. I was just posting an easy and free solution. Seems a lot easier for most people than the other solutions on here.

MS didn't actually develop the software, they just bought the company. I was using them before MS bought them. It was a pay service at the time and I actually got a refund from MS on the money I had paid.



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: drtofu on Nov 13, '07 08:19:25PM

I also use foldershare and have been very happy with it. I believe it's not yet compatible with Leopard's new .mac preference syncing, but it works fine if that option's left off or if you don't use .mac.



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: drtofu on Nov 26, '07 10:39:17PM

Actually, it seems to be working fine with .mac syncing. I had read differently, but I've been running it fine on several machines for a week now syncing my documents folder and my itunes library and it seems to be working perfectly.



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script file not found
Authored by: htlmac on Jun 16, '06 08:50:38AM
this must be the first time,
Authored by: nick on Jun 16, '06 08:53:17AM

i heard s/b saying filefault _helps_ to sync home-dirs. i would go insane, if i always had to wait for my whole 60G home-dir to be copied. filefault successfully prevents incremental backup if your not logged in as far as i know.

regards, niko.



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: xserve on Jun 16, '06 09:35:06AM
I use ChronoSync to sync my home folder between my MacBook and iMac.
so far, it is working great!

check it out.
http://www.econtechnologies.com/site/Pages/ChronoSync/chrono_overview.html

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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: tpressman on Jun 16, '06 09:57:43AM
When I first installed Tiger, I noticed the menu extra called "HomeSync" in the /System/Core Services/Menu Extras folder.

If you navigate to this folder and double-click the menu extra, you'll see the little house icons in the menu bar and the list of items will show the sync status, an action to sync now and also the prefs... these prefs will eventually appear in the accounts preference pane.

I can only hope that this feature is fully implemented in Leopard... it was long touted at the beginning of Tiger's development and then dropped right before the final GM came around.

Image of Home Sync menu extra in action:

<http://www.flickr.com/photos/87622902@N00/168385026/>;

<http://static.flickr.com/65/168385026_c979a622e6.jpg>;

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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: tpressman on Jun 16, '06 10:01:41AM
Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: ehemmete on Jun 16, '06 03:59:24PM

That is used when you have Mobile Accounts set up with an Open Directory Master on an OS X 10.4 server. With out the server, it doesn't do anything.



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: inemo on Jun 16, '06 04:05:35PM

This is actually for when you are using a so called 'mobile account' which is basically an account where your home folder is stored on the OS X Server (separate machine running OS X Server) and its to allow you to sync your account without logging out.

---
http://caius.name/

I'm just a mac baby :)



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Remove Sync Now, Home Sync (Sync Home) menu
Authored by: noworryz on Nov 09, '06 11:26:11AM

If you've activated the Sync Now Menu or Sync Home Now Menu or Ink Menu or iChat Menu or VPN Menu by clicking on:

/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/HomeSync.menu or
/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/Sync.menu or
/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/Ink.menu or
/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/VPN.menu

you might not realize how to remove them, if you are used to enabling and disabling menus in System Preferences. Simply hold down the command key and drag them off the menu bar.

Keywords: disable remove sync menu, disable remove sync now menu, disable remove sync home now menu, disable remove home sync menu, disable remove ink menu, disable remove iChat menu, disable remove VPN menu



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: noopietom on Jun 16, '06 11:30:37AM

An important note to anyone using FileVault

I went to the Apple Store because I having some problems with my Powerbook. It turned out that the problem was with FileVault. When I told the Genius that I had my entire harddrive encrypted he winced. He told me that as a rule of thumb FileVault should only be used to encrypt the entire harddrive if you job requires you to have your laptop handcuffed to you. He suggested create an encrypted disk image of your important information (and keep a back up of it). His rationale is that if the harddrive is encrypted, if something goes wrong you can loose all your data. That what happened to me in the end, but I had an old back up. I lost some data (the last month or so). I no longer use FileVault.

NoopieTom



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: peragrin on Jun 16, '06 12:23:16PM

The other problem with file vault is that it encyrpts things that don't need to be encrypted. MP3's, movies, and Photo's make up the bulk of my files, but I do have stuff I need protected too.

Apple should modify file vault to only encrypt the Documents folder. it would probably save a lot of problems with filevault as it stands and save hard drives from thrashing so much as they have to do now.

Currently I use an encrypted disk image stored in my documents folder. My data is safe and it's easy to backup.

---
I thought once I was found but it was only a dream



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: JCambra on Jun 16, '06 02:51:02PM

Why not put the MacBook in Target disk mode and boot off it from the PowerMac? That saves the time copying the home over.

---
Apple Advocate

John



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OS X compatibility
Authored by: schaps on Jun 16, '06 10:04:30PM

"Why not put the MacBook in Target disk mode and boot off it from the PowerMac? That saves the time copying the home over."

Good idea, but the new MacBooks cannot boot from the PowerPC version of OS X, and PowerPC Macs cannot be booted from the Intel version of OS X.

Your idea is valid, however, I often boot my newish iMac G5 from my old Powerbook G4 1Ghz (over three years old) via Firewire and Target Disk Mode, and I can run all my programs much faster (Photoshop boots in half the time, even though all the data goes over Firewire) and it works phenomenally. Windows folks are always amazed.



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OS X compatibility
Authored by: ob1cannoli on Jun 17, '06 01:35:31PM
Wasn't there a hint a little while back about creating a dual-boot OS? http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060322054212363

just a thought....I only have one computer so have no way to try this...



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: veloso on Jun 16, '06 10:13:26PM

Oh, the main reason not to do this is that you have to keep rebooting all your machines...assuming you can boot off of them at all (see the previous reply).



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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: mr_daemon on Jun 18, '06 12:54:01AM
Hello. First post ever here, long time lurker.

So, I'd like to mention a few things with this

1) I dislike FileVault. While an apparently great idea, the sparseimage used by it is sort of... well, turns out it sucks. I get file corruption once in a while and cleaning up the free/slack space is tedious. I stopped using it because it was very error prone on my Powerbook G4.

2) Replicating your home like this sounds like a bad idea.
First because you might have unix dot files in your home directory which are specific the current machine, as well as your Library -- and having that be the same on two machines that have nothing in common besides running OS X sounds like a bad idea to me

3) What if you modify something on your desktop, and then go on to do something on your lappy and then only "sync" them up afterwards? You end up overwriting stuff. Bad idea.

It would seem more appropriate to use something like rsync.

Or better yet, all the world should look into unison. http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/

Unison just plain rocks for this. I personally use a subversion repository because I administer alot of these, and end up knowing it inside out.

I also rely too much on ifolder, but I will have to change plans because Mono doesn't work too well on x86 at the moment, and my mac book pro is just out of luck.

I think I'll give unison a second try, and so should you :)

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Synchronize the user folder between Macs via FileVault
Authored by: JadeNB on Jun 19, '06 07:23:35AM

It is possible to change your UID without creating lots of spurious users. You can imagine the advantage of this if you are trying to sync with a machine on which your UID is five digits. Probably the easiest way to do this is to go to /users/[yourusername] in /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Manager.app and simply change the UID field there. (Of course, you'll want to make sure afterwards you chown all your files to the new UID so that you still own them.)



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