How to Sync and Backup Folders Using GoodSync

Windows users have had the luxury of using an application like GoodSync for years, giving them the ability to sync or backup important folders both over a local network or even remotely.

Siber Systems has finally developed a Mac version of GoodSync and, though it’s not as feature-rich as its Windows counterpart, it still does an admirable job of ensuring that your folders and files are safely copied and archived.

The bonus is that it can do this between various directories, be they two computers (Windows or Mac) or a computer with an external storage device, FTP, WebDav or another server. Plus, GoodSync doesn’t need to be installed on any of the computers you’re tapping into. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Set Up Your First Job

After downloading and installing the software, you will see the opening screen to get you started on your first “Job”. GoodSync uses that term to describe any sync or backup you set up for two folders. When you click to start your first Job, you can name it and then choose whether you want the two folders to sync or backup.

Starting a New Job

Starting a New Job

Synchronizing the two means that any changes made to any of the files within the folder are reflected on both sides, regardless of which of the two folders you made the changes in. For example, if you’re syncing a folder with your emails from Entourage or Apple’s Mail app, and you have access from both work and home, then any messages you’ve sent or received will show up in both folders. Same goes for anything you delete or move as well.

Backup is simply one-way copying of a folder’s contents from one side to the other. This means that you can delete anything you want from the root folder without it being reflected in the backup folder. All the backup folder will look for is new files that it hasn’t copied over already.

This is good for media files like video and music where changes aren’t as likely other than adding files — as well as for any archives that you’re putting together. Another good thing about backup is that you can restore any files that may have been corrupted or accidentally deleted. But for those folders that have files where changes and deletions are common, syncing is your best bet.

Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you’ll see the main transfer screen. Click the folder icon on the left and choose which folder you want to sync or backup from. Then click the right icon and choose which folder you want to copy or sync the contents to (create a new folder, if you need to).

Though you can change the direction in which folders copy to each other (left to right or right to left), I did it left to right, so I’ll use that as my example here.

Choosing Your Folder

Choosing Your Folder

Start Syncing and Backing Up

With everything in place, you can now get started in actually transferring files over. Click the Analyze button on the top left and let GoodSync scan the root folder for a list of the contents inside. This process usually doesn’t take very long, and should be fairly seamless. Once it’s finished, you can click the Sync button and watch the files move from one side to the other.

A Sync in Progress

A Sync in Progress

As you might expect, the first time you sync or backup a folder will take a while to complete. This is especially true if you’re doing this with folders that have many gigabytes of data in them. A 13GB folder of many of my photos took over three hours to backup, for example. But once that initial backup was done, copying over any additional files didn’t take very long at all.

Having said all that, it also matters how and where you’re copying to. Copying to a USB or FireWire external will make things go much faster than transferring files over a local network or to remote storage.

You can tell GoodSync to automatically sync or backup periodically, on startup or whenever the two folders are able to connect to each other. Go to File > Options to bring up the window of choices.

Under the Auto tab, you can choose how you want to automate your backup. Doing it periodically makes sense if you have constant access to a mounted network drive or FTP. Doing so whenever there’s a line of sight between the two folders works well if you’re using an external hard drive or flash drive that you plug in via USB. Startup is fine, but it’s typically the most manual of the automated options available here.

GoodSync Options

GoodSync Options

Periodically syncing or backing up means you can set the duration of time between each sync or backup process. This can be as much as every 12 hours to as little as every five minutes. It’s all up to you. Unfortunately, you will need to keep GoodSync open, since the app wasn’t developed with a small menu bar icon to manage everything for you.

If you like the idea of syncing or backing up an existing folder to another folder in another location, you can clone the same Job by going to File > Clone.

You should also keep in mind that GoodSync doesn’t like files that have certain characters in them like slashes, colon, semi-colons and some others. Once it detects those, they go to the Errors list and don’t get synced or backed up.

Whenever you want to see all the Jobs you have created, you can either click the small arrow icon on the very top left above the Analyze button, or go to View>Job List to see them pop out on the lefthand side.


Considering how vitally important backing up files is, an app like GoodSync can come in handy. It’s $29.95 price tag might seem a bit hefty at first, but the peace of mind it can provide by keeping your files safely archived makes it worth the cost in spades.

That said, this Mac version of GoodSync isn’t as deep as the one Windows users have enjoyed. A mini-icon on the menu bar with a pop-up bubble telling you what GoodSync is actually doing would be nice, since I didn’t see any actual method for realizing when a backup or sync was being initiated.

Still, while you can set up backups with certain products and services out there to a solitary location, GoodSync is useful in that it can do that for many locations from one central source.

So, for example, if you wanted to back up a folder you keep on a USB stick, you can plug it in and sync it automatically to an FTP, while also backing up files to your network attached storage drive at home. That kind of flexibility is hard to beat.


GoodSync is an easy and reliable file backup and file synchronization software. The ability to set up several different types of advanced backup procedures makes for a thoroughly useful application.



Add Yours
  • I think it’s more appropriate to say that Mac (and Unix/Linux) users have had the luxury of rsync, while Windows users have had to use GoodSync.

    The unix command, rsync, does everything GoodSync can do plus things it never even thought about doing. If you’re afraid of the command line, a number of frontend GUIs to rsync have been made that can give you an easier time with it. All this for the low-low price of free, since its a core system component.

    That $30 price tag on GoodSync for Mac is like saying “Boy, I hope you’re stupid enough to pay this much money for something your computer can already do on its own.” At $10 or so, it might be worth it just for ease of use, but at $30, you’re better off doing a quick Google for rsync and save your hard-earned cash.

    • Can rSync backup over FTP? Can it download the contents of an FTP server on a schedule?

    • There is now a version specifically for Mac available. It can be downloaded here

    • There is now a version specifically for Mac available. It can be downloaded here

    • Well, to be blunt.. you are wrong..
      I use rsync a LOT, and it works marvels when doing ONE WAY synchronization to a backup-drive, especialy the binary delta transfers of large files.

      BUT, goodsync is a LOT more, it’s bi-directional, cross platform, cross communication channel (ftp/sftp/usb/..)
      Can be executed via schedule (cron for rsync), OR monitor live changes (I dont’ want to mess with FAM+Rsync again!!)

      So, even thou I use unison & rsync, I still have a copy of goodsync on my Mac & Windows machines!

  • What do you think about Synk Pro in comparison?

  • The one issue I’ve had with all syncing apps is that you don’t get to delete anything – for instance, I keep all of my client directories with associated projects, etc… backed up on 4 different drives – three of those drives are actually in use on assorted computers and changes are made to them regularly. This works fine. What I have noticed however, is that if I delete something from one of the drives, when I sync again, those deleted files are replaced instead of the deletion being reflected across all directories.

    Does this make sense – it’s late and I’m tired. Essentially, if I delete something from one of the synced directories, the next time I sync, I want that file deleted automatically from all of the other directories as well. I’ve yet to find an app that does this. (Currently using Chronosync)

    • With rsync you can remove files that have been removed from
      the folder which is synced by using the –delete option.

    • There is an option in Synk Pro that does exactly this. Check it out.

    • In order to reflect deletions in all your locations with Chronosync, check the “Synchronize deletions” option in Chronosync.

      I’m also using Chronosync and I’m very satisfied so far. Perfect solution for one direction and bidirectional synchronizations.

  • three of those drives are actually in use on assorted computers and changes are made to them regularly

  • goodsync for Mac is an EXCELLENT product — it is completely incorrect, indeed silly, to say that rsync does everything GoodSync does. You might as well assert there is no purpose for “textEdit” or indeed “Word” because pico exists.

    (Heck, you might as well say “why bother with OSX, just use BSD” – which is perfectly correct for running say a server but not if you are a civillian consumer looking at your cat videos.)

    I am a unix developer so I use rsync as a matter of course, however, I now use goodsync (for mac) as a matter of course – it’s great.

    simply download the free (which is not time limited) version of goodsync and launch it – you’ll like it

    As the current rsync developers themselves assert, something like Unison is more appropriate for “syncing” in the user sense directories you are working with — goodsync is a great solution.

    if you are just making the point that windows users are chumps – fine :)

    And, 30 dollars is nothing for commercial software. it’s a great product that is the correct solution in the milieu of using a Mac. well done, Goodsync people.

  • Let’s say that my hard drive is 16TB and I want to back-up this to 2TB drives. If set the first drive to back-up, when I insert the 2nd drive the Goodsync seem to have copied the same files as they were copied on the 1st drive. Can Goodsync avoid this so I don’t have to have the same files on all the drives?
    It would be very useful if someone could help out with this. I have been trying to get this work but no luck so far.
    thanks in advance.

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