R: Drive Synchronization
Since the deployment of Windows Vista with the Computer Replacement Plan
most specialists have been using laptops instead of the traditional desktop.
The laptop, hooked up to a docking station (port replicator) with
an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor, can be used as if it were a tower
or desktop computer, but with the advantage of being able to undock it and
take it with you.
A few years ago Extension Technology & Computer Services deployed servers
in all counties for the purpose of backing up our most important data.
On your computer, what you see as the R and Q drives really represent space
on the server. The R drive is space on the server with restricted
access for your use only, and the Q drive is space on the server shared
by everyone in the office.
The data on your computer is backed up automatically because the Documents
folder, Internet Explorer Favorites, Pictures, Videos, and Music are “pointed”
to the R drive. In other words, when you save a file to any of the
above listed folders, it’s actually being saved on the server. The
server makes backups of everyone’s R drive as well as the Q drive every
For the convenience of the specialists who work at home and in the field,
ETCS set the laptops to synchronize data from the R drive
with the local disk (the C drive), so that when taken out of the office,
the laptop shows all data stored on the R drive (but it’s been copied to
C). This is the same as when you have no network connection
and you open Outlook. The files are offline, so you can access them
and compose messages, but it’s not until you connect to the network that
your changes take effect on the email server. Synchronization
of the R drive is set to occur when the specialist logs on to the computer
with a high speed connection to the server, which means for the most part
– in the county office.
Note the Sync Center icon in the System Tray:
After you log in, take a look at the icon and you’ll notice that the
arrows are rotating, indicating that synchronization is occurring.
So what exactly does it mean to “synchronize”? The first time it
happens, all the data that exists on your R drive is simply being copied
to your C drive. If you have gigabytes worth of data, this process
takes a long time – hours. Once the initial sync occurs, subsequent
syncs are “incremental”, i.e. only the files that have changed get copied,
so it takes far less time. Imagine that you’ve taken your laptop home.
You work on a few documents, and you create a few. You’ve save them
to your Documents folder. Until you’ve synchronized, the only copies
of the new and modified documents that exist are on the C drive. If
the C drive were to fail, those documents would be potentially gone for
good. That’s a problem. If the documents are so important that you
can’t risk even a slight chance of losing them, copy them to a flash drive
as part of your backup routine after every major modification.
Now you go into the office, dock the laptop, fire it up, and log in.
If you look at the System Tray Sync Center icon, you see that synchronization
is occurring. The new and modified files from the night before are
being copied to the R drive, replacing old versions. In addition,
any files that have been modified on the server R drive get copied to your
C drive (if you happen to also have a desktop computer, and have used it
to modify files).
Sometimes, the Sync Center doesn’t know what to do with a file, because
there’s a file of the same name on the R drive it wants to replace, but
is unsure of which copy you’d like to keep. These are
called “conflicts”. Conflicts usually occur when a file has
changed in both locations since the last sync, or if a file has been deleted
in one location but has been changed in the other.
Note the exclamation
on the Sync Center icon (in the System Tray) when conflicts exist.
How to resolve? Double click the System Tray icon
to open the Sync Center.
the Conflicts icon.
There you’ll see a list of conflicts – files that need a decision from
you about what to do with them.
Right clickeach one, and you’ll have an option to “view options
A window will open that shows both files in conflict, including information
on size and date modified. Here you get to decide which one to keep.
If in doubt, it’s generally best to keep the one that’s been most recently
modified. Proceed until all conflicts have been resolved. For
some this may take a short while, but after the first round of conflict
resolution you’ll see far fewer of them.
sync will simply fail.
What to do? Double click the icon to open the Sync Center, then
under Tasks, click View sync results.
The error will be displayed along with a brief explanation why it failed.
In most cases you can right-click and choose Ignore.
Now close the
window, and to re-initiate the sync, right click the System Tray
Sync Center icon and choose Sync All. You may have to repeat
this procedure several times till sync occurs successfully.
A common issue I see is for folks to be in the office connected to their
“high speed” line and the R drive is still “offline”. If you try to
change a file name or modify the file itself, it just doesn’t work.
Note in the following screen shot that in the blue bar at the bottom it
says Offline status: Offline (slow connection)
Now take a look at the dark blue bar above the main field, at the right
most option, to Work online.
Click Work Online, and the problems you were having renaming or
modifying files will be gone.
You may have noticed synchronization is set to happen only on one event
– logon. So what happens when you’re in the county office and modify
and/or create lots of files on the R drive, online, that you want to modify
somewhere out of the office? Manually synchronize before
shutting the computer down. Just right click the Sync Center
icon and select Sync All. Synchronization of files in your
Documents folder can occur “on the fly” whenever the file is saved, but
if you really need a file that’s on the R drive while away from the office,
it’s safest to sync manually before leaving the office.
For more information about Sync Center and resolving conflicts, see:
Sync Center recommended links - Windows Vista Help.url
A final note - if you notice that when you log in, synchronization takes
a long time, even though you’ve not made many changes to the R drive (Documents
or Favorites), try letting the synchronization occur before
starting VPN software. If the automatic VPN prompt is gone by the
time sync has finished, there’s a shortcut on the desktop for Extension
(yellow padlock) - double click to start VPN.
As always, if you have questions or problems email or call ETCS.