How-to: Synchronise your IE favorites between Windows XP and Vista

Difficulty: 3.5

SyncI run multiple computers in my home and I also have one in the office. I often get frustrated that I don’t have the same favourites with me everywhere I go so I have come up with this method to synchronise my machines so that I have the same favourites with me, wherever I am and whichever machine I am on.

I have recently upgraded to Vista, so now I want to receive the same favorites on my Vista machine as I did on my XP machines. The majority of this document is the same as my article “How-to: Synchronise your IE favorites between two windows XP computers” with a change at the end for Vista. If you have already completed the mentioned article, you should be able to complete this How-to in around 2 minutes. It is much easier to make this work within Vista than it was with XP. Skip down to recipient PC.

In this article I will use offline files to ensure that the favourites are the same on both machines. This method is not simple but it is the best solution I have found. This method does require a minor registry hack and also removes network security from your favourites (not that security is all that important for favourites).

This solution has worked for me and run steadily without problems. If you are uncomfortable doing registry hacks, I believe your only options for syncing is to copy the files manually or to get a third-party application to look after your syncing needs. I prefer to stay away from little additional utilities if it is possible to achieve the same result without them.

ExclimationWith any method, I would strongly recommend you backup your favourites by starting up Internet Explorer, clicking on file menu and selecting “Import/export”. Follow through the wizard to export your favourites.

The “favorites” folder cannot be shared directly, so that other computers on the network can see them. That is what makes synchronising these, your favourites so difficult. If you could share them, you could easily use SyncToy to make the folders the same on each computer, but as this is not possible, we need to setup a fairly complicated system.

This method will not work with firefox as firefox stores its favourites a different way.

What you need:

  • A Windows XP machine running Internet Explorer 6 or 7

  • A Windows Vista (Business or Ultimate Edition) machine running Internet Explorer 7

  • A network, pre configured

If you don’t have Vista Business or Ultimate, but you do have Windows XP Pro, you can swap these instructions, making the original set of Favorites stored on the Vista computer.

Define which computer will be the host of your Favourites

Before we begin you will need to define which computer of yours is the host as it is its job to hold the original copy of the favourites. I would recommend a desktop which is regularly on and probably the most powerful of your fleet unless you would like to run one as a dedicated server. Whichever you choose, the drain on this machine will be minimal. In this case we will use a Windows XP computer.

Define which computer/computers will be receiving the Favourites

You are able to have one or more machines connecting to the host. I will refer to these machines as the recipient. In this case we will be using a Windows Vista computer.

Sharing your “Favorites” on the host computer

By default, your “Favorites” folder is located on your C drive. The path to this is “C:\Documents and Settings\”Username”\Favorites”. In order for other machines to see this drive we must first share it so that the folder is available to the other computers to see it. As I said earlier in this article, you cannot share this folder directly so we will need to place it somewhere else. As everyone who uses my computer is happy to use the same favourites, I place mine in the root of the drive “C:\Favorites”

exclimationWe are removing much of the security for your favourites. If security is an issue for you, please investigate further. Please ensure that you have a backup of your “Favorites” before proceeding. I see this as low risk of something failing, even lesser of your favourites disappearing but you can never be too careful.

Please do the following on the host machine.

StartClick “Start”

 

FavcopyRight-Click “Favorites”

Select “Copy”

If you do not have a favorites link here, right click on the grey area and select properties.

Prop

Select the “Start menu” tab

Select “Customize”

Select the “Advanced” tab

Tick “Favorites Menu”

Alternatively, you can navigate through to “C:\Documents and Settings\’username’\Favorites”

 

StartClick “Start”

 

MycompSelect “My Computer”

Go to your C: Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

FavpasteRight-click in white area.

Select Paste

 

You will now have a copy of your “Favorites” in the root of C:. We now need to share this folder.

As mentioned earlier, the next step opens your favorites up to users on your network. Whilst this is fine for home use, you may want to be careful trying such things in an office environment.

 

ShareselectRight-click on the favorites folder you pasted in the last step.

Select “Sharing and Security”

 

 

 

 

 

SharefavTick “Share this folder on the network”

Share name: Type “Favorites”

Tick “Allow network users to change my files” if you’re happy for the favourites to be changed by the recipient.

Select “OK”

 

You have now shared the newly created “Favorites” folder to other users on your network.

Redirecting your computer to use the new “favorites” folder

The final step on the host machine is to let Windows XP know where to find the new folder. The old folder will not be used after this step. Please make note of this change because if you want to change your computer back to defaults, this is one of the settings you will need to change.

We need to alter a key in the registry. To do this :

StartrunClick “Start”

Select “Run”

 

 

ReglaunchType “regedit”

Click “OK”

 

 

 

 

exclimationThis is good time to back up your registry, Go into the file menu and select export. The change we are making is a minor one but if you have a cat which walks on your keyboard, you may accidentally change something you didn’t want to.

You can either navigate through to these by clicking on folders just as you would in explorer or you can press F3 and do a search. There will be multiple similar entries. The bottom of the page will show you the full path you are at.

It is crucial that you check and double check these key names. Editing the key in “Shell Folders” as opposed to “User Shell Folders” will have no effect.

The following key we want to change is

\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Favorites

Regfav

Double click on the keys on the right and change the value to “C:\Favorites” for this key.

Editreg

Click “OK” and close Regedit.

Make note of this site address so that you can come back to it. Saving this site in your favorites will not work because your computer will direct to your new favorites folder once you restart your computer.

Restart your computer, you will not see results until you have done this.

FavpropselectYou can now ensure that this has worked by right clicking on your “Favorites” and selecting properties.

You should see location as “C:\” and the correct folder name as “Favorites”. The hand under the icon proves that it is shared.

Favc

You have now completed all tasks on the host machine.

Setting up the recipient machine.

There are 3 steps on the recipient machine to get this whole system up and running :

  1. Mapping to the folder from the host machine.
  2. Setting up offline files
  3. Registry hack to direct your computer to the new “favorites” folder.

Mapping your “Favorites” folder from the host machine.

There are many options for how to do this, that is why I am using the term “Mapping”. The method I am using does not require a physical map of the drive, you just need to locate it.

Click “Vista Orb”

NetworkSelect “Network” – Also available through “Computer”

 

MonicaFind your “Host” computer. 

 

FavoritesRight Click on “Favorites”

 

 

Always availableSelect “Always available offline”

This step is not necessary unless you are running Vista on a laptop or your host computer is not permanently on. I recommend doing this in all circumstances to give yourself an automatic backup of your Favorites.

 

Favstart

Right click on your “Favorites” folder in your start menu or type “Favorites” into the Vista search bar.

“Select Properties”

Favprop

Click on the “Location” tab”

Click “Move”

Navigate through network to the “Favorites” folder we just made available offline.

Alternatively, we can manually insert the path to enter here. We need to refer back to your “Host Computer Name” which you took note of earlier, otherwise found in the “Network” folder.

Use the path “\\Host computer name\Favorites”, in my case, the host computer name is Monica.

Press “OK”

Moveyes

You have the opportunity to move your favorites from Vista into the main “Favorites” folder. As I am doing this with my a clean machine with no favorites yet apart from Microsoft’s plethora of links, I press “No”. If you have favorites in Vista, you want to be in your new combined favorites folder, press “Yes”.

That’s it, both your machines will both be using the same “Favorites” folder, allowing you to add a favourite and having it viewable instantly on both. When the machines are not connected by the network, they will both work individually. You are able to add new favourites and they will sync when you reconnect your computer to the network.

This also gives you an opportunity to use Vistas sync center to set up a schedule to do the sync at night.

If you have multiple machines, you would follow the recipient steps on each of them to get each of them to sync.

I hope you have enjoyed this How-to and found it useful. Please feel free to check out some other articles at Inspect My Gadget.




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8 comments so far »
 

  1. Neil Taylor said, on November 14, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

    When you re-locate Windows “Special Folders” to networked drives in Vista it all seems to work OK until you try install a new proram.

    In Vista with major programs like Office 2007, Adobe Photoshop, Symantec antivirus and many others, the install fails with an “Invalid Drive: ” message.

    This is even staring to happen with Windows Updates to Office.

    My advice is DON’T DO IT ! Or at least until somebody bothers to fix thi bug.

  2. Inspect My Gadget said, on November 15, 2007 @ 9:34 am

    You may be right when it comes to profiles but I have not come across any problems with doing this for favorites. The organisation I work for has thousands of machines all using the same method without problems(offline files only for laptops). As IE uses simple shortcuts for its favorites, I don’t see it ever becoming a problem.

    Synchronising documents and the like the same way we have also never come across any problems, including installation of adobe and microsoft products after the configuration of this.

    I think it would be dangerous to share the whole profile. This is a more likely place for office to want to install “Application data” to. I have not gone to the level of trying this, I just assume it could be bad news.

  3. Neil Taylor said, on November 15, 2007 @ 10:02 am

    This is nothing to do with profiles – it’s to do with Vista install methods. When an install program (at least one from a major company like Microsoft, Adobe or Symantec) runs under Vista it falls over flat dead when it finds a “Special Folder” on a network drive. This has been OK till now even in a corporate environment because you install all your programs and then later you set your Favorites to your network drive.

    However just recently I’ve had Office 2007 updates from Windows Update failing with a “Code 52F” error. This normally means that Office cannot find the MSOCache directory. However it appears that in searching for the MSO cache Vista install also checks whether system folders are in the correct place. So even if your MSO cache is still in the right place the install fails if you have your Favorites on a network drive.

    The workaround is to move the location of the “Favorites” folder to a local disc – doesn’t seem to matter where – and then after the install move it back onto the netowrk drive – a Royal PITA.

  4. Inspect My Gadget said, on November 15, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

    Thanks for the information Neil. This is the first time I have heard of this setup failing, even with installing and upgrading programs after the favorites networking has been done.

    It is interesting that it has not worked for you.
    Your tip on how to workaround it, if a probem does occur is helpful. Thanks.

  5. Chris Duckworth said, on July 22, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

    I have still not come across any problems with this configuration. It has always worked flawlessly for me.

  6. Bill said, on August 20, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    Hi,

    I needed to do exactly as outlined here. On my Vista laptop I don’t see the “Always available offline” function when I right click the Favorites folder.

    It works fine when connected to the other PC, but favorites are not available when disconnected.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  7. Chris Duckworth said, on August 22, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

    Hi Bill, there are a couple of things that can make this happen. First off, you need to ensure your version of Vista is Business or higher. If it is not, then you will need to use some sync utility. I find synctoy to be a nice and simple option.
    Are the favorites pointing tot he right location? Make sure that you go into Network places to make the favorites folder available offline. Right clicking on the favorites within the start menu may not work.
    Let me know how you go.
    Cheers
    Chris

  8. Bill said, on August 22, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the reply, Chris,
    Yes. I am using Vista Home Basic, so it’s not available. So, I’ve put everything back to the way it was. I’ll try a sync tool.

    Thanks again.
    William


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