I 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.
With 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”
We 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.
If you do not have a favorites link here, right click on the grey area and select properties.
Select the “Start menu” tab
Select the “Advanced” tab
Tick “Favorites Menu”
Alternatively, you can navigate through to “C:\Documents and Settings\’username’\Favorites”
Select “My Computer”
Go to your C: Drive
Right-click in white area.
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.
Right-click on the favorites folder you pasted in the last step.
Select “Sharing and Security”
Tick “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.
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 :
This 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
Double click on the keys on the right and change the value to “C:\Favorites” for this key.
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.
You 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.
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 :
- Mapping to the folder from the host machine.
- Setting up offline files
- 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”
Select “Network” – Also available through “Computer”
Find your “Host” computer.
Right Click on “Favorites”
Select “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.
Right click on your “Favorites” folder in your start menu or type “Favorites” into the Vista search bar.
Click on the “Location” tab”
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.
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.