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How do I keep two PCs in sync when they’re in different locations? [Ask ZDNet]

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Welcome to the latest installment of Ask ZDNet, where we answer the questions that stump Alexa.

In the mailbag this week: A reader works from two homes that are 1,000 miles apart. Is there a way to keep the content on his two PCs identical?

How do I keep two PCs in sync when they’re in different locations?

I regularly travel between New York City and Miami Beach, where I have a second home. I have a desktop PC with a big monitor in each location. Is there a way to keep the content on these two PCs identical? My main email account is on Gmail. I have a Microsoft 365 Home account and also use Quicken along with some maritime and sailing and weather apps. I also have several thousand bookmarks.

You’re not alone in this request. Lots of people want to keep two PCs in sync (a desktop and laptop, usually) even when those PCs are in different rooms of the same house. It doesn’t matter that your PCs are in two different states—the solution is still the same: Use the cloud. 

Given the software and cloud services you listed here, you’re already most of the way to achieving most of what you want to do. 

Your Gmail account is already in the cloud with Google. You can send, receive, and review your email messages from anywhere, using a web browser or a dedicated email app. 

Thousands of bookmarks? Use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge as your default browser on both PCs, and then sign in with your Google account (for Chrome) or Microsoft account (for Edge) and let the browser take care of keeping your bookmarks in sync. 

Having a Microsoft 365 subscription gives you the right to install the Office desktop apps (Word, Excel, Outlook, and the rest) on up to five PCs. Go to the Office home page (https://www.office.com), sign in with your Microsoft account, and click the Install Office button. 

More importantly, that Microsoft 365 subscription includes 1 TB of storage in OneDrive, which should be more than enough to keep all your data files in sync. If you add, edit, or delete a file on one PC, your changes will automatically synchronize across the Internet to your other PC. 

You’ll have to do a minimal amount of work to install the remainder of your apps on each PC, but that’s a one-time task. 

You can streamline the synchronization process by setting up OneDrive so that your Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders are automatically synced to the cloud. (You’ll find this option on the Backup tab in the OneDrive Settings dialog box.) For your traditional apps that aren’t cloud-aware, just put their data files in the Documents folder and let OneDrive take care of keeping them in sync. 

And when all that’s done, you’ll have essentially identical PC setups in both your homes.

Send your questions to ask@zdnet.com. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t guarantee a personal reply, but we do promise to read every letter and respond right here to the ones that we think our readers will care about. Be sure to include a working email address in case we have follow-up questions. We promise not to use it for any other purpose.  


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