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I'm looking for a (preferably free) application that I can use to keep a shared, synced directory with my family. We've been using Dropbox for this, except this has a limited maximum size; I'd like a solution without a central server, which then gives bascially unlimited size.

If it were two linux machines I'd setup a hourly rsync job (which fails if a computer is offline, but that's OK), but I don't know how to do that on Windows, and how to do this with multiple (~5) clients.

Edit: answering questions:

  • Merging conflicts: I don't know/care, I don't expect it to happen. It's just a place where we can dump pictures and automatically share them with everybody. So a simple "whoever modified last wins" would be fine with me.
  • OS: good question, for now it's only Windows, but I assume some will want to sync (partly) on Android
  • I understand the benefits of a central server, but my own desktop PC isn't always on, and a dedicated server is either slightly overkill (PC-like solution) or too limited in storage (RaspberryPi + SD card)
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How do you plan to solve merging conflicts without a central server? If both users modify a file, which one remains? –  kurast Aug 14 at 12:43
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"or too limited in storage (RaspberryPi + SD card)" You can always attach a hard drive to a RaspberryPi via one of the USB ports. –  DanteTheEgregore Aug 15 at 14:04

3 Answers 3

BitTorrent Sync can meet all your requirements(A freeSoftware).

It's a P2P synchronisation tool.After installed. Specify the folder(s) you want to share.It will generate a key.Give it to your family or friends who use BitTorrent Sync. Whatever Mobile device or PC can sync the file you specify.

It's not the WebStorage cilent. BitTorrent Sync just directly transfer file with P2P to the computer who get your key.So it doesn't have size limits. That depends on your local HardDisk size.

Turn-off your computer is Ok. It will continue sync when you turn on your computer.

I have used it 3 months to transfer files with friends.

Here is the Homepage.

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disclaimer: I haven't tested these, but they look promosing. they are both open-source, decentralized and cross-platform.

syncthing

an option is to try syncthing:

Syncthing replaces proprietary sync and cloud services with something open, trustworthy and decentralized.

git-annex with assistant

you could also experiment with git-annex. it naturally works on linux but it has an experimental windows build. of course if you like git you will probably like it! :)

git-annex is designed for git users who love the command line. For everyone else, the git-annex assistant turns git-annex into an easy to use folder synchroniser.

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I'm looking into syncthing, which looks good so far. I'm missing the Windows wizard-like installation for my less computer-savvy family members :) –  Frank Meulenaar Aug 14 at 18:33

There are multiple possibilities – but as kurast already pointed out in the comments on your question, more than 2 machines without a "centralized server" will certainly lead to merge conflicts sooner or later. But on the condition you can declare one of your computers the "centralized server", choices pop up.

For what I present here, that server can be one of your computers. But it can also be some NAS device or even some router, as far as they support it (several of both categories do). Best of course one that runs 24/7, hence the router or NAS might be perfect for this task.


If you're just after "File Sync", you should take a look at Seafile. For the server part, it supports Windows, Linux, and RaspberryPi – plus offers desktop clients for Windows, Mac, Linux as well as mobile clients for Android and iOS. Storage size is up to you, and of course depends on what your machine offers (for the Raspi, simply stick in a big enough SDCard/stick). Should be fairly easy to deal with from what I've read (not using it myself).

Additionally to file sharing, it supports some team-collaboration features such as chat and a wiki – so you could leave each other messages even.

Seafile Screenshot
Seafile Screenshot (source: Seafile; click image for larger variant)

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For some additional features, I can recommend ownCloud – which I use myself, and describe to some degree in my article Android without Google 2: ownCloud (a little focused on Android, but you'll get the idea). Here you can download the server variant for all systems running a web server with PHP support. I've seen examples for the "Raspi" again, and also for Fritz!Box routers. For me, installation was done in less than half an hour.

Additionally to file service, ownCloud out-of-the-box lets you share a lot more things. Each user can have his or her own contacts, calendars, documents and more, and can share them with every other member – completely, or in parts. It's almost a little "office machine", as you can edit text files as well as simple office documents (OpenDocumentText currently). From a repository full of "ownCloud apps", you can extend functionality to what you think you need. All for free.

ownCloud
ownCloud web interface (source: Wikimedia; click image for larger variant)

Again, there are desktop and mobile clients available for all kind of systems (pretty much the same coverage as with Seafile above).

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