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Very difficult to describe in one sentence (title) what I'm looking for. Basically I'd like to have the following use cycle:

  1. Run the application to create a meta image (in some form) of a file tree (e.d. a drive or just any folder). That meta image would be a file containing meta information about the tree structure (file paths) and some additional data like modification dates or sizes.
  2. At a later point in time run the application and compare the current state (or a newly created meta image) to the old image and get a neat browsable UI showing which files have been deleted, created or modified in between.

Basically it comes down to the following three features:

  • Create meta images of file trees
  • Compare meta images
  • Neatly display meta image difference data

I'm on Windows, but familiar with UNIX tools and I have an MinGW/MSYS environment installed. One could maybe create such a meta image using find or ls and some magic to add metadata. One could maybe just diff two such dumps, but I'd expect the result to need more processing in order to be really helpful for the user.

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  • run a dirs /s or a powershell command that capture a dir tree to a file. Then upload it in git e.g. in a Github Repo and you have all the diff capabilities in Git using any Diff tool.
    – edelwater
    Mar 8 at 2:07
  • Not free, so comment, not answer. I pay $45/year for unlimited backup from one PC plus external drives. I am currently backing up about 7tB, so it's a good price. They have also introduced version history. Check it out, it might be useful, and even justify a dollar a week for backup peace of mind. Mar 11 at 18:45
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This might be too complicated for you, but it springs to mind immediately.

As a professional programmer, I often have to do that with directories of source code. We use a Version Control System.

Whenever code is stable, we "commit" it to version control, which takes a snapshot. Then we code some more, and the VCS makes it easy to see which files, and which parts of them, have changed.

I recommend Tortoise SVN

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    I'd say the chances were high from your pov that it might be too complicated for me, but coincidentally I do use Git on a regular basis. I have no experience with SVN, though. I feel a VCS would be a bit overkill (and steal too much of my time), because it diffs all the files instead of checking only existance and mod dates. At least Git does that. Is there a config in SVN that lets it ignore what exactly changed in the files?
    – Neonit
    Mar 11 at 17:41
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Along the lines of a Version Control System, but automatic, would be a Versioning file system.

IF, you can find one for Windows.

That Wikipedia page which referenced above says:

Microsoft Windows

  • Shadow Copy - is a feature introduced by Microsoft with Windows Server 2003. Shadow Copy allows for taking manual or automatic backup copies or snapshots of a file or folder on a specific volume at a specific point in time.

  • RollBack Rx - Allows snapshots of disk partitions to be taken. Each snapshot contains only the differences between previous snapshots, and take only seconds to create. Can be reliably used to keep a Windows OS stable and/or protected from malware.

  • GoBack (discontinued) - The GoBack software for Windows from Symantec enables reversion of files, directories or disks to previous states. It can record a maximum of 8GB in changes, and temporarily stops recording each change in the event of high I/O activity.

  • Versomatic - Versomatic software by Acertant automatically tracks file changes and preemptively archives a copy of a file before it is modified.

Disclaimer: I have used versioning file systems, but not on Windows. You would have to research these yourself.

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