How to Synchronize Files/Folders Using FreeFileSync on Ubuntu

We are living in the area of cloud computing where lot of free services are available that let us sync our important data for the sake of backup to the remote cloud storage. But what if we do not want to store our confidential data on cloud? well, thankfully FreeFileSync is available. It is a cross platform, free utility which allows users to create backup of important data to local system's disk or any external USB drives. When installed, it keeps syncing your specified source and target directories; you can have peace of mind that your important data is continuously being synced. It is not a resource hungry application, it consumes very limited amount of system resources and runs efficiently on all kinds of modern day operating system ( Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux ). It has a very long feature list which we will review later in this article, but lets first see the list of supported operating system by this application. It is available for:

Microsoft (Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista,Windows XP)
macOS 10.12      – Sierra
OS X 10.11      – El Capitan
OS X 10.10     – Yosemite
OS X 10.9     – Mavericks
OS X 10.8     – Mountain Lion

It supports almost all modern versions of above mentioned Linux flavors. Let's review its important features and then we will get to the part of installing this application on Ubuntu 16.10.

FreeFileSync's Salient Features

FreeFileSync is not a new application, it has been under the radar of IT professionals for quite a time now and has successfully won the trust of industry professionals. Here are some of the noteworthy features of this application.

  • It has been developed using a very unique "Fail-safe" algorithm which avoid any kind of data corruption during sync process.
  • This utility uses an "optimal sync sequence" method which prevents disk space related bottlenecks.
  • It can not only synchronize local disks but its capabilities include the syncing of Network shares as well.
  •  FreeFileSync uses an intuitive directory tree structure to better get an overall of disk space consumption.
  • It can copy locked files and detect any conflicts among source and target folders.
  • You can automatically handle batch jobs and it also handles the "Symbolic Links" so you get accurate amount of data backed up.
  • It comes in both, portal and local installation versions. You can install it on your local system for regular use, or you can use portable version for temporary use. The portable version is even lighter.
  • Many utilities of this nature use the concept of file/folder size only, but FreeFileSync uses the concept of File's content size comparison, so in this way any tiny change in source or target directories are properly synced/backed up.
  • It uses "Case Sensitive" mechanism to ensure that complete data is being synchronized.
  • It properly handles files/folders sync process dependencies for both the FAT and NTFS partitions types.

The feature list can go on and on, but the above mentioned are most prominent of all. Grab a cup of tea, we are going to start the installation of FreeFileSync on Ubuntu.

Installing and Using FreeFileSync on Ubuntu 16.10

For the sake of demonstration, we will be installing this application on Ubuntu 16.10. First of all make sure that your Ubuntu sytem is properly connected to the internet and run system updates so that all packages are on the latest available releases.

sudo apt-get update

Once our Ubuntu system is done with system updates, run following command on the terminal to download FreeFileSync package file to your system.

sudo wget

Extract the downloaded file using following command.

sudo tar -xvf FreeFileSync_8.9_Ubuntu_16.10_64-bit.tar.gz

Go into the extracted directory .

cd FreeFileSync

We are almost done, we need to create a launcher now so that we may be able to start using this utility directly from desktop. Run following command, it will let our Ubuntu system enable the capability to create .desktop files.

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends gnome-panel

Now use following command to invoke the "Create Launcher" wizard.

sudo gnome-desktop-item-edit /usr/share/applications/ --create-new

Specify Name for this new launcher and browse and select path for "FreeFileSync" utility which you will be able to locate under its extracted directory.

FreeFileSync Launcher

Thats' it, go to your system's launch bar and you will be able to find it there now.


Launch it and start using this wonderful application. As shown in the following screenshot, the two boxes show the source and destination directories. Use Browse button on both parts to select source and destination directories for synchronization. You can save, refresh, or open your sync jobs from same window. This main windows is one location where you comprehensively see all required options and with few clicks, you can configure your important stuff to sync on your specified location or external disks. Enjoy the power of open source and simplicity.


You can easily customize the way this application works, simply click Settings button and here is what it will show you. You can choose the file comparison variant from here. The available variants are "File Size and Time", "File Content" and "File Size" .

FreeFileSync Setting

These variants allow you to control the way your data is being synchronized."Filter" tab lets you include and exclude directories, similarly you can modify many settings from "Synchronization" tab of the following window.

Filter Sync

Let's perform an exmaple compare job using this utility. We have two directories on our system named "/home/aun/Download" and "/home/aun/Download1". "/home/aun/Download" is containing some good number of files, while /home/aun/Download1 is currently an empty directory, we will choose "/home/aun/Download" as source directory and "/home/aun/Download1" as target directory as shown in the following screenshot.

Compare Files

Click "Compare" button and you should be able to see the difference.

compare result

Click "Synchronize" button to sync these two directories.

Sync Files

That's it, data has been synced successfully.

Sync Completed


Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. In this tutorial we have reviewed the important features, installation process and usage of FreeFileSync utility. It is a must-have utility for desktop users. It works flawlessly, but if you run into any issues using this application, please note that it has very detailed error logging and reporting and it is under constant development phase. Reported errors are fixed on regular intervals and you can install the latest version of this application without uninstalling the previous one, as the new binary/executable will be able to identify and clean up any old versions. Try it today, hope you will enjoy using this utility.

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