Resolving sync conflicts: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about resolving sync conflicts.

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What is a sync conflict?

A sync conflict occurs when Sync Center can't reconcile differences between a file stored in one location and a version of the same file in another location, thereby stopping sync from being completed. This usually happens when a file has changed in both locations since its last sync, making it difficult to determine which changes to save. Sync Center will ask which version should be left unchanged (kept as the master copy) and which version should be updated. Selecting one version to sync with will resolve the conflict.

Another common cause of sync conflicts is when a file has been deleted from one location and changed in a second location since its last sync. Sync Center will give you a choice of resolving the sync conflict by deleting the remaining file or copying it to the other location.

What's an example of a common sync conflict?

If you've changed a document on your computer since the last sync and made a different change to the same document on a mobile device, a sync conflict will occur. Sync Center will ask how you want to resolve the conflict by allowing you to choose which version you want to sync with and which version you want to update.

Will I be notified if I have a sync conflict?

Yes, the Sync Center icon Picture of the Sync Center icon in the notification area on your taskbar will change to look like this Picture of the Sync Center icon indicating a sync conflictwhenever you have a sync conflict, but if you are not looking closely, you might miss this notification. Point to this icon to see if there are any conflicts. (Depending on how you have your taskbar configured, this icon may not be visible.) If there are conflicts, Windows will display a summary of them. You can also right-click the icon at any time and click View Conflicts to open Sync Center and check there for sync conflicts.

If you want to see a more detailed view of your sync conflicts, follow these steps:

  1. Open Sync Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Sync Center.

  2. In the left pane of Sync Center, click View sync conflicts, and then check to see if there are any conflicts listed.

How do I resolve sync conflicts?

  1. Open Sync Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Sync Center.

  2. In the left pane of Sync Center, click View sync conflicts.

  3. Select one or more conflicts, and then click Resolve.

    The Conflict Resolution dialog box opens, where you can resolve each conflict one at a time or resolve multiple conflicts simultaneously.

Do I have to resolve sync conflicts?

No, you don't have to resolve them. To remove conflicts without resolving them, open Sync Center, click View sync conflicts in the left pane, right-click any conflicts you don't want to resolve, and then click Ignore. Sync Center will continue to sync other items, but ignore this conflict. It won't sync an item in conflict until you tell it how to resolve the conflict (which you can do on this same Conflicts screen). If you choose to ignore it, however, the same sync conflict will probably occur again the next time you try to sync the item.

When I resolve a sync conflict between files in two locations, how do I know which version to keep?

Look carefully at both files to see which version you want to keep. You can check which file was updated most recently, or open the files and examine them. (Right-click the item in the conflict resolution screen, and then click Open.) Most people always sync with the latest version of a file and overwrite the older version. Other people always sync with the version in a specific location (such as their computer) and overwrite the version stored elsewhere (such as on a portable music player). How you set up Sync Center to sync your files depends on how you work. Do you always want to keep the master version of a file in the same location (such as your computer), or do you like to take the file with you on a mobile device, edit it there, and sometimes sync with that version?

Can I reduce the number of sync conflicts I'm getting?

Yes, you can. One way is to try to sync more of your files before you work on them in a second location. That way you will end up with fewer files that have changed in both locations since your last sync, which is what causes most conflicts. Also look at the types of sync conflicts you are getting. Do you often see the same sync conflicts? Do you always resolve them the same way, such as always choosing the most recent version? Some sync partnerships allow you to automatically sync with the latest version of a file, which can eliminate many conflicts. To check if you can change your sync settings, do this:

  1. Open Sync Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Sync Center.

  2. Right-click the sync partnership you want to change, and then click Properties. Some sync partnerships do not have any sync settings you can adjust.

For more information on changing your sync settings, see Change sync settings.

Could a file ever be removed from my computer when I resolve a sync conflict?

If you sync a file between two locations and you delete a copy of that file from one location, Sync Center will also delete the file from the second location in order to keep both locations in sync. This is the only situation in which Sync Center will delete a file.

Sync Center often replaces one version of a file with a newer version, but this does not delete any files. When you resolve a sync conflict, you overwrite one version of a file with another. For example, if you sync with the latest version of a file on your computer and overwrite an older version on a network server, you lose any data that was unique to that older version. This is not a problem if you just want to keep the most recent version of a file.

Can I keep both versions of a file that has a sync conflict?

Yes, you can. If a conflict occurs between two versions of a file and you don't want to lose any information in either file, you can resolve the conflict by keeping both versions. If you choose this option, Sync Center renames one version of the file and saves copies of both files in both locations. Although this keeps all your information safe, your files will not be in sync and you will end up with two different versions of the file in both locations. This is why most people resolve sync conflicts by overwriting one version of a file (usually the older version).

What's the difference between a sync conflict and a sync error?

  • A sync conflict occurs when differences can't be reconciled between a file stored in one location and a version of the same file in another location. This stops sync from being completed for this file until you decide how to reconcile the differences.

  • A sync error is a problem that usually prevents sync from being completed, such as a mobile device that is not plugged in or turned on, or a network server that is unavailable. Unlike sync conflicts, sync errors are not caused by problems reconciling two versions of a file. They usually occur when there is a problem with the device, computer, or folder you are trying to sync with.

Note

  • The ability to sync with network folders is not included in Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium.