BitTorrent Sync has just entered open Alpha allowing the public to try it out. The app allows you to sync folders across several computers using 'Secrets'. It can be used to transfer and share files across multiple devices and entire networks. This makes it a competitor for file sharing services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Normally, files are fully shared between parties, but you can also create read only and one time use Secret. BitTorrent Sync is available for Windows (Vista, 7, 8), Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems. We tested out the app on Windows 7 and 8 so several of our findings may not apply to other operating systems; the Linux version uses a config file instead of the application interface found on Windows and Mac.
We’ll show you how to use BitTorrent Sync to share files with multiple machines.
The main function is sharing folders with different devices. To set a new folder first go to the 'Shared Folders' tab and hit 'Add'. A new 'Add folder' window will pop up.
You can either type out a folder location manually, or hit the '…' (ellipses) button to browser for folders. Since this is likely your first folder being shared hit the 'Generate' button to create a new Secret code. Copy this code to your clipboard and write it in an easy to find location. You can also quickly copy the secret by right clicking on the folder in the Shared Folders tab and select 'Copy secret'. For now, hit OK to finish setting up the folder.
In your other PCs you can now sync with the shared folder. The process is nearly the same as the above step. Once again enter 'Add folder' by pressing 'Add' in the 'Shared Folders' tab. This time, instead of hitting 'Generate', paste in the Secret code you copied and wrote down before. Finish up by selecting a folder and confirming your choices.
The folders and files will now sync between the PCs. You can check the status of active transfers in the 'Transfers' tab. This will show the rate at which you are uploading and downloading files. The rate of transfer depends on the power and number of machines being synced together.
The 'History' tab will show completed transferred files along with a timestamp. Shared files can be changed, moved or deleted on any of the synced machines. If you want to share files but don’t want them tampered with you can use read only and one-time use Secrets instead.
Read only sync
Read only Secrets allow you to share files without fear of them being deleted or changed by other users. The read only secret is found by right clicking on a folder’s path in the Folders tab and opening 'Preferences'. Hit the Advanced tab and the read only Secret will be just below the original Secret. Copy this code and share it with others.
Note that folders that are synced with read only Secrets cannot generate any type of new Secrets of their own. This includes normal, Ready only, and One-time Secrets.
There is also an option to create Secrets that will expire after 24 hours. You can find this option in the 'Advanced' tab just like Read only Secrets. You can select if the One-time Secret grants full access or is a Read only. Hit the 'Generate & Copy' button to create a new code. Note that the code itself lasts for 24 hours, however once the Secret code is entered the sync is permanent unless deleted.
Monitoring your syncs
After syncing folders together you can enter the 'Devices' tab to check them over. The tab will display the name of devices you’re currently synced with, which folder is being shared, and the current status. A device's information will only appear if it is currently on and logged in, but they do not need to be actively using BitTorrent Sync. The status will show when you last synced, or if you’re currently syncing, the active download and upload rates. Unfortunately, you cannot quickly check which Secrets are associated with which folders and devices; for that you will have to move over to the Folders tab and copy each Secret individually.
The 'Preferences' tab will allow you to adjust BitTorrent Sync’s settings. The main options change how other devices interact with your PC. Changing your device name will alter what is displayed for other users you’re sharing with. The limit on download/upload rates is good for computers connect to slower networks. You can enter the maximum amount of kBs shared per second.
There are also settings to automatically update BitTorrent Sync, display notifications for finished downloads, start BitTorrent Sync on startup, and adjust your port. The last option will likely be too advanced and unnecessary for most basic users. Likewise, the 'Advanced…' button will open a menu that will likely not be used by basic users. It includes technical options such as lan_use_tcp and disk_low_priority which could be confusing.
Now with BitTorrent Sync running you can quickly share files with multiple machines across different operating systems. You can manage files on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers with just one Secret code. The process isn’t complicated, but can be unclear your first time. After generating a Secret for the first time, sharing becomes easy and fluid. If you really don’t want your own files being changed there are options to make Read only and One-Time Secrets.
BitTorrent Sync appears reliable and secure during this Alpha phase, and we will be watching out for major changes as it nears a full release.