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Keep Networked PCs in Sync With SyncToy

If you have two or more PCs in your house, you've probably wished for an easy way to keep certain types of data in sync between them. All you need is Microsoft's SyncToy 2.0, an unsupported but effective tool that creates "folder pairs" between PCs. Once you set up a pair, all it takes is one click to sync the contents of the two folders.

For example, maybe you do most of the MP3 downloading on your PC, while your wife stores the family's digital photos on hers. Ideally, those files would be in sync and up to date on both your machines. That's not only convenient, it also creates an extra backup in case one of the two systems dies an untimely death.

SyncToy gives you three synchronization options: Synchronize, Echo, and Contribute. Interestingly, the program keeps track of any files that get renamed and carries those files over on the next sync.

Speaking of which, this is a manual tool: You have to run it whenever you want to update your folder pairs. Thus, it's not really a replacement for something like Windows Live Sync, which does its work automatically and in the background. Instead, it's a great little for syncing occasional-use folders on networked PCs.

Make Your Scroll Wheel Work in Every Window

There's something broken in Windows. (Insert your own joke here.) Specifically, mouse-wheel scrolling doesn't work the way it should, by which I mean you can't just point your cursor inside a window and start scrolling. Instead, you have to click in that window first to bring it into "focus."

Fortunately, I've found an easy fix: WizMouse, a free utility that makes your mouse's scroll-wheel work wherever you point your cursor.

I'm using this full-time now and can no longer live without it. The program works exactly as advertised: Just point your mouse at a window and spin that scroll wheel. There's no need to click first. I know it sounds like a minor thing, but I didn't fully realize how much this click-first business annoyed me until I started using WizMouse.

The program can also optionally add wheel-scrolling capabilities to programs that don't support it.

Tweak the Start Menu's Control Panel Interface

Here's the old way of accessing the Windows Control Panel: Click Start, find and click Control Panel, wait for the window to appear, then sift through all the icons to find the icon you want. Double-click that icon to open yet another window.

Here's a faster way: Click Start, Control Panel, and then choose the option you want from the fly-out menu that appears.

Much more convenient, no? Here's how to tweak your Vista Start Menu to include a "built-in" Control Panel:

  1. Right-click the Start button, and then click Properties.
  2. In the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button.
  3. In the Control Panel section, enable Display as a menu.
  4. Click OK twice to exit.

Now, when you venture into Start, you'll see that the Control Panel button has an arrow attached. Click it and presto: All your Control Panel options are right there for fast and easy access.

If you're an XP user, the process is mostly the same. After clicking Customize in Step 2, switch to the Advanced tab, then proceed to Step 3.

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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