Regular readers know that I test a lot of products. I don’t let let a measly little “beta” label scare me away. But once in a while, you get screwed. And when that once in a while comes along, be sure I’ll let you know so you can avoid a similar fate.
In this case, the culprit was the Microsoft FolderShare beta. The concept of FolderShare is this: using your Windows Live account, you can install the FolderShare software on multiple PCs and even Macs. I had installed it on a laptop running Vista, a desktop running XP and a MacBook Pro running OS X.
Once installed, you can create a “share” between the computers and FolderShare will sync files across them. You have the choice between automatic or on-demand synchronization. In my case, I chose on demand. You also chose the corresponding container folder on each PC (they can be different on each).
Here is where my tale of woe begins…
I had just purchased and downloaded Big Blue Ball from Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records via iTunes on the Vista laptop. I simply wanted to copy the songs over to my desktop (all legal — it’s one of the devices attached to my iTunes account). I could’ve done this any number of ways, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to give FolderShare a real-world test.
After installing the software on the three computers, I created a Personal Library called “Music.” I added the iTunes folder from my laptop, and it added the files to that library (somewhere on a FolderShare server).
Next, I setup the desktop (where I wanted the files). Unfortunately, as soon as I connected to the new personal library, it started adding all the music I had on my desktop to the library as well. Not what I wanted at all.
Looking back on the laptop, I noticed that FolderShare had automatically created a long list of folders that matched how my music was stored on the desktop. Inside each folder was a special “shortcut” that if you clicked it, would fetch the requested file from my desktop and transfer it to my laptop. Likewise on my desktop, I saw new folders that mirrored the folders on my laptop, also with the little shortcuts for each file.
Well, that’s neat, I suppose. I tried to transfer a few of the files over from my laptop, and the were “downloaded” properly. So that part worked, but what to do with the massive, empty folder structure that was created on my laptop. Remember I didn’t want to copy my music from my desktop to the laptop.
At this point, I suspect someone will point out that FolderShare is in fact designed for folder synchronization. This is true, although I suspected by selected the “on demand” option as I did, I could control what got synchronized, when it got synchronized, and where it got synchronized. I was wrong. And I’m not the only person to have been bitten by FolderShare.
So moving back to the laptop, I decided I would never want to transfer all those files from my desktop to my laptop, so I selected all the folders that were created with their little FolderShare shortcuts and deleted them.
Holy shit…. what a mistake!
Yes, the folders were deleted from my laptop, but (as I realized later) the actual MP3s on my desktop were also being deleted — victims of a synchronized deletion. To add insult to injury, they weren’t even moved to the recycle bin. They were just… gone.
As soon as I discovered what was happening, I exited FolderShare and deleted the library. I don’t know if that was a mistake, too, but now I’m left with a massive music folder structure that is completely empty — no more music.
Some of this music was downloaded, but most of it I’ve got on CD. I can burn it again, but it’s going to take time.
The moral of the story: steer clear of FolderShare. It has promise, but the fact that it deleted files on another computer without warning or confirmation is entirely unacceptable.