Before you start
Objectives: Learn how to enable and manage Offline Files in Windows 7, and how to resolve sync conflicts.
Prerequisites: you have to know what is Offline Files feature in Windows.
Key terms: Offline Files, Windows 7, configuration, Sync Center, conflicts, sync
Offline Files Configuration
The first thing we have to have is a shared folder with files in it. Then we have to open the Advanced Sharing properties of that share and configure Caching options. So, this step is done on the server which is sharing the folder.
In Caching window, we can set which files are available to users who are offline.
The option “Only the files and programs that users specify are available offline” means that we have enabled manual caching. The option “No files or programs from the shared folder are available offline” means that no caching is allowed at all. The option “All files and programs that users open from the shared folder are automatically available offline” means automatic caching. If we choose the “Optimize for performance” option, executable files from the network share will be cached to the client machine. In our case we will leave it to manual.
The next step is performed on the client machine. The first thing we should do on the client machine is check the settings in Control Panel > Sync Center. Important thing to check here is the “Manage offline files” option. In the window that appears we will be able to disable offline files feature and view our offline files.
On the Disk Usage tab we will see how much disk space is currently used and available for storing offline files.
On the Encryption tab we can encrypt offline files, and on the Network tab we can configure the time interval to check for a slow connection. In our case we will leave all those options to default settings. The next thing to do is to open the shared folder from our client machine. In our case, the UNC path to our shared folder is //ivancic-s/scan. In that shared folder we have one file called “Demo text file”. To make this file available offline, we will right-click it and select the “Always available offline” option.
Always Available Offline Option
Once the file is made available offline, we will see a state of the file as “Always available” at the bottom of the Explorer window, when we select the file.
If we lose network connectivity and try to open the shared folder again, we will see that the Status of the folder is Offline, but the availability is Available.
This means that we can open up the shared file and work on it while we are not connected to the network, and save all the changes. Once we connect to the network again, we the modified file will be synced with the file on the shared folder on the server.
Keep in mind that if multiple users are working on the same files in the shared folder, we might encounter conflicts when syncing cached files back to the server. If someone else from modifies the same file as we have modified, we will see a conflict notification in our Sync Center.
When we click on a specific conflict, we will be asked which version we want to keep.
We can choose to keep the file on our client machine, keep the file on the server, or to keep both files (one file will be renamed). So, as we can see, offline files are primarily intended for personal use. If multiple users work on the same files, there is a chance of overwriting changes on files made by other users, so keep that in mind.