Method for mirroring two MBP's with little effort?

I’m a consulting engineer/legal expert witness and a one-man firm. In the past, I’ve tried to have a desktop and a notebook computer, and it was always a pain keeping both computers up to date with app updates and in sync with data files. Also, my frustration was always needing a file that was not on the machine at hand (I had a stack of external drives).

I have since decided to go with a single16 inch M2 MBP, fully loaded with 64 GB and 4TB storage. Everything I have is on this Mac because I’m frequently on the road. I have dumped all the external drives and only have one computer to maintain, therefore having simplified my life greatly. FYI, I am three levels deep in backup methods (i.e., Time Machine, CCC, and Backblaze).

My fear is having my machine lost, stolen, or somehow destroyed while on the road, and therefore being out of touch with my clients for the week or so that it would take to get another 64gb/4TB MBP.

Does anyone have a methodology by which they keep two identical Macs in sync with a minimum of fuss and effort? One caveat, the solutions cannot be cloud-based because I’m often in places that have restricted or at least very slow web access. I just need the two machines to be synced up when they are both at home on the same WIFI network.

Thanks in advanced

It really depends on the specifics of how automated you want and how much recovery you will tolerate.

Many people simply keep a single large external drive with copy of all data on it using Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner or a sync utility like ChronoSync.

If your applications don’t change frequently, you can have the same app and configuration files installed on both systems and not worry about sync’ing apps and setting automatically.

For much greater limitations, but instant recovery, you can run everything in a virtual machine and backup the virtual machine between systems and external storage.

But even with modern VM tech, always running in a VM has performance and graphics overhead.

I used to do that (a VM) for text-heavy technical apps that were a nightmare to re-install. But they were Windows-based, so I also was using the VM to avoid needing a Windows-only laptop alongside my Mac.

(Some of the apps had complete private installs of Microsoft SQL Server embedded so simply re-installing the app itself, including updates and patches, was an error-prone, full day or longer task.)


Just asking for " I just need the two machines to be synced up when they are both at home on the same WIFI network." won’t save you from data loss if new data goes on the computer while on the road and the computer is lost or stolen.

But barring that, have a look a the program Chronosync
I used it for years to synchronize files between my home iMac and away MacBook. Sync before leaving and again upon return home.

1 Like

I agree with @tomalmy, having two identical Macs won’t help if you lose one of them while away from home.

I’m a Google Workspace user so my solution would be to store my data on Google Drive and have it sync to both computers using Drive for Desktop. Unlike iCloud GD sync starts the instant you create or modify a file.

Personal Cloud Storage & File Sharing Platform - Google

The problem with losing your Mac on the road would probably be the loss of your specialty programs. You could edit Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides in any device with a browser, without converting them. Even if you had slow web access. But you would still be SOL without your other required software.

What’s the minimum Mac that you could get by with? I’m thinking of a good used MacBook, with your data synced to external storage if necessary, that someone could overnight to you in an emergency.

1 Like

I mean, I know you said “no cloud solutions”, but I’ll interpret that as “can’t require Internet to access the data” and suggest the Dropbox business plan would work. It would run all the time while you were at home (making it at least as good as an at-home-only solution), run sporadically when you’re on the road (if you have Internet access), and is very non-fiddly and reliable.

If you are just looking to find files after losing your computer, then you can download the Backblaze IOS app and find what you need from their system.
Based, however, on your question about keeping two different computers synced, this is my process (Sorry about the length of the post). I use DEVONthink Pro 3 ($199 for use on up to two computers) and DEVONthink To Go 3 ($14.99 for an annual subscription).

Device List:
M2 MacBook Air 13-inch (24 GB/2TB SSD)
M2 Mac mini (32 GB/4TB SSD)
Early 2015 MacBook Air 11-inch ( 4 GB/1TB SSD - on macOS Monterey. This is my “precious”)
iPhone 14 Pro (512 GB storage)
iPad mini 6 (256 GB storage)

I don’t know your data requirements, but I am able to keep all my data up-to-date across all devices. I do not use any cloud system. I sync using my local secure network at home (you do have to sync one device at a time).
Initially, I index (disclaimer in a moment) all files/folders into DEVONthink Pro 3. This creates folders/files in the app and a complete set on my hard drive on each of my three computers. When I sync between devices, each local document location is updated. Using DEVONthink To Go, both my IOS devices are updated with a mirror image of my DEVONthink databases. At that point, I make all addition, deletions, movements between databases, file/folder name changes, etc., in DEVONthink.
The Disclaimer: I have to be very deliberate about using only DEVONthink for the above operations - even DEVONthink’s guru cautions about using indexing over importing. If I happen to notice a file on my local SSD with a misspelled word and I change it in Finder, then DEVONthink may or may NOT catch the change (and I will receive a DEVONthink error message). The file is still there, but I then have to go into DEVONthink to fix it.
Although some have quit using this app because they have lost data, I have not one file (well over six years). I just have to be cautious and manage everything in the app.
The initial cost is high, but they upgrade the app all the time at no cost - I think it’s been several years since they charged for an upgrade.
Finally, when I’m on the road I have created a travel sync location so that least my laptop and my IOS devices have the most current data. When I come home, one sync and the other devices have the most update data.


I sync my iMac and MacBook Air via iCloud. Both are running when at home and stay synced easily. When on the road I sometimes have limited internet but it hasn’t been a problem. The few items I create or update on the road usually get synced within a day or so which is fine for my needs.

What’s nice is that I leave my iMac running when gone so any files synced to it get included in my backup plan.

1 Like

Nice writeup here! :heart: :slight_smile:

It seems to me that an important question is: when you talk about syncing your two laptops, are you referring only to your data files, or also you apps, preferences, and settings? The former is quite a bit easier than the latter.

In terms of syncing data only, there are a number of viable solutions already suggested, ranging from storing all files in a sync’d folder to making regular clones from one computer to the other. I personally prefer the former as a more automatic approach - basically as long as there is internet connectivity, everything you create/modify can be synchronized between two (or more) computers.

Personally, I keep nearly everything in folders synchronized using SynologyDrive, so that there is always a copy on my MBPro, MacMini, and the Synology itself. I even use SynologyDrive to synchronize my Desktop and Downloads folders. There are a few folders that store things I don’t need on my laptop (eg my entire music and movie library, about 1TB, which sites only on the Mini and Synology and which I access via Plex rather than directly on the laptop. The Mini is backed up via BackBlaze to the cloud, and the laptop is also backed up via Arq, so there are two cloud copies plus the local clones to the Synology.

You could do the same with a variety of public sync services (Dropbox and others) if you want to pay for the amount of storage needed, or just between the two laptops without a central sync service with ResilioSync (also a great product).

Obviously this only works when the laptops are on, awake, and connected to the internet (or your LAN if both are on the LAN). A disadvantage to ResilioSync is that there is no central server, so if both laptops are not on and connected at the same time, a sync cannot happen, while with SynologyDrive, Dropbox, etc, there is a server that each sends and receives data with, so if one laptop sync’d with the server and the other was not on, the latter would sync up when next activated.

The harder problem is keeping both in sync with apps and preferences. I would think that one viable option, as already suggested, is to routinely make a TimeMachine backup or system clone of the laptop that you carry around with you, and keep that backup in a safe place. If your active laptop is lost/stolen/damaged, you restore the latests TM backup or clone to the second laptop, and you are back in business as of the point of the last backup.

You can, of course, combine the two by restoring a new laptop via a TM backup and then resyncing the data files.

Hope this helps.

I’m assuming that what you want to sync is your user data, not apps, settings, etc. as these are relatively easy to recreate (and harder to sync). I recommend SyncThing which is a free open source tool that syncs files between devices. It does not use the cloud and any time both computers are on the same network and turned on, they’ll sync.