Live Mesh, Live Sync and Skydrive

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What’s the difference between Microsoft’s Live Sync, Live Mesh and Skydrive?

Microsoft has two consumer level synchronization services, both use the Windows Live login and have ‘Live’ names. What’s the difference between them?

How do those sync services fit with Microsoft Skydrive and Office Web Applications.

Live Sync

Live Sync lets you synchronize files between two or more computers. These computers can include Windows and Macintosh computers.

Live Sync - simple diagram.jpg image from Live Mesh, Live Sync and Skydrive at

You can synchronize up to 20 folders each of which can have up to 20,000 files.

Live Mesh

Live Mesh is also free from Microsoft it can do all that Live Sync can plus some more. Live Mesh lets you synchronize folders between two or more computers, just like Live Sync.

In addition you can synchronize folders with the Live Mesh ‘cloud’ storage – called ‘Live Desktop’. This is 5GB of free online storage that you can use for backup or simply online storage of your files.

Live Mesh simple diagram.jpg image from Live Mesh, Live Sync and Skydrive at

You control the sync and access of each folder. Some can be only between computers, others sync with the online storage (Live Desktop) as well. It can also sync with mobile devices through the web browser in most mobile devices.

Unlike Live Sync, you can allow access to online folders to other people.

You can sync as much data as you like between computers (‘peer to peer’) limited only by your network speed. You can have up to 200 folders with 100,000 files in each.  A single file can be up to 2GB.  Live Mesh has been tested up to 40GB in a single folder, peer-to-peer.

Live Mesh also leverages the Remote Desktop technology so you can access computers from other machines. From any Windows computer (at work or travelling) you can login to and work on your home computer as if you were sitting in front of it. Remote Desktop is available in Windows already but Live Mesh helps you get past modem/router and firewall hassles.

In addition, Live Mesh is a developing technology that will be able to do a lot more than simply file synchronization. It is a transactional system that will be able to replicate individual data elements (eg database records) instead of entire files.

At present Live Mesh is promoted as a way to sync pictures and music but there’s no good reason for that. You can sync any files including Microsoft Office documents. The main exception is Outlook PST/OST files which are too large and not suited to this type of whole file replication. has a startup guide Live Mesh; it’s here now, it’s useful and it’s free

Live Mesh is the way of the future, but currently Microsoft is keeping it well hidden. Any questions to Microsoft about Live Mesh and other innovations get stonewalled at best. At worst even some Microsoft staffer’s haven’t heard of Live Mesh!


Skydrive is Microsoft’s main online storage option, available as part of a Windows Live login.

Office Web Applications (the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) work using Skydrive storage. See Getting started with Office Web Applications

So you’d naturally wonder how Live Sync or Live Mesh integrate with the Skydrive service all from Microsoft.

Answer: they don’t!

So far none of Microsoft’s sync services work with Microsoft’s own online storage. If you have Live Mesh online storage it is totally separate from your Skydrive storage even though they can use the same Windows Live login.

If would be obvious to sync Skydrive folders with your computer. You could edit a Word document online and have to automatically appear on your own computer. Obvious to you and me, obvious to many at Microsoft too but for unknown reasons Microsoft is reluctant to make this useful link.

Which to choose?

We’ve been big fans of Live Mesh for a long time. It has lots of power and flexibility which might confuse novices but is a boon to anyone prepared to spend a little time on setup.

You might prefer Live Sync for its simplicity but Live Mesh is worth the small trouble to get running. Unless Microsoft management goes completely loopy, Live Mesh will become mainstream technology and become part of Skydrive and Office Web Applications. has a startup guide Live Mesh; it’s here now, it’s useful and it’s free

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