Utility Spotlight: Looking at Windows Live Mesh 2011

Windows Live Mesh lets you synchronize just about any type of file, whether it’s a Microsoft Office file or even Internet Explorer favorites.

Lance Whitney

The latest member of the family in the new Windows Live Essentials 2011 suite is Windows Live Mesh 2011. The new Live Mesh combines the peer-to-peer file synchronizing of Microsoft Live Sync with the Web-based syncing of the old Live Mesh. Live Mesh 2011 is a handy tool for you and your users if you need to work with the same files on more than one PC or need to access your documents in the cloud.

With Windows Live Mesh, you can sync specific folders among multiple computers and within Windows Live SkyDrive. Microsoft lets you use up to 5GB of space on SkyDrive for Live Mesh syncing in addition to the 25GB  you already get. You can even share synced folders on SkyDrive with other designated users. You can also open remote desktop connections to other PCs on your Live Mesh network as an alternative to the built-in Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) tool.

You can grab Windows Live Mesh directly from the Microsoft Download Center. The installation file (wlsetup-web.exe) lets you select which Live Essentials products to install. You can opt for just Live Mesh or also install Live Mail, Messenger and the other Live Essentials 2011 tools.

If you install Live Mesh on multiple computers, it makes no difference upon which PC you install it first. After installation, open Live Mesh from its shortcut under Windows Live on the All Programs menu and log in with your Windows Live account. It may be handy to have Windows remember your ID and password and sign in automatically so Live Mesh starts each time you load Windows.

Those of you using Windows Live Sync will bump into a conflict if you try to also open Live Mesh, because you can’t run Live Sync and Live Mesh at the same time. You should disable Live Sync from your startup routine and then install and set up Live Mesh. After you’ve confirmed that Live Mesh is working and syncing your folders, you can remove your PCs from your Live Sync network and then uninstall Live Sync from each one. Microsoft will shut down Live Sync on March 31 of next year, so you have a few months to transition to Windows Live Mesh.

Ready to Sync

When you open Live Mesh (see Figure 1), you’ll see it lets you sync two specific file types right off the bat: your Internet Explorer favorites and your Microsoft Office styles, templates and other customized settings. You can add other specific folders to the synchronization process by clicking on the “Sync a folder” link and browsing to the folder you wish to sync.

Live Mesh will ask you if you want to sync the folder with your SkyDrive synced storage, because at this point, you wouldn’t have added any other PCs to your Live Mesh network. If you don’t want to sync the folder with SkyDrive, just click OK to set it up for your current PC.

Figure 1 You can easily synchronize most file types, like Internet Explorer favorites and Office files

Figure 1 You can easily synchronize most file types, like Internet Explorer favorites and Office files.

Your next step is to install and set up Live Mesh on your other computers. As you open Live Mesh on each additional PC, you can turn on the syncing for Internet Explorer favorites and Office settings, if you wish. You’ll also see a list of the specific folders for which you enabled syncing on your initial computer. To sync one of those folders, click on the “Sync this folder” link. Live Mesh will prompt you to browse to and select the folder on your current PC that matches the folder you initially synced.

Follow the same process for each additional PC. Once all your PCs are set up, you can open Live Mesh from any computer to view all the folders in sync. Clicking on a synced folder (see Figure 2) lets you see certain details, like the file location and the names of all PCs syncing that folder. You can add or remove PCs and your SkyDrive space as part of that folder’s synchronization by clicking on the “Select Devices” link.

Figure 2 Clicking on a synced folder shows you details like file location

Figure 2 Clicking on a synced folder shows you details like file location.

To further manage synced devices and folders, click on the “Go to Windows Live Devices” link at the top of the Live Mesh window to access your Windows Live Devices Web page. Here you’ll see the names of each PC on your Live Mesh network. You can change their folder icons, as well as remove them from your network.

Sync and Share

You can share folders synced on your SkyDrive space with up to nine other people, each of whom must have their own Windows Live accounts. Click on the folder you wish to share in the Live Mesh window and then click on the “Just me” link next to the “Shared with” option.

Your Windows Live Web page will open for you to enter the e-mail address of the person with whom you wish to share the folder. That person will receive an invitation. Once they accept, they’re directed to your synced folder on SkyDrive.

To use the Live Mesh remote connection feature, open Live Mesh on the host PC to which you want to connect and click on the “Remote” link at the top of the screen. Then click on “Allow remote connections to this computer.” You’ll see a message that Windows Live Mesh is starting the remote connection service.

On the guest PC from which you’re connecting, click on the “Remote” link and click on the “Connect to this Computer” link for the host computer. Enter the host’s password, and you should then be connected.

Windows Live Mesh 2011 supports Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 SP2 and later and Mac OS X 10.5 and later. Like the other Live Essentials 2011 tools, it doesn’t run under Windows XP. If you have any problems or questions with Live Mesh, check out the Live Mesh Solutions Center and the Live Mesh forum for further details and a Q&A about the tool.

Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.