Sync files in Windows Briefcase without any errors

Windows Briefcase remains an easy way to sync files locally between your PC hard drive or SSD drive and removable storage such as USB flash drive or microSD/MMC storage. It can also be used to manually sync a folder on the network. Even though it was removed in Windows 8, it can be restored using a registry tweak. Briefcase doesn't offer sophisticated sync options like advanced tools have such as Microsoft's SyncToy etc, nor does it have any integration with online storage services. But for the basic task of keeping two folders in sync, it's still a handy tool. Unfortunately, Windows Vista broke some Briefcase functionality. Luckily, Briefcase can be used without errors if you follow this trick.

The reason most of the times the Briefcase cannot properly sync files when you select a file inside it and click "Update" or "Update All" is because Microsoft didn't update it for User Account Control. If the folder where the Briefcase is located is protected by UAC, it will not be able to sync those files. Unlike regular Explorer copy operations which elevate as administrator when there aren't enough permissions, the Briefcase sync process silently fails.

The simple solution to this is to open the Briefcase as administrator and then it should sync all the files correctly as long as both locations are writable, available at the time of syncing and have the correct NTFS permissions.

  1. Open an Explorer window as administrator. We covered in the past how to open Explorer as administrator. Microsoft disabled this by default so even if you try to open it as admin, it will launch non-elevated. You must rename or delete the 'RunAs' Registry value at HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AppID\{CDCBCFCA-3CDC-436f-A4E2-0E02075250C2} after taking ownership of that registry key and granting admininistrator permissions, as explained in detail in the above linked article. Thereafter, you open an Explorer window as administrator.
  2. From that elevated Explorer window, go to the folder path where your Briefcase is and open the Briefcase you want to work with.
  3. Synchronize any files you want by clicking Update or Update All.
  4. When you are done, close the Briefcase window and start Task Manager.
  5. Close the extra Explorer.exe process which is running as admin using Task Manager. This is needed because the Explorer.exe process which you open as admin does not terminate correctly as we explained in the article on how to open Explorer as admin. You must remember to terminate it every time you elevate Explorer after you are done working in that Explorer window. You can identify which processes are running as admin using this trick. The Explorer.exe process which says "Not Allowed" in the UAC Virtualization column is the elevated one.

    End the Explorer.exe admin process showing "Not Allowed" for UAC Virtualization column

That's it. So basically, the trick is to open Briefcase in an admin Explorer window before you sync, and remember to close the admin Explorer.exe process. This works for me without any problems. Please share in the comments if it helped you get rid of synchronization errors in Briefcase.

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Author: Gaurav Kale

Gaurav is a software enthusiast from India and Classic Shell tester & UX consultant. He started with Windows 95 and is good at software usability testing. He firmly believes that user experience is just as important as software code quality and architecture for software to be successful.

5 thoughts on “Sync files in Windows Briefcase without any errors”

  1. Thank you for the information. There is one thing I have always wanted to know. I have seen Briefcase for yours, but I have NEVER understood it, or how it works, or in what scenario I would use it. Neither have I talked to anyone else who knows either. If you could explain it to me, or give me a website that explains it (Briefcase for Dummies,) I would be grateful.

  2. Hai.

    I am running a 32-bit windows 8.(something) ASUS transformer book. I changed “RunAs” to “RunAsAdmin” and yet when I right clicked a shortcut of File Explorer it did not have a “Run as administrator” option. Any help would be appreciated. thanks.

  3. If the briefcase is located to another drive other than C (in order to back up my data using an external drive), i suppose the above procedure is not necessary. Please confirm. Thanks.

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