How to compare folders and copy missing files

by Milan Stanojevic
Milan Stanojevic
Milan Stanojevic
Windows & Software Expert
Milan has been enthusiastic about PCs ever since his childhood days, and this led him to take interest in all PC-related technologies. Before joining WindowsReport, he worked as... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • There are a lot of tools that can help you to sync or merge the content of large files or folders in your device.
  • Some even work across devices or can compare the content between a local folder and your cloud.
  • This article is part of a larger How-To hub, where we've gathered many useful guidelines.
  • Also, check out our file management section where you can find many articles on how to organize your files.
copy missing files
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Think of the following situation: you have your own site and you want to do some tweaks to improve its appearance. But in doing this, you mistakenly and unknowingly delete some code lines.

Then, upon your next login, you realize that the interface has crashed and you only suspect that something is missing. You can only restore the site by reentering the missing lines. If only you knew what those were!

Luckily, you have a backup of your site stored in cloud (and perhaps also one some external HDD). What you need to do now is to make sure you gent the exact information back in the site.

Since simply copy/paste-ing doesn’t necessarily do the trick, you’d better use an app that could help you identify whatever is missing.

So in this article we’ll be looking at a few free tools that are can help you compare the contents of and copy whatever files are missing from one location to the other.

How do you compare two folders?

1: Windiff.exe 

  1. Download and open Windiff.exe.
  2. On the File tab > Compare Directories.
  3. Enter, in turn, the location address for each folder.
  4. Click OK.

compare folders using windiff

The app will tell you if it found differences and where. To view the differences, click the Expand button in the right upper corner and double-click the reddened result in the window.

To current the differences, click again on File > Copy Files > choose where you want to copy from (left or right) + Different files > OK.

2. WinMergewinmerge to compare folders

  1. Download and open WinMerge.
  2. In the File tab > click Open.
  3. Browse for the folders you want to compare.
  4. Click Compare.

The missing files will be highlighted in a different color.

To have the same information in both folders, go to the Merge tab > Copy All to Left or Copy All to Right, depending which information is complete.

3. FreeFileSyncfree file sync to compare folders

  1. Download and open FreeFileSync.
  2. Choose the folders you want to compare by browsing in their locations or with the drag&drop option.
  3. Click Compare.

FreeFile Sync is an excellent tool to use if you want to compare a local folder versus Google Drive, or a local folder versus a folder your FTP server recursively using FTP or SFTP connection.

Then, to copy from one source to another, click on Synchronize and choose one of the options.

Perhaps the best ones are Two-way sync, which will identify and apply changes on both sides, or Mirror, which means that the two folders will become a mirror copy of one another.

Looking for a cloud solution to store large folders? Check out this article with some recommendations.

4. ExamDiff

  1. Download and open ExamDiff.
  2. In the Files table > select Compare.
  3. Select the folders by entering the file path, drag&dropping, or browsing.
  4. Click Compare.

As in the previous solutions, the differences bear a different color.use examdiff to compare folders

Then, to sync the content, go to Edit > Replace Block in Second File from First or Edit > Replace Block in Second File from the Second.

ExamDiff also has a Pro version, which is paid, and which adds the possibility to compare directories and binary files, compare a local folder to the one on FTP server using built-in plug-ins, or synchronize files and folders between your PC and external media.

5. Use Total Commander

  1. Download and open Total Commander.
  2. From the Commands tab > click Synchronize dirs…
  3. Check the boxes for options Subdirs,  and by content.
  4. In the Show section > disable Equal and enable the other three buttons.
  5. Enable the Singles and Duplicates options.
  6. Click Compare.

total commander to compare files

To synchronize the two folders, in the compare window, select the files you want to copy, then click on the checkbox between the columns and click Synchronize.

As mentioned before, these are just some of the free tools available out there, not an exhaustive list. Also, there are more options, including tools that offer free trials and then paid plans.

If you have a recommendation for a similar tool, drop us a line in the comments section below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • To see if two folders have the same file, you have to compare them and see if there are any differences. To do this, you can use a file comparison tool such as WinMerge, open it, go to the File tab, choose the folders you want to compare, and hit Compare.

  • You can sync folders by using a file management tool such as FreeFileSync. It allows you to sync folders from the same device, across different devices with Windows 10, or against your device and a cloud storage space.

  • To compare two text files for differences, you can install a tool that supports document comparisson. You can choose from various free options out there, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or ABBYY Fine Reader 14.

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