Keeping two Macs in sync?

Let’s say you have two MacBook Pros. Both are running the same version of MacOS. One is newer than the other though. One is a MBP M2 and the other is an Intel from a couple of years ago.

One will be used for day to day work and the older one, which is lighter, will be used when carrying around and on travel.

What’s the best way of keeping them in sync? Both files and apps.

Can this be done easily via iCloud?



Files? Sure, no problem, a ton of different approaches from the cloud to mesh sync over LAN or Internet. Doing the same for apps, and in particular app state, is weirdly much harder to do on macOS than it is on Windows or even Linux due to the location of applications and preference files, and I would personally not attempt it without some serious disaster recovery planning. If you could at least automate app installs and uninstalls, this would be much more manageable, but unless you’re prepared to use command line or enterprise tools this really isn’t trivial. I suppose you could maintain separate hierarchies for trivial apps in a sync folder, but that’s a very different goal with different outcomes. In short, you can do it but it won’t be automatic and transparent and still give you the same experience.

The suppose in @Sebby “I suppose you could maintain separate hierarchies for trivial apps in a sync folder, but that’s a very different goal with different outcomes” made me curious. I made a folder called Apps in iCloud Drive/Documents. Dragged a copy of BBEdit and Brave into it and started them up. BBEdit asks politely if I want to move it into /Applications, I said no and it started up. Brave started without any complaints. BBEdit opened with the same document active as the one I was working on and Brave had all its bookmarks. Just a fast test, but it is certainly possible to start applications from iCloud. But since Brave is not an Universal app, it would only work on one of your computers. BBEdit is Universal and would probably work on both.

I only tried this out of curiosity. I agree with @Sebby 's conclusions.

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Isn’t this what ChronoSync is designed to do?

Well, sort of. It will do file syncing, and make syncing possible across the network. I have ChronoSync and friends and they’re awesome. But, you still need an infrastructure solution for managing (non-trivial) apps. There’s just not anything equivalent to “portable” apps on macOS AFAICS.

But launching the app from a networked drive (I include iCloud in that) is in itself rather trivial, isn’t it? I mean anybody who’s used AppleShare had been able to do this decades ago.

Isn’t the real issue that the app has settings and you probably want many of those to sync (installing an app takes seconds, but configuring it from scratch to your liking can sometimes easily take an hour), but probably also not all, and that few apps are written with such a topology in mind? And macOS itself, while it distinguishes per-UID vs. per-host settings, it doesn’t really provide for per-account settings sync across different hosts. This sounds almost like the thin client model that in the Mac world never really gained traction (and died almost everywhere else too).

This is not a networked drive. It is placed here: “/Users/user/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Documents” and I was just curious if Apple had anything blocking apps from launching there. The real issue is problems with preferences and other things residing in Users/user/Library and I therefore declared my support for @Sebby 's conclusions.

I guess the conclusion is keeping files synced is relatively easy, but not so easy with apps.

I guess that’s true with all our Apple devices. I have access to all my files via iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive, and DropBox. But the apps are all separate.