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Using Legacy on your main computer and your laptop - how to exchange information and multimedia

Question from Ron:

"My Legacy family file is on my home computer, but I want to take it with me on a laptop. Is it possible to copy my data AND my pictures to my laptop?"

Our answer:

Yes Ron, this is certainly possible. First, be sure that Legacy is installed on both your computer and your laptop. (Note: you do not have to purchase Legacy twice to do this.) Here are the step-by-step instructions:

1. With Legacy open on your main computer, go to File > Backup Family File. On the "Customize Backup" screen, make sure that there are checkmarks next to "Data Files" and "Multimedia Files".


2. Click on the "Select Name and Location for Data Backup" button and change the backup's location to the location of your removable media (USB drive, CD, etc.). After changing the location for the Data Files, Legacy will ask you if you want to set the Multimedia backup folder to be the same. Click "Yes".

The name of the backup file consists of three parts:


In this case, the family file's backup name is "Sample 2010-02-11 9.25.30 AM.zip". If you do not want the date and time as part of the backup's file name, turn off these options by clicking on the Options button.

3. Click on the "Backup" button. Legacy now compresses the data files and multimedia files. In the end, you will have two backup files that have ".zip" at the end of their file name.

4. Now we need to restore/extract these files on your laptop. With Legacy open on your laptop, and after inserting your portable media (USB drive, CD, etc.) into your laptop, go to File > Restore Family File and navigate to the drive where you saved the backups. Click on the backup file (the one without the word "multimedia" and click "Open". When asked to "Enter a name to restore the family file as" just leave everything as it is and click "Save".

Your Legacy family file has now been "restored" to your laptop.

5. If you want the multimedia to also appear on your laptop you need to "extract" them. In Step 3, Legacy gathered all of the multimedia that you had linked to your family file and compressed them into a ".zip" file.

Using Windows Explorer or "My Computer" we'll extract these images. Go to Start > Computer > and select the drive where the backup resides. Double-click the backup file (the one with the word 'multimedia' in the file name). On the next screen, click on the "Extract All Files" button (this is what it is called in Windows 7. In Windows Vista I think it's the same think. In Windows XP, it might just say "Extract". Earlier versions of Windows probably require an UnZip program like WinZip.)

Now you need to tell Windows where you will extract the pictures.


If you've kept everything in c:\Legacy\Data, then just navigate to c:\ as shown in the image above and click "Extract".

All done! Everything should now be on your laptop. 

Now you bring your laptop to the library, courthouse, or cemetery and hopefully add lots of new information. When you get home, follow all of the above steps to backup and restore the family file from the laptop to your main computer.

There are other ways of keeping multiple computers in sync. I'd love to hear from those with these other methods in the comments below....


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I have an 8 gig USB Flash Drive and have simply Set up a Legacy Folder on the that drive and directly copied my data file, and midia files to the my flash drive. I actually access my data on the Flash Drive then I can move seamlessly between my Desktop and my laptop. I back up my flash drive to my desktop.

I use a folder called "Genealogy" on both computers and also just copy that folder to a USB flash drive to move in both directions.

I then take the USB drive to my daughter's house so it acts as an offsite backup in case of a house fire or something else that might destroy my computers and backups at home. I've got way to much effort involved in compiling the data to take any risk on losing it.

I've tried using the Windows Briefcase function to set up folders that would be easier to syncronize, but I haven't been able to get this to work yet.

Transferring data between my desktop to laptop has been a struggle, I can't believe it was this easy all the time. Does this method overwrite anything that is in either computer. Will this method leave information on the laptop or desktop that doesn't match the new download. For example, I had been using my laptop to show others how to scan in photos and how to use previously scanned photos to Legacy. I was just planning to delete these photos. Will the method above delete those photos? I am not planning a multimedia backup/restore as done above? Even though there are files already in my laptop that should match my desktop will the backup/restore shown above put both computers completely in sync?
Dani Lee McGowan

Dani - when you "restore" the backup back to your main computer, you will be "replacing" the now-outdated family file so Legacy will ask you if you want to replace it. Click yes and the updated family file will replace it. Same thing for the multimedia, if it asks if you want to replace the existing media, either say no (to save time) or say yes, and it will replace the existing multimedia where the file names are identical.

I have been using the following system for many years without any errors. I have about 70,000 people and 7,500 photos.

I am a volunteer in the local library once a week. I help people with their Family History Research, and if there are no customers I work on my Legacy file. Before I go I drag and drop the .fdb file from Legacy/Data to a USB drive and then drag and drop it into Legacy/Data on my laptop.

When I get home I move the altered file back to my home computer.

Copying the .fdb file means that I can have all sorts of settings on my laptop that are completely different to those on my home computer.

About once a month I copy the .fdb file and my Legacy/Pictures Folder to a DVD and use that to update the laptop. I then post the DVD to my daughter who puts it on her computer, and stores it as a backup.

Similar to what Dave had said earlier, I use a 250 GB "My Passport" external drive (about 3"x5"x1/2") to save my legacy files (I have two different family files) via USB port. I back up these files on the C drive on either the desktop and laptop when finished any session. So my working file moves from computer to computer by simply pluging in the external drive to the one I am currently using and the current backup is on the last computer I used.

You should really look into the Briefcase synchronization method. Windows has a built in Briefcase funtionality that keeps files in sync between a desktop and portable computer.

It would be nice to have the option to save and access all your files to/from an online storage site. Then no matter where you are, as long as you have internet access and the system has legacy installed, you would be in business.

The best way to accomplish this with no headaches is to use a USB external hard drive. Cost about $60.00 and holds tons of information. Works on both desktop and laptop computers. Personally I did away with my desktop and use only a laptop now. Goes everywhere with me.

I use the flash drive method too exactly how he described it above and it works beautifully--that way you never have to remember which file you backed up last..

I have an internal network that allows me to copy files between my desktop and my laptop or run Legacy straight off my desktop from my laptop. When I want to take my laptop somewhere I copy the backup files to my laptop and restore.
My laptop has the standard edition and my desktop has the deluxe edition so I cannot use all the deluxe functions from my laptop. From your comment it seems I can have the deluxe on my laptop also without buying it again. Can I load the original version I received on my laptop from the deluxe CD and then get all the updates? Or how can I get the deluxe edition on my laptop?

Karl - yes, just install Legacy on your laptop and then unlock the deluxe features at Help > Unlock Deluxe using your Deluxe Customer number.

you can backup your legacy on your desk top and then e mail it to your self , then receve the email on your laptop and download it to your laptop then import it ,using the legacy program on your laptop .

I've recently started using Dropbox for keeping my Legacy database files, as well as others, syncronized between my computers. Any changes made to files on one computer are automatically updated on the other once the computer is online.

It requires moving the location of the database files to the dropbox folder on each computer.

A word of caution: Do make a backup before doing this. I prefer to exit the dropbox program while working with a database and running dropbox after I've closed Legacy. It won't sync while the files are in use and you can't open the database while it's being synced. Large files can take a few minutes to upload, so be patient.

It's free for 2+ GB of files. https://www.dropbox.com

SugarSync is an alternative to Dropbox for uploading to an online storage site. As with Dropbox, it allows automatic synchronization of files between computers. The main advantage over Dropbox is that any folder can be synchronized.

The other advantage with this type of solution is of course that you always have a back up "somewhere else" in case of fire, etc.


Can the GEO database be transferred also or is that something I would have to recreate on my laptop? Is that included in the backup fdb or media files?

Karl - you need to install the Geo Location database separately on your laptop. These files are not included with the data backup.

I use a synchronising application across the home network to do this.. doing it this way avoids the need to copy (possibly large) amounts of unchanged data.
Microsoft has a tool SyncToy which will do it for free. But note that just opening the database will reset the filestamp, even if nothing is changed in that session, possibly causing a newer file version to be overwritten (because the sync will run the wrong direction)! Verify what is going to be done before actually running the sync.

Graham Mason, February 11, 2010 at 03:20 PM, wrote, "Copying the .fdb file means that I can have all sorts of settings on my laptop that are completely different to those on my home computer."

I, on the other hand, want my laptop and home computer to be identical.

What Legacy files do I need to transfer, in addition to the .fdb file, to ensure that the two computers are the same??

My away task would be to clean up master lists

How do I ensure that my changes are reflected back onto my main site?

I understand the data and media files being swopped by various means but not sure what I need to do to keep master links in sync are they part of the ftd file


Not being the real-technie, I don't know for sure which all files you 100% must copy over. I do know that the required files are included in the Legacy backup. You shouldn't go wrong with a backup/restore.

Ken - yes, they are part of the .fdb file.

I also backup to a file in Dropbox which works wonderfully as long as I remember to backup each time. It would be even better if the automatic data saved each time I close Legacy could be changed so that the Legacy-Data file could be moved to the Dropbox rather than under "my computer" "Legacy" "Data". I did try to alter those parameters once but the program didn't work properly so I changed it back. If I could do that, I could be assured that the most up to date information is being used and not rely on my human memory. Here's the big problem - if you happen to use an "old" backup to use your laptop, even if there was only one piece of info missing, then you reverse the process when you are done using your laptop, you are restoring the "old" information with the updates and whatever was missing is gone for good. This is why I try not to use two computers to do actual updates on my files; I am fallible so I prefer to rely on the program's automatic backup system.

I have a large file that I collaborate with a small number of other family members who do not live near me. As we make changes separately, the match merge gets a little ugly sometimes. I have been considering a solution so that we can all work on the same file and not deal with merging.

Here is the solution I have thought of, and I wonder if anyone else has tried this or whether it would work.

I want to purchase a NAS device (network attached storage) with 2 RAIDed hard drives connected to my wireless network. I would like to be able to have a portion of the NAS with permissions set so that a few people can mount a network drive from my NAS. Doing this should (in theory) allow people to open the same file from multiple locations (not simultaneously). This would also allow me to work on my file from multiple places without lugging around a portable hard drive. I have been doing this for some time, but for some reason my home computer doesn't like anything on my portable hard drive if it has been opened by another computer.

I am well aware of the issues associated with sharing a file in this manner (and will keep serial backups in a private location). I just want to know if it will work as I intend it to and if others have tried the same thing.

Folks, the easiest way to keep your database up-to-date all the time and eliminate the flash drives, having to create a backup to move your database, etc. Download DropBox to both computers, load your database into DropBox on one computer and the other will be automatically updated. I keep my data and media in DropBox. I've used it for about a year and haven't had any problems. The basic, up to 2gig storage, is free. The only caveat - give DropBox a couple minutes to sync before you open Legacy on the other computer.


I use my 8G USB flash drive to store my "working copy" of all family file databases. Everything is stored on the flash drive, including images that haven't been linked to my Legacy database yet. Every time I open Legacy it opens the data on the flash drive, regardless of which computer I am using. Then when I do a backup, I backup the data to which which ever computer I'm currently using. That way I am always using the most current copy of my database files. If I'm going to visit relatives (or do other research), I just grab my laptop and the flash drive. While I'm on my trip, I backup from the flash drive to the laptop. When I get home, I plug the thumb drive into my desk top, open Legacy, and immediatly do a backup to my external 650G harddrive. I never have to jump through hoops to transfer data between computers.

There is one caution you need to be aware of: Any data that is stored in a folder that is not entered in, or linked to a Legacy database (like extra photographs of grandpa's 85th birthy party) is NOT backed up by Legacy when you use the "Backup family file" feature even when you have backup "Media files" checked. This is true even after you tell Legacy in which folder to find your image files. Legacy only backs up the images that are linked a person or event within the Legacy database. Therefore I recommend periodically coping all you genealogy related files/folders to another storage device using the Windows copy feature.

If you have a wireless router, its a(fairly)easy matter to set
up the Legacy/Data directories as shared directories (right click on the directory and click "Sharing and Security"). This is in XP btw. Easiest way to synchronise then is to go into Network Connections (it helps to give the two directories new names), open one, copy the .fdb file, and paste into the other. It sounds a bit complicated but takes a few seconds once you get the idea. You do need to have both PCs booted up, but then I generally use the Desktop as the "master", and only copy when I need the file on the Laptop, or to return it if I've changed it.

Hi. I have used the Backup and then Restore for a few years now to transfer data files from my laptop to my main base. It works great! However, my question is this: I like the way my Legacy program looks on my laptop (colors, size etc) better then my main computer but have never been able to make them look the same. Any suggestions on how to do that?


Nancy - you would need to copy the files in your c:\Legacy folder that end with the .usr extension. These files contain your settings/preferences.

My desktop computer has Windows XP . I am considering a netbook that has Windows 7. Is there any problem exchanging Legacy information between computers using different versions of Windows?

Kent - I'm not aware of any problems.

I've used USB flash drives with Legacy (and another genealogy application) installed, with all data files also stored on them. I plug into any USB-supported computer and enter my new data. Regular backups go to my PC and an external HDD. This means that when I misplace a flashdrive, I've still got a couple of recent backups to use. I'm not fond of using offsite internet backups for any of my work - paranoid.

Forgot to say - I have found Windows 98 through to Windows Vista will cope with this arrangement, although you will get different skins, and some features in Notes work a bit differently

Create an gmail account, and mail your Legacy backup file to yourself in an attachment. You will have an offsite backup that you can download to any machine with an internet connection.
You can't have too many backups.

I always use to utilise Synctoy with great efficiency ..... until I was introduced to Dropbox. Works a treat. Now I switch usuage between my main PC, Laptop and netbook without a care in the world, with the added satisfaction that I know that all my data is additionally backed up externally. Wonderful !!!

Thanks for all your comments, ideas and advice. I have my data on my pc at work and on my laptop at home and have been thinking of storing my data online for a while. My memory isn't always that reliable either so Dropbox or Sugarsync might be the way to go.

@Bryan S. Larson - I love this idea! I've also been using Dropbox, but only for back-ups. When I change data on one computer, I rename the database to the date I changed computers and the computer name (i.e. currently running: 22 feb 2010 desktop). Crazy, I know, but its the only way I can keep track of the one that's been changed. QUESTION: I travel a lot and don't always have internet access. My guess is, without internet, you couldn't access your file in dropbox. Yes or no?

@Geoff - Hi! I just purchased a Netbook - Toshiba Mini NB305-N410BN. It has Windows 7. My desktop: Windows XP. I use my netbook more frequently and I had the same concerns about different operating systems. I LOVE the netbook. It's tons lighter and more portable than my old Dell Laptop. No problems with the OS whatsoever. Transition was easy. Only complaint is the speaker volume. Must use earbuds:-(.



My precious comment should have been:
@ Jim Winfrey
@ Kent Robinson

I'd be confused by moving files back and forth on a flash-drive. Really, it would be one backup too many and I'd forget the plan.

I like the Dropbox idea since I use it for so many other things, including about 40 portable apps. I rarely use my laptop so this is all just theoretical for me. Still, I'm interested to know. I'm assuming 'multi-media' would also include all the source documents I have linked to Legacy. That's up to 1.6 GB right now. The photos (which I haven't gone mad on yet) add another 100 MB. That pretty well does it for my 2 free GB. I'd be looking at running myself into a wall shortly if I went that route. (Even if I was willing to delete everything else that the Dropbox is already being used for, and I'm not.)

I keep lots of backups in other ways but that wasn't the question.

MULTIMEDIA on different drive letters:

The backup/restore method works great but I have a unique situation. On my desktop I store everything on drive D. On the laptop, I only have drive C. Restoring the data files to the laptop works fine but when I restore my multimedia files to drive C, I have now lost the links to them. Has anybody else found a trick to resolving this?

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