Review: ExamDiff Pro, A Visual Directory and File Comparison Tool

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

The time finally came this year for me to replace both hard drives on my PC. No, I didn’t experience a data loss, and there was no catastrophe … It’s just that after five years of wear and tear, I could tell that my hard drives were no longer up to speed with the latest technology. Plus, I was running out of storage room.

So, my Tech Department (a.k.a. my husband) ordered the new parts for my computer, and I began the tedious process of backing up my data onto my external hard drives.

Now, when you’re working with a blank drive, it’s easy to copy all the files from the old location to the new location. But in this case, I already had some of the data backed up onto the external hard drive and needed to make sure that when my copying spree was over, I hadn’t missed anything in the process.

The tedious way of doing this involves manually opening each folder, counting the number of files, and cross-checking creation/modification dates. With 900+ GB of data, I knew there had to be a better, more efficient way.

Enter ExamDiff Pro. A friend had recommended the program to me, so I decided to check it out. And I can tell you, this program was a huge time saver!

ExamDiff Pro automates the comparison process, allowing you to select sets of files, folders, or even directories to compare. If you run the comparison procedure on an entire hard drive directory, for example, ExamDiff will process any discrepancies between directories and then provide you with a side-by-side comparison. It will show you which files exist in one location but not the other, whether files have been modified more recently in one location, and so forth. If files inside of a folder are different from one directory to the other, ExamDiff Pro will let you know that, too.

201006we_examdiff-compare.jpgExamDiff Pro allows you to compare not only files,
but even entire directories.

201006we_examdiff-directories.jpgOnce ExamDiff Pro compares the directories, it pulls up a side-by-side comparison of the files and folders in each location. Using various highlighting colors, you can tell which file/folder is newer, and of course if any new files/folders have been added since you last compared directories.

201006we_examdiff-files.jpg 

If you compare one of the folders in the Client Sessions folder from the previous screenshot, you will find that since the last backup, Drive G: is missing two files that were added to drive F:, and drive G: has one additional file that was deleted on drive F:.

To begin with, I noticed that ExamDiff Pro did a thorough job. Almost too thorough. Many of the image folders were the same, except for the thumbs.db file,which gets modified whenever you use Windows Explorer to browse through the images. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could have ExamDiff Pro ignore all the thumbnail files?”

Of course, after a little digging into the options and preferences, I was pleased to find that the developers of ExamDiff Pro had anticipated this issue. In the options, you can specify what terms ExamDiff Pro should ignore. I typed in the filename, saved my settings, then ran a new query. This time, ExamDiff Pro alerted me that 65 files had been ignored, and miraculously, most of my image folders were now confirmed to be otherwise the same.

201006we_examdiff-options.jpg 

ExamDiff Pro has a number of different options you can customize to fit your needs. Shown here are the options for filtering out extraneous files and data. Note that I have told ExamDiff to exclude thumbs.db since it is not important to the integrity of my data backup.

Over the course of my computer upgrade, I have to admit that I relied on ExamDiff many times. It is a great program, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who cares about maintaining and organizing any sort of data files.

ExamDiff Pro is a Windows-only application developed by PrestoSoft, and retails for $34.99 (single user license, multi-licensing discounts available). A freeware version of ExamDiff Pro is also available; you can compare features in the free and Pro versions before deciding which solution will work best for you. So, give ExamDiff Pro a try; I’m sure you will be able to see the difference this visual file and directory comparison tool makes.

Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BetsysPhotography.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.

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Comments (2)

Sarah:

Can you make a Mac version?! This sounds like a great tool! It would save me lots of tedious checking! Please, please, please design one for Apples!

Just an update... ExamDiff Pro version 5.0 has now come out of beta testing. It's got a number of helpful new features, and includes compatability for Windows 7 (maybe Macs will be next on their to-do list, Sarah!).

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