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Windows 8 Briefcase Workaround

December 20, 2012 4 comments

I got a new computer at work that runs Windows 8. That means two things: First, I’m learning firsthand how the real Windows 8 differs from the Release Preview I’ve been using so far. Second, I now have to use Windows 8 to do actual work.

While working on putting that second point into practice yesterday, I discovered another negative to add to my list: Briefcases have been disabled.

The party line, judging by a Microsoft forum post I came across, is that briefcases have been rendered obsolete by cloud services like SkyDrive. That doesn’t really cut it for me, though: I sometimes need to be able to access work files on my laptop when I don’t have an Internet connection. Briefcases and a USB stick let me do that; SkyDrive, not so much.

The good news is that briefcases still work. They haven’t really been removed; you just can’t create new ones. There is a registry hack that fixes this, but I do my best not to touch the registry unless I have no choice. I certainly wouldn’t tell my non-tech-savvy friends to modify their registries using files from some Web site.

Luckily, briefcases made in previous versions of Windows and copied over still work fine. If you have a computer running, say, Windows XP, you can use it to create an empty briefcase on a USB stick and then use the briefcase with the Windows 8 computer. If you want the briefcase on the Windows 8 PC’s hard drive instead of the removable drive, just copy it over. If you use a lot of briefcases, you might want to leave an empty briefcase on the USB stick and keep making copies of it.

A couple of caveats: For one thing, judging by what I experienced yesterday, the briefcases are significantly slower than the ones I’m used to using on XP. I don’t know if that’s just a glitch I’m experiencing or an issue with Windows 8 or what. Additionally, I have a feeling that briefcases will be phased out in future versions of Windows. Still, it’s good enough for a stop-gap measure while I look for a better way to keep my files synced.

Update 9/24/2013: Since briefcases on Windows 8 are so slow and I encountered bugs more often than in past Windows versions, I strongly recommend looking for an alternative. I’ve been using FreeFilesync, and I’m fairly happy with it. I have a new post on FreeFileSync as a briefcase alternative that gives a quick overview.

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