With Microsoft replacing Windows Live Mesh with the SkyDrive application in Windows Essentials 2012, Windows users are suddenly faced with a decision: In the past, they could simply run Mesh and SkyDrive side-by-side, but installing Essentials 2012 actually removes Mesh. What’s the best strategy for replacing Live Mesh with SkyDrive?
Depending on your needs, you may want to simply hold off on Windows Essentials. Sure, the allure of the new Photo Gallery and Movie Maker application versions (included with Essentials 2012) may be strong. But understand that you’ll lose some potentially important Live Mesh features in upgrading.
Here’s a list of Live Mesh features followed by the equivalent features, where applicable, in SkyDrive.
PC-to-PC-to-cloud file sync
SkyDrive feature: The SkyDrive application for Windows provides Explorer-based file sync between PCs and the cloud.
What’s missing: With SkyDrive, you cannot sync from PC-to-PC only (i.e. in a peer-to-peer configuration that skips the cloud). Live Mesh offered the ability to sync individual folders, each of which could appear in an arbitrary location in your Windows file system; with SkyDrive, you get a single synced folder location (which can of course include subfolders) that maps to your cloud-based storage.
SkyDrive advantage(s): You get more SkyDrive storage for free than with Live Mesh (7 GB/25 GB vs. 5 GB), and can buy additional cloud-based storage on a yearly subscription. The SkyDrive-synced files are available on many mobile devices (Windows RT, Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone, and, soon, Android), whereas Live Mesh was Windows only and was not connected to “normal” SkyDrive storage.
SkyDrive feature: The SkyDrive web app provides Remote Fetch, which lets you navigate through the file systems of all of your connected PCs (i.e. those PCs with the SkyDrive application installed).
What’s missing: Remote Fetch is not identical to remote desktop. But I have a workaround: Simply install the free (for personal use, up to five PCs) Logmein Hamachi VPN client on the PCs you need to access remotely. Then, you can the built-in Remote Desktop Connection application in Windows 8 to establish a remote desktop connection to the remote PC.
SkyDrive advantage(s): In most situations, what you need is remote access to your files, not the ability to remotely control a PC desktop. So Remote Fetch is probably a great solution for most people, and since it works over the web, it’s more universally available.
SkyDrive feature: In the SkyDrive web interface, you can also share folders with others and optionally provide them with edit abilities (as opposed to the default read-only capabilities).
What’s missing: You can’t access this functionality from File Explorer in Windows. So folders others have shared with you are not accessible except via the web. This limits the usefulness of this feature dramatically, in my opinion: Where Rafael Rivera and I have relied on Live Mesh folder sharing for two books now, SkyDrive folder share would not work. (Unless they add this capability to the Windows client. Fingers crossed.)
SkyDrive advantages: Web-based accessibility means that shared folders are always available, from any device, without needing a client install.
Internet Explorer settings sync
SkyDrive feature: None. But this functionality is included with Windows 8.
Office settings sync
SkyDrive feature: None. But this functionality is included in Office 2013.
If you need certain Live Mesh features that aren’t available in SkyDrive, or via a workaround, my advice is to simply hold off on Windows Essentials 2012. Also, be sure to check out some of my previous articles about the Live Mesh to SkyDrive transition, including Cloudbusting: SkyDrive vs. Live Mesh vs. Google Drive vs. Dropbox and 2012: A Cloud Odyssey - From Live Mesh To SkyDrive, the latter of which describes my own transition away from Live Mesh. With the completion of Windows 8 Secrets, I’ll probably be done with Live Mesh for good, though of course I’m hoping to see some changes in SkyDrive in the weeks and months ahead that address some missing features too. We’re in the middle of a major revolution here, and it’s pretty clear things are going to continue to change.