So, welcome to this comprehensive guide on syncing your local Mac folders with an SFTP To Go server using Forklift by the atmospherically named, BinaryNights!

This post is part of a series of guides covering all the sync tools we can find to sync your local Mac to your SFTP To Go storage. We’ve reviewed a few manual options, FreefileSync and Transmit 5, and one fully automated option, Goodsync. This post will cover Forklift, which is also a streamlined but manual solution.

I’ll provide instructions for both Forklift 3 and Forklift 4, outlining the differences in user interface and functionality. 

Like many Mac users, I’m horrified by the discontinuation of the 27” iMac and, to show it, I’m still rocking a desk-relic from the golden age of iMacs. As a result, most of the screenshots will show the process in Forklift 3.5.6, which plays nice with trusty OS X Catalina. 

Rest assured, the only difference in the process for Forklift 4 is that you’ll benefit from additional features once you’re all set up.

Forklift 3 is recommended for users working on older iMacs, but users with newer macOS versions should download Forklift 4 for 20x faster analysis, improved cloud service integration, and enhanced user interface options. 

As for me, I win some and I lose some, and while I’m sorry for the inconvenience, I have no desire to upgrade from my old faithful (circa 2013) just yet—because it’s still going strong!


More about Forklift

Forklift is an FTP Client and full-featured file manager that lets you sync just about anything local Mac and remote SFTP, FTP, FTP TLS, WebDAV, WebDAV HTTPS, Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Google Drive, SMB, NFS, VNC, and more—with options for left or right sync, two-way sync, and plenty of customizations and filters.

With all the functionality of Finder, added local/remote transfer capabilities, and the ability to do most things Finder is bad at pretty well, Forklift is a powerful Finder replacement.

You can download older versions right Here, or visit their Homepage for the latest. We used a free trial for the purpose of this review, but you can view their pricing plans Here.


Requirements

  • ForkLift 4 requires macOS Monterey (macOS 12) or later.
  • ForkLift 3 can be used on macOS Catalina or earlier versions.

Features in both ForkLift 3 and ForkLift 4

  • Allows viewing and interacting with two different directories side by side.
  • Enhances productivity by simplifying file transfers, comparisons, and synchronization.
  • Both versions support SFTP, FTP, and other protocols such as WebDAV, Amazon S3, and Google Drive. This feature is essential for connecting and transferring files between local and remote servers.
  • Enables synchronization of directories between local and remote locations.
  • Customizable sync options like direction (left to right, right to left, both ways), adding and updating items, and deleting orphaned items.

Forklift 4 additional features

Forklift 4 introduces several new features that enhance productivity and efficiency:

  • 20 x Faster analysis and syncing.
  • Improved integration with cloud services like Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox.
  • Enhanced dark mode and highly customizable themes.
  • Advanced batch renaming capabilities.
  • Modern, user-friendly interface.
  • Bug fixes.

Step-by-step guide to syncing local mac with SFTP To Go using Forklift 3 and Forklift 4

Step 1: Download and install Forklift

  • Download Forklift:
  • Extract and install:
    • Open the Downloads folder.
    • Double-click the ForkLift4.zip file (or Forklift 3) to extract it.
local mac to remote sftp sync
macos sftp sync tools
  • Drag the extracted ForkLift app to your Applications folder.
macos sftp to go sync

Step 2: Launch Forklift

  • Start Forklift:
    • Double-click the ForkLift app in the Applications folder.
    • You will need to supply the necessary permissions along the way.
synchronize macos to sftp to go
  • For frequent use, right-click the ForkLift icon in the Dock, choose “Options,” then select “Keep in Dock” and “Open at Login.”

Step 3: Configure initial settings

  • Initial setup:
    • Forklift 3 will take you straight to the registration window on the first launch, but we’ll cover that in the next section.
    • Upon launching ForkLift 4 for the first time, configure settings in the Welcome Window.
    • Enable iCloud sync for favorites if using multiple Macs.
    • Import favorites from ForkLift 3.
    • Enable "Check for Updates" for update notifications.
    • Choose a theme (default follows macOS settings).
    • You will then be directed to the registration window.
forklift mac sftp to go sync

Step 4: Registering Forklift

  • Registration options:
    • In the Registration window, you can:
      • Buy a license.
      • Register with a license key.
      • Use ForkLift in trial mode (which is what we did).
mac and remote sftp sync

Step 5: Enable full disk access and explore the UI

  • Full disk access:
    • When prompted, grant ForkLift Full Disk Access by following the instructions in the pop-up window.
    • This is essential for full functionality, including access to drives, Desktop, Downloads, and Documents folders.
  • Explore the UI:
    • You’re in, immediately you should see the two-pane window with your local folders visible by default.
    • This is the UI for Forklift 3:
remote sftp to local mac sync
  • The UI for Forklift 4 is structured the same, but with a few improvements.
synchronize mac and sftp with forklift

Step 6: Set up SFTP connection

  • Open connect panel:
    • Click the Connect button in the Toolbar to open the Connect Pane that will allow you to connect to the SFTP To Go server.
remote sftp local mac sync tool
  • Configure SFTP settings:
    • Set the protocol to SFTP.
    • Enter the server domain or IP address in the Server field.
    • Provide your username and password. 
    • (Optional) Show Advanced settings to specify a custom port number or assign a color label.
    • The design is pretty similar for Forklift 3 and 4.
how to sync your mac to your sftp server
sync local mac to sftp server
  • We simply entered the protocol, server, username, password, and URL, all of which can be retrieved by navigating to your SFTP To Go Dashboard>Credentials tab and copying the relevant details.
sftp to go mac sync
  • Save and connect:
    • Click "Connect" to establish the connection.
connect remote sftp server to mac folders
  • In just a second or two, you’ll see the contents of your SFTP To Go storage displayed, as well as the server location displayed in the path bar.
connect your sftp to your local mac
  • Ensure the path bar is highlighted in the left panel, or whichever panel you’ve set up the connection in (below you see it highlighted in pink), you can select it just by clicking the server name.  Then right Click "Add to favorites" to save the connection.
local mac sftp to go synchronize
  • Name your connection.
synchronize macos to sftp server
  • From now on, any time you want to sync a local or remote location to your SFTP To Go server, just select the chosen pane (by clicking the left or right path bar) and click on that item in the favorites column. 
synchronize macos to sftp to go

Step 7: Syncing files

  • Open your local folder in the other pane:
    • Open the source folder in one pane (we’ve selected the SFTP To Go server on the left) and the target folder in the other pane (we’ve selected our local Documents folder on the right).
macos sync to sftp
  • Initiate sync:
    • For the purpose of testing, we’ve created a folder in our SFTP To Go storage, named “Forklift Sync Test”. You can create and delete folders right here in forklift, by CTRL-clicking to open an action menu, just like you would in Finder. Forklift is a very capable file manager.
macos sftp
sync sftp macos
  • Select "Sync to" from the Commands menu or click the Sync toolbar icon, this will open up a window with sync-options on the left and a process display on the right. 
synchronize sftp macos
how to sync sftp and local mac
  • Configure sync options:
    • Set sync direction (left to right, right to left, or both ways). We’ve opted for both-ways.
    • Select additional options like syncing subfolders, hidden items, updating items, deleting orphaned items, and time offset correction.
access sftp storage from your local mac
  • Start synchronization:
    • The analysis will have started automatically, and you should now see your folders displayed as well as the differences between the two. We can see that our SFTP To Go storage has our test folder but the local storage does not.
    • Click "Sync" to begin the syncing process.
sync sftp remote to macos local
  • In just a few seconds, our sync is complete, and the folders are now identical.
  • Of course, with your connection set up and your sync locations saved to Favorites, sync will be a 2-click affair in future.

In conclusion

If you’re looking for a two-click manual solution to efficiently sync your local Mac folders with an SFTP To Go server,  Forklift brings a wide range of customization options, as well as the option to sync in either direction or both ways at once. 

We didn’t get into the customizations here, but other than filtering so that only files with certain date, name and size characteristics will update, there are also tons of display customizations on Forklift 4, like color coding, custom fonts, custom favorites icons, and other nifty stuff.

We only wish there was an option to automate or schedule our syncs.

Whether you’re using Forklift 3.5.6 on an older macOS or the latest Forklift 4 on a newer system, the process remains straightforward. 

Forklift 4 offers advanced features that enhance productivity, making it a secure and easy manual sync for users with compatible macOS versions. For those with older iMacs, Forklift 3.5.6 remains a reliable and effective tool for managing and transferring files between local mac and your SFTP To Go server.

For more detailed instructions and to explore additional features, refer to the Forklift 4 User Manual available on the Forklift website.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I securely sync my Mac files with a remote server?

To securely sync your Mac files with a remote server, use an SFTP client like Forklift, which supports encrypted file transfers. For a reliable SFTP service, consider using SFTP To Go.

What is the best tool for syncing local Mac folders to an SFTP server manually?

Forklift is an excellent tool for syncing local Mac folders to an SFTP server. It offers a user-friendly interface and robust synchronization features. For a dependable SFTP service, you can use SFTP To Go.

How do I sync my local Mac folders with SFTP?

To sync your local Mac folders with SFTP, you can use SFTP To Go and Forklift. Simply connect to your SFTP To Go server in Forklift, select the local and remote folders, and use the sync tool to synchronize your files.

What are the benefits of using Forklift for SFTP synchronization?

Using Forklift for SFTP synchronization offers a dual-pane interface, support for multiple protocols, and a robust sync tool, making it easy to manually manage, transfer, and sync files between your local and remote servers.

Can I use Forklift on older Mac versions?

Yes, you can use Forklift 3 on older macOS versions like Catalina. For newer macOS versions, Forklift 4 provides enhanced features and improved performance.

What new features does Forklift 4 offer?

Forklift 4 introduces faster analysis and synchronization, improved integration with cloud services, enhanced user interface options, and advanced batch renaming capabilities, making it a powerful tool for modern file management.