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FreeFileSync User Manual:

Exclude Files and Folders via Filter

File exclude filter

Files and folders are only considered for synchronization if they pass all filter rules: They have to match at least one entry in the include list and none of the entries in the exclude list as presented in the filter configuration dialog.
  • Each filter item must be a file or folder path relative to the selected folder pair.
  • Multiple items must be separated by | or a new line.
  • Wild cards may be used:  
    * means zero or more characters
    ? represents exactly one character
    ?* matches one or more characters
  • Filter matching is case-insensitive

Example: Match items of a folder pair

The following filter phrases assume a folder pair C:\Source <—> D:\Target and can be used for the include as well as exclude filter.
Description Filter phrase
Single file (or folder) C:\Source\file.txt \file.txt
Single folder C:\Source\SubFolder \SubFolder\
All files (and folders) named thumbs.db *\thumbs.db
All files (and folders) starting with the Z character *\z*
All *.tmp files (and folders) in C:\Source\SubFolder \SubFolder\*.tmp
Files and folders containing temp in their path *temp*
Multiple entries (separated by vertical bar) *.tmp | *.doc | *.bak
All subfolders of the folder pair *\
Files/folders inside subfolders of the folder pair ?*\?*
All files (but not folders) *:

Example: Complex filter rules with exceptions

Complex filter requirements can often be solved by using two folder pairs with the same source and target paths but different local filter. The first folder pair handles the default case. The second folder pair the exception.
Exclude a sub folder except for *.txt files by using two folder pairs:
C:\Source <—> D:\Target     local exclude filter: \SubFolder\
C:\Source <—> D:\Target     local include filter: \SubFolder\*.txt

Example: Exclude empty folders

Set *: as include filter to match all files, but not folders. During synchronization some excluded folders will still be created if needed, but only if they contain at least one non-excluded item, that is, when they are not empty.

  • For simple exclusions: Instead of typing the filter phrase manually, go the the FreeFileSync main window, right-click one or more files from the list, and exclude via the context menu.
  • A filter phrase can match both file and folder paths by default. To match only one of them, you can give a hint:
    1. Files only: append a colon (:)
    2. Folders only: append a path separator (/ or \)
  • If the filter is matching a folder, all its files and subfolders are also (implicitly) matched. Thus the filter phrases SubFolder\ and SubFolder\* are synonymous.
  • Both slash (/) and backslash (\) can be used as the path separator character.