- Review Price: £195.00
With hard drive capacities increasing at an exponential rate backing up your PC has become an increasingly difficult task. As far as capacities go, Hitachi is in the lead at the moment with its recently announced 500GB drive. The Seagate 400GB Pushbutton Backup external hard drive might not be able to back up the Hitachi monster drive, but it should be ample for most of us.
The drive provides a simple method to back up your entire hard disk. Sure, you can set up your PC in a RAID configuration, but that means that the data is locked away inside your PC. This is fine as long as you don’t have to take it with you or require a safe copy of your data away from your PC. You could just use a memory key but for very large amounts of data an external hard drive is the only viable option.
Thanks to its USB 2.0 and FireWire interface the drive can be used with both PCs and Macs out of the box, with backup software for both systems supplied on the CD. However, you’ll have to reformat the drive if you’ve got a Mac.
Using the Seagate as an ordinary removable disk is easy. Plug in the power adaptor and your data cable of choice, flick the power switch on the back and the drive pops up in Windows as a hard drive. From there it’s possible just to drag and drop files across. To test this I copied across 5.32GB of data consisting of mixed files sizes from my desktop PC using the USB 2.0 connection. This took five minutes 11 seconds. The limiting factor is clearly the USB or Firewire interface but at round about 1Gig per minute the transfer speed is reasonable.
The design of the drive casing is not quite up there with the aluminium clad external Maxtor drives, but the silver and black design is as stylish as a plastic case can be. The drive can either sit on your desk horizontally on top of a rubber ring that attaches to its side or it can be mounted vertically using a supplied stand. The power and data LED’s are blue and the push button backup button is surrounded by a yellow LED.
While I was happy with the transfer speed of drag-and-drop, a full backup of my PC in the office took substantially longer. Using the supplied BounceBack Express backup application from CMS, the process, involving 52GB of data, took close to seven hours. The Seagate drive now contains an almost exact copy of everything I have on my desktop PC. Yes you read that correctly – an almost exact copy – certain temporary files would not copy across, nor would some files that were in use.
This means that using the supplied software you will never get a perfect image of your PC, but it does offers the ability to make incremental backups. You can upgrade the supplied version of BounceBack Express to BounceBack Pro at the CMS website for an affordable £28 which adds more functionality including the option to create a bootable CD that enables you to completely restore your hard drive in case of a complete disk failure.
I would have liked to have seen the full version in the box, but this would of course have added some extra cost and I presume Seagate has taken the view that not everyone is interested in paying extra for software that they might not use. As the name implies, the drive offers push button backup, something I had some trouble getting working at first. The button on front of the drive didn’t start up the BounceBack software, which the manual clearly states it should do after you have done your initial backup.
However, after a re-install of the software it all worked fine, though it meant I had to do another full backup of the system before the push button incremental backup would work as intended. This is quite frustrating, but software is usually the weakest link these days no matter who the hardware comes from.
The manual is reasonably well written. It covers the installation procedure for several operating systems and explains the different features of the drive and supplied software. Apart from the BounceBack Express software the CD contains Windows 98 USB drivers and Seagate’s DiscWizard software.
A plus is that Seagate supplies both cables in the box, which doesn’t always happen when you purchase an external device. It’s a shame that the power brick couldn’t be built in to the housing as it is rather large and looks like something that could power a notebook. This is really the only thing that holds the Seagate drive back as a mobile storage archive, as it means that there’s something else you have to carry around with you.
But what’s really impressive is the price, as at £194.70 the external Seagate drive is less than £8 more expensive than its internal IDE sibling. Priced as keenly as this, it’s easy to forgive a few minor issues.
Seagate needs to polish the software implementation slightly to make it work flawlessly as a push button backup solution, while a smaller or even integrated power brick would make it a more portable solution. But at this price these are minor niggles and everyone should consider getting one of these drives to make that oft-neglected but vital system backup.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.