Tools Of The Trade: Maxtor's external hard drives for storing data from overloaded computers

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The Independent Online

The growth in business email in recent years and the proliferation of space-hungry documents such as PowerPoint files, not to mention MP3 or digital photographs, have made running out of space on a desktop or laptop computer a real possibility.

Adding a new internal hard drive is possible, but these can be tricky to install. Fortunately, as storage costs have fallen, so have the prices of external hard drives such as the ones produced by Maxtor. These come with vast capacities, and the option of a FireWire or USB 2 connection makes data-transfer speeds good enough for most applications. The company's OneTouch 250-gigabyte drive offers more storage than many commercial office servers, yet costs less than a pound per gigabyte, even including VAT.

We tested Maxtor's Macintosh-specific model, which uses FireWire connectors (the PC model uses USB and USB 2, and there is a dual interface model that works with both systems). The drives come in a robust metal case that can sit either flat on the desk or upright on a stand. There are two FireWire connectors, a power switch and one single, illuminated button on the front panel.

The drive functions well: its speed of 7,200rpm is fast enough for demanding applications such as video editing. How- ever, the most interesting feature is the OneTouch software, which allows instant backups. All you have to do is install the software and backup utility, connect the drive and press the blue button. The drive will then copy either everything from the computer, or specified folders (such as a user's documents and settings).

The capacity of the drive means this can take some time, especially when backing up a modern workstation with drives of over 100gb. But our tests showed that it worked without a glitch. Subsequent backups are quicker because the supplied software (Retrospect on the Mac) copies only the changes since the last full backup was made. The software also supports a number of options for restoring data.

The only drawback we found was that the included software coped less well when backing up computers with several built-in drives; the second backup has to be set up manually. But it had no trouble copying the main drive from several computers, making this suitable as a shared resource for a small office or home network.

In fact, the simplicity and low cost of the Maxtor OneTouch hard drives make them an ideal add-on for laptop owners. As more models now come with fast USB 2 or FireWire connections, it is quite feasible to back up the laptop hard drive before every trip you take. That way, if the worst does happen, at least all the data will be safe on the external drive.


Maxtor OneTouch hard drive

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Pros: huge capacity, very simple backups.

Cons: slightly trickier to back up multi-drive PCs.

Price: £239 including VAT for 250gb model.

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