Seagate Backup Plus review: Save your social media data

Seagate's new line of lightweight external hard drives lets you back up both local and online data.

Seagate is moving away from its GoFlex branding with a new series of external drives dubbed Backup Plus, which will store not only your photos, videos and files, but some social media data as well -- users can back up or share documents to Facebook and photo-sharing site Flickr. And as far as I know, it is also the only single hard drive backup device that offers an uber-fast Thunderbolt connectivity option.

The Backup Plus line comes in a desktop model and a portable model; I tested the latter.

Lightweight and adaptable

The new Backup Plus portable drive is remarkably slim and light, weighing a little less than half a pound and measuring just .57-in. thick. It's 3.19 in. wide and 4.86 in. long. It comes in one of four colors: black, red, blue or silver.

Like its predecessor, the GoFlex, the Backup Plus portable line comes with a Universal Storage Module -- a removable SATA interface adapter. The drive comes standard with a USB 3.0 adapter snapped in, but that can be removed with a quick tug and replaced with a FireWire 800 or Thunderbolt adapter -- if you're willing to part with some additional greenbacks. The Thunderbolt adapter will run you $99. The FireWire adapter for the Backup Plus won't be available until the fall, but you can still use the GoFlex model of the adapter with this drive; it just won't match new drive's look. That sells for $24.99.

Backup Plus
The Seagate Backup Plus portable drive with the Universal Storage Module interface adapter removed.

One of the nice features of Thunderbolt is the ability to daisy chain up to five devices. Unfortunately, if you have other Thunderbolt-enabled devices, Seagate's Backup Plus portable model will have to be at the end of the chain -- it's got no Thunderbolt output port. On the other hand, the desktop model has two Thunderbolt ports, so it can be used as a "pass-through" device.

I had problems with my adapter, which had a loose connection to the drive's SATA interface. This caused the I/O interface to my computer to disengage more than once with little more than a slight movement of the USB cable. I'm not sure if that's a design flaw or a manufacturing glitch with my unit.

Setup

Right off the bat, I formed two opposing impressions of this drive. In the plus column, the Backup Plus is whisper-quiet and versatile.

In the minus column, however, the setup is a bit kludgy. It took a couple attempts to get the drive to set up so that I could use its Protect data backup tool and dashboard menu. A colleague of mine had similar problems getting his Backup Plus Portable drive to save his Facebook data properly; after a couple of calls to the support folks at Seagate, he got the drive to work.

I tested the Backup Plus using a MacBook Pro. The drive's software auto-detected my OS (Mac OS X version 10.6.8, a.k.a. Snow Leopard) and asked if I wanted to use the drive with Mac and PC or Mac only. Choosing both operating systems required installation of the included Paragon NTFS for Mac driver to enable two-way Mac OS and Windows use. Some applications, including Time Machine and the included Mac backup software from Seagate, will not work since they cannot make use of a drive that uses the Windows (NTFS) file system.

Choosing "Mac only" will erase PC-related functions on the drive and prepare it for use with all your Mac applications, including Time Machine and the included Mac backup software from Seagate.

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