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Hands on: StarTech's drive imager as simple as it gets

You can quickly duplicate one drive to as many as three others simultaneously

November 15, 2011 06:01 AM ET

Computerworld - If you've ever considered upgrading your laptop or desktop drive, but were intimidated by the prospect of copying a bunch of files, the StarTech Portable Drive eSATA/USB Duplicator was made for you.

This handy new product makes drive duplication a fast, no-brainer process and should make life easier for those in an IT shop who regularly change out drives or a home enthusiast who likes to upgrade his or her system.

Because StarTech Duplicator is simple, it also has some innate drawbacks:There's no software, no data compression algorithm and no way to manage the size of partitions. Unlike Norton Ghost, you can't clone a larger capacity drive to a smaller one.

The two real advantages are that you can use it without any computer resources tied to it, and it performs an exact, sector-by-sector duplicate of your drive. Because it's a hardware-based clone, the OS doesn't matter. It works with Windows, Apple or Linux-based systems. Even the master boot record remains the same, so there's no system preparation required and the cloned drive works just like the original when you install it.

The basic Duplicator is an all-in-one docking station -- you plug either your computer or an internal drive into one end and a destination drive in the other, hit a single button, and it does the rest.

Last month, however, StarTech launched its first SATA Hard Drive Docking Station to support up to four drives simultaneously, one replicating to as many as three others. It purports to vastly reduce the time needed to get new machines up and running, and I can certainly understand the logic behind that.

The duplicator dock can also be used as an external 4-bay hard drive dock, connected through the USB 3.0 or eSATA cables, providing an easy way to add and remove bare external hard drives from a computer system.

Duplicator dock
The USB 3.0/eSATA to SATA Standalone 1:3 Hard Drive Duplicator Dock

The four-bay Duplicator, which supports 2.5-in. or 3.5-in. hard disk drives (HDDs) or solid-state drives (SSDs), can be connected through USB 3.0 or eSATA, which offer 5Gbps or 3Gbps data transfer rates, respectively. The docking station also offers a Secure Erase feature that simplifies erasing or wiping drive contents for further cloning use or disposal of a hard drive. An integrated LCD displays duplication progress and the duplicator options menu.

I tested StarTech's Standalone Portable Hard Drive Duplicator which the company launched in August. This handy little device fits in the palm of your hand, measuring just 3 inches square and about a half-inch high. It has two SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) connectors on either side.

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