Review: Top four external drives

Stark differences separate these leading vendor drives

1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5

The drive comes with two backup programs. LaCie 1-Click backup does little more than copy files to or from the drive (it has no scheduler, for example), so you'll want to use the EMC Retrospect Express HD backup software, which lets you select files and establish a regular backup schedule. It should not be confused with Retrospect Express 7.5 used in the Western Digital and Iomega drives; this version uses a wizard to help you specify which files are backed up, but only one backup job can be defined and scheduled. Express 7.5 is more flexible.

Also on the d2 Quadra's installation CD is a "shortcut button" utility that allows you to launch the backup program or any other program of your choice when you push a lit button on the drive, but it failed to work.

Unlike the other drives in this roundup, the d2 Quadra came unformatted, requiring an hour before we could put it to work. We followed the manufacturer's instructions and formatted it as an NTFS drive for our tests.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro

Seagate FreeAgent Pro

Model tested: ST307504FPA1E3-RK, 750GB ($419.99)

Also available: 320GB ($199.99), 500GB ($299.99)

There are several distinguishing features on the latest Seagate, the FreeAgent Pro -- but most have little to do with the drive itself. Let's start with the packaging, which tried to add a level of "hipness" to a product that, let's be honest, just isn't very sexy. Case in point: The drive's retail box includes a slogan near the box's handle that says, "If only this handle helped you move data like FreeAgent Pro," and the label with the disk size on the front of the box reads "750 Glorious Gigabytes." The bright orange stripe up the side and along the top of the drive adds another note of distinction, though we couldn't get the light to flicker (to indicate activity) despite several attempts with the setup utility.

The FreeAgent Pro is designed to operate vertically, and its base contains the power connector, an eSATA connector and the USB 2.0 connector. To use the FireWire 400 interface -- FireWire 800 isn't supported -- you must unscrew part of the base with a coin (the slot in the attachment screw is concave, making an ordinary screwdriver less efficient) and swap the USB connection with the FireWire 400 module. If you plan to share the drive among systems that may use either USB or FireWire, this isn't the drive for you.

The installation guide provides a four-step illustrated setup procedure, including estimated time to complete each task -- you should be done in an hour and 51 minutes, it notes. The guide also explains that when you start the drive, you'll see a pop-up window with further directions. That option, familiar to Windows users when you plug in a new drive, offers to install utility software, which works only on Windows systems and is preinstalled on the drive. (Be sure to back it up to a CD or DVD, or you'll lose it when you reformat the drive.)

1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon