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Seagate Portable External Hard Drive Review
by Ben Stafford -  4/21/2006

This review was originally posted on our sister site, NotebookReview.com, but I thought it would interest some photography folks out there looking for some other storage options to backup or make space for the ever growing collection of digital images.

There is certainly no dearth of portable storage devices out there. Once you decide about what form factor you want and the capacity you need, then you get to wade through all the different colors and styles that are on the market. Seagate, one of the top hard drive manufacturers has a whole line of Portable External Hard Drives that may suit your needs and your budget. With capacities from 40GB to 160GB and prices from approx $109-$350, you have plenty of choices (of course). In this review, we'll test the Seagate 120GB Portable External Hard Drive.


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Drive Specifications

Drive Setup and Use

In the box, you'll find the external drive, USB cable, quick start manual, and CD-ROM of software and additional reference material.


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The included cable is actually a Y-adapter with a Mini B USB connection into the external drive and two standard USB jacks to plug into your computer. The green connection is labeled: "Data+Power", and the blue one is labeled: "Power Only". First, try plugging in the green one -- if the drive starts up, you're good to go. If not, your USB port may not provide enough power, so insert the blue plug (along with the green one) into another USB port for more juice.


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Both Windows and Mac users can use the drive. If you use Windows, you just need Windows XP, Me, 2000, 98SE, and a USB 2.0 port (or USB 1.0 port with third party power supply). If you're a Mac user, you can use the drive with Mac OS 9.x and 10.2.8 or higher with the same USB port requirements as PC users.

Once running, Windows XP, 2000, and Me will automatically detect and install the drivers needed to access the drive. A setup CD is included with the drive in case you need a driver for Windows 98SE.

By default, the drive is formatted with the FAT32 file system. You can reformat as you need. For example, the built-in Windows backup utility will only write backup files of 4GB on FAT32 file system. If you want to do a full backup of your hard drive, you may want to convert the external drive to the NTFS file system.

When the drive is plugged in, you will see a blue LED through the front "grill". During file transfer, the LED gives a little flash to let you know that it's doing its thing.


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The 2.5 inch, 5400 RPM drive is amazingly quiet during use. I couldn't hear it over the fans in my Thinkpad T40. For a "real world" test, I copied 4.77GB of mp3 files to the drive and it took 5 minutes and 5 seconds.

For a more objective test, I installed HD Tune and ran it against my internal hard drive and against the Seagate external drive. Results are below.  Yes, the average transfer rate was better and the access time shorter with the external drive than my internal drive!  Me thinks it may be time for a new laptop.


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Internal hard drive in my Thinkpad T40 (view large image)

Seagate has included a CD of software and manual materials. They provide some backup software called BounceBack Express which covers the basics of backup software. BounceBack Express estimated that it would take 2 hours and 37 minutes to do a complete backup of the 71.2GB of data that I have on my system. The built-in Windows Backup utility also does a fine job of basic backups. You can get an upgrade to BounceBack Express that helps you set up the external drive to be bootable for disaster recovery purposes and also add some other features.

Conclusion

The Seagate Portable External hard drive is a high-performing solution for some external storage. Use it has a backup device or as an additional hard drive. The 2.5 inch drive and single cable (since it's powered by the USB port) make it portable solution as well. A variety of capacities (from 40GB to 160GB) let you find one that meets your capacity needs and your budget.

Pros

Cons