Yes, I’m two days late with this. Friday morning we were in Dunsmuir. It was raining so hard you couldn’t even see Mount Shasta, the Ur-Guru was in an evil mood because of the weather, and we were facing a long drive across the mountains to Eureka to meet my long-lost cousin and his family. So I had just about time to back up the computer to my new Maxtor OneTouch Mini drive, and no time to write about it.
Enough with the excuses, already. I’m home, the sun is shining, and I’m in no hurry to see the inside of my car again for a while.
This was actually the second trip with the Mini drive rather than the Seagate FreeAgent Go drive I bought a few months ago, since I wanted to be able to test it a bit more and contrast the two. Though about the same physical size, and with the same capacity, they look nothing alike. The Mini has a brushed-metal top with a rectangular depression above the Maxtor name, nested in slightly rubberized black plastic with rounded edges and a small but bright white LED which changes in brightness and pattern depending on whether the drive is sleeping, working, or powered down.
Overall, I think the design of the FreeAgent Go drive is more attractive (in spite of that huge yellow light). The OneTouch series, large and small, are supposed to look solid and vault-like, conveying security, whereas the emphasis with the FreeAgent drives is portability. (I’m paraphrasing Jay Pecheck’s answer to my question about whether there were any plans to converge the two series of drives.) The hefty OneTouch 4 Plus with its odd trapezoidal profile succeeds at that; trying to make anything as small as the Mini look vault-like risks an excess of cute. But it does make for a matched set when one has both models.
Like the FreeAgent Go, the OneTouch Mini requires two USB ports, one for power and one for data. This is probably the thing I like least about the drives, because if I have both of them connected, it means that my USB hub and the four ports on my laptop are all filled. (If you’re curious, the other ports are taken up by the tablet and the scanner, now that the printer is connected to the Shared Storage II.) One thing I can say in favor of those shiny, fingerprint-attracting Western Digital drives the Ur-Guru has is that they only need one USB port apiece. So, since I know it’s technically possible to run power and data through the same USB cable, I’m not sure why the Seagate/Maxtor drives don’t do that.
The cables are a minor quibble, though. I’ve had no complaints with the FreeAgent drive since I got it, and the Mini is shaping up nicely. Jay isn’t kidding about wanting to associate the Maxtor name with data protection, since the Mini comes with three different options for backup.
Two of the backup options included with the OneTouch Mini (and the OneTouch Plus) are familiar, at least to someone who has used other Seagate/Maxtor products. There’s a basic backup program like the one on the Shared Storage II, where you choose the folders to back up and the days you want the backup job to run.
I ran into a small problem when choosing folders: many of the folders on my C drive didn’t appear in the list, presumably because Maxtor Manager identified them as hidden or system files, which it doesn’t support. In three cases, at least, those identifications are wrong, since I have three folders under C which hold my business documents: ! Author-izer, ! FileSlinger, and ! Podcast Asylum. The exclamation points (which are there to ensure the folders appear at the top of the list in an alphabetical sorting) seem to confuse Maxtor Manager.
I got around this problem by selecting the same folders on my D drive, which contain almost-as-recent information as those on my C drive, thanks to SyncBack—as well as many older files which are no longer active but which I might need if a former client calls. (Apparently Maxtor Manager only worries about exclamation points on your C drive.)
Unlike many software programs, Maxtor Manager’s backup doesn’t offer you the option of backing up your e-mail or your bookmarks. Since I use Outlook and my .pst file (with all my mail and contact information) is kept in a “hidden” folder (I long since un-hid it), I can’t even manually choose to back that data up, but I had no trouble with backing up the archive .pst files on the D drive. Because Outlook locks those files when it’s running, though, running the Maxtor Backup program with Outlook open results in a “backup failed” message and a little red icon in the system tray. (The same is true for Quicken data, but the program doesn’t appear to have any problems with open Microsoft Office documents.)
The Mini’s second backup option, Sync, suffers from the same “blindness” as the backup program, and works much the same way. You get a choice of “Simple Sync,” which synchronizes the My Documents folder and “Custom Sync,” where you choose your own folders; in my case the choices are “My Documents,” “Desktop,” “C,” and “D.” (Some people tend to store a lot of stuff on their desktops, something I never understood but see often enough to understand why Seagate chose to provide that option.)
The difference between “Sync” and “Backup” is that Sync copies—and deletes—files in both directions. The idea is to be able to update your files on one computer, sync with the Mini drive, connect the drive to another computer, and sync again to ensure all the newest files get transferred onto that machine, updating any previous versions. You can choose to sync automatically or manually, and to have the program ask whether you want to replace files or always overwrite. Except for the restriction on the folders you can choose to synchronize, Maxtor Sync appears identical to Seagate’s Folder Sync, though I think the Seagate interface is a bit slicker (unfortunate color scheme notwithstanding).
These tools, while useful enough, are nothing really new. The most interesting backup option on the OneTouch drives is SafetyDrill, Maxtor’s new drive imaging software. The Ur-Guru and I tested it on a system we’d just reinstalled, and it worked perfectly. To make the image, you go to the “Safety” tab in Maxtor Manager (denoted by a life ring) and choose “Create SafetyDrill(TM) Copy Now.” You can ask for reminders to create copies every X days, and you can limit the space your OneTouch drive lets you use for those copies. You can also decide how many of those copies you want to keep (just the most recent, the last two, the latest five, etc).
To restore from your image, you need to boot your machine from the SafetyDrill™ CD which ships with the drive. Once you do that, you find yourself in a Linux environment. Don’t mind the X-shaped pointer; everything in SafetyDrill works pretty much the same as in Windows, and there’s not much room for confusion, since the only choice you have to make is which image to restore. The idea is to keep you from making mistakes during such a critical operation.
Backup and restore times were comparable to Symantec Ghost 8 Corporate (which we’d just used to make an image before testing SafetyDrill). SafetyDrill is easier to use, at least for those who aren’t familiar with DOS and the rather odd way Ghost rearranges your drive letters. I’m thinking of using the Mini to store drive images and keeping the space on the FreeAgent available for straight file copies. It’s small enough that it’s easy to take out of my office and store in a safe-deposit box (should I ever get one), and the drive has encryption options built in, both password-protection for the entire drive and Maxtor Encryption, which automatically encrypts and decrypts files when you put them in the password-protected folder it creates.
It’s always good to put a password on anything it’s easy to lose, like small hard drives, USB sticks, PDAs—and laptops, which may not be all that easy to lose, but remain easy to steal. Just back up the password somewhere other than the Mini drive.
I’d give the Mini four stars out of five. I think it needs an e-mail backup option if it’s really going to protect people’s most critical data without resorting to a complete drive image. And since many laptops are short on USB ports, combining the data and power cables into one would enhance usability and portability. Nevertheless, I think the software bundled with the Mini, in particular SafetyDrill, is a big improvement on the “lite” version of Retrospect that shipped with earlier OneTouch drives.
Finally, I have to wonder why Maxtor is sticking with the OneTouch name, because neither the Mini nor the Plus has a button on it that you can press to run your backups. Admittedly you can back up or sync by right-clicking on the Maxtor icon, but that’s actually two touches. Given that the backups run automatically once you set them up, perhaps “Touch Free” would be more accurate.