Seagate FreeAgent Go (500GB)

July 7, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

The Seagate FreeAgent Go is a new breed of portable hard drive: one with a prodigious capacity—500GB is larger than many internal desktop drives—as well as a convenient ability to dock the drive to a PC like you might with an iPod. The Go has a wealth of features that make it easier to back up your data than other drives do, which is one reason why Im giving it the Editors Choice for portable hard drives.

Too many people dont back up their important files (pictures of the grandparents with the kids, that rare CD they ripped and then lost, 15 years worth of résumé updates). All of this data is irreplaceable but is also a hassle to back up using traditional CDs or DVDs. A 500GB drive has enough space to keep multiple copies of each file. Thanks to the optional dock, which is a must-have, and the software, backing it all up is a breeze

The Gos tapered silver case deliberately evokes last years FreeAgent series of drives. Seagate has spent a lot of money on branding, and the design ID carries over to the companys desktop-class hard drives and the drives theyre building for Mac users as well. The Go is available in 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB capacities and a choice of silver, black, red, and blue—colors no doubt designed to pop on the store shelves and complement other consumer electronics products like the iPod nano. The Gos optional dock is worth the additional money. It lets you easily connect the drive to your PC and keep it connected via a very long dual-head USB cable. The dock kit also comes with a slipcase for the drive, so it will stay relatively scratch-free in your travel bag. One big plus with the dock is that it is hot-swappable: You can remove the drive without having to use the “Safely Remove Device” command in Windows. 
The Go comes with a relatively easy-to-setup Seagate backup utility, and like many similar programs, it defaults to saving your files to the My Documents folder. You can customize the backup routine and set the system to automatically back up most folders on the PC. The drive also comes with a folder sync utility, which lets you designate a folder on two PCs, which the software and drive will then keep current on both machines. That way, you can bring your work folder home with you and keep up-to-date copies of its contents with you at all times. I wouldve liked to have seen a disaster-recovery software package, like the one on Maxtors OneTouch 4 Mini drives, but for most external drives its not a deal breaker. 

The Go comes with a dual-headed cable, which gives the drive additional power when you use it with a laptop. (Some laptops have trouble powering certain power-hungry drives through the USB ports; the dual-headed cables ensure against that.) The newer, larger-capacity portable drives tend to need more power than they can get through just a single USB port. Nonetheless, I was able to power the Go from a single USB port on both my test beds, an Apple MacBook Pro and Dell desktop. 
The drive is a speedy one: Dragging and dropping our 1.2GB test folder took only 56 seconds, and the Seagate backup utility was right behind at 1 minute. PCMark05 returned a hard drive score of 2,779 points, which is par for a portable 2.5-inch hard drive. You shouldnt have any trouble waiting for the drive to complete your backups; youll likely just leave it in its dock so its always ready. 
The Go is a little more businesslike in its design than competing drives, such as the SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry. (We reviewed the 320GB model, but SimpleTech now also offers the 500GB capacity.) The SimpleTech comes with a free online storage subscription, but its only 2GB. The Western Digital My Passport Elite is also stylish, has a built-in port protector, a capacity indicator, and comes in several colors, but with its dock ability, the Gos trumps the other two. The WD and Seagate have long-life five-year warranties, but the SimpleTech is shorter at only three years. 

The Seagate FreeAgent Go (500GB) is the portable hard drive to beat. Its innovative dock, stylish design, generous five-year warranty, and included software give you just about all you need from a portable external drive. Half a terabyte is more than enough to back up a computer or two for most average users. The dock and software make the backup process easy—and the easier it is, the more likely youll use this often ignored but very important safeguard of your digital life. 

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