Backing up data to an external drive is essential for recovering photos, music, video, documents, and other files in the event of a hard drive cataclysm, but very few people do it. Seagate looks to make the process infinitely simple with the $199 Replica (500GB), a plug-and-forget backup drive that crashproofs your system and makes safeguarding data a breeze by backing up the entirety of your notebook--even the operating system.
Measuring 5.6 x 3.9 x 0.7 inches and weighing 9.6 ounces, the silver and black Seagate Replica is noticeably heavier than the typical pocket hard drive. For example, theSeagate FreeAgent Goweighs 5.6 ounces. On the other hand, the Replica is certainly sleeker and more portable than most desktop hard drives. We like the roudned design, complete with a small Seagate logo on top. Up front is a neon blue status light that glows when the drive is plugged into a notebook and pulsates when actively copying data.
The 500GB, 5,400-rpm Seagate Replica comes with everything you need to get started: a USB cable, a glossy black dock (with its own built-in dual-head USB cord for PCs with low-powered ports) that lets you stand the drive upright, and a recovery disc for when you need to restore your entire PC, including the operating system. A 250GB, dockless version is also available for $129.
Setup was simple: we connected the Seagate Replica to a Gateway P-7808u FX notebook, and in less than 8 seconds, a Windows AutoPlay dialog box opened. We clicked Start My Seagate Replica and made our way through the registration and license agreement screens. A Seagate dialog window then opened to inform us that interrupted backups would automatically resume from where they left off when we plugged the Replica back into the PC (which worked as advertised). Unfortunately, the Seagate Replica isn't compatible with Linux or Mac OS X.
Total System Backup
As the Seagate Replica is designed for the novice, it backs up the entire PC, including folder, applications, and system files. It one-ups the $59.99Clickfree Transformer(and the various portable hard drives in the Clickfree family) by enabling you to back up your notebook's operating system, which is a technological godsend in case you need to restore your entire system. Clickfree only recovers particular files; the Seagate Replica lets you recover every bit of your PC. In the event that your system crashes, the Replica ships with a restore CD that will copy the contents of the drive back to your computer.
Backup Made Easy
Designed to run inconspicuously in the background, Seagate doesn't splatter a status bar or indicator across the screen; you have to mouse over the icon in the system tray to see the Replica's progress and the number of files left until completion. Right-clicking on the Seagate Replica tray icon let us select drives that we'd like to back up (in the case that you have external storage or a second internal drive), delete PCs' profiles from the drive, and set individual passwords for each machine that we backed up (if you lose or forget the password, you'll have to delete the backup and start over).
Backing up our notebook's 129,000-plus files (259GB) took just under 2 hours to complete--but that included all of our system files, as well. During this time, we didn't notice the system lagging at all while streaming videos through Hulu, working in documents--even copying large files from another external drive to the notebook. After the initial backup, the Seagate Replica automatically backed up new or altered files, and like the Clickfree Transformer, you can back up as many PCs as you'd like, capacity permitting. You can't, however, select individual files.
Browsing Backed-Up Files
Double-clicking on the tray icon opens a Windows Explorer-like browser that let us select a PC profile and view its content. From here we were able to recover files that had been deleted by dragging a copy from the Seagate Replica to our desktop. Recovering a 4.97GB folder of mixed media took 9 minutes and 22 seconds, a rather slow read rate of 9.05 MBps, but considering the plug-and-forget nature of the drive, we're willing to forgive it. Additionally, you can't manually drag content onto the drive (a requirement to preserve the file structure), which may prove vexing to those who want that flexibility.
When you think about how much you're paying per GB for the $199 Seagate Replica, it's certainly more expensive than more portable external drives with the same capacity. The 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Go, for example, costs $119. You could also get twice as much storage in the 1TBFreeAgent Xtremefor $20 less than the Replica, although that device is hardly portable. What you're paying for is the Replica's automatic setup and the fact that it's light enough that you could bring it with you.
Seagate set out to create a hassle-free backup solution, and the company has achieved its goal with the $199 Replica. For families or users with multiple PCs, the Replica is a foolproof way to ensure that a system failure is not permanent. The inability to move items manually from a PC to the Replica may dampen the experience for some (those users are better off with a large-capacity thumb drive or traditional portable hard drive), but for its intended audience, the Replica is a winner.