Like many others I suppose, I have a huge collection of photos stored on my PC and am guilty of just looking at them on the computer without bothering to print them up. With the advent of digital photography, I believe we are a generation in danger of losing a lot of precious memories if they are not archived regularly. With this in mind, and along with the fact that my aging laptop is becoming quite slow, and may be on it's last legs, I decided to back up my most precious files.
Now even a few years ago this would have meant burning endless CD's, but portable storage devices have now entered the market and are capable of storing hundreds of gigabytes worth of files. Not really knowing what I wanted I headed out to the shops to see what was on offer. After much browsing I opted for the iomega Select portable hard drive with 500GB capacity in Comet - plenty for the photos I had already and space for any future ones too. I'd used iomega branded products and devices before and found them to be of good quality and reliable which influenced my decision too. The final clincher was the fact that this had been reduced to £42.99 - which was cheaper than any other device on offer with similar capacity.
The device itself is tiny and certainly portable - it is about the size of my palm, very slim and light. The official dimensions are 117mm x 80mm x16mm. It's tiny nature makes it perfect for carrying around. It comes in black and is plain apart from the iomega logo embossed on the top. It is more matt in appearance than gloss. The device comes with a decent sized USB cable (don't you find it annoying when the cable is a little too short?) and a comprehensive instruction manual. Now I'm not one for poring over instruction manuals. I usually like to try to work things out first and if I get stuck work my way through the manual.
The drive is plug and play so there is no need for installing drivers etc. It is also powered by the computer so there is no need for a separate mains plug. I plugged the USB cable into the side of the drive and plugged the other end into the hub on my laptop. Within seconds my laptop had recognised it and I was ready to go. When it is on, a little green light comes on at the front and you can hear it start to whirr away.
It is worth noting that the drive is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7 (32 Bit) and if you're still operating a Windows 98 machine this won't work. The drive is also compatible with Macs (OS X 10.4 -10.6) though it needs to be formatted first and instructions for doing this are in the manual.
Transferring files to the drive is a doddle. There is no awkward software to navigate - simply drag and drop. The drive is USB 2.0 and I have found transfer rates to be quite fast. I have transferred a few gigabytes worth of files in a matter of minutes. Whilst data is transferring the green light at the front starts to flash so that you know it is busy. Removing files from it is easy to - simply select the file and delete.
When I have used external drives or USB keys in the past there was often a tiny but noticeable delay in accessing the drive when clicking on it. I am pleased to note that in this case accessing the drive is seamless. Once the files have been transferred simply remove the device by clicking on the USB icon at the bottom right hand corner of the screen and stopping the device. This makes it safe to remove. I have been using the portable hard drive for around 4 months now and have experienced no problems with it at all. I have found it to be reliable and easy to use and have no hesitation in recommending this to others. Having said that it is important to remember that any storage device can fail and so I have also backed my files to CD just in case this drive does fail in the future!
External hard drives have become commonplace for the home user, they're an inexpensive way of storing space-hungry HD videos, photos and music while providing backup when your main system fails.
The Iomega select portable hard drive serves all these purposes but has the benefit of being very small, in fact it could just about fit in your trouser pocket making it a great way of carrying data from place to place. There are three different capacities to choose 250GB, 320GB and 500GB and it comes in a dark grey, plastic casing which feels very robust, although the appearance is unexciting compared to Western Digital's range of coloured devices available for a similar price.
While larger hard drives often come with an external power source, the iomega select comes runs using the computers power from 2 USB ports. Although this makes the drive very portable, you should make sure you have two unused, adjacent USB2.0 ports before choosing this device. This aspect makes the product a hybrid of the lower capacity USB stick and a desktop external hard drive.
Once you plug-in the drive, you're ready to go, there is no set up needed and it works with both PC and Mac. I use the iomega mainly for HD video, often shooting on location onto SD cards, then transfering the footage onto the hard drive via my laptop at the end of the day. At home, I then just plug it into my desktop computer to edit the shots. At only 191 grams with only one transfer cable (included), it's small and light enough to sling into my camera bag and so far it's been very reliable and perfect for the line of work that I do.
The issue of data back up has always been a vitally important one and for many something they only think of in hindsight. Music, Video, Photo's, Email and Documents are utterly precious as your hard disk gets increasingly more crowded. You'll notice I used capitals for each of those categories, it is important to treat these as you would do system files. When they are deleted or corrupted you cannot guarantee they can be recovered and the prospect can be heartbreaking and extremely time consuming to put right.
Here is what I do. I have two external drives, one has a copy of all my media and important files and applications and the other I keep clean to use to make a back up image of my Mac. Simple and it needn't be expensive either. A couple of good sized hard drives can be bought for less than £100 with some bargain hunting. Think of it as an investment to protect your data much in the same way an alarm would protect your house.
Iomega Select 320GB:
The Iomega is the drive I keep clean to make an image of the current state of my operating system. I keep it on my desk next to my Mac as it is compact and I have also put a little Apple logo sticker on it too to visually remind me of what I use it for.
In terms of footprint the drive is neat and discreet. At it longest point it is 13cm long, 8cm wide and 1.5cm high. The height includes four little feet underneath to allow for air flow. Thermal output is also dissipated via two vents on each side of the drive. I would recommend making sure you maintain the air flow underneath by placing it on a flat, hard surface especially if running for long periods of time. The likelihood of any problem is negligible but remember hard drives by there very nature are technically precise and delicate.
Some hard drives, particularly those that are mains powered, can be on the large side. Big PC drives in big housings basically. I am pleased to say that Iomega have crammed a tiny drive into a tiny case and made the associated weight saving. The unit comes in at 190g and fits easily into the palm of your hand and so would be easy to carry or place in a pocket.
This drive is powered by USB only though the cable that attaches to your computer has been split to accommodate two ports. On the drive there is a single mini USB and a single LED to indicate that the unit is powered. Other than this there are no other connections of any kind and this adds to the sleek feel and small form factor.
Data rate transfer is USB 2.0 standard 480Mbps and it is backwards compatible with USB 1.0 though it will obviously run at the slower speed. The drive comes pre-formatted as NTFS and is both Windows and Mac compatible. There is also 8MB of cache available. I am unable find the actual physical speed of the drive, even on the manufacturers site, but it likely to be 5400rpm or 7200rpm. The Dooyoo description lists it as 4200rpm?
The Select is available in three capacities 250GB, 320GB and 500GB and comes in matt black. There is also a Prestige version which has a brushed aluminium case if you would like something a little more stylish. There is also a 2 year warranty guaranteed by the manufacturer.
The unit is not user serviceable.
I love the small, lightweight design and found it very easy to use. It auto detects and installs under Windows XP and Mac OSX Snow Leopard. It is compatible with Windows from 2000 onwards. I have found it to be reliable and solidly built and it is probably the best external hard drive I have owned.
If you are one of the many rising number with a netbook or early laptop be aware of the need to use two of your usb ports. Some medium to high models have one and some have two but on opposite sides. In the latter case you may need a USB cable extender though these can literally be bought for £1.
Minimum Tech Spec:
Pentium II-class or equivalent processor or higher
Built-in USB connection
Windows 2000 Professional/ XP / XP x64/ Vista/ Vista x64 & Windows 7
Mac OS X 10.3 or higher
Built in USB connection
Technical term explanations found here: