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Time was when you could backup all of your important files on a blank CD or DVD, but with the advent of digital cameras and iPods in recent years the files stored on our computers have grown in size to such an extent that using blank disks really isn't a practical solution. Around a year ago I had the misfortune to have a computer breakdown, what made this event so catastrophic was that I had not backed up any of my files for quite some time. I could do little more than hold my head in my hands as the PC repair man told me the files and data on my hard drive were irretrievable - numerous iPod songs and countless photos, documents, etc - all gone to that great recycle bin in the sky. After picking myself up from the floor and purchased a new PC I vowed that I would never again be caught in such a situation, so I set about finding a cheap, convenient and simple storage solution to backup my important files. After a little comparison work I decided on a Western Digital Elements external desktop hard drive, with various sizes available I went for the 640 GB option at a little over sixty pounds from amazon.co.uk.
What's in the box?
Well most importantly you get the hard drive itself; about the size of a paperback book but considerably heavier. It is finished in matt silver metal with rubberized protectors on each end; apparently this enables you to drop the unit from a moderate height without damage - a test I will definitely not be carrying out. You also get a small power brick to plug the unit in and a USB cable to attach the drive to your computer. A quick start guide tells you how to get the unit working while a link to the Western Digital website offers fuller instructions should they be needed. Finally a warranty card explains that the drive is covered for two years should any problems arise.
Setup & Use
Setting the drive up couldn't be simpler; plug the power cord into the wall and connect the USB cable between the drive and the computer and you're all done! No software to install, no end user agreements to ignore, and the drive is even preformatted. This is straight out of the box usability at its best. On plugging the unit in and switching it on a little notification box pops up asking you what you wish to do. I simply chose to open the destination drive which gave me a large empty folder named 'Elements' with over 600 GB of free space. From here backing up your files is simply a matter of dragging and dropping them into the drive folder or alternatively you can right click the file or folder you wish to copy and select 'send to' and then choose 'Elements'. It really is that simple.
For my first test at transferring and backing up my files I chose to drag and drop a folder containing approximately 4.4 GB of data. After calculating the time and space needed the drive sprang into action transferring the folder in under two minutes, the operation was virtually silent save for a very low burr, while a blue light flicked on the back of the unit to signify the unit was busy. Impressed with this initial test I decided to move onto bigger things - my iPod and iTunes music needed backing up so I simply navigated my way to my Music folder and dragged/dropped the whole 21.1 GB onto the Elements hard drive. After thinking about the task for a couple of seconds the transfer timer window opened to inform me that the task would be completed in twenty-one hours! - Luckily this was just the drives opening estimate and the time instantly dropped and settled at around fifteen minutes.
Sure enough it took about that time to transfer the files to the drive. One thing I did notice however is that if I started trying to perform any other task on the computer while the backup was taking place the estimated time increased alarmingly, so it's probably best to set the files moving and then go make a cup of tea or some such. Again, this could be as much to do with the limitations of my computer as the hard drive itself. Once transferred a quick check in the hard drive folder confirmed that the files were all there, nicely backed up and safe. No more major data loss headaches for me!
All things considered I am more than happy with my Western Digital Elements hard drive. It's possibly not the fastest unit of its kind available but its ease of use and 'straight out of the box' usability make it an ideal choice for those looking for a cheap no nonsense easy to use storage and backup solution. The Elements drive comes in various sizes depending on your requirements or wallet limitations, at present the largest Elements drive available is a massive one terabyte (1024 GB) while the smallest is 250 GB. I have been using the drive for about a year now, religiously backing up all of my precious files every couple of weeks and the performance is still as it was the first day. I simply plug the unit in, open the destination folder, delete the older files and backup afresh - all very straight forward and civilized. Four stars out of five from me.
High speed USB 2.0 connection - delivering a potential transfer rate of over 60MB per second.
Backward compatibility - the drive also works with USB 1.1 ports, so basically as long as your computer has a USB port you are good to go.
Durable construction for added protection and peace of mind.
Plug & Play - no software to install, just plug it in and start dragging/dropping those files.
Windows Vista/XP/2000 and Mac compatible.