Monday, February 25, 2008

Review of Seagate's FreeAgent Go Hard Drive

A while back I reviewed a Western Digital portable hard drive that I've used on a road a few times and this past week I tried out Seagate's version, called the FreeAgent Go.

At only 6.4 ounces and a mere 4.8 by 3.9 inches, taking this Seagate portable drive along on your travels is no big sacrifice. The one I tested holds 160GB, which would be enough to hold every digital photo I have taken and every song I have burned or downloaded.

A hard drive is a hard drive though, right? Besides the "pulsing amber glow" to illuminate your way, the main factor helping this rise above commodity status is the included Ceedo and FreeAgent software. The latter syncs up folders of your choosing and also serves a similar function to the Roboform software I tried out recently, allowing you to carry along all your favorites and log-ins so you don't have to start from scratch every time you log in from another computer and your passwords are secure. "Your FreeAgent Go data mover saves all of your private information on itself, not on the computer you're using. It also provides strong file encryption to protect your content and lets you sync your files from several PCs," the company says.

Some of this left me a bit befuddled though. When I plugged it into my computer, I had to go through a long set-up process involving five registry permission warnings from my security software and several "loading program" messages that stopped whatever I was working on at the time. All in all it took 11 minutes and a reboot to install. Plus taking up two USB ports is seems more of a hinderance than a help, especially if you're using Internet cafes in developing countries. Perhaps in a lab this makes it perform faster, but I didn't notice any difference compared to saving files to my other hard drives.

Be warned too that in an attempt to be minimalist and hip, Seagate encloses almost no instructions and the manual is stored as a PDF file on the device itself. But hey, they have technical support people ready and there's a 5-year warranty, so they're not going to bail on you.

The Ceedo software supposedly lets you launch applications you have on your home computer from another computer you have this plugged into, but it seems quite hit and miss on which ones work and instructions are lacking. I hope in time I'll be able to figure out how to launch and use Thunderbird and Firefox from here in the same way I would on my home computer, syncing up between uses. That's not covered in the very basic instructions though, so time will tell if it's feasible to just leave the laptop at home and use this at public computers.

Meanwhile, it's a great storage device in a compact package, with software that easily syncs key folders containing documents, photos, or music. Selling for around $130 or less for 160 GBs, it's a good value---just treat the fancier functions of the software as a bonus.

Check Seagate Prices at Shopzilla

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