Seagate Replica (500GB)Follow @infoworld
The Seagate Replica external hard drive has lots going for it: Slim design, a nifty docking base (only with the US$200 500GB multi-PC version; a $130 250GB version is available, too), and super-simple software for continuous system backups. In some scenarios, the Replica can perform backups with ease. But unfortunately, in my tests the Replica fell short of its promised simplified backups.
Backup remains the chore that many of us don't make time for. The premise behind Replica is straightforward enough-attach the Replica drive to your PC, and it will install some software on your PC, and then on its own begin making a "replica" of your drive's contents, including system files. (If you want to use Replica for system recovery, the system you're recovering the data to will need to be of the same configuration as the one the Replica is tied to.) After this initial backup finishes, the Replica drive continues to protect your data in real time, as long as the drive remains connected.
[ Get the latest on storage developments with InfoWorld's Technology: Storage newsletter. ]
The Replica is no ordinary hard drive: It does not act as typical mass storage devices do, and you can't just use it for random storage tasks. Instead, it simply lives in the background, backing up your files as invisibly as it can. And it uses its own, albeit subtle interface within Windows Explorer to allow you access to your files. That said, Replica is no PC answer to Apple's Time Machine/Time Capsule one-two punch.
Replica takes a minimalist approach: It has no buttons, and requires little babysitting. It has no buttons, just an inch-plus blue LED status light that flashes to show when the drive is in use, and a mini-USB port at back (the USB port plugs into the dock so the unit stands vertically; however, the dock requires two USB ports instead of just one for power). The simple design extends to the software: You don't launch software or a menu to view the Replica or see what the drive's status is; instead, simply right click on the drive's icon in the System Tray to view the handful of options available to you (Open, Safely Disconnect, Help, Select Password, Remove a PC, Select Drives to Backup, Properties, Check for Update). A pop-up window hovers over the System Tray icon when you mouse over the area; this is how you can check on the drive's status.
Your initial backup-which could take a long time, depending upon how much content your have-begins without any intervention. But here's where Replica's minimalism begins to go awry: Had I been given an indication of what Replica was doing, and what it was backing up, I may have caught on far earlier that Replica was experiencing a hiccup. I've raised this issue with Seagate, and await the company's response to this specific issue: On my MSI Wind U100 netbook, the Replica only sees, and backups, the primary C: partition. The 106GB D: partition, which is how the 160GB unit came configured, simply would not get backed up by the Replica. The Replica's manual says you can go into the Select Drives to Backup menu to confirm and select which attached drives will get picked up for backup, but for some reason, this didn't work with my netbook configuration.
That said, Replica worked fine for me when backing up a single-partition hard drive on a different notebook; it only seemed to have issues with the dual-partition config. I'll update this review when I hear more from Seagate.