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Review: Four Desktop Hard Drives For Backup And Storage

Over the last year, external hard drives have evolved significantly -- and the change doesn't only involve increased capacity. Driven by the realization (finally) that Macs and PCs can typically handle the same data types (music, pictures, and movies) and that building separate drives for the two platforms is not financially advantageous, vendors are standardizing their drives on the USB 2.0, FireWire 400 (1394a), and FireWire 800 (1394b) interfaces.

Four Desktop Hard Drives

•  Introduction

•  Iomega Silver Series

•  Maxtor OneTouch III

•  MyBook Pro Edition II

•  StorCenter NAS 150D

Three of the latest drives that represent this trend are the Iomega Triple Interface Professional Silver Series Desktop Hard Drive, the Maxtor OneTouch III, Turbo Edition, and Western Digital's MyBook Pro Edition II. While these units don't quite represent every variety of external drive, they do characterize the genre quite well.

For example, the 750-Gbyte Iomega, while smallest of the three in both size and capacity, is no slouch -- it's a single-drive unit in a world where 500 Gbytes in a box was pushing both heat and capacity boundaries last year. The Maxtor and Western Digital units offer, respectively, dual 750-Gbyte drives for a 1.5-terabyte capacity, and dual 500-Gbyte drives for a 1-terabyte capacity; both are enclosed in RAID boxes. All of the drives are intelligent enough to power down when not in use -- a good thing, since prolonged usage will make them warm to the touch.

Interestingly, the vendors of all these of these units appear to have settled on EMC Retrospect Express as their choice for backup software. It's a robust package that offers automated and immediate backup procedures and can create a disaster-recovery strategy.

While the software's primary advantage over the competition is that it comes free with the hardware, you'll find that while Retrospect Express can be a bit obtuse in spots (read the documentation!), it works, it works well, and it works quickly. Finding all three of those features in one software package is not usual.

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