Files, files, and more files. These days anyone who owns a computer usually has thousands of personal files in their possession, whether the files are photos, music, videos, email, or more. Unfortunately, there are still many people that don't make back up copies, which makes them very vulnerable to losing their precious data. With storage prices so low now, this type of behavior doesn't make sense. Another reason to make copies is to take your data with you or transfer it to another computer. All of these things are very easy to do with an external USB drive like the Ultra TravelDrive from Memorex.
Memorex Ultra TravelDrive
Now available as a 500GB drive (but also available in various sizes from 80GB and up), the Ultra TravelDrive is an external USB hard drive that measures approximately 5.25" x 3.5" x .75", which makes it slightly larger than a wallet (although it can still fit in a coat pocket or purse). The Drive is compatible with both USB 2.0 and 1.1 and can be used with Windows 2000 (SP4), Windows XP (SP2), Windows Vista as well as Mac OS 10.2.3 or higher. The housing is plastic, but it's a hard plastic with a ruggedized shell, although I still wouldn't make a habit of dropping it. The housing can be customized with colored faceplates (three of which are included in each Ultra TravelDrive package). The faceplates are a nice touch if you want to give the to someone Drive as a decorated gift. The faceplates can also be used to color-code multiple backup Drives. Inside the housing is a 2.5" laptop hard drive with the following specs: 5400 RPM, 8MB data buffer, and 480Mb/sec maximum transfer rate with USB 2.0. Despite the low RPM (7200 RPM would be better) and the small buffer (16MB would be better), the drive performs quite nicely. One thing missing is a carrying case—it would have been nice to have one included since after all, this is a TravelDrive.
Using the Ultra TravelDrive
Operating the TravelDrive is extremely simple. Take the included USB cables (one for data and one for power) and connect them to the Drive. Then connect the cables to your PC. Keep in mind that you may not need the power cable depending on how your PC powers its USB ports. I was happy to find that I only needed the data cable for both power and data transfer when connecting to my laptop. You'll see that the Drive has powered up when the cool blue indicator light (located on top) glows. A steady glow means the drive has power, while a blinking light shows when the drive is being accessed. Another light on the back of the Drive indicates whether your USB connection is 2.0 or 1.1.
I tested the TravelDrive on Windows XP and Vista (I didn't have access to Windows 2000 or Mac at the time). When the drive is plugged in, Windows automatically recognizes it as a USB Mass Storage Device, loads the appropriate drivers and then tells you the Drive is ready to use a few seconds later. I did have one small problem when connecting to Windows Vista—I got a message saying there may be a problem with the drive and that it needed to be scanned for errors. I went ahead with the scan and no errors were found. After that, the Drive performed without problems. I'm not sure why that may have happened (there were no problems with Windows XP), so I'm assuming it may have been a Vista quirk.
From here on you can use the Drive just like any other hard drive. The Drive is formatted as a FAT32 drive (like most external drives) for compatibility reasons, but if you need to, you can reformat it. Using Windows Explorer you can access the Drive, drag and drop files, etc. One thing that I wish was included is an on/off switch. Since the TravelDrive is mainly meant for backing up or transporting files, it stands to reason that you won't need it powered up all the time. However, you'll probably want to keep it plugged in for quick and easy access. Unfortunately, if you keep it plugged in, the Drive stays powered up as long as your PC is on, which not only wastes power (especially battery power on a laptop), but puts wear and tear on the Drive. An on/off switch would have solved this problem, but keep in mind that most portable external drives don't include a switch. Why? I don't know.
ArcSoft Total Media Backup Software
In addition to the Drive itself, the Ultra TravelDrive package includes a CD copy of TotalMedia Backup from ArcSoft. The quality of the backup software included with external drives varies, but in this case it's quite good. The only thing it doesn't provide is drive imaging, but that's normal since imaging usually requires a separate application like Acronis True Image Backup & Recovery Software. In terms of individual file backup, TotalMedia Backup provides both simple and advanced features.
If you've never used backup software or you don't want to bother with setting up your own backup routine, you can use the quick and easy wizard-based interface to walk you through the process. You'll be asked what type of files you want to backup—music, photos, video, data, etc. TotalMedia will then scan your PC for all the file types and make backup copies to the TravelDrive. If you don't mind a little extra setup time, however, I recommend setting up your own backup routine and specifying the file locations yourself because the scanning process can take quite a while.
For advanced features, TotalMedia allows you to create a specific backup schedule, as well as do incremental backups where only the files that have changed since the last backup are copied. This can save a lot of time and cut down the backup process significantly. The software also provides a large amount of information including automatically generated backup logs for those of you that need it. My only complaint is in regards to the Quick Backup button provided on the back of the TravelDrive. After installing the software, pressing the button allows you to quickly launch TotalMedia Backup. However, that's all it does. What it doesn't do is allow you to run a preconfigured backup routine, which would be much more useful.
Compact, Cute, and Capable
Despite wanting to see a couple of improvements (like an on/off switch and more functionality for the Quick Backup button), I think the Ultra TravelDrive is an excellent product. Performance is great with a USB 2.0 connection, the Drive is very quiet, the blue indicator light is very handy, and I love the fact that (in most cases) it doesn’t need an external power supply. The changeable faceplates are a nice touch for gifts or color-coding and the housing is compact, but solidly constructed. The included ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup software rounds out the package quite nicely. Best of all the Memorex UltraTravel Drive is very easy to use and allows you to quickly add a significant amount of storage to any computer system—just plug it in and go.