Seagate FreeAgent Pro

If you’re the sort of technology buyer who’s seduced by a sleek casing, sexy lighting or a svelte profile, all you need to know is that the Seagate FreeAgent Pro external hard disk holds 320Gb of data and looks like something you’d find on the dashboard of Darth Vader’s TIE fighter.

If you do need to know more, there’s a lot more to know. In buying an external hard disk you’re not just buying empty space, you’ll usually be buying the means to manage your data at the click of a mouse — sometimes even less.

The FreeAgent Pro comes loaded up with all the utilities you’ll need. There’s a diagnostic utility, a regular backup scheduling tool, a program that takes a snapshot of your system to revert to in the event of a crash, and a means to backup or access your data over the Internet from wherever you are.

Part of the service offering is free space on Seagate’s servers — though why you need it with 320Gb in front of you is a mystery. There’s also a system to sign up with the company to access the features that allow you to control your backup and retrieve data over the web, and it goes as far as asking for product key you’re presumably supposed to receive upon purchase. Because Seagate has prided themselves on taking an ease of use approach with a lot of personality, there was no such number we could find in the packaging or spartan instruction manual.

Taking a leaf out of the books of other vendors who know how quickly consumers’ eyes glaze over at the reams of techno-jargon of most products, Seagate has stripped not just use of the product but the product itself to a bare minimum, right down to the swappable module that give you a USB or Firewire connection on the back.

We used the auto backup feature that came with the FreeAgent software to copy 25Gb of movie files to the unit. From a PC via USB it took around an hour, and wrote a very convoluted file structure onto the FreeAgent’s disk — together with the folders of utilities, license agreements and peripheral documents that were on it to begin with.

Despite the FreeAgent Pro being formatted for PC and containing Windows-only backup management software and utilities, connecting it to a Mac simplified everything. When it was connected via the USB cable the Mac didn’t even recognise it, but it’s a one-minute job to unhook the unit, unscrew the USB module and screw in the Firewire jack.

We wiped the FreeAgent pro with Disk Utility and the same folder of movies then took barely 18 minutes, a vastly improved result.

Although built for a PC, the FreeAgent Pro performs better as a simple removable hard drive on a Mac, but the yellow strip light around the body and metallic black casing will look great no matter what your operating system, and on a price-per-megabyte basis it’s great value for money.

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