I mentioned before that my internal hard drive was just about filled up and my one external hard drive had filled up a long time ago. When I realized last week that I had less than 5GB left I knew that I didn't have enough room left to process one more shoot. For each shoot I have the original RAW file (and the .xmp sidecar), the layered .psd file for the shots I choose to process, and the full res .jpg for uploading to my site. So even the little bit of shooting I did last weekend resulted in right around 8GB of data. Geez, I gotta tell you, that's pretty scary when I'm old enough to remember upgrading to a 20MB hard drive and wishing I could afford the 40MB.
So some quick googling of the holiday sales at the local electronics stores showed me that Best Buy was selling the Seagate FreeAgent 500MB USB 2.0 external drives for $99. The price sounded too good to be true so I did a little more research on customer reviews and I couldn't find anything negative about them. Now I'll be honest, my biggest concern was about transfer speed. Seagate also sells the FreeAgent with Firewire and eSata for twice the price, and I was really afraid that I was going to be disappointed with the speed of the USB 2.0 model. But since the drive normally sells for between $120 - $150, it was too good of a bargain to pass up (Best Buy's price is actually back to $159 now - so I got it for $60 off their regular price). I bought two of them - one for additional photo storage and one for backing up all of my photos - 1TB of data storage for less than $200. Figured I'd hook one up and if I was really disappointed with it I could return the second one.
I'm happy to report that they are both up and running and I am extremely pleased with them. I installed the backup software that comes with the drives so I could use one as my backup and have it set up to back up the photos on both drive C: and the new drive G: (my backup is drive I: if you can believe it) and the new drive G: is now additional storage for my photos. The backup software is basic and adequate. I found it easier to use than Retrospect (which used to aggravate me to no end), but it only allows backup of data files. If you want to back up anything else you will need to use Windows Explorer or other software.
- They are half the size of my older Maxtor One Touch 160GB external drive. The Seagate FreeAgents are 7.5" tall, 6.4" deep and 1.6" across.
- They are a very light 2 pounds - good if you need something portable.
- The transfer speeds have been very satisfying; I backed up the 250GB of photos from drive C: in significantly less time than I had expected and transfer speeds from my card reader directly to Drive G: are lightening fast. I know, I should've timed the backup, but to be honest after the same amount of data took three months to upload to Mozy I honestly expected this backup to take several hours. So I ran the backup and left my office. When I happened to pop in there a short while later I noticed the backup was complete. I want to say it was less than an hour. I was skeptical, so I double-checked to make sure everything was included and yep, it's all good!
- The drives are very quiet. They are much quieter than my internal drive.
- They come with a 5 year warranty. Most competitors only offer a 1 year warranty.
- I actually like the glowing orange light (see photo above)! A lot of people comment negatively about the looks of this product, but come on people, it's data storage, not artwork. I don't care what it looks like as long as it performs. And I certainly think they look a lot better than my old Maxtor OneTouch.
- The base is not detachable so the drive must stand up. You cannot lay it on its side or stack several together.
- The drive is not powered through the USB cable. I had to get yet another surge protector and further increase my fear of setting the house on fire because of all the power cords hooked up in my office.
All in all I think these drives are definitely worth the current selling price, and if you get lucky and find them on sale for under $100 like I did, you're crazy if you don't buy at least two. 1TB of reliable data storage for under $200 is a steal.