Available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities, the credit-card-size Storage Appliance Clickfree Traveler solid-state drive ($70 for the 16GB drive, as of August 31, 2009) is a great backup device for mobile users. It's small and convenient, and it comes with easy-to-use software that helps keep the headaches away. (For a detailed discussion of different approaches to data and system backups, see "7 Backup Strategies for Your Data, Multimedia, and System Files.")
Like most easy-backup drives sold today, the Clickfree Traveler presents itself to your PC as a virtual CD-ROM drive when you plug it in. A small partition on the Traveler emulates a CD-ROM disc, allowing its preinstalled backup software to launch automatically when you plug the drive into a Windows PCs or a Mac. Capacity permitting, the software can track and back up files from multiple computers. Like other Clickfree products, it backs up document files (Office data files, music, videos, photos, e-mail, and Internet bookmarks), but not system files.
Once the Clickfree Backup software loads, it checks for software updates (be sure to detach and reattach the drive after an update) and then scans your system for files that need backing up. (The Clickfree software, like that of the HP SimpleSave Portable, is based on an Arcsoft application; the Clickfree Backup Drive 1TB uses it, too.) The process can be lengthy, depending on how many files you have. After the scan is complete, you can choose the types of files you want the Traveler to back up, and either press a button to back everything up or wait 25 seconds until the backup starts on its own.
While the drive is attached, you can access stored data via the Clickfree software; in addition to restoring files or folders, you can use the integrated viewer to print, share, and e-mail photos. You can schedule backup reminders, too--useful if you don't keep the device connected to your PC all the time.
The slim Clickfree Traveler worked fine on my Windows Vista desktop PC, and on both my XP and Vista laptops, but it had some problems on my Windows XP main system (a 2GHz Intel Core i7 PC). Unexpectedly, the backup process--and my computer--slowed to a snail's pace a minute or two into the back up. Perhaps not having a Windows swap file on that system's solid-state drive disagreed with the Traveler (the vendor could not confirm what the issue may have been). With the swap file reinstated, the backup came out of its bogged-down funk, but it still wasn't particularly swift.
Unfortunately, if it's asked to handle anything other than a minuscule data set, the Traveler will quickly run out of room: The software performs only full backups, and it provides no automatic mechanism for deleting or overwriting older versions. When you run out of space, you can use 'Device Reset' under Options in the first dialog box to erase all of the drive's data, but at that point you'll have no backup until you create a new one.
The Traveler stores files in native format, so they aren't buried in a proprietary archive format. To restore files, you may use the Clickfree Backup software or Windows Explorer. The folder that the files are backed up to will appear in Explorer only if you have 'show hidden files and folders' selected, however, and you'll still have to dig a bit to get to it.
Impressively, Storage Appliance managed to fit a full-size USB 2.0 interface within the Traveler's credit-card-size body. To make the connector thin enough to retract within the drive body, however, the manufacturer had to omit the guides that ensure proper insertion orientation. In most cases, you'll want to insert the connector with the contacts facing up. When you've properly inserted it, a white LED will light up. Another component that requires careful handling is the ribbon cable to the USB connector: It's highly flexible, but easily deformable. Mine acquired a pronounced bend after only about 15 minutes of hanging from a USB port, though I was able to remove the bend by flexing it in the opposite direction.
The computing world is full of underpowered USB ports, and the USB bus is the Traveler's sole source of juice. If the Traveler disappears during the backup process, as it initially did on one of my desktop PCs, switch the drive to another port--preferably one on the back of the computer, since these are more likely wired directly to the motherboard.
Its slim, ultraportable design and its integrated software make the Clickfree Traveler a handy device. It's easy to use, it's convenient to carry around, and it works well for backing up critical files or limited-capacity data sets.
This story, "Storage Appliance Clickfree Traveler SSD" was originally published by PCWorld.
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